Hardware Stability

The iPhone

iPhone 2007 model

bine MP3 music and video with a mobile phone. Well, everyone else in the mobile phone market have been doing it (e.g. Motorola, Nokia etc). So why not Apple?

iPhone 2013 model

In case you want to confirm how Apple Inc. is fairing in the iPhone market compared to other mobile phones in this fierce and highly competitive market, you may wish to read the following information.

iPhone 1.0 - the end of the iPod?

A logical progression from the iPod would be to com

Well, in January 2007 Apple announced it will join the fiercely competitive market with its own design of a mobile phone called the iPhone. Not exactly a radical idea from a company that normally prides itself on originality, but some of the features to come with the new iPhone and its simplicity in appearance and design may make it a winner. In particular, the large 8.9 centimetre-wide multi-touch display will behave like a numeric keypad for dialling numbers, but can disappear to show a video, or you can select music to listen to from a list just like on an iPod, or convert into a full QWERTY soft keyboard to access the internet and type email messages. An interesting concept. Certainly it would solve problems from other manufacturers such as how to incorporate and later hide a physical keyboard while still making the phone look compact and stylish. So long as the screen responds well to the touch with large digital buttons for easy manipulation of data and applying various other functions, and is not made of a plastic (or is it glass?) covering the display to avoid getting easily scratched, this might turn out to be a major selling point.

The iPhone comes with a decent 2 megapixel camera (even the popular Motorola Razr V3xx can only muster a 1.2 megapixel camera although admittedly it is more compact and the higher model released soon after does sport a 2 megapixel camera), and it accepts voicemail and SMS as well as standard g2 phone calls. When the phone is not needed, it can act as a widescreen iPod for displaying videos and playing MP3 music and you would never know it was a phone. A touch of a button and it can act as an internet device using Apple's Safari web browser. Perhaps the iPhone might be better called the iChameleon with its superfical change in appearance thanks to its multi-touch display. Nokia and Blackberry, look out!

If there are any disadvantages in the iPhone, it is probably in its size, the lack of Bluetooth technology, it is not a 3G phone, and you'll get an exorbitant bill every month when transferring data using the data roaming feature.

Disadvantage 1: Size

For example, the iPhone is wider than the average mobile phone so it will be a little bulky for some people to carry around. But on the plus side, it is probably more compact than the Blackberry. Fortunately, Apple has compensated with a relatively thin design so it can potentially slip into a standard shirt pocket. And transferring information from a computer does require a cable. A bit messy. You may have to wait for the next generation iPhone to benefit from total wireless technology.

Disadvantage 2: Limited bluetooth technology

The older Motorola Razr V3xx comes as standard a wireless Bluetooth technology to connect to a computer or another phone. For such a new product, Apple has chosen not to include one on the iPhone 1.0.

Disadvantage 3: Not 3G compatible

Mobile phones from Motorola and Nokia have been benefiting from a 3G network for a few years and recently Telstra in Australia has upped the ante with its own exclusive NextG network with blistering wireless speeds. In the midst of all of this, Apple has, for some reason, decided to make a 2g iPhone (only useful for voice calls).

Disadvantage 4: Data roaming expensive

This first generation iPhone lacks a switch or button to turn off "data roaming". It means users can expect to pay whopping and often unexpected data transfer bills (up to US$20 per MB in some countries). And by unexpected we mean the iPhone can automatically download (and possibly upload) data without your knowledge (possibly because it needs to update its own iOS software, we hope).

Why the iPhone?

The move to the iPhone is part of a strategy by Apple (and its competitors such as Microsoft) to give customers a total entertainment experience beyond just providing a computer and OS for doing work and organising your digital life. Or as Mr Jobs mentioned more than a few times at the launch of the iPhone, "connected experiences". Or perhaps he means "how to find users pirating software and distributing illegal copies of MP3 music files to everyone else"? All Apple needs is a "live location tracking system" to be added to the iPhone and Apple can sit back and watch the users get caught by the police for doing the wrong thing.

As Dan Blacharski, an author and commentator at itworld.com, explained it:

"The real battle isn't going to be about what brand of computer sits on the desk in your spare room, or even what operating system it runs. It's going to be about who gets to dominate the market for home servers that will control your entertainment, television, telephony and your home automation system.

'The computer is no longer something that sits in a rectangular box and lets you write letters and balance your chequebook. The computer is, and will be, in everything.

'The importance of the home server will only increase when the inevitable happens, and movies no longer come stored on DVDs you get from Blockbuster, but rather, downloaded directly from their website." (Miller, Nick. This isn't a (video) game any more: The Sydney Morning Herald. 13-14 January 2006, p.19.)

The iPhone is released

Apple officially releases version 1 of the iPhone on 30 June 2007 to eager young Apple users who think this is the best thing since sliced bread (and probably better looking too). Its release has giving users a pretty good idea of the cost. So iMuch will the iPhone be? iReckon US$499 (A$590) for the 4MB version, and US$599 for the 8MB version.

How much more can users take of having the "i" in front of any word?

Weight of the device is 135 grams.

It is not likely you will get a SIM card with the iPhone. This is something you should get free from the service provider providing the phone service. NOTE: You will be restricted to the carrier Apple has chosen. And be ready to provide identification details (it's all part of the service).

If there is a major drawback in the current version of the iPhone (beyond those others mentioned above such as a lack of 3G technology), it would have to be the battery. Incredibly, Apple has again chosen not to learn from its mistake with the iPod. Instead Apple will ensure the rechargeable battery can never be removed by users. It is a decision designed to protect Apple's profit in selling and repairing at a high service fee the device for years to come. So while other mobile phones (e.g. Motorola Razr V3xx) will allow the rechargeable lithium-ion battery to be removed and replaced by the user, iPhone users are encouraged to take out an Apple extended warranty for it. You'll definitely need it when the iPhone becomes iStuffed and has to be returned to an Apple-authorised service shop for an iRepair or an iReplacement, whichever Apple chooses.

Cost to replace the battery in the US as of July 2007 is as follows:

plus your time and money to send the iPhone to Apple.

And one more thing. The exchange of the battery will allegedly cause all the data stored on the iPhone to be lost even though it uses flash memory (which should retain the data even when the power is turned off). It is not exactly clear why this is so, but it is one of the classic reasons why you should never do the same for laptops containing a hard drive. Always send the laptop to Apple without the hard drive inside and/or replace it with one that doesn't carry sensitive or important information (even a backup of the data to an external drive and trashing the data without a security wipe of the internal drive is not enough).

Anyway wouldn't it be better to sell the batteries through an Apple store and make the iPhone work in such a way as to allow users to replace the battery? How silly can one get?

Still want to buy an iPhone? We recommend waiting for no less than the second-generation model (unfortunately there is no guarantee the battery will be user replaceable). Reporter Stephen Hutcheon of The Sydney Morning Herald agreed with this view when he said:

"...buyers should wait for the second-generation models because there's usually a kink or two in the first. Many of the early generations of Apple products — iPods and laptops — have suffered to some degree from too rapid a progression from drawing board to production line. With the original iPods it was the batteries, with the iPod Nano it was the screens, and with the MacBook latops there were problems with the casing and the battery." (Hutcheon, Stephen. Touch me, call me, see the glory: The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 June -1 July 2007, p.29.)

And if it turns out the battery in the second-generation model still cannot be replaced by the user with the added risk that you will lose data when Apple does the job, try to use as few functions and features as possible on the iPhone. Or better still, not using the iPhone has a remarkable way of extending battery life!

Good luck!

1 July 2007

It has come to our attention that the iPhone does have the in-built hardware to enable Bluetooth 2.0+EDR for communicating with external bluetooth-enabled devices. At the moment the Apple software built into the iPhone is restricted to bluetoothing with a headset. As far as transferring files wireless between an iPhone and a computer, Apple has been flat out trying to get the iPhone out on the market. You will have to wait before Apple finds the time to fully activate certain features.

23 July 2007

Most, if not all, applications on the iPhone appear to run as root (superuser, UID 0) when you log in. It means someone else could find a way to compromise the iPhone's security to the point where users could dial a phone number, record audio as a bugging device and have it transmitted over the phone network. Instead of getting OSX on the iPhone to behave in a multiuser way as does the laptops and desktop computers, the privileges of applications are the same and subject to a potential security compromise. Further details available from here.

Certainly the last you want to know is that you've been rooted after a security compromise when you've run the iPhone at root level!

Signs of an overheated iPhone emerging - can Apple products take the heat?

It's already 6 July 2007 and the first reports are emerging of the iPhone getting too hot. Apple might think, "Well, so what?" until they realise those reports have mentioned "erratic behaviour" of the iPhone under high heat. If this turns out to be true, it could potentially be breaking the first law of the Trade Practices Act that the iPhone "must be fit for the purpose it was intended" under high heat (something that has to be considered a normal side effect in Apple's view).

Not good in anyone's language.

According to this article from iPhone Atlas (a sister web site to MacFixIt.com), all sorts of handheld digital devices such as mobile phones and PDAs generate heat. And a number of the devices can get excessively hot making it uncomfortable to carry around for the user. Yet remarkably it seems nearly all devices function as they should. Not so for the iPhone.

The heat issue is most notable when the iPhone is charging and in combination of charging and performing one function such as making a call, or trying to run multiple functions simultaneously (whether or not the iPhone is being charged). But there is variability in the amount of heat produced between one iPhone and another.

Users affected by the heat issue may describe the heat as "extremely hot" or experiencing "excessive heat", but Apple may see it differently: As the Apple iPhone user manual states:

"When you're using iPhone or charging the battery, it is normal for the iPhone to get warm. The exterior of iPhone functions as a cooling surface that transfers heat from inside the unit to the cooler air outside."

This could be a legal sticking point, as what's "hot" to one user could be "warm" to another.

However, if the heat is accompanied by "erratic behaviour" of the iPhone especially when placed inside a protective casing (probably manufactured at a time when no one knew how hot the device would get and clearly the most logical thing people would want to use to protect their relatively expensive investment) or wrapped by a user's hand, there's no other way to describe the heat except "too hot".

It will be interesting to see how these reports develop over time.

iOS 1.0 to 3.0

Probably not worth mentioning in detail what these iOS versions did other than provide users with the basics in handling much of the essential organising and playing/accessing of your data while allowing you to run a single app at a time. Critical is the ability for iPhone users to make calls, and yes Apple has thought that one through when designing the operating system. Other than that, the rest involved fancy graphical designs to make users see how pretty it is on a portable Apple device, and get them to buy new Apple products.

If there are any details worthy of discussion, it will be mentioned on this page.

Not all iPhones are built the same

Reports from users suggest the iPhone may behave differently. And there's no rhyme or reason for the behaviour to help you pick out the right one. Its more a luck of the draw on which iPhone you get (reminds users as the famous daying by Forrest Gump that life is like a box of chocolates, you don't know what you might get ˜ just so long as the chocolate remains a chocolate).

For example, some iPhones can have brighter screens than others, some may come with a grid distortion, others may show the inbuilt camera taking shots with an unusually greenish tint throughout the picture which is not reproducible on another iPhone under the exact same lighting conditions, flaky or inconsistent charging from the AC adapter, and others may find the volume in the earpiece, speakerphone, ringer and/or alert sounds to be unusually low. And how can we forget how the pronged portion of the iPhone AC adapter (sometimes called the "duck") can lose contact and fail to charge the iPhone? Removing and reconnecting the "duck" has helped to solve this problem for most users. As one reader, Kevin McCormick, said:

"Removing and replacing the pronged portion of the power adapter can solve the problem of the units losing contact. Sometimes the pronged portion needs to removed and replaced several times for the proper contact to take place."

Also the charger indicator may not indicate full charge despite leaving the iPhone on the charger for days at a time (NOTE: The AC adapter does connect properly). Other iPhones may show full charge within a couple of hours to allow the users to disconnect from the charger.

There may be tiny bubbles formed underneath the screen. Nothing too drastic. Depending on the severity of the problem, Apple Inc. may provide an iPhone replacement.

And you can be rest assured a bit of good old scotch tape will readily boost signal strength in a dramatic way. According to some users, although it should be taken with a grain of salt until more users confirm the observation, the scotch tape has to be placed underneath the SIM card for this to work. Somehow it has the effect of improving the contacts made to the connector on the SIM card through the added pressure of the tape pressing against the iPhone internal components which in turn adds pressure to the SIM card. But as one user (dmjossel) said:

"The items about reseating, replacing, or attaching scotch tape to SIM cards [to improve signal strength] are nothing but pure voodoo.

The SIM card is not involved in any way in radio reception. It is there to provide authentication credentials to the AAA server once a radio connection has been established. If the SIM is damaged or improperly seated, it will not have proper contact, and the device will not be able to send those credentials to the network, and you will have no signal whatsoever.

If it is properly seated, the phone will be able to authenticate, and the radio will connect to whichever base station(s) provide the best signal.

Any observed connection between modifications to the SIM and the signal strength are purely coincidental, and most likely attributable to other factors, the most likely being that disconnecting the device from the network and then reconnecting it forces it to start over from scratch when choosing which of the available base stations to connect to (when several are available). The same is achieved by turning on airplane mode and then turning it off, resetting the device, or disconnecting the battery (not a convenient option on the iPhone, for obvious reasons)." (iPhone Atlas: Boosting iPhone 3G signal strength. 12 July 2008.)

And most if not all iPhones are unusually quiet irrespective of whether users are using the earpiece or speakerphone. Apple has acknowledged the new software update for the iPhone (version 1.0.1) will address this volume issue soon. In the meantime, users may want to perform a restore (i.e. deleting contacts, calendars, photos and other data using the Restore button in iTunes when the iPhone is connected to your Mac or PC). Yeah sure!

We can only hope the new 3G iPhones for mid-2008 will solve all these issues once and for all.

iPhone 1.0 known to have a weak phone signal

Engineers have reported the main problem with the poor signal strength in iPhone 1.0 has to do with "a back made of metal, which hampered the ability of wireless signals to penetrate to the antenna inside" and vice versa. By the time the iPhone 3G came out, the antenna would emerge outside but around the device behind some plastic. But due to the way people held the phone, the signal strength would only be moderately improved from the previous version. The problem would get worse in the iPhone 4.0 when Mr Jobs wanted to maintain the design appeal of the antenna hidden around the device. Except this time the design backfired as the metal used to hide the antenna would interfere with the signal.

Improved signal strength and a better antenna design is expected once the iPhone 5.0 is released in 2011.

Risk of file corruption on iPhones

You may also be pleased to know that iPhones not given the mandatory 10 percent free space in its inbuilt-in flash memory to run its OSX operating system are likely to experience regular application crashes, freezes and, as MacFixIt has suggested:

"Mac OS X requires at least 10 percent of the volume it is contained on as free space in order to maintain the integrity of the file system. However, even with 10 percent free space, Mac OS X's use swap files - as well as extra data generated by third-party application caches, etc. - can quickly put you back into a position of possible directory/file damage." (iPhone Atlas: Troubleshooting tip: Keep some free space on your iPhone. 19 July 2007.)

Apart from the potential to physically corrupt your files, we must somehow consider this a really great phone (no giggling please!). What was Apple thinking?

NOTE: The most problematic application likely to cause crashes on your iPhone is Safari (also known simply as MobileSafari, or "Get led up the garden/jungle path" application when it is not working). We strongly recommend regular clearing of Safari's cache, cookies and history files. Should crashes persist, reboot the iPhone (it's basically a miniature OSX computer), but leave the hammer in the toolbox as it is unlikely the iPhone will like it. As a final solution (apart from selling it and getting a different mobile phone), is to erase all content and settings. You will find this in the Settings application under General. For a slighly less drastic solution, you could try restoring the iPhone to original factory settings and grabbing a backup copy of your iPhone data from your PC or Mac. But if there are corruption issues in some of your data on the backup, you could reintroduce the reason for the crashes. Either way, you will lose the most recent data held on your iPhone. There have been reports of the application called SpringBoard (a Finder alternative for iPhones) crashing as well.

A scratchable iPhone included courtesy of Apple Inc., but a boon for manufacturers of protective iPhone casings

This may sound somewhat ironic but some protective cases for iPhones can actually worsen the look of your new iPhone. If you buy the tight-fitting InCase moulded rubber sleeve product advertised through Apple stores in the US as an authorized accessory, the iPhone can still move slightly inside the case. Should tiny specks of dust get caught between the outer rubberized casing and the chrome faceplate border of the iPhone, blemishes and scratches will be visible within a few short weeks.

Cleaning of the iPhone is another issue. Apple does not recommend cleaning solvents of any kind except for a bit of water on a special lint-free cloth to minimise scratching and adverse chemical reactions. As Apple stated in its KnowledgeBase article:

"Unplug all cables and turn off iPhone (press and hold the Sleep/Wake button and slide the onscreen red slider). Then use the included cleaning cloth or a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth. Avoid getting moisture in openings.

'Don't use window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean iPhone."

Brings back the good old days when the original iBook G3 laptop couldn't be cleaned with methylated spirits. And that's a product you don't carry on your belt or hip pocket!

Given the delicate nature of the iPhone's casing, you might want to consider placing the iPhone on a stand inside your house and don't take it with you anywhere or let anyone else touch it. Until Apple can decide to put in some decent and high quality materials into the product, keeping it in pristine condition is going to be tough for most people. A Motorola phone is starting to look mightily attractive at this stage!

This naturally raises the question of what it means by a product to be marked as an "Apple Authorized Accessory"? Does it mean it is a quality product suited for the Apple product it relates to and therefore endorsed by Apple Inc.? Apparently not so according to one iPhone user who has managed to clarify this issue for everyone (so what's the purpose of the message?):

"It's troubling that a product designed to protect your property may in fact be damaging. But that's not why I'm writing this response. I'm more concerned about the line 'sold through the Apple Store as an authorized accessory'. This seems to indicate that Apple is somehow responsible for the quality of the product sold. This isn't the case. An Apple Authorized Accessory is simply a marketing term. It allows the third-party vendor to use the Apple logo and use the "Made For Mac" tagline. That's all. An "authorized Accessory" does not guarantee a certaIn level of build quality or if it even works with the intended product at all." (iPhone Atlas: Go naked: some iPhone cases causing scratches. 19 July 2007.)

In a nutshell, the term simply helps third-party manufacturers to sell more of its products to Apple users and consumers see the message. It's a profit thing and a psychological ploy to attract more Apple users to buy Apple-specific products. It's the only way to attract enough money to keep manufacturers manufacturing various items for Apple's own laptops and consumer products.

It would be a whole lot nicer if Apple could provide some leadership on this issue by explaining to customers what they mean by an "authorized accessory" and to help customers choose the better quality stuff if for any reason Apple cannot put in the quality materials into their iPhones etc in the first place.

Again this is another classic reason why web pages such as this one have sprung up to help fill in the gap for those contemplating a purchase of a new Apple product.

Apple releases version 1.0.1 of the firmware and software update for the iPhone

This is a mandatory firmware update for the iPhone. Version 1.0.1 of your iPhone firmware will provide a sleuth of documented and undocumented improvements including better volume levels for some users (although the benefits are not universal). The documented improvements are mainly security updates to MobileSafari, WebKit and WebCore. The undocumented ones are designed to improve the stability of the iPhone's software and fix glaring mistakes. For example, iPhoneatlas.com claims MobileSafari crashes less frequently, VPN passwords are now correctly remembered, expanded the ability to send emails through to addresses stored in BCC instead of being fixed to CC, the alarm snooze function works properly, and extended the time to enter passcode to unlock the iPhone to 1 hour instead of 1 minute.

Now we await the hardware improvements.

NOTE: By the time you read this, a thriving new business will exist. It involves, not surprisingly, the selling of iPhone logic boards, displays, batteries and other parts. Want to get rid of a few scratches on the iPhone, or replace the battery? No problem. A company called ifixit.com will get the part you need and tell you how you can fix your iPhone in the privacy of your own home. Naturally, if Apple finds out you might void your warranty. Mind you, if you do a good job, who will tell the difference? Seriously, wait until your warranty has ended.

NOTE 2: To update your iPhone's firmware and software, plug the device into your Mac, have it connected to the internet so Apple can see who you are, where you are (through your IP address), and what you've got (anything that might be worth investigating?), download the firmware through the iTunes 7.3 software, and click the update button. We call this, "We give you what you want if you give us what we want".

Apple believes the iPhone problems stem from poor usage

Apple has updated Knowledge Base article #305689 in an attempt to quell concerns by saying many of the problems such as low volume, display image issues, no cell strength, no sound through stereo headset, shorter than usual battery life per charge, and poor camera image is essentially caused by incorrect usage.

For example, no sound through the stereo headset requires users to:

"Unplug and reconnect the headset. Make sure the connector is pushed in all the way."

Shorter battery life can be explained by telling users not to plug the iPhone to the Mac's keyboard (do it through the USB port of your computer). Screen problems can be resolved by turning off and on the iPhone. And low volume or muffled sound requires users to:

"Make sure the receiver is over your ear. Move it around until it is in a spot that produces the clearest sound."

Also poor cell strength can be explained by Apple in terms of telling users to move to an area having better coverage (the real estate agents would love this idea).

Other than that, Apple recommends installing the latest firmware update (currently version 1.0.1) to solve certain issues for some users.

In Apple's mind, the problem is really with the user. "Use the iPhone properly and you won't have a problem," as Apple would say. It is known in the industry as standard advice for those who aren't aware of the basics when operating the iPhone.

But as one US user thought of the advice:

"Am I the only person who feels insulted by the quality of this "information" mighty Apple has chosen to impart to us here? Make sure the headphone jack is plugged in? Really? Make sure the speaker is positioned over your ear? D'oh! Turn the phone on and off again to fix screen problems? Don't connect the iPhone to a USB1 port? No signal strength? Make sure you're in an area that has coverage... You think? Why didn't I think of that? They have got to be kidding. What about addressing some of the real problems - such as the ringer being WAY too low and the speakerphone being practically unusable due to its pathetically low volume - just to name two obvious ones that EVERYONE I know who has an iPhone complains about? This advisory is a joke and IMO, shows Apple's contempt for its customers.' (iphoneatlas.com: Apple speaks on iPhone volume, battery, display, camera issues. 3 August 2007.)

Another user writes:

"I couldn't agree more. Ludicrous. My Samsung's volume (with Sprint) is so loud I have to turn it DOWN to hear people adequately or hold it AWAY from my ear, rather than "position" it just so. And I certainly agree about the ringer volume issue. Only the "old phone" ringer or whatever it's called comes close to being noticeable if the phone is in the next room....

'"No cell signal strength anwhere." AT&T: The fewest dropped calls than any other network. Well, yeah...that's because no one can reach you to begin with." (iphoneatlas.com: Apple speaks on iPhone volume, battery, display, camera issues. 3 August 2007.)

And another user writes:

"And I just gotta add, after reading Apple's support page:

"Avoiding Hearing Damage Permanent hearing loss may occur if the receiver, earbuds, headphones, speakerphone, or earpieces are used at high volume. Set the volume to a safe level."

HA! The only hearing damage I'll get is by pressing the phone so hard against my head to hear a caller that the iPhone comes out my other ear." (iphoneatlas.com: Apple speaks on iPhone volume, battery, display, camera issues. 3 August 2007.)

To keep some balance on the issue, another user responded by saying:

"...if you read manuals, you'd have noticed that these troubleshooting tips are of standard nature. I bought a new fridge recently. In the troubleshooting page, I could read : if the fridge isn't working : a) make sure the main switch inside is at the "on" position b) make sure the fridge is plugged in c) make sure there is electricity to the outlet by testing with a lamp that is known to work. As you can see, "mighty Apple" as you say just went with the same level of tips as "mighty Whirlpool"...

I've done tech support and I'd say that 90% of the problems can be solved with these basic-level hints. It is very impressive. I'd say that when things don't work as expected, people tend to panic and stop thinking. OTOH, some people never seem to use their cerebral appendix too : "basic first" is most definitely the way to go ! So these tips are not pedantic, they are needed.

I'd say that if your iPhone sound level seems too low after following these tips, no written tips can help: you must talk to an Apple rep so that the company becomes aware of the problem (to either issue a software update that will bring the sound level to an acceptable level to the majority of the users, or exchange the unit because maybe the problem is hardware...)" (iphoneatlas.com: Apple speaks on iPhone volume, battery, display, camera issues. 3 August 2007.)

You have to give Apple credit for trying. This is the first time Apple has delved into the world of mobile phones. Motorola, Nokia and others have already learned their mistakes over a decade ago.

Now there's an idea. Let Motorola build the mobile phones and let Apple provide the operating system. What an awesome combination and worth keeping an eye out for!

A possible explanation for low volume levels

The low volume levels experienced by some users for some iPhones may actually be an intended result due to its design. It has been noticed by some users how the proximity of the speaker and microphone at the same end of the iPhone could cause unwanted feedback if the speaker volume is set too loud. Depending on how sensitive the microphone levels are set by the manufacturer, the iPhone could automatically adjust the speaker volume to a low level to prevent feedback.

If this is true, we have ourselves a classic design flaw from Apple. The best solution is to wear a headset or make sure the speaker is over your ear firmly. Hopefully the iOS software will automatically adjust the volume back to normal levels.

Could Apple be doing something to improve the iPhone?

In a rare move suggesting Apple Inc. could be interested in learning from its mistakes and making sure customers are happy, it is claimed by some American users that the company is prepared to repair iPhones free-of-charge (a one-off deal for each customer) even if the user has accidentally damaged it (e.g. dropped on a floor causing the glass screen to shatter or crack). Apparently Apple wants to learn more about how the iPhones cope with a little rough treatment and wants to improve the engineering aspects in the next iPhone model.

Apple could do with some more good news like this. Now if only Apple could do the same for laptops and desktop computers.

A possible concern that Apple could access data and/or update software on your iPhone without your consent or awareness

Another possible concern that has come to light regarding the first-generation iPhones is the way the iPhone Update 1.0.1 has not provided immediate functionality to all users for certain features until a period of time has elapsed after which the features became suddenly apparent.

For example, a "Send to Web Gallery" button eventually appeared in the Camera and Photos applications when clicking the share button in the lower left corner when viewing a photo. The button never existed prior to applying Software Update 1.0.1. But even when the update was applied, the button would not appear until later in the day or several days depending on when the users have turned on the iPhone and reconnected to a wireless network, that the button would eventually appear.

Such an observation, a common one at that given the number of comments made by users on the Apple Discussion web site and MacFixIt.com as of August 2007, raises a privacy concern that Apple could have, or will soon have, the ability to update, activate or unlock software on the iPhone over a wireless network without your consent or awareness and with it the implications it could send and possibly receive other kinds of information stored on your iPhone when Apple wants to. Certainly a very effective tool against certain users not doing the right thing (e.g. exchanging pirated software or perhaps releasing leaked Apple documents).

And it could be possible for Apple to snoop on the data you send and receive on the iPhone through the EDGE/GPRS data network.

Some other users are a little more cautious about this observation explaining the delay could be due to a timer or a criteria set into the programming of the iPhone's software to activate only when certain features are running. Or it may be an extra bit of updating or activation required through a special email sent via the.Mac account. Other users are not too sure. So some users have considered trying to turn off the EDGE/GPRS "data network plan" for the iPhone as a safety measure.

It should be noted that some telephone companies may claim it is impossible to turn off this "data plan", but if you ask the representative to enter "an SOC code called 'NWIX' and then have them go into 'Snooper' and remove all GPRS functionality for your device" (iPhone Atlas: Disabling the iPhone's EDGE/GPRS data access. 17 August 2007.), you can disable this EDGE/GPRS data network access. But you have to be persistent.

Performing this action may allow you greater control and privacy of when and who you want to send data to someone, this time through WiFi (although no guarantees are given here either).

Apple is neither confirming nor denying any of these claims. Perhaps the company is testing to see how users react to a potentially new feature to be expanded in the future?

19 November 2007

AT&T has now provided the option to remove the unlimited EDGE/GPRS data network access, thereby saving users US$20 per month on the service. But you will lose out. The loss of the visual voice-mail feature and you ability to send and receive a free allotment of text messages will go out the door. Can users live with this loss?

Sounds very much like AT&T and Apple really want you to have the data services.

Apple believes the iPhone problems stem from poor usage

Well, if Apple can't snoop around to see what users could be hiding on their iPhones or check the data network to see what's being transmitted, there is always the option of forcing users to restore their iPhones and start from scratch.

This appears to be the latest move after the release of iPhone Update 1.0.2 on 21 August 2007. According to iPhone Atlas, the 3.7MB download via iTunes (when you connect the iPhone to your Mac or PC) may turn into a full restore of your iPhone clearing everything on it and forcing you to download the latest 98MB (with the latest 1.0.2 updates of course) if you have done anything silly like hacked your iPhone to accept installation of third-party applications via the Installer.app single-command method or, allegedly, any other third-party stuff (e.g. ring tones) not to Apple's liking.

Apple only likes Apple-sanctioned and authorised software to be on the iPhones.

In the rare case you cannot restore your iPhone, you will need to activate recovery mode as follows:

1. Disconnect the iPhone from your Mac or PC.

2. Press and hold down the sleep/wake buttons simultaneously for 30 seconds until you see a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark in the middle. Below this icon should be a message asking you to "Please Connect to iTunes".

3. Connect to your Mac or PC and launch iTunes.

4. A message will appear saying "iTunes has detected an iPhone in recovery mode. You must restore this iPhone before it can be used with iTunes". Click the OK button.

5. In the Summary tab, click the Restore button. If you have backed up your text messages, notes, call history, contact favourites, sound and widget settings and more, hopefully this part of the Restore process will be painless. But remember, third-party applications installed through a hack will not be retained.

On the positive side, volume on the speaker is thought to be louder. Early days yet to say for sure. But as one user claimed:

"I just did the update...

'Just want to add that the audio from the earpiece and the speaker are NOTICEABLY louder (finally).

'I had to do a full restore to get the update to work, and then I immediately had to make a call.

'At first, I thought there was no difference in the audio, it sounded exactly the same as before. But then I remembered I had just done a restore so the volume would be set about medium. I looked and sure enough...it was at a medium setting.

'After the update, the volume at medium at a medium setting, is equal to the volume at loudest setting before the update.

'In fact, now at full volume, the earpiece is almost too loud!!! About time!" (iPhone Atlas: iPhone Update 1.0.2 (#2): fixes green photo tint issue for some users; missing audio, fix. 22 August 2007.)

As for the mysterious green tint in photos taken by the iPhone's camera, the auto white balancing appears to have been corrected or significantly improved according to this article following the update. As one user said:

"I can confirm that the camera software must had been adjusted. I noticed the light sensor more responsive and no green tint either."

For those users wanting to re-hack their iPhones, visit this web page for details.

And now for that nice Motorola mobile phone...

Apple wants to restrict iPhone's phone service carrier access

Another telling discovery of the iPhone, at least in the US, is how it appears to be restricted to the AT&T carrier as the provider for all phone services. And Apple is not keen to provide an unlocking code to make the iPhone work with other carriers.

Now it is claimed an innovative American college student has found a hardware "unlocking code" solution and was selling the unlocked iPhone on eBay as of 26 August 2007. A software solution may arrive soon according to this web site, but we have to wait to see if the claims are true.

New Apple iPhones at risk of exploding if not repaired by authorised personnel?

This article suggests new iPhones are being designed to short-circuit and permanently damage the iPhone if three screws are removed by unauthorised users.

Depending on the level of charge present in the lithium battery, there have been cases where the iPhone have exploded in a puff of smoke, rendering the circuitry unusuable and burning the fingers of users who have touched it, raising concerns of a possible consumer safety issue.

To avoid this concern, either wait for the software unlocking solution. Or find a way to reduce the battery voltage to zero. Fully discharging the battery would be a great start!

To avoid hacking into iPhones, Apple may be allowing users to install third-party applications

In this article, it seems Maskim Rogov, president of Nullriver Software and the company that developed Installer.app for the iPhone claims Apple is happy to allow users to install third-party applications. When asked by iPhoneAtlas.com whether Apple could disallow third-party applications on the iPhone with software/firmware updates, Rogov allegedly said:

"They definitely can, but from what we've seen so far, they [Apple Inc.] don't seem to mind it - as the last two updates did not interfere with third party development. Its likely in their interest to let this community flourish."

Apple wants to stop iPhone users from creating their own free ringtones

iPhone users have found a way to bypass a feature within iTunes of allowing any MP3 or AAC file to become a ringtone for the iPhone. Just change the extension to ".m4r" and re-import into iTunes where it will be visible in the Ringtones section for the iPhone.

Apple has tried to stop this with iTunes 7.4.1 update (no other improvements other than to stop people creating their own ringtones and updating the iPhone ringtones).

However, this posting at MacRumours suggests free ringtones may still work in iTunes 7.4.1. Or try downloading the freeware utility Make iPhone Ringtones 1.2 (as of 17 September 2007) from the same author for an easier solution. On the same day as version 1.0 of the utility was released (i.e. 11 September 2007), Apple began selling ringtones for iPhone users.

Might as well cash in on the ringtones market now before too many users find out how to do it themselves.

About a week later (i.e. 16 September 2007), Apple realised there wasn't an overwhelming interest from users in updating to iTunes 7.4.1. So Apple Inc. provided a sweetener in the iTunes 7.4.2 update. This one has been described by Apple as allegedly having numerous bug fixes. Users aren't seeing it in the same way according to this MacFixIt article.

Since the iTunes 7.4.2 update, the overwhelming interest from users returned. This time the interest became one of the biggest complaints in years after users realised the latest iTunes had significant problems synchronising information with the iPhone let alone getting iTunes to recognise the iPhone. It began to some extent with the move to iTunes 7.4.0. But it has become a whole lot worse with version 7.4.2. After much catharting around, it seems the best solution for getting iTunes to recognise the iPhone is to reinstall the AppleMobileDeviceSupport.pkg software, restart the computer, and repair disk permissions. As for the synchronisation issues, try connecting the iPhone directly to the Macintosh computer's USB port. Plugging it into a third-party USB hub is likely to get you into trouble for some reason (power issue?). As for Safari bookmarks, iCalc and Outlook events and other information not syncing, the only sure fire way of solving most of the issues is to downgrade iTunes to version 7.3.2.

In addition to this, we learn that iTunes 7.4.2 also has a time out feature when attempting to transfer data to the iPhone. It is not clear whether this is interfering with the synchronisation process. Perhaps Apple could elucidate on this matter?

EDGE roaming could be turned off in the upcoming firmware/software update 1.1.1

It is claimed that the next firmware update could give users the option to turn off EDGE roaming and thus potentially eliminate racking up hugh international data roaming charges. Other improvements are likely to see the iPhone approach the full functionality of the iPod Touch including enhanced video-out capabilities.

Apple vows to stop iPhone hackers

After releasing details of the sweetener in the firmware/software update 1.1.1, Apple is wielding the ugly stick once again by promising users who have hacked into the iPhone to unlock it that the next firmware update will allegedly render their iPhones inoperable. Apple CEO Steve Jobs supports this when he said:

"It's a cat-and-mouse game. We try to stay ahead. People will try to break in, and it's our job to stop them breaking in" (iPhone Atlas: Apple sends iPhone hackers back to the drawing board; 1.1.1 firmware uses different encryption scheme. 27 September 2007.)

In a statement released by Apple on 24 September 2007, Apple claims any unlocking solution to get the iPhone to work on carriers other than AT&T in the US or other authorized phone companies will cause "irreparable damage to the iPhone's software".

Sounds like another bomb ready to explode if you tamper with any part of its software just like the removal of three screws and a fully charged battery can damage the unit beyond repair.

It is not clear how Apple intends to permanently disable the iPhone on a software level, but as one hacker from the Hackintosh forum going by the name of Sam alleges, a software unlocking solution will be available in the next week to return the iPhone to its previous unlocking state irrespective of Apple's anti-hacking efforts.

TIme will tell if this is true.

On 27 September 2007, Apple released the iPhone firmware/software update 1.1.1. On the positive side, the new update provides the following features (not mentioned by Apple):

(i) Change voicemail password directly on the iPhone.

(ii) Change the sound played when a new text message arrives.

(iii) Watch videos from where they left off.

(iv) See the HTML errors in Safari when web pages cannot be properly rendered.

(v) Cosmetic changes to several icons (Calculator, WiFi etc) to make them look more attractive.

(vi) And possible a louder adjustable speaker.

More undocumented features are being discovered as we speak. It is almost as if Apple wants to convince iPhone users that version 1.1.1 of the update is the one people should stick to and not version 1.0.2. As more positive features emerge, we notice some iPhone users coming to Apple's rescue with statements such as:

"...I am not interested in hacking my iPhone now or ever." (MacFixIt.com: Yet another undocumented iPhone 1.1.1 feature: H.264 video boost. 2 October 2007.)

Clearly a happy user of his iPhone at firmware version 1.1.1 and not having problems with their AT&T service. But what about those who can't get a choice on the phone carrier? As one iPhone Atlas reader said:

"...From my brief look at this hacking issue, it seems to be that some people who do the hacking would probably prefer another phone carrier and not be restricted to the one chosen by Apple Inc. for whatever reason.

"Perhaps AT&T provides a lousy service for some iPhone users? Who knows. But wouldn't it be great if users could make a choice of which phone carrier they would like to connect their iPhones to? I mean, just as an example, how many Motorola mobile phones do you know of are restricted by Motorola in some way to force users to stay with AT&T?

At least my mobile phone can be used with a variety of phone carriers? Why can't iPhone users do the same?" (MacFixIt.com: Yet another undocumented iPhone 1.1.1 feature: H.264 video boost. 2 October 2007.)

That is why there are some hackers who must find ways to unlock the iPhones, just like every other mobile phones such as the Motorola Razr V3xx can now do when users need the choice.

Apart from a growing list of positive improvements, the only negative so far from the firmware update is that users had to perform a full restore. So make sure you have backed up everything first before applying the firmware update.

For hackers, one extra negative is that the new encryption scheme (similar to the one used in the iPod Touch) is proving difficult to get around for now. Anyone wanting to go back to firmware 1.0.2 should read this iPhone Atlas article. It will involve downloading the old firmware.

As for users of unlocked iPhones, they will be able to install the latest firmware update and the iPhone will remain unlocked, but it won't be possible to reactivate the phone calling functionality. It means your iPhone will become an iPod Touch. So for the current crop of software unlocking solutions designed to change the IMEI number (a code for identifying the mobile phone on a carrier network), anyone with AT&T sim cards in the US will not be able to reactivate the iPhone.


Apple may be preparing iPhone to accept third-party applications

With the potential for a consumer backlash over the iPhone's inability to accep third-party applications, Apple may have prepared the iPhone to accept future third-party applications but only under its own licensing terms. Discovered by Nicholas "Drudge" Penree, a further undocumented and hidden feature of firmware version 1.1.1 suggests an extra couple of buttons for showing additional application icons is visible as if Apple will permit certain extra applications to be installed soon.

Again this is all speculation, but it only makes sense at some point to allow a greater range of flexible application options for users to meet their own special circumstances.

Now the problem of unlocking iPhones to work on other phone carriers remains. What will Apple do here?

Hackers find a way to jailbreak the iPhone to accept third-party applications of your choice

Though not strictly an unlocking solution, an official iPhone 1.1.1 jailbreak solution has been released to allow users to install third-party applications on an iPhone with firmware version 1.1.1. For this to work properly, you must have a locked iPhone running firmware version 1.0.2.

The technique also involves patching Apple's SpringBoard application to permit the installation and running of third-party applications, and it patches a vulnerability Apple TIFF exploit bug in Safari for a more secure iPhone. Fortunately the hackers have provided simple instructions and all the tools you need to jailbreak your iPhone. Just download this ZIP file and make sure you have a PC to run the patchers and other tools on it!

Currently, the best and easiest way of unlocking an iPhone with firmware 1.1.1 is an application called AppSnapp.

Apple not happy

Apple is not happy with the way iPhones are being jailbroken by their customers. To reduce the impact, Apple is cracking down on individual accounts at the Apple store purchasing mutiple iPhones on the assumption the individuals could be unofficial resellers of jailbroken iPhones. However, it doesn't stop individuals creating a new account and using the same credit card to make multiple iPhone purchases and jailbreaking them for resale.

It is starting to look like Apple may have to consider selling unlocked iPhones at some point in the future.

Apple releases firmware 1.1.2

Apple released the whopping 160MB size firmware 1.1.2 on 8 November 2007 providing no substantial improvements for iPhone users other than a few additional languages (anyone for some Chinese?). This firmware update is characterised mainly by its ability to plug the TIFF exploit in Safari. It means easy jailbreaks of the iPhone has been curtailed somewhat. You are probably better off sticking to the hackers own update which unlocks the phone and helps fix the TIFF exploit at the same time. Much better features than Apple.

3G iPhones to arrive sometime in 2008

Want a 3G phone? Rumours have it that Spanish carrier Telefonica intends to carry a 3G iPhone by May 2008. Vodaphone also makes similar claims with a likely release date in the first quarter of 2008 (i.e. after 30 June). Apple cannot confirm the details — possibly a move to protect the sales of the current breed of iPhones to worldwide users.

As news of the new iPhones seeps into the marketplace, getting rid of the excess old iPhones to make way for the new 3G iPhones has seen Apple Inc. decide to increase the purchase limit of 5 iPhone units per purchaser as of 12 December 2007.

Apple releases firmware 1.1.3

Apple has released the 162MB size firmware 1.1.3 on 14 January 2008. Apple is making this update easier to download as a separate.dmg file instead of using iTunes. On the other hand, this is balanced by making life difficult for users with legally and officially unlocked iPhones in France and Germany — the iPhones now become locked again.

By late January 2008, a method to unlock the iPhones has been re-issued. This one requires users to downgrade and install iTunes 7.4.2 with the help of the utility Pacifist. If you have OSX "Tiger" Installed, use version 10.4.10 or less for this technique to work. And each time a new unlock method is found and made available, it gets increasingly easier to apply. Apple Inc. had better come out with an Self Development Kit (SDK) for iPhones as soon as possible. But only if it is sufficiently flexible to allow developers to add any application they like to the iPhone. Somehow we get the feeling Apple Inc. won't like the idea.

It sounds like the battle to unlock and lock iPhones between users and Apple Inc. will continue for a little while longer.

The other disappointments to come from this firmware update are:

(i) in the bluetooth field — not enough compatibility with bluetooth devices remains;

(ii) the way SMS text messages are displayed — it can be out-of-order;

(iii) capturing a photo and storing it in the contact — it can lock up the iPhone.

Apart from that, the update does provide a slightly more stable OS on the iPhone. But other bugs do remain. You are better off going straight for version 1.1.4.

A research firm announces positive news for Apple's iPhone

A positive boost for Apple's iPhone has finally come by way of a research survey from ChangeWave. According to this research, users where asked their satisfaction of the cell phones they were using. The results allegedly show that 72 per cent of users are happy with their iPhones compared to the nearest cell phone competitor known as RIM (55 per cent), followed by LG (41 per cent). Motorola, a formerly dominant player in the mobile phone market several years ago, sits at 34 per cent for happy customers.

As research analysts Paul Carton and Jim Woods of ChangeWave discovered from their work:

"...one-time market dominator Motorola (MOT) has declined another four points in terms of future planned purchases, continuing a monstrous slide that began immediately after Apple CEO Steve Jobs' initial announcement regarding the iPhone."

The main problem competitors have is that their mobile phones are trying to do too much using a screen that is clearly too small with an operating system or software that is not as attractive and easy to navigate and use as Apple's own iPhones.

Those who purchase mobile phones from non-Apple sources do so because they only want a compact phone to call someone or receive a call. Most of the functions on the phone are generally never used or wasted.

Where the extra features are used, it tends to be from young and/or technophile users. And their needs for such features tend to bring them to phones that can make the task look easy and attractive. Hence the power of the iPhone.

Competitors of mobile phones need a bit of a wake up call to start building more useful and attractive mobile phones to compete with the fancy OSX and big screen of the iPhones.

Apple to release an official SDK by March 2008

As third-party developers have created an unofficial SDK for the iPhone (together with a complete guide), Apple has seen the need to release its own official SDK. It is expected to come soon.

And now Apple wishes to be seen as the good guy by emphasising the positives of their SDK. Apple Chief Operating Officer (COO) Timothy Cook is hinting the SDK will "broaden the platform more, to the point where the only limit will be people's imagination."

Cook is also suggesting the iPhone may be offered in more countries as a way of reducing the jailbreaking attempts by hackers even though he admits:

"There are very few people who have unlocked the iPhone for use on a carrier other than AT&T in the US." (iPhone Atlas: Apple COO drops iPhone SDK hints at symposium. 27 February 2008.)

He currently sees the hacking attempts as a way for users to use the iPhone on other carriers. And with the official SDK about to be released, Cook is hoping no one would see a need to jailbreak the iPhone after March 2008 to add third-party applications.

Apple releases software/firmware update version 1.1.4

Apple released the firmware update version 1.1.4 for the iPhone. This one addresses the cell signal strength problem — it now boosts signal strength by around 60 per cent. Other issues mentioned in version 1.1.3 appear to be fixed by this update.

This is perhaps the first, most positive update ever produced by Apple. A rare event.

Still want to jailbreak the iPhone? iPhones with 1.1.4 update can be unlocked using ZiPhone. This is one of the easiest methods available so far.

Apple releases iPhone SDK

A humongous 2.1GB file was available for download as of 6 March 2008 from the Apple developer web site. On the day of its release, the web site was allegedly down for maintenance. But Apple should have woken up by the time you read this. It's the official Apple iPhone SDK 1.0 file for the iPhone. Amazing! And it only took one unofficial free third-party SDK file from another developer to do it.

The company is choosing to make this file freely available for a short time to a limited number of developers suggesting you may have to pay more than the US$99 Apple is asking for the Standard Program. For now it is only $99 and for the Enterprise Program it is US$299 (together with your personal details and address provided to Apple) to get a better SDK version in the future. As Apple announced:

"...a limited number of developers will be accepted into Apple's new iPhone Developer Program."

Perhaps there is still some use for the unofficial third-party SDK after all. It will always remain free and you can truly make the iPhone flexible enough to add or create all your applications (of course, whether you are licensed to sell the applications to others is another question unless you are the developer of those applications).

Apple alleges the SDK file will only run on Intel machines, but with a little TLC using Pacifist you can install all the software from the file to run on PowerPC computers.

Apple is looking to release iPhone 2.0 software update sometime in June 2008. If it is anything like version 1.1.4 in terms of positive improvements, we should all be pleased.

Apple iPhone 2.0 beta software

Early indications suggest Apple has released a beta version of a new live location tracking system where you can watch a blue dot representing your iPhone move about on a map as you (or someone else) carries it. The technology relies on the slower cell tower triangulation method for determining the iPhone's location. But expect this to quicken over the next few years and with tracking in other countries.

The Apple 3G iPhone (or iPhone 3G)

Apple's worldwide release of the 3G iPhone with the full iOS 2.0 software on 11 July 2008 (in roughly 21 countries) provided much requested improvements in speed when it comes to sending video and sound data to other users (at least twice as fast) thanks to the 400MHz CPU 128MB RAM and the move to a 3G network.

Another much anticipated feature is the ability to add third-party free and low-cost (90 per cent are under US$10) iPhone applications from Apple-approved software developers. Although by the time you read this hackers have finalised a jailbreak solution for the iPhone to allow a wider range of applications to be installed by any developer and used by anyone as well as giving users the option to select their own preferred service provider. Finally!

The new jailbreak software solution known as PwnageTool 2.0.1 for Mac and WinPwn for Windows will also be allegedly user friendly enough to include a well designed and simple graphic interface where you click on the graphic representing your iPhone model and let the software do all the work for you. Well, we hope this is the case, including the ability to restore to factory settings and original iPhone 3.0 software version in case people need to go back.

Already there are carriers such as TIM in Italy and 3 Hutchinson Telecommunications in Hong Kong selling the latest iPhones unlocked for users to insert any SIM card. Users are required to sign up for a 2-year contract when purchasing these unlocked iPhones.

In fact, as of 28 September 2008, the Apple Online Store has agreed to make them unlocked for the Hong Kong market. In return for this freedom, customers must pay US$695 for the 8GB version and US$798 for the 16GB version. As the site stated:

"[The] iPhone 3G purchased at the Apple Online Store can be activated with any wireless carrier. Simply insert the SIM from your current phone into iPhone 3G and connect to iTunes 8 to complete activation." (iPhone Atlas: Apple selling unlocked iPhone 3G in Hong Kong. 28 September 2008.)

The question is, Why are customers in other parts of the world unable to choose their preferred carrier service (especially in the US)?

28 October 2008

It is rumoured Belgium also sells unlocked iPhones according to one user. And there is legislation denying the combined sale of of the iPhone and subscription to a network provider. The iPhone can be purchased separately, which means the device has to be unlocked to allow users to choose their preferred network provider. The trend has continued well in 2010 with the iPhone 3GS as this user, greyked, from Belgium has admitted:

"Here in Belgium it is not allowed to do a combined sale i.e. sell the iPhone AND the subscription to a network service. So the iPhone is expensive (3Gs costs 575 euro to begin with), but it is not SIM locked and can be used with any network operator." (Ngo, Dong. Jailbreaking iPhone could pose threat to national security, Apple claims: CNET News. 29 July 2009.)

At any rate, just these two features alone — speed and adding third-party applications — should make the iPhone considerably more useful than the previous model. But we can also add the microphone pickup and speaker appears to be much clearer and do not cause audio feedback, at a better volume, and easier to use. And signal strength is improved somewhat although we hear it can improve even more if the iPhone could automatically switch from 3g to 2g when signal strength is low to help improve standard phone voice calls. In fact, as of 16 July 2008, American users were starting to complain thick and fast about the lousy reception on the 3G network using the iPhone in areas they expected better reception on the same network using other mobile phones according to this article. The reception may also suddenly drop inside a building for apparently no good reason. Could this issue be due to the antenna of the iPhone being embedded somewhere inside to minimise energy passing through the users' head but maximised in the opposite direction? Could a small antenna be attached on the iPhone to help improve the reception and transmission of signals on the 3G network?

Or, as some users are noticing, it may have something to do with version 2.0 of the iPhone software:

"I have the old iPhone, and have had many signal problems since upgrading to 2.0. Perhaps this isn't a hardware problem of either the phone or the network." (iPhone Atlas: iPhone 3G signal and reception complaints pour in. 16 July 2008.)

Another user suggested the same thing when he said:

"I have the first iPhone and was always at 5 bars while in my house. I upgraded to version 2 software and I only have 2 bars....I called Apple, they were no help. I asked about going back to Iphone v1 software and was told that was no longer available. First hung up for 2 days on the Itunes software upgrade. Then Monday had to restore Iphone, it took 2 more days to get music and photos synced (no music or photos for the 2 days). And still only 2 bars of signal strength! I am disgusted with Apple! Looked at Vista laptops yesterday as well as the Instinct from Sprint. I am selling my black Macbook and my Iphone on Ebay. Going back to something without the excess baggage and damage that Apple has become. By the way Safari is unable to open Ebay pages half the time and relisting items page shows up in HTML rather then plain text. Apple sucks!" (iPhone Atlas: iPhone 3G signal and reception complaints pour in. 16 July 2008.)

Perhaps users are overreacting just a bit? Unfortunately this MacFixIt article dated 14 August 2008 shows the persistent nature of this poor signal strength problem. According to Peter Burrows of this BusinessWeek article:

"Apple and Infineon are currently testing the fix, which will be included in a broader update of the iPhone's software. iPhone owners will be prompted to install the update when they synch their iPhones to a PC, just as they have on many other occasions. In its statement, AT&T said, "We urge our customers to synch iPhone 3G to iTunes frequently to ensure they have the latest software updates."

Actually this article suggests the problem lies with Munich-based Infineon Technologies caused by faulty software on the chip. The fault "causes problems when the iPhone needs to switch from wireless networks that allow for faster Web downloads to slower ones" according to "well-placed sources". However Infineon spokesman Guenther Gaugler couldn't comment on the performance of its 3G chips other than saying the same chips worked well on other phones, including those made by Samsung. As Gaugler said:

"Our 3G chips are, for example, used in Samsung handsets and we are not aware of such problems there."

Apple, on the other hand, is taking the view that the iPhones are working great on the company's own 3G network. A comforting thought for users who aren't on the Apple 3G network!

And now the BusinessWeek article has gone one step further by stating it has found a source claiming it is Apple that has programmed the Infineon chip "to demand a more powerful 3G signal than the iPhone really requires". So the reason for the slowing down is not so much that the iPhone can't provide a strong enough 3G signal, but rather there are too many iPhone users trying to surf the web and download movies which is restricting other iPhone users from enjoying the benefits of a 3G network. It means a number of users will be forced to accept a slower network.

Or try this idea from another user:

"Or else there is simple procedure to get a perfect signal.... Put Iphone in the box you received and go and buy a nokia." (iPhone Atlas: Boosting iPhone 3G signal strength. 12 July 2008.)

Apple is working hard to provide another software update to solve this latest bug in the iPhone, unless it has more to do with the hardware design and position of the antenna, or simply the number of users trying to get on the 3G network.

Superficially the casing has a more rounded look making it comfortable to sit in the hand. And interestingly, Apple has chosen to make the screen and battery user replaceable (well, almost). For the first time, the battery is NOT soldered to the circuit board as it was in the first generation model (and in the iPods), and the LCD screen with its glass surface can be unplugged. But you'll need an Apple technician (and not the phone carriers) to do the job for you unless you are willing to void your warranty and go through a complex procedure of disassembling it.

If you let Apple technicians do the job, they will charge you US$86 for a battery replacement and will involve erasing all data stored on your iPhone (so always make a backup).

On the negative, American users will be required to supply their social security number (doubles as the tax file number), a credit card number (a maximum of 3 can be sold per user and no cash is accepted) and all other standard personal information such as your name and address (and possibly a driver's license to obtain a new SIM card). In other countries, the requirements might differ so check your local Apple dealer. Also the iPhone will now store a screenshot of you holding the device in /var/mobile/Library/Caches/Snapshots everytime the home button is pressed and when suspending and resuming applications. Apple's explanation for this is allegedly to help with the 3D "zoom" effect get adjusted and ready for the next application to use this effect. Yet surprisingly the screenshot file is not removed after it has done its job.

If you have a jailbroken iPhone, disable this screenshot feature by typing the following commands:

# rm -rf /var/mobile/Library/Caches/Snapshots

# ln -s /dev/null /var/mobile/Library/Caches/Snapshots

The last command does what is known as symlink to a new location where the screenshot file can't be written to the disk (i.e. /dev/null/). To reverse this procedure, delete the symlink and the original directory will be recreated. Thanks to Jonathan Zdziarski, author of iPhone Open Application Development and iPhone Forensics manual for discovering this.

It is not entirely clear why Apple and the US phone service provider AT&T is requesting this level of detail in your personal information. Perhaps Apple and other organisations including government agencies want to be able to track users with their iPhones?

Well, why not? The iPhone now has an improved live location tracking system. The authorities would be silly not to realise its benefit when finding software pirates and even the odd terrorist or two. It can also double as a way to find your iPhone should it get stolen so that hopefully police can track down the thief or someone else.

Apart from these nasty little privacy issues, you do have the nasty financial details.

In the unjailbroken format, American users must accept a fixed 24-month contract with AT&T (formerly Cingular) to provide all phone services for the iPhone. In Australia, Vodafone will be the preferred service provider for all Australian iPhone users.

Vodaphone will only offer a long-term 24-month agreement and will start from A$69 per month and includes A$310 credit for free voice calls, text messages and standard services, and up to 250MB of mobile data uploads/downloads per month. An additional A$189 need to be paid unfront (or an additional A$7.88 per month on top of the monthly service fee) to purchase the 8GB flash drive iPhone model, or $309 (or A$12.88 per month) for the 16GB iPhone model. If you pay more per month (i.e. the $99 cap), you pay less for the iPhone and receive 500MB in data uploads/downloads.

To purchase outright the phone and stick to your existing Vodaphone plan or somehow get it unlocked for use on other networks, it will probably cost around A$799.

AT&T's own plan is similar except it provides an upgrade discount price for users of the older iPhone 1.0. The discount prices are for the 8GB model US$199 or US$299 for 16GB so long as customers sign a 24-month agreement with AT&T. Customers purchasing the latest iPhone for the first time and joins AT&T will pay US$399 for the 8GB and US$499 for the 16GB version. Don't want a contract? The price becomes US$599 for the 8GB version and US$699 for the 16GB model. Add an extra US$18 for existing customers eligible for an upgrade to activate the iPhone. Everyone will pay US$36. Finally there is the monthly fee depending on the plan you choose. AT&T provides Nation Unlimited (US$129.99), Nation 1350 (US$109.99), Nation 900 (US$89.99), Nation 450 (US$69.99) where the number represent how many free minutes of talk time at any time of the day or night per month plus additional time included at night and weekends depending on your plan.

Want to send text messages? AT&T will charge US$5 for every 200 text messages, US$15 for every 1,500 messages, and US$20 for unlimited messages.

Nothing like burning a big hole in your pocket and watching your money disappear (in the direction of Apple and its approved service providers of course).

Finally, you may need to be aware that the iPhone now requires extra power to run the 3G connectivity option and other extra features. Reports from iPhone Atlas suggest:

"The iPhone 3G has been shown to exhibit poorer battery life than its predecessor when persistently utilizing 3G connectivity." (iPhone Atlas: iPhone 3G battery draining too fast? Try this. 13 July 2008.)

Maybe the next iPhone model (version 3.0) will have an inbuilt solar panel to keep the battery fully charged?

And to top it all off, the iPhone may have a switch to turn off "data roaming" and so save you a bundle in cash when paying the phone carriers. But turning it off is no guarantee of not getting a hefty bill at the end of the month. as this iPhone Atlas article dated 29 July 2008 suggests. iPhone user Doug Toombs noticed after returning from his holiday to the Bermuda a data transfer bill of US$113 despite turning off "data roaming". As iPhone Atlas explained:

"GSM networks work with of a series of Mobile Country Codes (MCC) and Mobile Network Codes (MNC). These codes are each three digits long and uniquely identify the country and carrier. Used together they can pinpoint the country you are in and the carrier you are using in that country. The country code for the United States is 310. This code is supposed to be endemic only to the United States. However, Digicel Bermuda uses the 310 038 combination. This caused Doug's iPhone to register on an ostensibly US-based network and ignore the data roaming setting. Despite the matching country code, Doug was charged for international data transfer.

AT&T forgave the charges, but other users have reported a similar issue, receiving bills upward of $1,000.

As a precaution, don't trust your iPhone if it shows a carrier logo matching that of your home country while traveling abroad. If such a logo is displayed, contact your carrier and ask for coverage details regarding the area."

Eager to purchase one! We hear a million people have grabbed as many iPhones in the first 3 days of its launch. However we recommend waiting until the iPhone has all of its bugs ironed out. Perhaps the next software update? But if not, be prepared to fork out serious money for the privilege.

And do a lot of recharging every few hours.

And lose a bit more of your privacy information to your local authorities.

iOS 2.0.1

Released on 4 August 2008, this update (affecting iPod Touch users as well) is characterised by essential performance-related improvements in areas commonly used by iPhone users. Exactly what was improved is cryptic as Apple can only say "bug fixes" but it seems users are noticing improved responsiveness in the keyboard, less lag time in the Contacts application and faster backups according to this iPhone Atlas article.

Users are generally happy with the update, with only a few wishing the improvements could have gone further with a reduction in the 5 to 6 seconds needed for the camera to get ready to take a shot, while others are questioning the speed improvements for backups (is it really that fast?). Another unresolved issue concerns what happens when users discover installation of an application or OS update through iTunes or the iPhone is interrupted for some reason. The iPhone will automatically reboot but doesn't seem to get past the Apple Logo, although some users are suggesting at least 30 minutes waiting time, for others it might be longer. There is nothing on the screen to indicate what is happening, so some users start to think the iPhone has been "bricked" and made unusable. Until this issue is resolved, the update has to be seen as a minimal improvement.

Overall, this update is not likely to worsen the experience of iPhone 3G users running the older OS 2.0.

For the latest jailbreak solution, click here.

iOS 2.0.2

On 18 August 2008, Apple released the iOS 2.0.2. While installation has been relatively trouble free and perhaps some bugs have been fixed (although again Apple is being cryptic about the changes it has done, it may include a fix for applications not launching), this will not bring much needed relief to US users wanting better reception on the 3G network. The best Apple can do for now is allow better switching between 3G and 2G networks for more stable voice and data connections in areas of low signal strength, which means you will be more likely to stay connected for longer. Some users are recommending you reset the iPhone after the update to get the best results.

Perhaps Apple has conceded the 3G network in the US can't handle the capacity from so many iPhone users?

Only one main problem to report from this update: having too many applications on the iPhone could cause iPhoneOS 2.0.2 to crash. Some users have recommended you re-install some third-party software applications to improve the situation.

iOS 2.1 beta

As of 2 August 2008, we learn that Apple is looking to enhance performance and battery life for the latest iPhone 2.0 by introducing a technology known as Push. While the full benefits of this technology won't be realised until a central Apple server is established to support it, it will allow software applications running on the iPhone to push information such as messages, calendar events, emails, updates and so on through to the Apple server before the right information is returned to the iPhone, freeing up the software applications from having to constantly run in the background even when the user thinks he/she has closed the application.

Push technology is about getting software applications to send information about the iPhone (and possibly the user) together with details of the information the user might need to another location controlled by Apple where at some point the information required is returned to the iPhone for the user to be notified.

It will allow Apple to expand the repertoire of possible software tools to run on the iPhone without the user noticing a change in performance and with little impact on battery life. And it can also give Apple more information about what is held on the iPhone by the user and who is using the iPhone for whatever purposes.

12 September 2008

Apple released the iOS 2.1 update designed to fix various bugs including "dropped calls, poor battery life, slow backups in iTunes, and repeated application crashes" (iPhone Atlas, 9 September 2008.) not to mention some performance issues and poor signal strength. And this is the first time more information about what was updated in iOS 2.1 is revealed than in any previous update.

According to iPhoneAtlas.com dated 12 September 2008:

"Most users are reporting dramatically enhanced performance, better signal and battery life, and greater stability after installing iOS 2.1."

Only a few users have had trouble installing the update and some have somehow managed to brick or render useless some iPhones during the update. Other users have noticed slightly worse battery life possibly due to the improved signal strength on the 3g network that may have required extra power. Those who have turned off 3g have generally seen an improved battery life following this update.

For example, iPhone Atlas reader Jerry Flaby said:

"Since updating to 2.1 I have seen a dramatic decrease in battery life. I can make it about half a day with moderate use as opposed to a day and a half before the update. My usage meter continues to grow when I am not using the phone. I have tried soft reboot, hard reboot, restore from backup, and reseting all settings. None worked!! Some people have narrowed this down to a push issue with both MobileMe and Exchange. I personally have used push with exchange with no problems, until now. I have turned off push and will see if it helps. This is by far the worst problem I have had with this phone. It makes text lag and reception issues look like a joke in comparison. Also, I cannot get a fix with GPS while 3G enabled. Works fine with 3G disabled." (iPhone Atlas: Poor battery life under iOS 2.1, Fixes. 18 September 2008.)

More of this view can be observed on the Apple's Discussion Boards as of September 2008.

In addition to this, some users are claiming the EDGE "Data transfer" signal may be worse and GPS may be lame while 3G is enabled, while others are finding their third-party iPhone applications are crashing regularly enough (do they need to be reinstalled?). But Apple-specific iPhone applications appear very stable and with better performance (e.g. Contacts.app).

Recommended fixes for poor battery life and other issues include completely draining the battery charge and then fully recharging the battery; turning off Maps and GPS functionality in the location services section under Settings > General, turning off Push feature and restart the iPhone, or consider restoring the iPhone to the original settings.

It will cost US$9.95 for iPod Touch users (while there are bugs, the update should be free) to benefit from this update. All iPhone owners can get it for free.

As for the alleged signal strength boost, there is now a general consensus by users that this update may not increase signal strength. Rather, the update has done something to make the signal strength indicator bars look more accurate. Either that or the signal strength bars have been inflated. However, the calls can still drop and the software may turn off 3G to help maintain the call. The views on this do vary. One user said:

"I am really disappointed and pissed off at Apple for using such a cheap trick to try to convince people that they are getting a strong signal. Just fix the damn problem with reception and give us back a realistic signal strength meter, or remove it completely because it is totally useless now." (iPhone Atlas: Apple's iPhone signal strength placebo. 25 September 2008.)

Another user had a different view:

"My signal has drastically improved on the original iPhone after installing 2.1. After 2.0 I had been sporadically losing Edge connection and was unable at times to connect to wifi networks. This has all been cleared up." (iPhone Atlas: Apple's iPhone signal strength placebo. 25 September 2008.)

To test your iPhone's actual signal strength, turn on the dB meter by dialling *3001#12345#* and press Call.

29 October 2008

The "Push" technology combined with MobileMe applications (which is primarily a server-side set of applications) has been given a positive spin by Apple today stating updates will primarily occur on the server side meaning you won't have to do the updating but hopefully you will notice significant improvements on your iPhone 3G over time. A Knowledge Base document released by Apple has stated:

"Apple is always working to improve MobileMe. Since MobileMe is primarily a server-side, or "cloud"-based, service, the MobileMe team can make improvements and push updates to MobileMe without any action being required of MobileMe customers. Since server-side updates are a bit more innocuous than a standard software update to Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows, it's easy not to notice that updates are occurring.  Usually the only hint of these updates is that things just 'work better'."

Now if only Apple can come up with another positive spin for the personal information (e.g. emails, address book data etc) you are sending to an Apple server and everyone will be happy.

Or perhaps making your own free iPhone app is the only privacy-protected solution you've got?

10 November 2008

Too many hassles for users trying to use MobileMe on iPhone 2.0. Apple is working to improve the push notification Apple servers to better handle the large numbers of users likely to be using the service and with it improve MobileMe services.

Cannot connect to WiFi networks?

This article from iPhone Atlas suggests some iPhone 3G units upgraded to software version 2.0 or higher may not connect to WiFi networks. For a while the iPhone may work, but one day it can suddenly stop for no good reason. A laptop with WiFi will pick up WiFi services. Yet the iPhone 3G can sit there looking pretty and nothing else.

As one iPhone user said:

"My iPod Touch can find many more hotspots than my iPhone. I think Apple has done a bad job with iPhone 3G "

A number of American users have been successful in getting the iPhone 3G fixed by Apple claiming a hardware issue may be at play in certain instances of WiFi mishaps (including the above situation). As one iPhone user said:

"I had the same problem with my first generation iPhone after about 6 months of use. I couldn't connect to a wi-fi network and/or keep a wi-fi signal for more than a few seconds. I tried everything to fix it (full restore, changed router settings, etc.) Eventually made an appointment at the Genius Bar and was told that it was a hardware issue. They gave me a new phone since it was still under warranty and I haven't had the problem return."

Another recommendation has been to keep the WiFi settings simple by turning off all security from the router, remove spaces from the WPA pass phrase, and turning off and on again the WiFi feature. But people shouldn't be doing this. The WiFi feature of the iPhone 3G should work first time everytime. No excuses from Apple.

29 October 2008

To quickly counter this slight embarressment of the WiFi situation, AT&T in the US has finally issued the following message to their subscribers owning an iPhone 3G:

"AT&T Free Msg: Your Apple iPhone new has free AT&T Wi-Fi access at thousands of hotspots nationwide, including Starbucks. For info visit www.att.com/attwifi."

Users have been kept waiting for months for this new service as SMS announcements from AT&T kept popping up on the iPhones. Now the latest announcement has ended all speculation.

Users like to hear something positive at last.

Of course, you must remember to enter your iPhone phone number and give authorization via SMS to AT&T to accept your personal information, location and phone number before using the "free" service (you will have to do this every 24 hours). AT&T likes to know it really is an AT&T customer using their WiFi networks.

Sounds like bad news if you are one of those free loaders on the networks.

NOTE: Why don't libraries provide true "free" Wi-Fi networks? Guaranteed to get people visiting libraries any day!

New restrictions in iTunes 8.0 for iPod Touch users

iPhone-specific applications can no longer be installed on iPod Touch thanks to changes in the latest iTunes 8.0 application. Workaround is to update the applications on the iPod Touch using an earlier version of iTunes, then sync your iPod Touch with iTunes 8 to create a backup of the updated applications. It should be possible to re-install the applications using iTunes 8.0 without the error message.

There may also be some problems when downloading the latest iOS2.1 update using iTunes 8.0. iTunes 8.0 must eventually be updated to fix these latest bugs.

Restrictions in buying third-party iPhone.apps from the Apple store

Another hinderance to iPhone users is the decision by Apple to restrict third-party applications to ones the company is happy to see on its iPhones.

According to this iPhone Atlas article dated 21 September 2008, it seems any applications found to look like it can duplicate the functionality of Apple's own applications or is likely to circumvent Apple restrictions in the installation of applications outside of the iTunes framework, or could in any way help to jailbreak the iPhone, will be removed from the App Store (the official place for buying and downloading through iTunes various third-party iPhone applications).

Take, for example, MailWrangler by developer Angelo DiNardi. Apple has rejected this application on the grounds that the software "duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application Mail".

MailWrangler is not designed to circumvent any restrictions Apple has set on the iPhone and through the App Store. It merely adds functionality or so the developer claims by saying his application does nothing more than act as a web viewer, allowing a user to view his/her Gmail accounts inside any application. He doesn't see how there could be confusion between the two applications. As he said:

"How you can confuse Gmail with Mail.app I'm not sure." (iPhone Atlas: Another useful tool banned from the iPhone App Store. 21 September 2008.)

Somehow Apple doesn't see it this way.

Or could it be that Apple is confusing Mail.app with Safari.app? Maybe Apple wants all users to use Safari.app to view the Gmail accounts. Or is it simply in the use of the word "Mail" which Apple thinks could entice users to use MailWrangler instead of Mail.app? Maybe Apple sees this as anti-competitive behaviour.

Whatever the reason, DiNardi remarked:

"I guess I should just write another flashlight or glowstick application to actually get published. That's the only apps Apple seems to want in the store." (iPhone Atlas: Another useful tool banned from the iPhone App Store. 21 September 2008.)

Another application to face the wrong end of the Apple stick by not being allowed to be sold on the App Store is Podcaster. This one is designed to let people download podcasts directly to their iPhone or iPod without requiring iTunes.

And for a while CastCatcher, a streaming Internet Radio application, was accepted onto the App Store until 10 November 2008 when Apple decided to ban it for using too much bandwidth over the cellular network. According to Apple's quote published by a user:

"CastCatcher Internet Radio cannot be posted to the App Store because it is transferring excessive volumes of data over the cellular network, which as outlined in the iPhone SDK Agreement section 3.3.15, is prohibited." (iPhone Atlas: Apple's App rejections get curiouser. 11 November 2008.)

It seems restricting American iPhone users to the AT&T carrier has created more headaches than they care to count on their hands and feet. And with 3G networks in the US lagging behind the rest of the world by at least 6 months, it is no wonder AT&T and Apple are struggling to resolve the network issue. More infrastructure investment is needed.

As for the average developer trying to make a buck or two, this banning of App exercise from Apple is likely to spur growth in a new and potentially lucrative black market of jailbreaking and selling banned applications.

Somehow we can't blame the poor bastards.

Upcoming European Union Directive on batteries in the iPod and iPhone could affect Apple

One of the great banes of modern Apple products (MacBook Air, iPods and iPhones) is the inability (or not without great difficulties) to remove, replace and dispose of, or recycle the battery by the user.

Considerable debate has taken place since Apple first designed its product to prevent users from easily replacing the battery. Supporters of the idea are those in the business world who believe such a design is near to shear brilliance and would allow Apple and its Apple-approved technicians to make more money from the battery exchange program and not just from selling the Apple products in the first place.

Detractors of the idea include environmentalists and users who argue any restriction to removing the batteries and any additional costs to get Apple to replace them would discourage users from looking after the environment. There is a greater risk of users throwing away the entire product when the batteries are exhausted.

As of October 2008, the European Union is pushing through a new directive to force Apple and other hardware manufacturers to make all products more consumer and environmentally friendly. To put it quite simply, under the new directive (if accepted), users will be able to remove, replace, and dispose of, or recycle old batteries.

The quote supporting this new directive is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_Directive:

"It states that it must be easy for consumers to remove batteries from electronic products."

For Apple, this means they may have to design two versions of their iPods and iPhones in the future — one for the European market, and another for the rest of the world.

Or more likely, international users will be making orders of Apple products from Europe to benefit from the modified Apple designs. In which case, the loss of profit in selling Apple products in non-European countries could force Apple to make the new design a standard feature of all Apple products.

Sounds like Apple will eventually have to make replaceable batteries for users a permanent feature of all Apple products.

Restrictions on developers testing beta iOS software

Developers aren't entirely free of the restrictions either. Up until October 2008, developers were required not to discuss the source code for the beta version of the latest iOS software under any circumstances, according to Apple's official non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for which all approved developers had to sign. All this managed to achieve was force developers underground to discuss Apple's source code in secret online forums where ideas and source code can be exchanged.

Now Apple has realised it is far better to set up its own restricted iPhone developer-to-developer forum on its web site.

Apple has tried to put a positive spin on the fiascoe by claiming the NDA has been dropped. As Apple stated:

"We have decided to drop the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for released iPhone software. We put the NDA in place because the iOS includes many Apple inventions and innovations that we would like to protect, so that others don't steal our work. However, the NDA has created too much of a burden on developers, authors and others interested in helping further the iPhone's success, so we are dropping it for released software....Developers will receive a new agreement without an NDA covering released software within a week or so. Please note that unreleased software and features will remain under NDA until they are released." (iPhone Atlas: Apple Officially Kills iPhone NDA, Launches Developer Forums. 24 October 2008.)

The reality is that developers are still restricted. The agreement on the new forum now states developers can only discuss with other developers on Apple's only approved forum and no where else. Well, at least they have a place to discuss any issue.

As the new agreement on the Apple-approved forum states:

"Apple may provide you with access to confidential forums within the Apple Developer Forums for discussion of certain Apple Confidential Information, such as the discussion of pre-release software. For purposes of such confidential forums, Apple is providing a limited exception to your iPhone Developer Agreement(s) by allowing you to discuss Apple Confidential Information that you have obtained from Apple under such agreement(s) with other Participants who are also on such confidential forums, but only within these confidential forums. Except for the limited purpose of discussions with other Participants within these confidential forums, you acknowledge and agree that this Agreement does not grant you the right to copy, reproduce, publish, blog, disclose, transmit, or otherwise disseminate any Apple Confidential Information." (iPhone Atlas: Apple Officially Kills iPhone NDA, Launches Developer Forums. 24 October 2008.)

While the agreement won't stop developers discussing Apple's latest source code in any secret forum they like, the move from Apple has been welcomed and should quell much of the concerns expressed by developers over the previous 12 to 18 months.

Apple released the iPhone Firmware 2.1 and working on iOS 2.2 update

Apple is said to be working hard on making an improved iOS through version 2.2 to hopefully end much of the concerns users have with iPhones on the software side. When combined with server-side MobileMe applications and the "Push" technology, users should start to see a dramatic reduction in time spent updating their iPhones.

And hopefully this will result in improved battery times and less time having information processed on the iPhone (let the Apple servers do the work), or as one user named bbarrera said on 11 October 2008:

"... and after 2.2 it still won't be perfect and they be slaving on the next release....On the hardware front I think the CPU could use a bump in clock speed, along with a new chipset to reduce power consumption and increase battery life."

And another welcome improvement would be a Safari that doesn't crash several times a day or a week.

28 October 2008

iPhone Atlas has commented on a user's report claiming his iPhone 3G running OS version 2.2 beta has an annoying popup window on deleting an App. Before you can delete the App, a popup window asks you to put a rating on the App on how useful the App was to you. Once you indicate your rating (fortunately you do have the option of selecting "No thanks"), you can finally delete the App (probably with another message like, "Are you sure you want to delete it?", but shouldn't be as bad as Microsoft).

The report appeared on the Greek language website known as iPhone Helias. A snapshot has been taken of the message:

Can anyone else confirm this observation?

And what are the chances the ratings given by a user for an App will be positive when he/she deletes the App? There is usually a good reason for deleting the App, and it may not be because it is a fantastic App to use (or why else would a user delete the App?).

Sounds like the ratings data for deleted Apps will be skewed in some way and would only give the developer information about how many people are rating his/her App poorly. And probably much to the delight of Apple whose own applications are not subject to a rating system. After a period of time, all the negative ratings for free Apps will not be able to compete with Apple's own Apps.

Apple certainly isn't dumb.

2 November 2008

Continuing restrictions on the App Store and the latest Apple SDK designed to stop developers making applications capable of running in the background as Apple's own Apps can is allegedly spurring on hackers to find ways to jailbreak the iPhone 3G running firmware version 2.2. Today it seems the iPhone has been jailbroken. And it is claimed, although not officially quoted from the man himself, that Steve Wozniak the co-founder of Apple has supported the jailbreak scene by showing an iPhone 3G running his own third-party applications according to this iPhone Atlas article. It is alleged he used Pwning to allow him full read/write filesystem access and installation of unofficial third-party applications.

Not the kind of promotion Steve Jobs would want to hear or see coming from an Apple co-founder.

3 November 2008

Do you get a black screen on your iPhone 3G as if it has gone to sleep for no apparent reason? Try restoring the iPhone only after you discover the turning off of the Password Lock (PIN) function in Settings doesn't work.

6 November 2008

Has Apple done something to the late 2008 MacBook Pro and MacBook laptops to prevent jailbreaking of the iPhone and iPod Touch? Users are claiming their unlocked iPhones will no longer synch with iTunes on the latest laptops. Error messages are cropping up. As iPhone Atlas reported:

"It's not clear what specifically is to blame for the failure of the iPhone Dev Team's PwnageTool jailbreak utility on the new systems, but iPhone users are reporting that these new Apple notebooks are failing to recognize their iPhone in DFU (Device Firmware Update) restore mode. This is an important portion of the jailbreaking process since the PwnageTool requires that the computer recognize the iPhone in DFU restore mode in order to perform the jailbreak." (MacFixIt.com: Does Apple's War on Jailbreaking Have a New Front? . 6 November 2008.)

Users are resorting to Windows XP on a PC to bypass Apple's latest restrictions.

To get an iPhone into DFU mode:

  1. Connect your iPhone to the USB port of the Macintosh computer (also works with a USB hub).
  2. Launch iTunes.
  3. Simultaneously press down the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons.
  4. Precisely 10 seconds later, let go of the Sleep/Wake button but keep your finger on the Home button.
  5. iTunes will display a message saying, "iTunes has detected an iPhone in recovery mode..." The iPhone screen will remain black (if it doesn't, you have pressed the button for too long, repeat the above steps again).
  6. Click the OK button.
  7. Once the iPhone has been restore to factory settings, you can apply the jailbreak and unlocking tools and update the firmware to the latest version available in the tools.

10 November 2008

It is claimed by iPhone Atlas that the reason Apple has not released the push notification services by this time is because Apple's server-based technology is not yet ready to handle the shear number of iPhone users. Probably the company is learning from AT&T after its own network got overloaded with too much (mainly video) information from iPhone 3G users.

Apple facing several lawsuits

iPhone Atlas claims Apple is facing several law suits. Sounds like Apple is eager to join the "having a hard time" club filled with unhappy developers and iPhone users.

In the latest lawsuit to be filed at the New York district court, the plaintiff Avi Koschitski alleges he is among a number of unhappy iPhone users claiming harline cracks can be observed in the units presumably caused not by misuse but by poor quality materials, design and workmanship. The problem appears to be more common with older iPhones rather than the latest iPhone 3G. The plaintiff also alleges false advertising where it is claimed the new iPhone 3G is "twice as fast" as in the previous model. It is not clear if the advertising was referring to the microprocessor inside the iPhone or the network itself, but somehow the advert does give the impression it includes the network with emphasis on the faster 3G network compared to the previous 2G. But because of insufficient capacity of the network provided by AT&T as has been reported recently and Apple allegedly did not see it coming and weren't expecting users to be downloading video information, the advertised speeds could not be attained.

Perhaps Apple would be wishing it had allowed other service carriers to provide additional bandwidth for iPhone 3G customers.

Will customers soon learn the reason why Apple has chosen AT&T as the sole carrier for the US while some other countries such as Belgium and Hong Kong are allowed unlocked iPhones to work with any carrier?

iOS 2.2 released

The latest update suggests third-party App developers relying on CoreAudio to deliver sounds will need to tweak their Apps once again after Apple decided to change their API. No warning it was coming. For users, this means more time wasting in terms of updating selected third-party Apps (you will have to figure out which ones).

Other changes has seen a host of minor irritations for users ranging from error messages suggesting the SIM card is not inserted or there is a PIN lock when clearly this isn't the case, unable to connect to the internet via 3G (requiring a switch to EDGE), problems deleting email, weak signal (requiring users to realise they have to turn off locations services to improve signal strength), sudden disappearance of some Apps on the iPhone (including Apple Apps), not able to connect to WiFi networks, not able to install iOS 2.2 update, unable to view Google maps or once on Google map users must select USA in international settings to show the preferred "miles" instead of "kilometres", and some third-party Apps will not install (and not just have to be tweaked for the Audio issue).

Another bug to be discovered which didn't appear in previous iOS versions is the saved image bug. As iPhone Atlas reported:

"Apparently, under iOS 2.1, images saved from an email message or website that were larger than the native resolution on the iPhone were scaled down, with a resample resulting in a clear image on the screen. iOS 2.2, however, does not perform the resample, and therefore yields a fuzzy and pixelated image."

One user said:

"Yeah, this is VERY frustrating. It's also messing up some image and photography apps like CameraBag." (MacFixIt.com: iOS 2.2: Saved Image Bug. 25 November 2008.)

Maybe Apple is trying to make the iPhone run faster by removing the resampling feature? Whatever the reason, it looks like third-party Apps designed to work with images may require an update.

On the positive side, those users who were successful in updating the iOS claim there are fewer crashes in Safari, Apps generally run more quickly, improved sound quality in visual voice mail messages, and most users can still send phone calls, watch video and listen to music (from Apple's own audio software).

What more does the OS have to do?

Well, Apple did throw in a few undocumented new and re-released (i.e. previously available but disabled in OS 2.1) features such as the locked screen capture capabilities and the "Update All" single button operation which allowed users to update all applications.

Perhaps all these new features might be taxing on the OS? Or would that be the battery itself?

In fact, as of 1 December 2008, iPhone Atlas claims OS 2.2 has created a battery drain for a number of users. It is recommended users turn off features they are not likely to use or is potentially taxing on the battery power such as those utilizing GPS capabilities in third-party applications and Apple's own Maps application, and the Push technology (you will need to restart the iPhone once it is turned off). Others who don't have these features turned on have noticed an increased in time available before needing recharge after updating to OS 2.2.

Download available through your iTunes software, but do try downloading the latest iTunes and QuickTime software before attempting this update. There is a possibility the latest software may resolve many of the issues mentioned above as this user remarked:

"I had none of these issues (1st gen). The only issue I had was that I had to upgrade itunes first and quick time did not install correctly so itunes would not open until I downloaded a new copy of of quicktime and installed it manually." (iPhone Atlas: iOS 2.2 Problems Run Rampant. 26 November 2008.)

Nothing like Apple trying to encourage users to update their iTunes and QuickTime to the latest version.

An as usual, Apple doesn't give a reason for why this OS update is causing problems for iPhone users.

NOTE: iPhone 3G has yet to improve its Bluetooth technology as some users are claiming it won't allow them to wirelessly send visual data to printers and audio information to headsets. Other users are waiting on a Copy and Paste feature, and the ability to perform SMS is still missing despite cheaper alternative mobile phones having this feature. As for requests of Adobe Flash to be incorporated into the iPhone's web experience for users, Apple is probably avoiding this feature to prevent third-party application developers installing their Flash games or other applications on the iPhone (thereby bypassing iTunes) when visiting a Flash-embedded web site. Also, with many advertisers using Flash, it would be taxing on AT&T's network bandwidth.

iOS 2.2 jailbreak arrives!

While a solution for unlocking the iPhone 3G to permit different SIM cards for operating the phone on other carriers is said to be arriving soon according to several developers, iPhone Atlas has reported the developers have released a jailbreak solution (consisting of Windows QuickPwn and Mac PwnageTool) for the iOS 2.2 firmware. This will allow you to install your own Apps.

November 2008

Apple counters this jailbreaking and unlocking activity with the release of the late-2008 MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air designed with an in-built restriction. For older Macintosh computers, Apple has released OSX Leopard 10.5.6 designed to quietly place this restriction through a change in the system kernel extension IOUSBFamily.kext.

iPhone 3G unlocking solution arriving

An unlocking solution for iPhone 3G to permit users to add their own SIM cards to make phone calls is allegedly on its way and expected to be released on 31 December 2008. A video is available to make the process look really simple — a nice touch from the developers and will be welcomed by the iPhone 3G community (with the exception of Steve Jobs at Apple).

Sounds like back to the drawing board for Apple and another iOS update to stop this, yet again.

Jailbreaking developers back to the drawing board

After Apple released OSX "Leopard" 10.5.6 update, people have noticed a restriction to stop people jailbreaking the iPhone 3G. As of January 2009, some have found a way to bypass the restriction. However, those that do succeed may notice the keyboard stops working once OSX has loaded up (i.e. the permissions of the OSX extension designed to accept input from the USB keyboards has been modified and rendered useless) as people have noticed at the login or at the desktop if there is no login window. The only solution so far is to reinstall the full 10.5.6 combo update to OSX and restart the computer.

It looks like the jailbreaking developers are back to the drawing board.

iPhone 2009 promises to resolve network and onboard performance issues

By June 2009, Apple is looking to resolve a number of issues with previous iPhones with the release of a third-generation model. But it will have to be a solid and flawless design with many new features to entice consumers to spend big on Apple products this year.

After carefully looking at the way users have been downloading data, Apple and AT&T have noted how people wanting to watch a video more than once would have to re-download the information, often at times when the network is too slow. This is an inefficient way to use network resources. Now Apple intends to provide an upgrade to its networking speed for quicker download and a recording feature to allow bandwidth hungry information to be stored on the iPhone and redisplayed as needed.

Another thing observed is how much internet access people do with their iPhones. Apple and AT&T will now compete against Acer to provide a NetBook dedicated specifically for surfing the internet and so hopefully reduce demand for the service on iPhones.

Beyond that, the new iPhone will have to provide decent storage capabilities to accept recording capabilities and may make full use of flash memory chips for a thinner and more compact iPhone design. And there may also be a boost in microprocessor performance.

Much of this information has not yet been finalised by Apple. Users should wait for the final model to be officially released before the full specs are known.

The iPhone 3GS

The "S" stands for "speed". The latest release of the iPhone is focussed on speed, and does it successfully in this model. Beyond that, you are essentially getting the same Apple applications from the previous 3G model but in a slightly more stable form and a handful of extra software and minor hardware enhancements which we hope are useful and remains reliable for years to come.

It will be on the "speed" front where Apple makes the most compelling case for users to upgrade (especially for 1st and 2nd generation iPhone users and anyone contemplating on getting their first iPhone). In fact, many existing iPhone users will be thinking long and hard about whether to upgrade or not (and most will anyway). Once you experience its speed, you will never want to go back to the old iPhones (even the original 3G model) thanks to the latest 600MHz CPU, 256MB RAM, OSX 10.4.11 and a 16GB or 32GB storage unit. Even more speed could have been extracted if a mobile version of OSX "Snow Leopard" was installed. But for now users will have to wait until next year before enjoying the latest and fastest OSX.

Superficially on looking at the model, you would be hard pressed to find differences between this and the previous 3G model. The dimensions are the same and there is barely an increase in weight in the 3GS model compared to the 3G model. One thing you will notice is on the screen: there is a new fingerprint resistant polymer coating called oleophobic, which means it will repel the oil you secrete from your fingers. Brought down to its basic, it simply means the iPhone will stay looking cleaner for a little longer as if no one had been using it. But already we hear news that this polymer is not lasting very long.

The news as of 8 July 2009 emanates from a 3GS user named Samsas Traum. He claims that after playing a game called Flick Fishing which requires regular touching of the screen, the oleophobic coating comes off and eventually shows signs of scratching and oil deposits. But doesn't this model have a glass screen? Or maybe it depends on the type of glass used by Apple?

Interestingly we find a quote from another user suggesting the screen of the latest iPhone scratches more easily than in the previous model:

"I noticed that the new iPhone screen scratches more easily than the old one. I kept my iPhone in my pocket while I went to the beach and stood by the water, and when I returned to my hotel room, I found my iPhone screen having a scratch, probably from the small amount of sand that managed to get into pocket and case. Did I scratch the oleophobic coating or the screen itself?" (Martin, David. iPhone 3GS oleophobic coating wearing off?: CNET. 7 July 2009.)

Whatever the type of glass used, it is already known to other users for some time (but apparently not to Apple it would seem at time of manufacture although later they issued online interesting advice about the limitations of this coating) that this type of coating does come off with a little bit of contact with water. Perhaps Apple is trying to guarantee users continue replacing the screen and buy new iPhones in the future as a way to maintain profits for this new model?

In addition to this, the special coating appears to diminish more rapidly in warmer environments. As one user said on 7 July 2009:

"The iPhone isn't supposed to be used in hot states like Texas. If you want a 3GS then either move out of Texas or use it only indoors with the air conditioner on. Apple can't be expected to make a phone like every other phone out there that can be used in warm conditions. The iPhone is a premium product. if you want to use the 3GS to make phone calls AND surf the web or play games then please go indoors!" (Martin, David. iPhone 3GS oleophobic coating wearing off?: CNET. 7 July 2009.)

Apple has issued advice on how to clean the latest iPhone at http://apple.com/support under the title iPhone 3GS - Important Product Info and Safety Guide:

"Keeping the Outside of iPhone Clean

To clean iPhone, unplug all cables and turn off iPhone (press and hold the Sleep/Wake button, and then slide the onscreen slider). Then use a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth. Avoid getting moisture in openings. Don't use window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean iPhone. If your iPhone has an oleophobic coating on the screen, simply wipe iPhone's screen with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove oil left by your hands and face. Please note that the ability of this coating to repel oil will diminish over time with normal usage, and that rubbing the screen with an abrasive material will further diminish its effect and may scratch your screen."

The advice is not found in the iPhone Manual. Users will have to discover this advice online (and probably after the iPhone is bought).

An interesting statement. It seems to suggest Apple knows of the potential for the coating to wear off after a period of time. And the evidence is suggesting it could be within two weeks of selling the iPhone if Mr Traum is correct in his claims. Yet the point to be made here is that not everyone who purchases or is contemplating on purchasing this iPhone is aware of this situation. If the coating does come off very quickly after moderate use and there is a risk the screen will scratch more easily, shouldn't the consumer be told this could happen, rather than discovering it after the iPhone has been purchased?

Other users are strongly recommending anyone who has already purchased the iPhone to buy a screen protector and not to rely on the special coating to protect the screen. As one user said:

"I play that same game [as Mr Traum] and haven't had any issues yet. I have a screen shield I need to go on and put on just to be on the safe side. " (Martin, David. iPhone 3GS oleophobic coating wearing off?: CNET. 7 July 2009.)

Lucky him!

As for the potential of the screen to scratch more easily compared to the previous models, consumers should wait for more information from other users over the next 3 to 6 months, or wait for the next hardware revision of this model to come out next year (where it is rumoured a professional and a regular iPhone product will be made available — we wonder whether "professional" means a quality product? Or does it mean the same regular product with more features at a higher price?).

It is not clear at this early stage how many users are affected. The quality of the photos provided by Mr Traum is unfortunately poor and difficult to analyse. Until confirmation from others with clearer pictures is provided, we will have to wait and see.

Ignoring this issue, Apple has finally managed to provide decent copy, cut and paste menu commands that work, as well as the ability to record video up to 30 frames per second. Not to mention sending multimedia messaging (MMS) is available when the service is finally up and running for all US users in August 2009. Not even the latest firmware update for the 3G model could provide these features. And the latest OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics standard means the quality of the graphics you will see from third-party developers including the upcoming games will be almost as good as playing Half Life 2 on a PC or Mac.

Apart from this, users have asked for better 3G signal reception and Wi-Fi connection, the ability to transfer data from a Mac to the iPhone through a USB connection, and whether the next iPhone model could have a built-in flash to take pictures in low-lighting conditions. There is not much Apple could do on the reception and Wi-Fi front or a USB connection port, but even without the flash, we do know the iPhone does take better pictures in low-lighting conditions compared to the 3G model. And with a 3 megapixel camera together with auto-focussing, auto-exposure and auto-white balance as well as video recording, this is good.

Want to send files and other data to users? No problems. Christmas has come early for you by way of an increased data speed throughout of 7.2Mbps for the 3GS model. Even on the busiest times, the speed will slow down to roughly 1.586Mbps on average compared to 1.165Mbps on the 3G model (based on US network conditions). Choose your times well and you will benefit from the maximum throughput. All this means is the less time you spend with a carrier to help you get your data through to someone else the less money you have to spend to the carrier in providing the service. A good improvement.

Even the battery times have improved slightly allowing you to go the whole day on one charge or up to 600 continuous minutes of talk time. Considering the number of functions it has to perform in a fancy graphically driven way, this is pretty good.

All other features such as GPS positioning, built in compass (or magnetometer), and Google Maps to show your location anywhere on the planet come as standard (nice for anyone trying to track you down while holding the iPhone). And you get the bonus voice command control feature as an extra for controlling your iPhone (and it works well when you know the commands).

If the screen scratching and loss of screen coating issue turns out to be a one-off complaint and the iPhone is constructed of top quality materials with stable and useful software, this should be the model most people will be happy with.

15 July 2009

The jailbreaking iPhone community are at it again with another successful jailbreak solution for iPhone 3GS users running iOS 3.0. The tools you'll need are redsn0w (or ultrasn0w) and requires you to:

1. Restore your iPhone 3GS firmware to 3.0;

2. Run redsn0w.

3. Select the 3.0 firmware file.

31 July 2009

Another classic reason why consumers should always wait before buying the latest iPhone. It has come to the attention of a growing number of users (especially those with a jailbroken iPhone 3GS) of a critical SMS vulnerability where any malicious code (mostly invisible to the user) sent to your iPhone by a third-party hacker via SMS text messages can be made to execute certain commands on the operating system designed to seriously compromise your privacy and security to the point where a hacker can have near complete control of your iPhone. The arbitrary code from a third-party hacker can do things such as turn on the camera and microphone, record and send the information over the network to the hacker or anyone else, access other data, and destroy your applications and data. And all the hacker needs is your phone number. Researchers Charlie Miller and Collin Mulliner have revealed the iPhone SMS exploit at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas on 31 July 2009 and what to look for if it happens to you:

"If you receive a text message on your iPhone any time after Thursday afternoon containing only a single square character, Charlie Miller would suggest you turn the device off. Quickly."

If you don't do this quickly enough, Miller and Mulliner claim a hacker can perform tasks such as:

"...dialing the phone, visiting Web sites, turning on the device's camera and microphone and, most importantly, sending more text messages to further propagate a mass-gadget hijacking."

After switching off the iPhone, turn it on and let the iOS start up with a fresh new copy, then update to Apple's latest iOS 3.0.1. It is alleged on MacFixIt.com that the exploit had been reportedly known to Apple Inc. for about 6 weeks according to BBC but done nothing until people started mentioning the exploit online. iOS 3.0.1 is available after 2 August 2009. Apple describes this problem in its knowledge base article for the update as:

"Impact: Receiving a maliciously crafted SMS message may lead to an unexpected service interruption or arbitrary code execution.

'Description: A memory corruption issue exists in the decoding of SMS messages. Receiving a maliciously crafted SMS message may lead to an unexpected service interruption or arbitrary code execution. This update addresses the issue through improved error handling. Credit to Charlie Miller of Independent Security Evaluators, and Collin Mulliner of Technical University Berlin for reporting this issue."

Perhaps Apple should also credit the Apple employee for noticing the exploit 6 weeks ago but couldn't get Apple to release an update until the company knew enough people on the internet were aware of the issue?

1 August 2009

The jailbreaking iPhone community has realised the jailbreak solution for the iPhone 3GS works just as well with the iOS 3.0.1 firmware update as it did with 3.0. The Jailbreaking Developers Team on Twitter says:

1. Restore your iPhone 3GS firmware to 3.0.1;

2. Run redsn0w.

3. Select the 3.0 firmware file.

Viola! The iPhone will be open and accessible and you will benefit from the latest SMS vulnerability patch.

14 August 2009

A class-action lawsuit filed in a Louisiana district court claims Apple and AT&T have breached the Trade Practices Act for misleading consumers in buying the iPhone on the assumption the multimedia messaging (MMS) feature would be available at the launch of the new OS and iPhone 3GS from the end of June 2009 when there wasn't a service ready for it until late September 2009 when AT&T will have finally upgraded their cell towers to support it. It is further alleged that Apple knew about this through the WWDC 2009 keynote presentation where the company mentioned the vendors supporting MMS except AT&T (the logo was never shown) but still went ahead aggressively promoting this feature in advertisements made on TV, radio, newspapers, direct mailers and on the internet for the sake of boosting early sales of the iPhone.

For the lawsuit to be successful, it is likely the judge will have to see evidence of financial loss by new iPhone users at a time when MMS was clearly not available and is a service considered integral to people's lives (i.e. there had likely been a loss in new customers and business). Of course, the lawyers for Apple will probably argue, what were the users using for MMS before the latest iPhones were sold? And why didn't these users continue to use the old devices for MMS until the service became available at the end of September 2009? However, there is still the question of whether Apple knew the service would not be available for some time and had taken advantage of the situation to boost sales by encouraging consumers through aggressive and misleading marketing to purchase the iPhones on the assumption MMS was available.

Soon after this class action lawsuit, AT&T announced the MMS service will be available for iPhone users from 25 September 2009.

14 August 2009

There has been a few incidents of batteries exploding inside the iPhones. In one case, a French teenager discovered the iPhone overheating, exploded and "shattered" the glass screen sending debris into his eye. The injuries were said to be slight. Apple is cooperating with the European Commission to determine the cause for these cases and how safe are the iPhones according to Helen Kearns, a spokeswoman for Meglena Kuneva, the consumer protection commissioner for Europe. But nothing to be alarmed about (or so we are told by Apple). Ms Kearns said:

"At the moment, they [Apple] said they regard these as isolated incidents and they don't have evidence of a general problem." (Pfanner, Eric. European Regulators Examine Reports of Exploding iPhones:The New York Times. 18 August 2009.)

In a delayed response to a phone call, a spokesman for Apple eventually told Reuters:

"We are aware of these reports and we are waiting to receive the iPhones from the customers. Until we have the full details, we don't have anything further to add." (Pfanner, Eric. European Regulators Examine Reports of Exploding iPhones:The New York Times. 18 August 2009.)

Perhaps Apple is trying to convince the European Commission on the value of users not being able to remove batteries on their own?

It was reported in The New York Times article that Apple offered to replace these lethal lithium ion batteries in some iPod Nano devices for Japanese users in 2008 after the government issued a warning stating the devices might overheat and pose a fire risk.

And in 2007, a number of computer manufacturers including Apple had to recall batteries made by Sony for the same "fires and explosions" concerns.

26 August 2009

The case of the exploding lithium-ion batteries inside the latest iPhones is heating up with reports of a 25-year-old French security guard for a local supermarket named Yassine Bouhadi taking a face full of glass from the screen of his iPhone. This is the second incident to emerge from France and was enough for local authorities to start an investigation and determine if the device poses a threat to consumers. A spokesman for the official competition, consumer affairs and fraud watchdog for France known as DGCCRF said:

"An investigation is underway. We have been alerted to the problem and we are looking into it closely." (AAP: French guard hurt by 'exploding iPhone'. 26 August 2009.)

AAP also reported a similar incident in Britain of an exploding iPhone owned by a 11-year-old teenage girl. In this incident, the media learned Apple had tried to ask the young girl's family to sign a confidentiality agreement to prevent them from discussing the problem in return for a refund. And it is claimed a US television station reported in July 2009 of an "alarming number" of iPods bursting into flames because of overheating lithium ion batteries. On closer inspection of this report, we learn Apple is allegedly keeping quiet over 15 cases in the US of the iPod overheating and bursting into flames.

It is likely this is not the last we will hear about this problem.

27 August 2009

Those isolated incidents are turning out to be not so isolated anymore following another ten more French consumers coming forward and claiming their iPhones have also exploded or the screen cracked for some inexplicable reason. Of course, Apple might still argue 1.2 million iPhones sold in France and a meagre dozen iPhones exploding are isolated incidents. It might be a different story if an Apple manager's iPhone exploded.

Consumers who had difficulty getting a replacement or refund (if within the warranty period) of the iPhone due to overheating and inexplicable cracking of the screen because Apple thinks these are isolated cases or claims it is due to mishandling or abuse of the iPhone should return to their Apple store and get a refund or replacement on the legal grounds the product is not of "reasonable quality" (and, in fact, should be considered a safety risk to consumers).

"Reasonable quality" is a legal term used in the Trade Practices Act. If you are certain the product is not of "reasonable quality" and state so to the manufacturer/reseller, it is up to the manufacturer/reseller to prove that it isn't. And if they can't, they must provide you with a replacement (or refund if within the warranty period).

Further details from the investigation by the French consumer protection body should come soon.

Apart from the response to Reuters, Apple has provided no further comments on the issue until the investigation is complete.

Apple still afraid to let users transfer their own files and applications to and from the iPhone

The following comment is probably worth mentioning in the light of continuing jailbreaking work from third-party developers:

"I think Apple has a phobia about letting people copy files directly onto iPhone because even Bluetooth file transferring is disabled. Using the iPhone as a USB drive isn't that convenient because most people don't carry the iPhone USB cable with them all the time. Take a look at the Kingston "MRG2+SDC" line of flash cards. They are MicroSDHC cards with a thin (2.64mm) USB adapter, so you can have it in your wallet all the time. 8GB for $22 at NewEgg, free shipping." (Hickey, Matt. Friday Poll: MMS is iPhone-bound; now what?: iPhone Atlas (CNET News). 4 September 2009.)

Apple has been unable to comment on this issue either.

9 September 2009

Matt Hickey claims there are "millions of iPhone users who've jailbroken their iPhones or iPod Touches" (Hickey, Matt. New iPhone 3.1 firmware reversing iPhone jailbreaks: iPhone Atlas (CNET News). 9 September 2009).

If the figure is reliable, it might explain why Apple is again not happy. While it could not make a single comment on the lack of Bluetooth capabilities for users to transfer their own files onto their fully-purchased iPhone, Apple is quick to issue the iPhone 3.1 firmware designed to reverse iPhone jailbreaks. Instead of focussing on putting significant new and useful features and fixing up bugs, Apple has decided it was necessary to spend some of its profits to curtail users from installing any services and apps though Cydia by removing them and Cydia at the same time in return for a few new features and a locked-down iPhone.

In fact nearly all the new features Apple has allegedly added to this firmware update are not considered a "must have" in the iPhone arsenal unless, as Hickey has suggested, you want a Bulgarian keyboard character set installed. The only thing that has been added which might be considered useful is the multimedia messaging (MMS) — thought to be the carrot for getting users to update to 3.1. However, on the negative side, rumours are emerging the firmware 3.1 is rapidly draining the phone's battery power.

NOTE 1: MMS can be installed manually through firmware 3.0.1.

NOTE 2: If you have firmware 3.1 installed, you may be able to restore the iPhone and choose firmware 3.0.1 from the Apple web site (note that the original factory installed 3.0 will not be available). But don't count on this option being available from Apple in the near future. If you are able to downgrade the firmware, keep in mind the baseband will already have been upgraded irrespective of which firmware version you choose. It means the upgrade will effective stop users from unlocking their iPhones. Jailbreaking still remains feasible under firmware 3.0.1.

Should the jailbreaking community come up with a solution to this latest Apple move it would suggest Apple would be better off selling customers a fancy brick for an iPhone in order to have the perfect locked down and never-to-be jailbroken again device.

16 September 2009

Not a lot of takers for the iPhone 3.1 firmware update. So much so that Apple had to provide an advisory to users regarding the benefits of the update in terms of 10 security bugs fixed according to this CNET article titled Apple: iOS 3.1 plugs 10 security bugs.

Apple might be looking long and hard over the next few months for significant improvements beyond a handful of security fixes and multimedia messaging to help entice more users to move onto the next firmware version.

The security holes plugged according to Apple affect the WebKit (i.e. Safari and any other web-related application), SMS messaging, Mobile Mail and Exchange support. All are considered fairly minor but relatively important changes if you want a more secure iPhone. Otherwise no new features to note.

18 September 2009

Positive news from Apple has finally arrived through an unexpected email to all approved iPhone app developers stating the App Store Resource Center is now available. The Center provides developers with all sorts of useful information relating to iPhone apps such as how to get reviews, distribution and advice on preparing an app for submission to Apple, how long it takes to get approval and what to do if you are not approved, and how to manage the app once it is on the App Store (e.g. banking information, marketing resources, submitting updates etc). It is designed to be user-friendly and to take the guesswork out of selling iPhone apps.

New developers will have to sign up for a paid membership to Apple's iPhone Developer program before you can access the App Store Resource Center.

Well, if Apple can't please the iPhone users with the firmware 3.1 update, the company can always rely on their approved iPhone App developers to support them.

21 September 2009

Having trouble getting enough battery life from the iPhone 3GS after upgrading to iOS 3.1? You are not alone. It is a widespread problem. An example can be seen from the following quote by user joetwelvepack:

"I upgraded to 3.1, found battery time noticeably reduced, even while in standby mode.This is a new 3Gs, 32gb, no 3rd party apps." (Martin, David. Major, minor iPhone 3.1 upgrade problems and how to fix them: CNET News/iPhone Atlas. 21 September 2009.)

And another quote:

"I purchased an IPhone 3GS a couple of weeks ago with the 3.0.1 OS. the phone worked great. phone quality, internet. I updated to the 3.1 OS a couple of days after the firmware was released and my phone has went downhill since. I lose service more often than I can make a successful call. When trying to place a call, it disconnects saying call failed. My internet access is slow. My battery life has dropped. I went to sleep with a fully charged phone and woke up one morning with my battery at half strength. I don't have push enabled on any of my applications." (Martin, David. Major, minor iPhone 3.1 upgrade problems and how to fix them: CNET News/iPhone Atlas. 21 September 2009.)

Apple is providing another example of a positive move towards improving customer relations by asking users to participate in a program of testing the iPhone for bugs after the OS update. With users permission, you can install an Apple tool called BatteryLifeLogging.mobileconfig to log the files responsible for drawing extra power from the battery at certain times. To be seen as not trying to gather other information about the user, Apple has allowed the user to manually send the log files to Apple via email or upload to http://bugreport.apple.com/.

There is no known fix for the reduced battery life until the next firmware update unless you want to try this method from a user:

"I found a more effective solution: when prompted "Would you like to update to iOS 3.1?" I checked "Never remind me again" and clicked the "Cancel" button. So far this has worked like a charm." (Martin, David. Major, minor iPhone 3.1 upgrade problems and how to fix them: CNET News/iPhone Atlas. 21 September 2009.)

There are other problems with this update as users have encountered such as the iPhone failing to connect to Exchange 2007, sluggish performance during MobileMe syncing, random freezes or shutdowns, podcasts are listed in random order on occasions (Apple is allegedly aware of this problem) and more.

If you are desperate for a solution, try deleting the iOS 3.1 update from the iTunes directory, replug the iPhone, and re-download the update. Or restore the iPhone to the original 3.0 factory installed version and apply the OS 3.0.1 update.

21 September 2009

Another sinister turn of events has emerged from Apple for all users of jailbroken iPhones according to Jay Freeman, the developer of the iPhone jailbreaking tool Cydia. In a live chat with Erica Sadun of TUAW, it is claimed by Freeman that Apple has established a new signature server designed to check the firmware version and device identifier of all iPhones whenever users decide to perform a restore function with iTunes. If the server finds users are trying to perform a restore function (the process of erasing the contents on the iPhones' hard disk or flash memory and installing a new OS firmware) on any legitimate iPhone for whatever reason, the server will only supply the latest firmware version, not an earlier version where you choose the version you want.

The latest iTunes 9.0.x is designed to work with the new signature server.

It means that following the iOS 3.1 firmware update to remove jailbreaking tools and re-lock the iPhone, users in the future will not be able to restore to an earlier firmware version even if users are unhappy with the latest firmware because it is riddled with bugs or users prefer to have the flexibility of an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone. Users are now forced to accept Apple's own recommended firmware version (which is the latest only).

Furthermore, iTunes will only accept a restore function from a user if he/she is connected to the internet. It means all installation of an OS firmware will take place online and not through a downloaded firmware file. As Freeman said:

"...in order to restore your new i-devices, you will need to have an internet connection at the time of the restoration."

Yet on a Macintosh computer, users can install any version of an OS they like with an Apple installation disk. So why is the iPhone any different? Or is Apple considering a downloadable version of a MacOS X for its own computers with no installation disk in the future and force all users to accept the latest version?

This worrying trend is an attempt by Apple to stamp its authority over the iPhone (and maybe the Macintosh computer in the future) and protect its intellectual property even after the devices have been sold to users.

Freeman has successfully duplicated Apple's functionality through a signature server of his own and is looking to reverse the situation by allowing users to downgrade to the firmware version they want (and gives time for Freeman and others to find a jailbreaking solution for newer firmware versions). The technique Freeman is employing involves recording Apple's own signing process (which takes place for virtually every individual file of the OS firmware downloaded and installed by Apple on the iPhone through iTunes) and replaying it back in order to confuse Apple's own software with its sophisticated algorithms and so accept the signing and installation process for any iPhone. Freeman calls this a "replay attack".

One can imagine Apple will consider verifying whether the signing process is an original or a "recording" by including a time stamp (as occurs with FileMaker Pro 9.0 and higher when activating the software using a signature serial number within a certain time frame). Freeman is already considering this possibility and will find a way to record the time stamp as well. Unless Apple somehow links the time stamp with a specific iPhone identifier number, in which case the "recording" process may not work.

Even if third-party developers could somehow clone the iPhone contents after the signing process and put it on another iPhone, the device's identifier could prevent the software from running on any other iPhone.

We await to see the interesting new developments to emerge from Apple in protecting its products.

New solution for running firmware 3.1 on jailbroken iPhones arrives

The iPhone jailbreaking team has announced the availability of the Mac version of PwnageTool 3.13 for getting a jailbroken iPhone to run OS firmware 3.1. A windows version is expected to arrive soon.

While the tool does seem to achieve the task of allowing users to run OS firmware 3.1 on a jailbroken iPhone, there are some limitations. Firstly, the iPhone must already have firmware version 3.0 or 3.0.1 and be already jailbroken. And secondly you must use iTunes to restore the iPhone with the custom 3.1 firmware prepared by the team (remember to hold down the Option key while pressing on the Restore button).

The process involves downloading a custom firmware 3.1 file with appropriate Apple software updated as it appeared in the official Apple firmware 3.1 release except there are no modifications to the bootloader or exploits to any software (i.e. the firmware contains no tools to jailbreak the iPhone at this stage). What it does leave out is the upgrade component for the baseband chip for connecting the iPhone to a service provider. This is considered crucial as users can still unlock their iPhones without the upgrade.

For users who have recently purchased the latest iPhones with firmware 3.1, this solution will not help them to jailbreak or unlock their devices.

Need to unlock your iPhone? You will have to purchase the iPhones overseas from places such as Belgium or Hong Kong.

As for jailbreaking, the future isn't looking good. Apple is looking keen to stop any form of jailbreaking in future updates of the OS firmware.

Is this the reason for not allowing iPhones to be jailbroken - an issue of national security, and protecting the long-term profits of a select few approved by Apple?

Protecting the copyright and intellectual property of Apple's iPhone software is not considered the principal reason for Apple denying users the choice to jailbreak their iPhone according to a response by Apple to questions submitted by the Copyright Office at the US Library of Congress on 23 June 2009 on behalf of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The real reason appears to be one of national security and the protection of long-term profits among Apple and its approved Apple service providers and third-party developers.

The response came in the first week of October 2009 by lawyer David L. Hayes of Fenwick & West LLP in San Francisco representing on behalf of Apple Inc. When asked "Does 'jailbreaking' violate a license agreement between Apple and the purchaser of an iPhone?", Hayes response was:

"Jailbreaking does violate a license agreement between Apple and the purchaser of an iPhone. All purchasers of iPhones must accept the terms and conditions of the iPhone Software License Agreement ("IPSLA") at the time of purchase of the iPhone (and any later updates of the software)....Section 2(c) of all versions of the IPSLA provides that the licensee may not "modify, or create derivative works of the iPhone Software" and that any "attempt to do so is a violation of the rights of Apple and its licensors of the iPhone Software"."

This means anyone who purchases an iPhone and uses it has not only agreed to accept the license agreement developed by Apple at time of purchase and in any subsequent iOS firmware update, but also that he/she cannot create derivative works of the iOS and accompanying Apple software for commercial gain. In other words the assumption is that every person who jailbreaks the iPhone is likely to modify or hack the OS iPhone and App software and sell parts or all of the software for commercial gain.

This is not the same as the user making a profit through the iPhone by making calls, receiving files from clients, or running his/her own third-party software that is not a derivative of Apple's own software or any other software (and may not be approved by Apple through the App store). This is perfectly legitimate under the agreement. Of course, the problem is how to install the software users want outside the App Store. But once it is on and so long as there is no modification or changes to the OS and no ideas extracted from Apple's software to make the third-party software for commercial use, the software should be considered under the agreement as perfectly legitimate in performing the tasks it was designed for and so further assist the user in achieving his/her own goals. However the issue being raised here by Apple is one of preventing users the opportunity to modify and use parts or all of the OS software under any circumstances for commercial gain which is why they are against jailbreaking.

Jailbreaking is thought to be an example of modifying the Apple OS software as, technically speaking, the process does involve unauthorized modifications to the "bootloader and [exploits of bad programming in Apple's] OS programs".

However, suppose jailbreaking never existed in the English language and yet somehow users could mysteriously find a way to install their own preferred software applications beyond the ones Apple has approved on the App store. How does this constitute a violation of the license agreement as discussed earlier?

Apple is assuming jailbreaking involves not just modifying its Apple software but also the installing of independent third-party software not approved by Apple. But users are seeing two distinct issues here.

The license agreement talked about is the same we see in every software sold in existence, including the full OSX software (called "Snow Leopard", "Leopard". "Tiger", "Panther" and so on) already available in the unlocked and, technically speaking, jailbroken form (currently approved by Apple) on Macintosh computers.

Even Adobe software has the same license agreement when purchasers buy Adobe products.

The agreements do not get violated simply by the choice of a user installing another software. Unless the user is fully aware the installation of a new software will violate the agreement of another software and the new software is known by other software manufacturers to modify and extract or have already modified and extracted derivatives of parts or all of another commercial software, the simple act of installing and running any normal and legitimate software does not constitute a violation of any agreement.

We see this on Macintosh and PC computers (i.e. laptops and desktops) where users have a choice of any software they want to install and run for their own purposes together with their associated agreements, even if Apple may express its disapproval of certain software because independent software developers may have a legitimate need to produce a particular type of software to achieve something without causing modifications or taking derivatives of Apple's own OS and/or its other Apple software applications.

Yet it doesn't properly explain why the iPhone (essentially another computer) should be prevented in accepting third-party software the user may choose to install without violating the license agreement.

Perhaps Apple should be asked what evidence is there to suggest users have violated the iOS software for commercial gain by extracting, modifying the OS and selling the ideas and other intellectual property of the company in parts or as a whole and how does this compare to, say, OSX on Macintosh computers?

In fact, how many derivatives of OSX "Snow Leopard" or earlier versions have users sold in violation of the license agreement?

Denying users who don't have an interest in tinkering with the iOS software when jailbreaking for the sake of running their own preferred third-party applications suggests this is more about Apple exercising its inherent monopoly on the iPhones to restrict profit to those who make the iPhone and those who are Apple-approved in their activity as well as test ways to further protect copyright and intellectual property. And if this works, one day Apple could decide to lock and prevent jailbreaking of Macintosh computers, making the Macintosh the exclusive domain of people who can follow Apple's recommended software solutions and pay extra for expensive Mac software to be installed (otherwise move onto a PC).

We can't deny the possibility. Apple could be more interested in testing new ideas for further protecting their OS and other Apple-made software by using iPhone users as guinea pigs rather than permitting users to install any kind of software they like on top of the standard Apple OS software and running it.

Apple is choosing not to provide a proper OS software for all users to allow the installation of any third-party software. This has nothing to do with violating the agreement. Apple is monopolising the iPhone and dictating to users how it should be used. And legally there is nothing to force Apple to provide the right software for users unless users decide to abandon the iPhone en masse (a highly unlikely scenario given its popularity for the moment). Until another company can provide an alternative iPhone look-alike with options for installing any third-party software, Apple can enjoy its monopoly of the iPhone and all software choices through its App Store. So why are users able to install any kind of third-party software they like on OSX "Snow Leopard" through a proper computer? And how is this any different on an iPhone?

Or maybe there is another reason.

We see this on page 14 of the Apple responses document under the part where the lawyer states "Cellular network impact". This suggests more a question of national security rather than license agreements. Suppose a terrorist or disgruntled geek decides to develop a non-Apple approved software tool to send a mass request to a key server on a network. It could seriously damage or potentially bring down the US economy because of how much of the digital infrastructure is being used for economic purposes.

As one user suggested: "WMWD — Weapon of Mass Wireless Destruction." (Ngo, Dong. Jailbreaking iPhone could pose threat to national security, Apple claims: CNET News/MacFixIt.com. 29 July 2009.)

So what does this make the Macintosh computer look like? The end of the world as we see it?

Well let's suppose there are potential terrorists or smart geeks who can instigate a server attack through sending of mass server requests to bring down parts or all of a network through a jailbroken iPhone, why are Macintosh computers being allowed to run non-Apple approved software? And they can be plugged anonymously at public internet cafes. There have been cases of people able to cause some havoc to servers on the network using a laptop or desktop computer. We might as well lock and prevent the jailbreaking of all Macintosh computers. And to be truly effective, it should extend to all PCs.

Is this a realistic thing to do?

And how will this affect the ability of users who legitimately want to do good with a computer by developing their own software which may not get approval from Apple (Apple could quite easily dictate who receives profit from the sale of software tools and who doesn't). Or people may need a quick and dirty solution that would never get approved by Apple but has to be produced to solve a problem. Why should Apple decide the software it wants to allow on its machines even after the user has purchased the computer?

As for locking an iPhone to prevent the user choice of network provider, Belgium continues to enjoy unlocked iPhones. Hong Kong sells unlocked iPhones. Yet the USA can't. We can deduce two possible reasons:

  1. To identify and monitor specific iPhone users from a central point (i.e. AT&T) in this post 9/11 era for possible terrorist activity; and/or
  2. To centralise all profits to AT&T and Apple.

On the question of profit for Apple and AT&T, has the choice of a network provider for the lucky users who have unlocked their iPhones resulted in massive profit loss for AT&T and Apple? We see no evidence of this.

Well surely Apple is not complaining — the iPhones continue to be sold. As for AT&T, it isn't exactly losing money in the iPhone business. Even if AT&T did not improve its services and users could choose their network provider, there will be enough iPhone users on an AT&T plan to keep the money rolling in.

Interesting to see how many jailbroken and unlocked iPhones are enjoying the services provided by the alternative US service provider Tmobile. No evidence such phones are causing havoc to Tmobile and its network. The same is being said of iPhones in other countries. Yet AT&T have argued a jailbroken iPhone causes unreliable service. But as one CNET user said:

"So all of the jailbroken phones on non-US networks aren't causing unreliable service. I think it's just AT&T blowing steam out of their butts." (Ngo, Dong. Jailbreaking iPhone could pose threat to national security, Apple claims: CNET News/MacFixIt.com. 29 July 2009.)

This is starting to look more like an opportunity for some key players to observe users in action to see what is going on (for law enforcement agencies), as well as how to improve and better target products to iPhone users (i.e. maximise and centralise the profit to Apple and its exclusive club of Apple-approved developers and service providers). It just ain't the American way of life if it isn't these days.

Either that, or Apple is doing a brilliant job of shifting the blame to someone else.

For a final view on this issue, it is wise to listen to some prophetic words from a user and potential future customer:

"Apple is the new Big Brother and is mimicking its own 1984 commercial. You would think they would embrace the willingness of developers and users to take full advantage of the platform. But no. Instead they are starting to build an even higher walled garden just for Apple & AT&T and the customers who Kowtow to higher powers.

I have been using a jailbroken iPhone for 2 years. It is wonderful and a truly amazing device. Of course, I was lucky and purchased it at the Apple Store, jailbroke it and unlocked it, and run on the network with the best customer service, t-Mobile. TMO loves us iPhone users. They do not have to subsidize the phone and they get voice and data revenue. It certainly has not caused problems with their network, which just keeps getting better.

Watch out Apple, because the next crop of Android phones are going to be highly customizable and allow the user to take full advantage of the platform. I will happily abandon Apple when this inevitable march of progress happens.

Apple & AT&T — shouldn't you be more focused on the total customer experience. Yes, churn is down, for now, with the 3GS. Just remember the high flying Motorola Razr phones. The fall from such heights can be devastating." (Ngo, Dong. Jailbreaking iPhone could pose threat to national security, Apple claims: CNET News/MacFixIt.com. 29 July 2009.)

Apple needs to sell iPhones, minimise competition and keep track of users while AT&T needs to recoup costs for giving out subsidised iPhones to customers

In a report published by the Yankee Group titled The Golden Subsidy Egg's Goose is Cooked: Welcome to the Brave New Subsidy-Free World, we learn what could be the reason why Apple has teamed up with AT&T and is doing everything in Apple's power to lock the iPhone.

Whilst some users have questioned the motive behind the latest report released in October 2009 given that many see the Yankee Group as having commissioned numerous reports on behalf of Microsoft Corporation, it seems we can start to appreciate the difficulties AT&T is having at the moment.

For example, being forced to upgrade its services to handle the extra data transfers from large numbers of iPhone users was only just the beginning. In order for users to pick up an iPhone without immediately paying the full price, AT&T has to force users to sign up on a 2-year contract. It is the only way AT&T can recoup the subsidised price of the iPhone which the company pays Apple. Once recouped, the company can make a profit so long as customers continue to stay on the contract for the full term and longer.

How long does it take to break-even? It is reported the profit for AT&T begins after the 17th month of the 2-year contract. The Yankee Group claims if the subsidy was not there and users purchased the iPhone outright from Apple at the full original price, AT&T would break even (based on other costs) after 8 months of the contract and earn an additional 33 percent total return assuming users stay on the 2-year contract.

If users don't stay on the contract because the iPhones are unlocked and users go elsewhere, AT&T will not make a sufficient return earning at most US$50 after users pay a termination fee. This is not enough profit (especially when there is a network to be upgraded). Therefore AT&T will have to do everything in its powers to milk the iPhone customers of their hard earned cash as soon as possible and slowly make the investment in a better network.

The subsidy scheme is the same world over for other mobile phone manufacturers and their partnered phone carriers. Mobile phones are subsidised and the cost is recovered through a fixed 12-month contract between the users and the phone carriers. Except international users do have a choice: pay the full price and choose your phone carrier, or get locked into a contract. And in the case of the Apple iPhone, it is more expensive than a majority of mobile phones. It is the reason why customers must stay on the contract for at least 2 years and why it takes a long time for AT&T to recover costs and make the profit it originally was there to make. It enough users stick beyond the 17th month of the contract, hopefully AT&T will make a reasonable profit and then it won't matter if the iPhone is unlocked and users go elsewhere. Otherwise Apple must be seen as doing everything in its powers to ensure users cannot unlock the iPhone until AT&T has reached a level of reasonable profitability in the iPhone business.

But why did Apple choose AT&T? What's wrong with T-Mobile or another US phone carrier? Or why not have the iPhone unlocked and let users decide their preferred carriers right at the beginning before sticking with AT&T?

Or perhaps Apple had other reasons for using AT&T (i.e. the subsidy scheme and other reasons) while AT&T had wanted a slice in the Apple iPhone profit pie.

On the one hand, Apple was more interested in selling the iPhone at a high price by taking advantage of the subsidy scheme available through phone carriers such as AT&T in order to get the iPhone into as many consumer hands as possible. Otherwise, despite costing the same for consumers if bought outright, it wouldn't be quite as appealing and Apple profits would not be as high with the device as it is today forcing Apple to consider reducing the price of the iPhone. What AT&T didn't anticipate is exactly how many users wanted to use the iPhone (and hence how much money AT&T had to pay Apple), and how easily the iPhone could be unlocked (at least in the early models), putting the phone carrier into a tricky situation. Also AT&T miscalculated the demand for fast and reliable data services given the fact that the iPhone is more than just a voice-based mobile phone. So AT&T tried to improve its network.

As Whitney confirms:

"AT&T went along with the subsidy because it felt that lower iPhone prices would bring in more customers. But in a catch-22, more customers have also put a strain on the carrier's network, both for voice and data. Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in August that AT&T's wireless data usage jumped almost 5,000 percent from 2006 to 2009.

That strain has made for some unhappy iPhone users and has forced AT&T to scramble in order to beef up its wireless infrastructure." (Whitney, Lance. Report details AT&T wait to break even on iPhones: CNET report. 9 October 2009.)

It turns out upgrading a network is very expensive. In fact, AT&T was not thinking long-term when it came to upgrading the network. It was thinking profit now and worry about the network later only to hit the executives hard about how much sooner the upgrade was needed thanks to the iPhone. And now the costs are enormous. Hence the reason why Apple is working hard to lock the iPhone (at least for the duration of the contract).

Either Apple makes sure the iPhone is locked (ideally for the life of the iPhone) for all money to flow in AT&T's direction during the contract period, or tell the situation to users of what's happening at AT&T.

We don't know who commissioned the Yankee Group's report. Perhaps AT&T is indirectly trying to get users to support them through "greater levels of clarity and trust with consumers" (Castonguay, Andy, director of the Yankee Group).

Yet even if the 17th month of every contract is reached, more iPhones will keep going out-the-door much to the delight of Steve Jobs. And not all are being immediately purchased at the full high price. Clearly someone has to pay for these iPhones. Either users pay the full price; or they must live with the restrictions of a locked iPhone, the problems of an ill-equipped AT&T network, and to stay within the AT&T contract.

Neither looks particularly appetising for users unless Apple can somehow reduce the price of the iPhone (not likely given the profit they are making with it), and/or AT&T makes enough profit early enough.

Or perhaps Apple and AT&T should provide an incentive for consumers to stay on the contract. When users reach the end of the contract, pay an extra US$100 and in return Apple unlocks the iPhone?

Sounds like a reasonable idea.

Or simply force all American users to pay the full high price for an unlocked iPhone right at the start and let users decide where to get a good network service (which happens to be the model being used in Europe and Asia). It might mean slightly less iPhone units out-the-door for Apple, but it shouldn't be bad given how many Americans love their Apple products especially since the latest iPhone can finally work on the GSM 3G network and can do a lot more than the average mobile phone (the reason why no subsidy in the first iPhones was not a great success for Apple).

The problem began right at the start: Apple had the right idea of using the subsidy scheme but Apple and AT&T were both thinking high profits before good customer service and a rock-solid network service.

Apple release iOS update 3.1.2

Having trouble waking the iPhone from sleep mode? A regular occurrence for many users until now. It seems Apple has finally found a solution and is available through this update released on 8 October 2009. But for how long before the company reintroduces the bug again in another iPhone model?

Another improvement is a solution to the "interrupt the cell network until the phone is restarted" (Dalrymple, Jim. Apple releases iOS 3.1.2: CNET News.

There are other improvements.

Certainly this update won't be the last if the past is anything to go by.

New PC jailbreak solution considered the easiest to use yet &# 151 and it works with OS iPhone 3.1.2

While Apple Inc. may have succeeded in locking the iPhone for users running OS version 3.1.2 unless the iPhone is bought overseas and future OS firmware updates are not performed through a US-based Apple server for Amercian users, a new jailbreaking solution has emerged and will keep Apple busy for a while.

Much to the disgust of Apple executives, but openly welcomed among the iPhone users community, is a tool called Blackra1n (pronounced black rain) as of 11 October 2009. There is another Windows-only utility designed for this task called Purplera1n (pronounced purple rain), but Blackra1n is considered the easiest.

Before following the steps below, make sure you have backed up all your data.

The steps to jailbreaking according to the information available here are:

  1. Update OS iPhone firmware to version 3.1.2 via iTunes 9.0.1 or higher
  2. Unplug your iPhone from the computer.
  3. If you haven't done so already, install Blackra1n and reboot your PC.
  4. Launch blackra1n.
  5. Plug the iPhone into computer.
  6. Click the button that says "Make it ra1n" (there's only one button, so you can't miss it).
  7. Let it do it's thing (it should take about 30 seconds). The iPhone will go into recovery mode. Once it is jailbroken, the iPhone will be rebooted, together with an opportunity to make a donation to GeoHot.
  8. After the iPhone reboots, launch blackra1n app on your iPhone (it will appear on the Springboard).
  9. You will be presented with the option to install Cydia, Rock, or Icy. But do not install more than one of these applications (especially Cydia and Icy) or you will have to restore the iPhone to its original firmware version.
  10. Optional step: Launch blackra1n again to uninstall blackra1n from your iPhone (the jailbreak solution still remains active).

To minimise any problems with this process, try to run any utility to help you check the integrity of files on your iPhone.

Credit for the utility must go to the iOS hacker named GeoHot for the excellent work in this field.

To unlock your iPhone, you must be running OS firmware 3.0 or 3.0.1 and the PwangeTool utility. Until the utility is updated, no unlocking currently solution exists for users already on OS firmware 3.1 or higher.

Signs of anti-competitive behaviour from Apple even after the iPhone is sold to customers?

Jessica Colcourt has written on 13 October 2009 an article suggesting some iPhone apps are taking a long time to get approval by Apple. Examples given were Trilliam IM (instant messaging application) with no approval after two months, as well as Beejive and Palringo with no hint of approval for months. And if it isn't approved, it is likely to be because Apple wants to choose those apps that won't compete with its existing software. For example, you can't have an iTunes or Safari alternative on the iPhone even if it contains better features and with less restrictions than the Apple versions.

Apple can do this even after the iPhone has been purchased by consumers. So consumers, developers and companies are at the whim of Apple when it comes to getting approval of any kind for using the iPhone in the way customers want to use it.

Could this be another reason for users looking to jailbreak the iPhone?

Apple may be seeking a hardwired approach to stopping jailbreaking and unlocking attempts

The days could be numbered for jailbreaking and unlocking developers as Apple seeks a more permanent jailbreaking solution using the BootROM chip of the iPhone. The report from iClarified suggests the new BootROM chip will be named iBoot-359.3.2 and will hold additional information on which iPhones may be locked or unlocked as well as preventing jailbreaks. It is reported the new BootROM is shipping in the latest iPhone 3GS sold from mid-October 2009 onwards. Other hardwired solutions are being sought to make the iPhone close to un-jailbreakable and unlockable as possible.

Now if only the same effort could have been applied to making unbreakable and unscratchable iPhones using better quality materials and the world would be a better place. And Apple would be looking more productive and useful to its customers. Come to think of it, a similar effort on testing and removing bugs in the OS should bring us to virtually a flawless iOS and Mac OSX by now.

Anyway, the iPhone Dev-Team has released PwnageTool 3.1.4 to unlock and jailbreak all iPhones (except the third-generation iPod Touch) running the iOS right up to and including firmware version 3.1.2.

But as David Martin explains:

"...there is a catch: it will only keep the unlock for the cellular baseband [you have chosen] intact if you have been jailbreaking and unlocking your iPhone 3GS using custom IPSW files beginning with iOS 3.0 or earlier. (If that describes your situation, all you have to do is install ultrasn0w via Cydia after you perform a restore using one of the no-baseband-alterations custom IPSW's you created previously)." (Martin, David. iPhone Dev-Team releases PwnageTool 3.1.4 : CNET News/iPhone Atlas. 14 October 2009.)

To bypass this latest Apple restriction on jailbreaking through the BootROM, it is likely the iPhone Dev-Team will have to spoof the ECID number of earlier iPhones (much like spoofing MAC addresses to allow foreign computers to connect to an organisation's server — a great pain for many ICT managers) which could fool the iOS into thinking it shouldn't apply restrictions set by the BootROM.

The ECID number is displayed when the iPhone is run in DFU mode and will appear in the Serial Number section.

Now all it remains to do for Apple is to stop American users deciding to go overseas and purchase an iPhone in order to make it unlockable.

Perhaps Apple has on the drawing board a new microchip to be injected into every iPhone customers' arms. Then as the iPhone gets swiped over the microchip for activation, the device will know whether it is being used by American or international users. Or perhaps Apple will check the location of the user through the GPS: if within the USA, lock it down to AT&T, otherwise open it up in other selected countries.

Do you have a better solution?

20 October 2009

The idea of triangulating between three cell towers or using GPS to track down your exact location on the planet Earth through the iPhone and using this information to determine whether to lock your iPhone to a given service provider may not be as silly as it sounds.

Rick Broida wrote an article in the CNET News about a freeware app designed specifically to share your location with anyone via email, SMS text message and/or Twitter and can be programmed to send this information regularly over a set period of time. Fortunately the device allows the user to decide when to share the location.

But how certain can users be that their iPhones couldn't or isn't already doing the same thing as we speak without the freeware app?

Even if the information isn't already being secretly shared, give it a tiny tweak here and there and Apple could lock the iPhone based on the location of the iPhone user without sending information outside to anyone. Just modify the iOS to check location everytime a call is made and the software will know whether to lock or unlock the iPhone.

And no amount of programming from jailbreaking developers can stop this method short of replacing the iOS with a non-Apple OS (you can forget that idea!).

That Blackberry is starting to look mighty good at this moment...

21 October 2009

Is this meant to be evidence of Apple trying to be useful and productive to its customers? In today's CNET article, Apple has decided it is important to clear up the one burning question you had been dying to figure out for years: What's the difference between "discs" and "disks"?

The knowledge base article discussing the difference is available here.

Earlier this month it only took Apple roughly 3 to 4 years to tell customers to exchange their potentially faulty battery in the first-generation iPod. Now, with the advent of flash memories and how the old disks and discs are going in the way of the Dodo, it has only taken Apple since the 1980s to finally clarify a disc refers to the optical storage types and disks are of the magnetic types. And now that we don't need them anymore, we need to know the difference.

However, just to confuse the reader even more, a user said:

"What if I take a DVD and create a Toast file and then mount it? It looks like a disc, but is not physically removable from my computer as term is described. But my Mac thinks it's a disc." (Almonetti, Joe. Apple clears up an important issue: The difference between discs and disks: CNET News. 21 October 2009.)

The response from another user was, "I think that's a 'disck'."

But don't hold your breath for an answer to this latest conundrum from Apple. At the current rate of providing advice on such things as the difference between disks and discs, there is a high probability Apple won't have an answer no earlier than the year 2012 and probably closer to 2029.

Perhaps we should add not just being useful and productive in the list of things Apple should do for its customers, but also being timely in the advice.

We can be sure this is just an unfortunate moment for Apple to give such advice.

Apple could be hinting their efforts are designed to give every developer a chance to profit from the iPhone

There is always a reason in Apple's madness, or so it seems. On 14 October 2009, we learn Apple sent a message to all iPhone app developers allowing them to "sell content, subscriptions, and digital services" through their free apps. While technically speaking a free app should remain free, it is possible under this new scheme to provide a free app with standard free features but ask users to pay for additional features to be added to the app.

Previous to this, Apple would only allow developers to make money if the apps are sold for at least US$0.99. And anything free had to remain free. Now the restriction has been lifted.

But as with such moves, there is usually a reason behind it. Given the not so good publicity on preventing users running their own preferred apps on the iPhones through jailbreaking, Apple feels the best and most positive message to get across to everyone is that "even you can make money on the iPhone; just become a developer and all your dreams will come true". Of course, you will have to pass the rigorous and hopefully quick approval process from Apple. And so long as you don't have any funny stuff in your app or anything that might duplicate or compete with Apple's own software apps, you should be fine.

The locking down and preventing jailbreaks on iPhones is really about protecting the profits of Apple and, as we have discovered, the iPhone app developers.

So why isn't the Macintosh computer locked down and prevented from being jailbroken?

Or is Apple planning on doing something along those lines in the near future? Now where's that PC...

And where's the Blackberry Bold 9700 for an alternative to the iPhone...

22 October 2009

Being useful, productive and providing timely advice is being shown by Apple to its special club of paid and signed up iPhone app developers this week. Apple hosted the iPhone Tech Talk World Tour 2009 where Apple engineers and their counterparts from the technology industry provided up-to-date and relevant advice and guidance on "user interface design, game design, code optimization, Core Data, video and audio development, App purchases, push notifications, and Web content integration", according to David Martin of CNET News.

If you are thinking of becoming an app developer but haven't decided and hope to attend to find out more, this is not the place for you. You have to be signed up and paid your fee so Apple has a healthy profit and knows who is attending. Either that, or Apple knows the number of app developers has reached a critical mass and now there could be a risk for many developers not being able to make as much money as they had hoped.

Maybe this is the reason why Apple has recently agreed to let the developers turn their free apps into paid apps?

Jailbreaking continues despite Apple's efforts

A new update to the jailbreak utility has arrived by way of Blackra1n RC2 for the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch by iPhone hacker GeoHot.

Users are now able to enjoy what is called a "tethered jailbreak" for the latest iPhone 3GS containing the updated BootROM from Apple. So if your iPhone should ever need a "hard reboot" as one user said, plug the iPhone into your PC to reactivate using the utility. Please note that if you have already jailbreaked your iPhone using Blackra1n RC1, GeoHot recommends you won't need Blackra1n RC2.

Bugger! Sounds like back to the drawing board for Apple.

5 November 2009

GeoHot has done it again. If you ever need a tool to fully unlock the iPhone on OS 3.1.2 with baseband 05.11.07 and jailbreak it as well, GeoHot has kindly provided a PC and Mac version of the latest Blackra1n utility. The complete jailbreaking and unlocking solution has arrived! Apple executives must be fuming. Sounds like Apple Inc. may have to pay GeoHot a lot of money to keep this mystery person quiet and stop any more updates coming through. We hope GeoHot retires a rich person after this.

In case you missed it, you can download the Mac version from here. Oops! You want the PC version? No problems. Try clicking here.

Donations to GeoHot for his efforts are always appreciated through his web site.

7 November 2009

Jailbreakers have been given a special treat. Either someone trying to warn other users, or an unnamed computer/software manufacturer, has decided to release malware specifically targeted for jailbroken iPhones. If it is a manufacturerm, it might be designed to frighten off iPhone users from attempting to unlocked and jailbreak their device by giving the impression the iPhone will be less secure compared to locked versions.

Although considered a harmless prank, the "Rickrolling" worm does affect a security hole in jailbroken iPhones having SSH installed and still uses the default password.

11 November 2009

Security software developer Intego announced a more sinister malware thought to be a variant of the previous harmless worm. However this one is designed to steal information from jailbroken iPhone users. Further details available from here.

For the malware to work, a PC infected with the worm has to establish a Wi-Fi connection to your iPhone and your root password must be set to default. And this one will not make its presence known to the user once the iPhone is infected.

To increase your security, change the root password immediately:

1. Install MobileTerminal on your iPhone if it is not available (check the Cydia store for details).

2. Launch the Mobile Terminal app.

3. Type su and press return.

4. Type the current default root user password alpine and press return.

5. Type passwd and press return.

6. Enter your new root password and press return. Repeat when prompted.

In addition (or alternatively), you may wish to install SBSettings or Bossprefs from Cydia to disable the SSH feature when not in use.

Why steal user information and not do something really sinister like delete files and render the iPhone useless? Perhaps someone (or an unnamed software/computer manufacturer) wants to know who has a jailbroken iPhone? Should it be a manufacturer, we can't possibly imagine who the company might be. Any clues?

Intego has estimated 8 per cent of all iPhones have been jailbroken.

Pleasing the App developers

Apple made a positive move from 11 November 2009. App developers can now check their application's progress during submission by visiting Apple's official Dev Centre web site. Apple has also assured developers that around 96 per cent of all applications submitted were approved within 14 days. The problem seems to be the volume of applications submitted. Apple allegedly checks 8,500 new and updated applications every day. However most are approved quickly without too much checking simply by realising the submissions are for updates. It is the new applications that are taking the most time for Apple to check.

11 November 2009

Some updated apps are said to be taking a while to get approved according to one developer named Paul Kafasis. Where apps are still stuck in the approval process such as Paul Kafasis' Airfoil Speakers Touch iPhone app (3 months and waiting at time of writing this), we must assume these are "isolated incidents" that have somehow slipped through the cracks in the approval process; or Apple has found something in the apps they don't like but can't seem to decide what to do. So the best option is probably to wait and say nothing and hopefully the developer will go away and not update the app in the future (much to Apple's delight).

One of the reasons why jailbreaking iPhones has become a popular pasttime for some users.

Now if only Apple could spend the same amount of time carefully scrutinizing their own software (and not just the mountain of iPhone third-party apps) including OSX and perhaps we can finally enjoy bug-free Apple software.

20 November 2009

On the other hand, if you are a games developer, you are highly welcomed on the Apple App store. In fact, Apple will go out of their way to ensure a quick and speedy approval for any App games produced and submitted as the company doesn't expect these developers to put in any funny backdoors for users to gain access to the iPhone.

Combined with a good Apple App Store for making life easy when it comes to purchasing or downloading Apps and from a purely business-point-of-view it is not surprising for a French mobile gaming company known as Gameloft to concentrate their efforts on making games for the iPhone. As Gameloft's finance director Alexandre de Rochefort said, his company is choosing the iPhone over the PC-equivalent known as the Android because of "weaknesses of Android's application store":

"It is not as neatly done as on the iPhone. Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products. On Android nobody is making significant revenue." (Dalrymple, Jim. Game developer cuts back on Android in favor of iPhone: CNET News. 20 November 2009.)

But once the Android's application store improves significantly, what then?

Developers will follow where the money is. Hence Gameloft may return to the games market for the Android.

So what happens if a games developer decides to put in a hidden backdoor designed to help users open up the iPhone and install any App they like? How will Apple react? Would they still be able to maintain the 100,000 Apps approved per year if the company discovers some funny stuff has been put into some games Apps?

2 December 2009

On the other hand, if the functionality of an iPhone app is somewhat limited, the approval process can go either way. For example, an app called the Wooo! Button designed to make a particular sound when you press the button can be considered of limited functionality. Yet it is approved by Apple for downloading from the App Store. Other classic examples approved by Apple include the Hallelujah! Button, and the Knock on Wood button.

However, developer Joel Comm, creator of the iFart application, has discovered his cha-ching "cash register sound" button was rejected on the grounds it provides limited functionality. So why were the other apps approved?

The developer has a YouTube movie asking users to support a new, transparent and more consistent App Store review process to make it fairer for all developers, or to start a new App Store with less restrictions.

AT&T making headway into improving their service to iPhone customers

AT&T released an iPhone app called Mark the Spot designed to use GPS technology in the iPhone 3G and 3GS to locate users who complain about poor service, call dropouts and so on. The primary aim is to improve the service in specific and needy areas as a way of prioritizing the company's investment in upgrading the network for its customers.

"We think this is a great way to get customer feedback to improve our network," AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said. "We are always looking for ways to make it easy for customers to share their experiences. And this app lets customers report issues. It logs the time and location and automatically forwards the information to our network planning team." (Reardon, Marguerite. AT&T iPhone collects user complaints about poor service: iPhone Atlas/CNET. 7 December 2009.)

We agree.

Just so long as customers can get through to AT&T to make a complaint when a call drops out in a certain area. Perhaps you may have to use an alternative mobile phone to get through to AT&T? Or AT&T will never know of any complaints for the worst areas.

Apple targeting hackers by denying them access to the App Store

iOS version 3.1.3 is another attempt by Apple to relock any jailbroken phones with very little by way of improvements. Yet again hackers are finding a way to unlock the iPhone.

And again Apple is looking a bit peeved by all of this with news that it may have taken a more personal approach to dealing with the hackers. As a form of punishment, hackers who have identified themselves as responsible for jailbreaking iOS by finding exploits in the software may find themselves targeted by Apple with a denial of access to the App Store on the grounds of "security reasons".

It means anyone who makes his/her name known in association with jailbreaking or anything Apple doesn't like and you go in the sin bin followed by a loss in privileges when it comes to access to the App Store (i.e. you Apple ID will be banned).

At the time this was written, it seems Apple has targeted Sherif Hashim. His crime? He managed to find an exploit in iOS version 3.1.3 designed to unlock the baseband version 05.12.01 where users can make calls on any GSM carrier.

Or will Apple claim the ban is just an accidental disabling of access for Hashim?

If it is a ban, Apple should be grateful for people finding exploits in the OS. It is the only way to make the software more secure. Not so for Apple. Now it seems hackers will have to be anonymous and create another Apple ID.

Further details can be read from here.

6 March 2010

After noticing iPhone app developers are making their applications available on the Macintosh computer as well, a price drop to become a member of Apple's developer program for the Mac has been made. It will be priced the same as becoming a member of the iPhone app developer program, which is US$99.

iOS 4.0

In response to a host of improvements to the rapidly expanding Android phones with OS 2.0 such as multitasking and improved folder organising and customization abilities, as well as the reason why most people want to jailbreak their iPhones (primarily to multitask and customise it), Steve Jobs has finally caved into the demand (except to unlock the phone). The decision will see an injection of electronic steroids to the latest iPhone 3GS with the release of the much awaited iOS 4.0 update. And Mr Jobs is hoping this might stop the jailbreaking too.

Due for immediate release sometime in May 2010 (just as the holidays hit the northern hemisphere residents), iOS 4.0 will finally provide the kick up the proverbial power jack hole for a much needed improvement in one critical area: multitasking. At last we have a feature that should have been included in the iPhone 1.0 release if Apple did the job properly first time around. At any rate, multitasking will certainly make life a whole lot easier for users.

With multitasking, you can do more than one thing on your iPhone (and not just with yourself too). For example, you will be able to talk on your iPhone and run the apparently all-important location/navigation feature. This means that if you are on the run from the law and trying to speak to one of your criminal friends on the iPhone, the police can see exactly where you are going at the same time using their own specialised iPhone tracking technology. Nice one Apple! Of course, not that everyone is likely to be in trouble with the law. But if you want your location to remain anonymous with someone, Apple has kindly denied you this opportunity.

But in other areas, you can switch back and forth between launched applications without needing to quit the current running app to access another.

A word of caution for iPhone 3G users wanting to download this update: the multitasking feature will not work on your iPhones due to hardware restraints (i.e. the polite way of saying "Apple didn't think far enough when designing your iPhone"). You will need the iPhone 3GS version to benefit from this latest feature. As one user said:

"So no multitasking....sucks."

We thought you would be pleased to hear it.

Apart from that, Apple has thrown in some improvements in terms of better organising of your emails, and storing the multitude of apps you probably download from the App Store. Also you can change the wallpaper theme on your home screen — a feature touted by one user as one of two big reasons why people jailbreak their own iPhones (the other reason being the ability to multitask).

And in case you don't quite have enough apps on your iPhone, you will experience a new app from Apple called iAd.app. Here you will notice adverts from iPhone app developers telling you how great their latest apps are and where to download them. Essentially a form of free advertising for the developers, but a necessity to help the thousands of developers trying to make a living from their apps. Just so long as the adverts are not in your face all the time so to speak.

The only thing missing from the iPhone after this update is a feature to use it as a backup storage device. The nearest solution would have to be AirSharing or iPhone Disk 1.106; or set up a folder in Mail to store the files. Alternatively try plugging it in to a PC, not an Apple computer.

In all, what you do get is one big and really useful feature we all should have had ages ago for those who have the latest iPhones in return for a little nagging from the developers through their adverts. While everyone else can benefit from better organising of their emails and apps and a slightly more stable OS.

However, to get an iPhone that does absolutely everything and do it right first time, everytime (the solution to all jailbreaking issues) — well, you're dreaming until Apple relinquishes enough control over it to the humble consumer.

Somehow we get the feeling this whole jailbreaking issue will continue for a little while longer...

A prototype of iPhone 4GS accidentally reaches the public

Slightly better than a leaked rumour or two about an upcoming Apple product from anonymous Apple employees, consumers were fortunate enough on this rare occasion to receive pictures and unusually detailed specifications on a prototype of the next iPhone version, known quite simply as iPhone 4GS. It was apparently left lying around at a German beer garden bar in Redwood, California. Those Germans certainly know how to make a good brew for the unfortunate 28-year-old Apple employee given how quickly he forgot to carry the prototype. Either that, or the improvements Apple made to his prototype device weren't memorable. While it might be fortunate for consumers to know the details, after the phone was picked up and sold to Gawker Media's Gizmodo for an alleged US$5,000 by two men named Brian Hogan and Sage Wallover where the details eventually got splattered across the internet, the 27-year-old software engineer was not so lucky to remain anonymous and keep his job after Steve Jobs learned of his mistake.

On the positive side, at least we are starting to see evidence of some testing being conducted by Apple employees in California before launching a new Apple product into the real world.

More on the positive side for consumers is the fact that we are a little wiser in terms of the alleged improvements to come in the next model. Although the improvements are not exactly riveting or revolutionary — more like a few features added in response to requests made by previous iPhone users and a slightly more thinner design — they are thought to be useful and make for a slightly more compelling case as to why consumers should buy the latest iPhone if one hasn't been bought as yet. However, if you already have the iPhone 3GS, it is not really worth paying extra to make the move for at least another couple of versions.

The main improvements are a bigger battery and presumably less power to run a smaller circuitry contained within a thinner casing. The battery is roughly 16 per cent larger. But in terms of the extra number of hours per charge, we really don't know until it is released. So in a sense this level of precision in the size of the battery seems a bit pointless. The same is true of the weight. Apparently as a result of a larger battery, the new iPhone will end up being roughly three grams heavier — not a major issue as most people won't notice the difference.

More useful information has to be in those areas needed by consumers to do the job of taking decent quality pictures and the ability to use the iPhone as a videophone. We can happily report Apple has kindly provided a forward facing camera for video chat, and a larger standard lens on the back together with a flash for taking pictures in a wider range of lighting conditions. Consumers will appreciate this improvement.

Even more useful is information on whether the price of the iPhone will drop significantly and American users can choose the phone carrier they want. Unfortuntely these will remain the two biggest sticking points from a company that is not too keen to lower price or provide maximum flexibility to all the users.

Given these limited improvements, Mr Jobs should have been a little more forgiving of the software engineer.

In the meantime, San Mateo County prosecutors have filed misdemeanor criminal charges on the two men responsible for selling the prototype since under California law, any person found to be in possession of lost property and knows the owner but attempts to "appropriate such property to his own use" is guilty of theft.

Prosecutors have also considered filing charges on the Gizmodo editor Jason Chen as a second state law states any person knowingly receiving property that has been acquired illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year. Following a warrant to search Chen's home and some discussions, it would appear the prosecutors will not pursue the editor in court.

Hackers keep rubbing up the wrong way with Mr Jobs

The hackers movement appears to be going from strength-to-strength with a report on the world's first iPhone to run Google's Android OS. Admittedly the iPhone was the original 1.0 version. But plans are already underway to permit users to dual-boot between iPhone 4.0 and Android OS 2.0 on the latest Apple iPhone 3GS and possibly 4GS (although there is every reason to suspect that once news of this latest hacking success reaches Mr Jobs' ears, you can be sure he will try every means at his disposal to put a block on any attempt to run another OS).

The response from users has been mixed. It seems most would be happy to have the choice of running another OS if only to see what's available in the free applications market under the PC/Linux environment and whether users can do more than iOS 4.0. Other users are ambivalent. While others don't seem to see the point.

But if your name happens to be Steve Jobs, there is a good chance you won't be happy. Just imagine all the disgruntled third-party app developers trying to make a living from selling those little iPhone apps you so dearly love. Should iPhone users suddenly gain access to the great majority of free Android apps, it will put a serious dent into the dreams of being rich for app developers on the iPhone.

The latest hacking attempt was made by David Wang.

Sounds like he won't be getting any special developer privileges from Apple any time soon.

Security concerns raised by Samy Kamkar of US-based iPhones automatically connecting to free AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots

The freedom to connect to free AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots (predominantly at Starbucks cafes) in the US has highlighted a security loophole discovered by Samy Kamkar.

For all intensive purposes, an iPhone should be secure through a firewall by preventing outside users gaining access to your files including those within the OS through any open network port. However, when the iPhone is communicating on a network, it is necessary to open a port. Now once the packets of information starting emerging into the outside world, it can be intercepted by a third-party person or organisation where it can be read, and after a short period of time, a great deal of information can be decoded and accessed by hackers (and, by implications, government spy agencies and law enforcement officials) with the right tools.

Even some https services for doing your banking and entering passwords into web-based email accounts will not do an adequate job of encrypting the information.

Luckily most readers are aware of this and will use common sense in the type of information they will transmit from their iPhones, taking great care not to reveal personal information. However the real concern here appears to be the way the iPhone can automatically connect to a free AT&T Wi-Fi hot-spot without your consent (and sometimes you may not be aware of it should your iPhone get within range of a dubious Wi-Fi server pretending to be another wireless network) because they are pre-configured to recognize AT&T wireless connections from the network name "attwifi". To confirm this, Kamkar got his laptop to behave like a Wi-Fi server and named the network "attwifi". He then saw his iPhone and a couple of other iPhones in the area automatically connect to his laptop. As Kamkar said:

"I went into the settings to disconnect and the prompt was different from normal. I went home and had my computer pretend to be an AT&T hot spot just by the name and my iPhone continued to connect to it. I saw one or two other iPhones hop onto the network, too, going through my laptop computer. I could redirect them, steal credentials as they go to Web sites." (Mills, Elinor. On iPhone, beware of that AT&T Wi-Fi hot spot: CNET News.com. 27 April 2010.)

Since the packets of information being sent by the iPhones of other users were not sufficiently secure, Kamkar claims he developed a worm to, in the words of Mills, "display messages and can make other modifications when someone is attempting to use the Google Maps program on an iPhone that has been intercepted." (Mills, Elinor. On iPhone, beware of that AT&T Wi-Fi hot spot: CNET News.com. 27 April 2010.)

Naturally one would think the only way to stop this free roaming and unexpected connection to Wi-Fi servers is to disable or turn off the wireless connection option. Unfortunately, and it is unclear whether this was planned by Apple Inc. during the programming of iOS, the options are not available. In other words, you have to visit a wireless hotspot run by AT&T and once connected, the options for allowing you to turn off "automatic joining" to a Wi-Fi network or disabling Wi-Fi altogether will suddenly materialise before your eyes. An Apple spokeswoman has allegedly confirmed this procedure when she said:

"[The] iPhone performs properly as a Wi-Fi device to automatically join known networks. Customers can also choose to select to 'Forget This Network' after using a hot spot so the iPhone doesn't join another network of the same name automatically."

But what about another network name? Suppose you accept a network name that you trust and use regularly? Say, a bank that decides to offer wireless connection. How likely is it for the same network name to be copied onto another Wi-Fi server causing automatic connection to your iPhone while you are not around? Shouldn't the iPhone's Wi-Fi connection be always disabled or an option not to automatically join any network (no matter if you have accepted it) until you instruct the iPhone to "connect" when you are ready? It should be the user who decides to connect to a network, not Apple/AT&T/iPhone or, by implications, any other third-party person.

There is every likelihood international iPhones will have the same security issue.

Is Apple creating a smokescreen to hide the security issues and convince users if its independence from other companies?

Reminiscent of the tussle between Apple and Microsoft as if convincing the consumers of the companies being independent and competing with each other, we now have a tussle between Apple and Adobe as of 29 April 2010. However this time the focus is on Adobe's Flash technology on the iPhone: specifically the lack of a Flash plug-in for users to view Flash content. Although the technology is widely used on multiple platforms, Apple Inc. has chosen what it considers to be the open Web standard H.264 encoded versions for all videos played on the iPhone.

In an unusual move from Steve Jobs possibly to quell numerous public questions about the Flash technology, to give consumers confidence in the security of the iPhone, and to look like he is being independent of Adobe, he has decided to publish openly a letter explaining the reasons why the iPhone is not supporting Flash.

Among the salient points raised by Mr Jobs include:

1. Greater performance, reliability and security: Adobe's Flash technology has been described as "having one of the worst security records in 2009" (Aimonetti, Joe. Steve Jobs sets the record straight with Adobe's Flash: CNET News. 29 April 2010.), and is not entirely stable and fast enough for the iPhones, iPods and iPads (even at 1 GHz speed of the processor until a cooler low-cost chip can be employed in the next model). NOTE: This could be due to bad Flash programmers making unstable or insecure Flash content. Although on the same token, Adobe could do a lot more to make the programming language more robust and stable.

2. Flash uses up a lot of battery power from mobile devices just to run one or two movies or animations.

3. Apple doesn't want to wait around for Adobe to innovate and provide new features in Flash technology. Apple needs to know the features are ready so it can control the implementation of new features into its own iPhones and other mobile devices.

4. The method of controlling Flash technology do not lend well to the future of touch interface systems. In other words, Flash content often requires the user to move a cursor with a mouse to activate it known as rollovers. However touch screens instantly moves the cursor to another location thereby overlooking Flash content.

These are the main points.

Well, there are probably other reasons too. Take for instance the way Flash technology can now play video on both PC and Mac — it does it in an inefficient manner. Flash technology was originally designed to provide basic animation of buttons and other graphic elements with user interactivity (e.g. moving a cursor over the graphic elements will make them animate or perform some other task). This made for relatively compact and fast moving pictures to increase the user experience of the web. All you needed was a free Flash plug-in for your browser so you can sit back and be wowed at the apparent brilliance of Flash content. But now that Flash has been improved to play movies on all computer platforms and can be rendered as a runtime solution, it seems many web sites have geared up to using Flash for almost everything. However runtime Flash solutions take up extra bandwidth to download. Further inefficiencies enter the equation when a user wants to replay the Flash content — it usually has to be grabbed again from the source and passed through the network all over again. And the level of compression and quality is still not as good as H.264 encoding. Sometimes it is better for users to download once the content in the highest quality at the lowest compression and let users play it as often as they like without taking up more bandwidth than necessary on slow or overburdened networks such as AT&T.

The other reason, although not explicitly mentioned by Mr Jobs, is the likelihood of Flash developers producing their own runtime games and internet applications for the iPhone to compete directly with iPhone app developers. This may explain why a CNET user said:

"Apple prevents developers from the Flash CS5 iPhone packager to create iPhone apps that have been demonstrated to run very well on the iPhone. Several apps were created with beta versions of Flash CS5 and approved for the iTunes app store before Apple's change to policy. For example, MTV has a South Park app created with Flash CS5 in the app store (unless it has been pulled). It has over 2,500 reviews averaging 4.5 stars.

In other words, there is nothing wrong with Flash on the iPhone, but Apple doesn't want to admit it. So Apple prevents Flash created apps from being approved for the app store now, since they demonstrate that Apple is wrong about Flash on the iPhone. That is wrong." (Dalrymple, Jim. Report: Apple developing a Flash alternative: CNET News/iPhoneAtlas.com. 8 May 2010.)

However Mr Jobs did say he wanted to make the iPhone secure. To this end, this raises another possibility: Flash developers could also find ways to bypass security measures put in place on the iPhone by Apple. No doubt Mr Jobs would not like this idea.

As for everything else, we all know Adobe can choose to improve the Flash technology (and apparently already have if the above quote is any indication) to the point where all the issues raised by Mr Jobs will seem mute. Why it is not immediately finalising the improvements and releasing the final new Flash technology is not clear. But it will have to in order to remain relevant and retain high profits from Flash developers willing to make Flash applications for the iPhone.

Until then, the letter seems to serve multiple purposes for Apple to help maintain its control of the iPhone and look like it is independently competitive of other companies.

30 April 2010

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal. He claims the reason is because Apple wants to raise a smokescreen with the open standards H.264 movie encoding format to help legitimize the need to restrict access to the APIs (i.e. software libraries providing programming short-cuts in return for optimised features in the OS and a smaller Flash plug-in) developed by Apple and forming the core of iOS and Mac OS X. In other words, Adobe is not being allowed to improve Flash for better performance under OS X. Of interest here appears to be the latest video acceleration APIs that Apple may have just released. Perhaps Adobe has been waiting all this time for the ones to handle H.264 encoding on the latest NVIDIA graphics processing cards (that's a very long wait).

Yet other multimedia technologies such as Silverlight work fine on the Mac without the APIs. Also Mr Jobs stated:

"Apple has been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now... Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010... We're glad we didn't hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?"

Narayen has not explained if Apple had been working with Adobe to give the company access to the APIs. But if it was true, why isn't Adobe suing Apple for lost profits? As one user said:

"If Adobe is serious about their complaint, then they would sue Apple for monopoly / anti-trust behavior." (Kessler, Topher. Adobe CEO rebutts Jobs' Flash comments (video): CNET News. 29 April 2010.)

It is also unusual for Adobe not to improve on Flash without the APIs while other multimedia technologies are working well. Adobe claims it will have a new Flash solution. But when? We don't know. The new Flash technology for mobile devices has been delayed again for late 2010. Until then, Apple could be trying to put an end to Flash in favour of open standards in all web technologies. Or there is every likelihood Adobe is not putting the effort to improve Flash because it knows the technology cannot be improved and is claiming access to APIs as the real smokescreen.

Perhaps Adobe is far too focussed on making a profit from the Flash technology resulting in 100 per cent closed proprietary software and nothing can improve on it.

Yet Apple needs to control the iPhone and would prefer open standards in web technology so that it knows the iPhone can remain closed and secure.

Interesting. Could both companies be in need of opening up their own technologies? Or are both companies making excuses and producing the biggest smokescreen of them all by making it look like they are independent companies not working together in any way whatsoever and trying remarkably hard to look like they are blaming each other for something that can be easily resolved with a simple chat.

3 May 2010

The New York Post has reported Apple Inc. will face an anti-trust inquiry on the request of Adobe Inc. with a possible investigation depending on the outcome of the inquiry by the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. Of particular interest in the inquiry will be Section 3.3.1 in Apple's iPhone 4.0 Software Developer Kit License Agreement:

"3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iOS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited)."


A user explained the situation from a developers' point-of-view as follows:

"Apple is not telling anyone that they cannot develop for other platforms, or that the software they make can't run on some other platform (that's always been the case due to hardware/OS restrictions). What's new is that you can't make a hardware-neutral piece of software and then use translating software to make it system specific. this is new. This does not happen in video games, either. many companies have tools that convert the code to run on different systems. It's common practice.

The feeling from a lot of developers is that apple is trying to limit them by forcing them to manually create two separate versions of their software instead of allowing them to use a piece of software to take care of a lot of the legwork. While i can understand that there may be a couple of legitimate reasons for this, mostly i think apple did this because they hate adobe. Honestly makes me wish adobe could just drop all support for Apple products (photoshop, illustrator, flash, etc.) and cease to develop new ones. It would never happen, but i'd love it if it did." (Kosman, Josh. An Antitrust app: New York Post. 3 May 2010)

Is this why Adobe is getting stuck into Apple? If so, why would Section 3.3.1 stop Adobe from improving the Flash technology on PC and Linux mobile devices such as the Android? Adobe shouldn't be punishing Microsoft and PC users by not improving Flash technology if Adobe is not feeling the pinch from Microsoft as it claims to feel with Apple. And by the time Adobe has the technology improved for PC users, it would be a simple matter of porting the code over to the Mac with relative ease (NOTE: PC and Macs use the same microprocessor and machine code instructions, so there should be no major technical feat required here on the part of Adobe).

On top of that, Section 3.3.1 appears to be a recent invention under the latest iOS 4.0. As far as we can tell, the same section or wording didn't appear in previous OS versions. So why the sudden introduction of this Section 3.3.1 by Apple and the sudden finger pointing and crying foul by Adobe over this aspect?

And why would Adobe and Apple suddenly kick up a stink over each other about the Flash technology and Section 3.3.1 of the iOS 4.0 developer's license kit agreement?

It doesn't make sense. Apple needs Adobe and vice versa. Indeed, Apple needs to have Adobe software running on a Mac in order to retain a significant number of graphic designers and other business users. Nearly 50 per cent of Adobe sales is on the Mac. Selling Adobe software for Mac makes perfect sense for Apple in terms of extra customers purchasing the Macintosh computer. Likewise, Adobe needs Apple to maintain profits when selling the Mac version of Adobe's leading flagship software. Surely the two would have to be working together. The question is, to what extent and how much are each company helping each other out?

In other words, is Apple and Adobe working together so closely to the point where they are dictating to customers when to purchase new Adobe (and potentially new Apple) software by putting in bugs and restrictions during updates of OSX and/or Adobe software (or no updates as the case may be until enough users complain about certain bugs)? It is a reasonable claim and there is evidence in the Adobe and OSX software to support it. But are the companies actually doing it?

Apple is claiming to be helping Adobe to improve the Flash technology. Adobe doesn't appear to know if it is being helped or not. Something is a bit amiss in this whole argument.

Seriously, why would Apple get stuck into Adobe with a letter from Mr Jobs while risking the loss of Adobe products for the Mac, or at least products that will not be updated? It is like Microsoft Office and Windows 7. Why get on the wrong foot with Microsoft by, say, making OS X run on PCs? Apple will only lose business customers using Macs if Microsoft decides not to make Microsoft Office run on a Mac and/or says "No" to Windows 7 or any future OS for the PC running on a Macintosh. Apple needs Microsoft, and Microsoft may not need Apple but is willing to do the right thing in return for Apple not selling OSX on the PC. If this isn't true, then we would know about it through another letter from Mr Jobs explaining why he cannot sell OSX on a PC because Microsoft is monopolizing the PC market.

There must be another agenda.

Sure, Apple wants to control how the iPhone, iPad and iPod is used by third-party developers just to protect their own intellectual property and make customers believe the Apple products are secure and safe. But is this really the full story?

As another user said:

"Nintendo, XBox, etc, do allow developers to develop cross-platform, using any language they want, using any language translators they want. Any barrier to cross-platform video console development is hardware limitation. See what platforms run Guitar Hero.

I've never seen any Nintendo porn games or such, so perhaps there are some restrictions about what's allowed to be published, but if so, it's not driven by a CEO's hatred for some company. And Nintendo's CEO doesn't publish an 8-page rant on how much he personally hates that company.

And Nintendo doesn't suddenly change the rules specifically to block development by an individual publisher.

And you're not required to buy a Nintendo laptop or desktop in order to develop Nintendo games." (Kosman, Josh. An Antitrust app: New York Post. 3 May 2010)

There is a clue in this quote as to how to be sure. Get both Apple and Adobe to make open technologies of the iPhone, iPad and iPod and Flash technology at the same time. Not sure of the security provided by some third-party developers? Okay, well let Adobe access additional APIs. Surely, by the time you become a major developer of the likes of Adobe and been around with Apple since almost the very beginning, you should be given some privileges to access additional APIs in the iOS.

And surely it can't be a question of a loss in profit for the two companies if they followed this open technology path on the iPhone and Flash? They have so many other products to sell, it shouldn't make a big difference for either of the companies.

8 May 2010

Apple is allegedly working on an open standard Javascript and HTML5-based Flash technology replacement known as Glandula (probably named after Glandula Fever as if it will catch on so to speak). The new technology was apparently introduced by Apple in the summer of 2009 at its World of WebObjects Developer Conference. So, technically speaking, Apple had it planned and were working on the new technology at least 6 to 12 months before the conference. During which time, Adobe was kept in the dark as it decided to twiddle its thumbs, or had already raised its hands in defeat because it knows the Flash technology cannot be improved unless it becomes an open technology standard for the internet.

So when did Apple help Adobe as Mr Jobs claimed in his letter? It must have been very early on in the piece.

And all Adobe had to do is make Flash stable, secure and working on mobile devices. Geez! After all this mucking around and supposed heated tussle between the two companies, it is going to end up being Apple as the one to be successful where Adobe has failed.

Huh? So where are all the good developers in the world? Have they been snapped up by Apple Inc. and perhaps Microsoft? Given the amount of money Adobe makes from its software products (unless it is on the verge of collapse with too many products to support and very few developers) and the number of eager programmers out there willing to make a mark in the software scene, it would seem rather odd that Adobe couldn't muster enough expertise to fix up Flash. So how did Adobe manage to add movie capabilities to Flash after the Macromedia team had disbanded following the merge of the Macromedia software with Adobe? Is it really Adobe's management and the need to make a profit from a tiny piece of internet technology called Flash that is stopping the improvement being made to it?

Now Adobe is considering abandoning all further development on Flash technology thanks to Mr Jobs open letter.

Or has Adobe always seen the light many years ago with the new open standards of HTML5 and Javascript and how it leaves Flash for dead and is quietly working with Apple to use the situation to convince everyone of how there is no close dealings between the two companies? Instead Adobe could be soaking up the remaining profits as much as it can before it decides to abandon the Flash technology.

Otherwise it would have been easier if Adobe simply sold or sent for free to Apple the full Flash programming code and let Apple programmers do something with it. But then again, will Apple make an open technology of the new and improved Flash in the future?

Well, it would at least give further ammunition to Adobe's claim. Just wait and see what Apple does with the new Flash technology and then make a statement about the way Apple is making a closed system of its own products while Apple touts open technology for everything else. Then we will know what's really happening.

11 May 2010

As mentioned earlier, Mr Jobs touted one of the reasons for not including Flash technology and instead develop its own HTML5/Javascript Flash alternative is to ensure iPhone users can feel more secure with the product they are using. Is this true?

A respected IT security watchdog in the US has announced today a Javascript security hole was found in Apple's Safari. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has certified the security threat is real and could allow a hacker to run arbitrary code should a user visit a malicious web page. Fortunately the code would only run at the user's account privilege level and not at the root or admin level where more damage can be had. But if the idea from Apple to use Javascript as a Flash alternative would make users feel safer, this latest security threat seems to blow Mr Jobs' statement right out of the water. In fact, it may mean that Javascript is probably not much better for developing secure programs for the web than Flash. It really depends on how something is programmed and who is doing the programming. And neither Apple nor Adobe are any better at making secure products as the average Joe Blow down the street.

In which case, what's the solution to the Javascript security vulnerability? US-CERT has suggested disabling Javascript. But since many web sites nowadays apply Javascript in one form or another and many of them may be useful to your web experience including doing your banking, it is starting to look like a right old mess.

Sounds like it is back to the drawing board for Apple, or at least start working with Adobe and stop all this smokescreen — we are already choking on it.

Repairs to iPhones aren't cheap, especially through the Apple Store

While it is generally agreed for the most part that the Apple iPhone and other products tend to be expensive to buy compared to smartphones with Google's Android OS and PC equivalents, the repairs themselves are not considered much better if you do it through Apple.

As an example, David Carnoy, executive editor of CNET, has noted a replacement of the protective glass surface of the iPhone at an Apple Store starts at USD$200. Add labour costs and it is expected to be much higher. Not even a simple walk to the Apple Store to hand over the broken iPhone directly to the Apple technician will make it cheaper by removing any likely delivery costs for Apple. But a 10-year-old boy has managed to purchase a kit available to the public by a company called Jiafa through a seller in New York containing all the tools to open up the iPhone 2G/3G+ and a replacement screen. After building his own small iPhone stand, the boy spent a total of USD$24.95 including delivery and 40 minutes of his time.

This is not surprising. Ever since the display hinges of the PowerBook G3 series revealed a serious manufacturing problem with its soft and very thin metal skin for holding together the hinge mechanism, Apple has never provided a permanent solution to the problem (other than for users to purchase a newer model computer). Instead, users had to use epoxy resin to strengthen the metal skin and so permanently solve the problem.

But those customers without the technical know how would be left high and dry. Given the numbers involved, it proved to be a bonus for Apple resellers trying to maximise their own profits through regular repairs of customer's laptops and other products.

Now we learn things haven't improved in the repair department for common areas where damage is likely to take place. Not even the glass surface of the iPhone.

Is this because the parts are expensive to manufacture and consequently to buy by members of the public? Or is it difficult to open up an iPhone and takes many hours to repair by Apple technicians?

Well, the answer seems to be negative on both fronts. Indeed, one father has found it cheaper to use child labour in the US by asking his son to fix the iPhone at a fraction of the cost. Even if the child did start his own business repairing iPhones and charged USD$100 per hour in labour plus parts, it would still be considerably cheaper to repair than through an approved Apple reseller/technician.

Apple products remain overpriced and expensive to repair if this iPhone story is anything to go by.

A second US carrier is likely to be given official approval by Apple to sell iPhones

Rumours have it that AT&T has managed to re-negotiate the deal with Apple by giving up exclusivity rights to the iPhone after a period of time. As its reputation in delivering a quality network service has been suffering due to high numbers of iPhone users forced to have an account with AT&T and the amount of data being transferred creating serious bottlenecks in the relatively aging network, Apple is ready to look at the biggest and most profitable US carrier: Verizon. Commentators anticipate the release of the new iPhone 4G Verizon as evidence of this new deal with AT&T's competitor. Previous iPhone customers in the US won't be pleased, especially if the iPhone had not been jailbrokened. But the number of users is thought to be too high to affect sales for AT&T. There may be a slight delay before the iPhone Verizon is sold, possibly to allow AT&T a first opportunity to sell the latest iPhone model. And AT&T will up the ante on the termination fees to make some extra profit. But eventually, in the end, US customers will have a choice between AT&T and Verizon for their iPhone network services.

At last! Users will have a choice.

Why the turn around by Apple? Apple could quite easily have stuck to the contract until 2012 while enjoying its sales of iPhones through AT&T. Perhaps the answer also lies with what the Google Android smartphone and Verizon are doing right now.

According to a claim made at the Google's developer conference in 2010, the Android smartphones are allegedly outstripping sales of Apple's iPads, iPhones and and Mac computers combined every week. Indeed, an astonishing figure of 700,000 of the Androids was floated around at the Conference in terms of numbers sold and activated every week. And guess where most of the Android customers are with? Verizon. In fact, around 75 per cent sales of the Androids have taken place in North America. No doubt Mr Jobs must have been reading this Business Insider article or heard of the claim at some point.

And so would AT&T. Indeed, it would not be surprising if AT&T wants this new deal with Apple to go ahead to help put a curb on Verizon's success by having extra iPhone users heading their way while at the same time getting the surplus iPhone users who are not happy with the AT&T network service to go elsewhere. It would certainly reduce the pressure on AT&T to spend more money on improving its services.

Of course, not everyone is happy. As one user commented:

"I hope it doesn't come to Verizon; I don't need a million Apple fanboys cluttering up my network..." (Carnoy, David. Verizon iPhone: Sooner or later?: CNET News. 24 May 2010.)

One can imagine Verizon CEOs will be playing hardball with Apple when it comes to striking a deal.

26 May 2010

It seems an AdMob's April 2010 Mobile Metrics Report is suggesting more sales of unique Apple iPhone devices compared to Google Androids in its statistics. The data was collected based on recording the devices' identification number as they roamed on AdMob's network in the United States. If the figures can be relied on, it would suggest in the United States alone only 8.7 million unique Androids were sold compared to 10.7 million unique iPhones and, for comparison purposes, 18.3 million unique iPhones, iPads and iPods combined. On a worldwide basis, the figures were 11.6 million Androids, 27.4 million iPhones and 40.8 million iPhones, Ipads and iPods combined. The report seems to be relying on old data on Android sales as it doesn't take into account the sudden jump in sales of the Androids recently. And more recent Android users may not have had an opportunity to visit AdMob's network for whatever is on offer here.

NOTE: Does this mean more Android users are accessing AdMob-supported websites to inflate the statistics? Or are there pre-installed Android apps having accessing to AdMob?

Whatever the truth, it is clear a sudden change in the air has taken place. Mr Jobs has felt the chill. The Androids are on the march. And now Apple and AT&T want to put a stop to the Android phenomena. Will it work? Or will Mr Jobs have to make a decision to open up the iPhone (and so disappoint the iPhone app developers as well as the iPhone customers who were forced to use the AT&T network).

The story is only beginning to get interesting. Stay tuned for more...

27 May 2010

A growing number of developers are porting the code of their iPhone apps to Google's Android OS. Most of them are either seeking extra profits or discontented with the restrictions placed on their apps by Apple. And where more developers go, the more likely consumers will follow too.

28 May 2010

Sensing the pressure being placed on Apple and AT&T with the number of Androids across North America, Google has decided to close the deal by acquiring AdMob worth USD$750 million.

Does this mean the statistics will change to show even higher sales of Androids after the acquisition? We can only wait and see.

5 June 2010

Market researcher Nielsen published statistics on market share of the latest smartphone OS for the end of the first quarter of 2010. Again if the statistics can be relied upon, Apple remained a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to the easy-to-use iOS, Apple is not only the second most dominant player in the smartphone OS market, but has also apparently increased its market share since the first financial quarter of 2009.

As at the time this data was obtained, the Nielsen statistics showed the BlackBerry and its OS (manufactured by Research in Motion, or RIM) as the most used mobile smartphone device in the world together with its own unique OS having reached a total market share of 35 per cent, followed closely by Apple's iOS at 28 per cent, while Google's Android OS (version 1.x and in the last 6 months version 2.x) was at 9 per cent.

But the Apple stats are due partly to the company's 18 month head start in the smartphone market with its good design. Add to this an excellent OS interface (based on OSX), a reasonably attractive product design and the Apple brand, and it is no wonder the iPhone has proved to be where it is in the market share.

On the same token, Google's latest Android OS has had a much shorter time in the marketplace. Yet its meteor rise in the last few months thanks to version 2.x has been nothing short of spectacular. Indeed the competing OS of version 2.x is causing such consternation among executive officers at the helm of Apple and AT&T camps that efforts are being made to find ways to maintain existing iPhone users and get more new consumers to buy the latest upcoming next-generation iPhone.

If anything, the Nielsen data might actually be outdated.

Seriously, the really interesting data has to be the current quarter and over the next 12 months as the much improved, attractive-looking and very easy-to-use Google's Android OS 2.x gets loaded onto new products from electronics companies in China and other parts of Asia. Apple is slow to get its iPhone into China, and the Chinese are eager to let the Android OS revolutionise the phone and electronic touch-screen tablet industry in this part of the world using far less expensive electronic products compared to Apple's own iPhone and iPads. Should these cheaper products running Android get exported to the rest of the world, fear is likely to strike at the heart of Steve Job's and his company unless he can come up with another revolutionary and unique product of his own. Perhaps Mr Job should throw in everything except the kitchen sink (e.g. a universal remote, a garage door opener, keyless entry to your own car etc) to keep users focussed on the iPhone.

Or maybe it is time to get the bugs ironed out of the OS, give iPhone app developers more flexibility, and provide the ultimate and most reliable iPhone on the planet. And make sure there is a lower monthly plan rate and a quality network to boot (something AT&T will have to consider). Nothing like a bit of competition in this market by getting Apple and its sidekick AT&T to improve on their quality control, network services, and provide decent features and flexibility to consumers (and app developers). Well, who knows? Do it right and Apple might be able to rename its competitor RIM to RIP and put an end to the BlackBerry's dominance assuming there is no truth to the following quote by a CNET user:

"Not so sure iphone will overtake RIM because I believe most RIM products are purchased by corporations for their staff where the majority of iphones are personal devices. Corporations by and large will not move to the iphone because they want their staff to work, the blackberry is an extension of the work place and the iphone is a cool 'toy"." (Dalrymple, Jim. iPhone triples Android in mobile market share: CNET News. 5 June 2010.)

Toys or no toys. Consumers are definitely looking for a quality, attractive and easy-to-use smartphone product that lasts a long time and with long-term network services priced at the absolute minimum.

No doubt it won't be with Microsoft as it decides to create the latest Windows Mobile 7 that can't run older apps. It will be a two-horse race between Apple and Google when it comes to applications that last a very long time. Every other competitor including Microsoft will be blowing into the ferocious wind as they get left behind and forever stay in last place in the latest market share stats.

A second US carrier is likely to be given official approval by Apple to sell iPhones

Now that people have a rough idea of how the next generation 4G iPhone will look, it seems Apple is keen to get the product out as soon as possible and in greater numbers. Yet Apple is all too aware of the possible production issues that can arise in releasing a new model too quickly. According to a Boy Genius Report, it is rumoured "Apple has a backup phone ready to go in case the next generation iPhone has production issues." (Aimonetti, Joe. CNET TV Apple Byte: Apple passes Microsoft for market cap: CNET News. 1 June 2010.)

Or else a lower monthly plan and a more solid and reliable current model iPhone would be the better way to go? Who knows? It may even stop the jailbreaking and defection by iPhone users from AT&T taking place every week as we speak.

Mr Jobs unveils iPhone 4.0 and the new iOS 4.0

Feeling the time has come to unveil new Apple products, Mr Jobs has quietly released the performance-improved but hopefully bug-free Safari 5.0 followed by a well-rehearsed and unmistakable product briefing of the latest iPhone 4.0 with iOS 4.0 on 7 June 2010.

Mr Jobs claims over 100 new features have been added to the new iPhone although hopefully in areas people will notice and find useful. The one getting special mention by Mr Jobs is the improved high-definition (HD) camera at the back end and a reasonable quality camera at the front end for video chats so that Apple, law enforcement agencies and others can clearly see who's doing the talking on the iPhone. Since the camera at the back has improved, Mr Jobs has kindly provided an HD quality video edit application and higher-resolution screen to boot.

Perhaps Mr Jobs is hinting at how much happier he is of the lower heat dissipation in the latest iPhone when performing intensive video processing work?

Mr Jobs has also paid a lot of attention to the new high-resolution 3.5-inch screen during this demonstration. He said:

"We are going to take the biggest leap since the original iPhone [1.0?]. There has never been a display like this on a phone.

'There is a magic number around 300 pixels per inch that is the limit of the human retina. We are over that limit. That's going to set the standard for display for years to come."

Must be good. So how much of a resolution have we reached and does it make a difference?

We learn from Mr Jobs how he has managed to increase the pixels per inch to 326. Not sure how this will go down with consumers. If it is already hard to distinguish features at 300 pixels per inch, 326 pixels per inch is neither here nor there. And there isn't any 3D capabilities (not that it would be useful when people are running around in the city doing a video chat on the iPhone with their 3D goggles only to increase the risk of being run overed by a car because their eyes can't adjust to normal 3D reality). Maybe Mr Jobs is trying to make an announcement of the technological feat reached in the development of digital screens?

Will this feature be enough to see the new iPhones run out the door in a hurry? Maybe so if you're one of those people who haven't bought one because you've been been holding out for one; or you have the very first or perhaps the second generation iPhone. Much harder to imagine a lot of iPhone 3GS users jumping at the opportunity to get one based on the high-resolution screen feature alone.

It is more likely most consumers won't care about a high-resolution screen so long as they are able to see what they are doing. If anything, the higher resolution will probably mean everything will look smaller while fitting more within the screen space. Sounds like those pesky fat finger problems will become the norm.

So what else is going for the new iPhone?

Fortunately Mr Jobs has provided other incentives of which greater battery time per charge is said to be one of them. Mr Jobs said it has 40 per cent more talk time. Talk time is interesting as this does chew up considerable power and depends precisely how far away you are from a receiving cell phone tower. Knowing that Apple can exaggerate on certain figures for a new product, it is probably closer to around 15 to 30 per cent extra time per charge. Still quite reasonable.

Part of the success in increasing the battery life has been greater integration of the electronics to a smaller size resulting in less power usage. A fact reflected in the thinness of the iPhone. The iPhone is now 9.3 millimetres thin, making it roughly 24 per cent thinner than the previous model — the iPhone 3GS.

These two extra features are probably enough to get business professionals with iPhones in the US into a frenzy and upgrade to the latest. Families, students and other US citizens, probably not unless they have the original iPhone 1.0 or possibly version 2.0. Apple lovers (i.e. the Apple fanboys as they have become affectiontely known) won't care what version it is. If it is the latest, they will have to get it no matter what. Nothing like bragging to your friends that you have the latest iPhone (perhaps the older iPhone users should brag about how much bigger theirs is compared to the latest as guys usually do).

Before ending the conference in Cupertino, California, in front of a pro Apple audience consisting of mostly software developers and some media professionals, Mr Jobs made sure everything at Apple is rosy and going strong by stating 5 million eBooks and the 8,500 applications developed for the iPad have been downloaded 35 million times. So if the iPad is doing okay, so will the iPhone.

Naturally all this depends on the Chinese not exporting their own iPed (and any new smartphones) to the rest of the world and Google doesn't make any further improvements to Android OS 2.x.

And, of course, for Apple not to expose consumers to too many production issues with the latest iPhone.

23 June 2010

Apple could have lifted its game in the wake of improvements to Google's Android OS 2.x. The iOS 4.0 / iOS 4.0 appears to have all known bugs wiped out as far as the public can tell at the moment. Extraordinary. The only thing users can take issue over is the poor quality photo previews of graphic image files created on older iPhones. The latest iPhone 4.0 creates perfectly sharp images and previews. But the previews in older image files produced by older iPhones look grainy or blurry as if the resolution of the previews was not crash hot in the first place.

Users have resolved the issue by doing a little finger work and finding a bit of free time: it involves syncing all the photo files on your iPhone to your backup computer via iTunes to help retain a copy (only if you haven't backed them up already), delete these photo files on the iPhone (not the computer), and re-sync the photo files back to the iPhone for a fresh copy. The iOS 4.0 apparently does a little extra work by ensuring the previews are freshly re-loaded and looking better.

As one CNET user discovered:

"Hmm. I did notice that when I upgraded my iPhone 3GS to iOS 4 all my photos were re-synched and uploaded fresh. They all look great, I don't notice any issues, perhaps due to this re-synch? I didn't do anything to cause this that I know of, and music didn't re-synch." (Kessler, Topher. iOS 4 update causes poor photo quality: CNET.com. 23 June 2010.)

Should there be a competition to see who can find the next Apple bug in iOS 4.0?

25 June 2010

iPhone 4.0 (i.e. the hardware itself) is not quite holding up to the same level of rigorous quality control measures as iOS 4.0 if the complaints from a number of users in the US are anything to go by.

Just as Apple released its own rubber bumper case to protect the latest iPhone for US$29 and the iPhone 4.0 was released to the public yesterday, users who didn't purchase the case are claiming a loss in 3G reception when using a bare hand to grip the iPhone and touching the seams of the antenna band that runs around the device (now pinpointed to the small black strip on one edge). Quick to avoid consumers thinking this is another cynical attempt by Apple to encourage users to purchase the Apple rubber case, CNET News alleges a Boy Genius Report posted a YouTube video on Thursday afternoon showing the loss of reception problem can occur on the older iPhone 3G device when updated to iOS 4.0.

Does this mean we should be pointing the finger at iOS 4.0 as the cause for this latest oddity? But how? The likely explanation can be found in another CNET article:

"While the root of the problem is in hardware, there is a second component, which is how the software handles fluctuations in signal quality. This noise introduction alters the signal's characteristics in such a way that the phone can no longer identify it. Since this happens on both newer and older iPhone models that are running iOS 4, it indicates the current OS version is not handling signal fluctuations very well." (Kessler, Topher. iPhone 4 Antenna issues: Software or hardware?: CNET.News. 26 June 2010.)

Will this mean Apple will improve iOS 4.0 to force a greater signal strength to pass through the hand and head of the user to help compensate for the signal loss by the user?

Or there is another solution. How about holding the iPhone in your hand differently from how you normally do it. Indeed another user has gone as far as to suggest we should blame the consumers for not holding the iPhone correctly. As CNET user 1ZepWant2 said:

"Nothing. It's user error. Learn to use a phone properly."

While another user claims no problems whatsoever. As CNET user CDubber remarked:

"No yellow screen on mine, no reception problems. Awesome device."

Perhaps the user is sitting right next to a cell tower to explain the perfect reception he is having? Or is he holding the iPhone with a pair of pliers instead of his hand?

Whether it is a hardware or software problem or user error, surely the tests that allegedly took place (including one former Apple employee who was sacked for leaving a prototype in a Californian club) should have picked up on it? Apparently not!

What about Steve Jobs? We assume Steve Jobs got a prototype of his own too. Yet nothing to report as being odd or strange during his time using the device. Perhaps he is getting all the good versions of Apple products compared to the public? Or could it be that Jobs is holding the iPhone in a unique way we don't know about?

Then again, we could blame it on the Chinese manufacturers for not providing consistency in the manufactured products?

Whatever the truth, it is looking like another one of Apple's own Forrest Gump box of chocolates scenario has taken place where you don't know which iPhone 4.0 device is going to work and which one doesn't or not as well as it should.

CNET user AJ Pants gave his one bob worth of wisdom by saying:

"See, the good thing about being a long time Apple devotee is that we know enough to never buy a Rev. A product." (Ogg, Erica. iPhone 4 is out, complaints are in: CNET News. 24 June 2010.)

Or should that be iPhone 5.0?

Or should American users become international users living in other countries for a chance to have a sufficient delay for Apple to issue the improved iPhone 4.0?

Some users have commented rightly how we shouldn't always blame Apple. Competitors' products can have their moments too. But at least competitors quickly learn. At the same time consumers come to rightly expect that if they pay extra to Apple for a product, it shouldn't be just for the logo and good design. Consumers should know whether the product works "right out of the box" and consistently no matter what they do to the product. And also have a level of robustness that it won't fall apart after a short or even moderate period of use.

And no, users don't expect Apple products to be perfect. But they do expect a certain level of quality in the design and manufacturing process to be present in the products.

That's why the European Union has legislated that consumer electronic products should last the minimum 5 or 6 years without fault or strange oddities occurring for no fault of the consumer other than using it in a normal manner and that consumers should not have to wear additional costs such as buying a rubber protective case to resolve manufacturing and design problems immediately after purchase.

Will there be more issues raised by consumers for what is basically a brand new iPhone released within the last 24 hours?

Oops! Perhaps we shouldn't mention the yellow discolouration on the screen which fades away after a period of use when turned on according to some users! Or how about the yellow discoloration of pictures taken with the 5-megapixel camera indoors?

25 June 2010

Despite an initial glitch in the design and manufacturing of the latest iPhone resulting in poor 3G reception during normal handheld use unless you wear rubber gloves or put a rubber casing over the device (might be cheaper to purchase a condon instead), it is remarkable how good design wins out in the early stages. Virtually all of the sales so far for iPhone 4.0 were made by consumers who were taken in by good design (made possible by a well-designed and mostly bug-free iOS 4.0) and the expectation all the hardware glitches were wiped out.

So what percentage of the consumers are existing iPhone users, and how many are new users?

Analyst Gene Munster of the marketing firm Piper Jaffray has made a poll on Thursday 24 June 2010 from people queued up at Apple stores in the US for the new iPhone. Munster has noticed approximately 77 per cent of people were previous iPhone owners and were in the queue to upgrade to the latest. This leaves about 23 per cent of the people in the queue who became first-time iPhone users.

Compare this to 2009 for the iPhone 3GS which was 56 per cent previous iPhone owners, and in 2008 for the iPhone 3G which was 38 per cent.

If we can rely on these figures, then we have to say the number of new iPhone users are dropping fast from 62 per cent in 2008 to 44 per cent in 2009, and now 23 per cent in 2010. And with a population in the US measured in the hundreds of millions, the only thing that's holding up Apple profits in iPhone 4.0 are previous iPhone users (probably a couple of million users) needing to upgrade for some reason. So why aren't there considerably more new iPhone users?

Given the latest poor reception debarcle, will this mean the number of new iPhone users will drop further in 2011 to say 15 per cent or less? Or is Google's Android OS 2.x giving Apple's iOS 4.0 a run for its money?

As one CNET user said:

"...I find it interesting that 77% of buyers are upgrades. One, it means people found their previous iPhones lacking, although to be honest a lot of those could be upgrading a 1st or 2nd generation phone now that those contracts have likely expired. Second, it means Apple is failing to convince many non-Apple fanboys to buy their products."

The next couple of years will get interesting unless Steve Jobs can pull out a magic rabbit out of his proverbial hat and can guarantee no more hardware faults in the next model.

But then again, Apple is probably not in the business of convincing every new buyer to buy an iPhone. The company has a solid client-base of Apple-loyal fans. When it comes to a shareholder company, every phone sold is a product sold. So long as shareholders are happy seeing the profits remain strong or going up, Mr Jobs is a happy man.

At the end of the day, it is all about profit.

But are customers fully satisfied with the product they are getting from Apple? And how many will be switching to other phones once the latest Android X comes out?

The story has only just begun...

29 June 2010

Apple, on hearing the complaints, are not seeing the poor reception as a design fault. A Boy Genius Report has leaked a list of procedures AppleCare representatives are allegedly being instructed to follow and inform Apple customers.

Among the list is the following curious statement:

"Gripping almost any mobile phone in certain places will reduce its reception. This is true of the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, and many other phones we have tested. It is a fact of life in the wireless world."

So when we hear stories from users such as the following from a CNET user:

"I was extremely skeptical at first but a friend of mine that owns one let me test some things out. He said that if the phone is sitting right side up in hid pocket, the phone will not receive calls. We tried this a few times and he was right. 4 out of the 5 times I tried to call him (him standing next to me) with the phone in his pocket with the bottom part sitting in the bottom of his pocket, it failed to connect at all. He took it out of his pocket and placed it on the table and it rang 5 out of 5 times." (Ogg, Erica. No iPhone 4 recall, Journal says: CNET News. 15 July 2010.)

We are rest assured it is okay when Apple says it is perfectly normal, or just stick the phone upsidedown. Yeah right!

Well, how about putting the antenna on top of the iPhone and make it look like a small stub? At least when holding the iPhone normally for a chat with someone at the other end, people can see it is an antenna and it won't get gripped by the hand and cause a loss in reception. In fact, phone manufacturers recommend that you don't touch the antenna — it's written in the instructions manual.

With the iPhone 4, you can't help touching the antenna. It's virtually all around the edge of the blithering thing.

Come to think of it, no one is complaining about Motorola or Nokia phones losing reception. People can hold these phones any way they like and it works everytime. So why are the complaints looking disproportionately higher for iPhone 4.0 than nearly every other phone as far as we can tell? Because the loss of reception has to be considerably significant for the iPhone than any other phone.


It comes down to the design of the antenna — it simply cannot handle every conceivable way a user will hold the iPhone. We all know the device lends itself to be turned in any direction to view the screen in portrait or landscape mode. Naturally users will be encouraged to hold the iPhone in any way they like. Yet Apple is claiming you can only hold it with a couple of fingers and away from the antenna area. It might also be good to keep your face as far away from the antenna as possible for better reception. This is not good testing on the part of Apple. This is plain and simple poor design from a user interface point-of-view.

Apple would have been more successful saying the iPhone is not designed for making calls. Just use it as an eBook, MP3 player and watch some videos and leave it at that. As CNET user PaulieDC wrote:

"...The apps are what makes it (and now the great video and camera FINALLY!). I do so much on the iPhone that is not call-related, it's crazy, and I'm always near a wifi network...." (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple defensive over Consumer Reports findings, deletes forum threads: CNET News. 12 July 2010.)

Yet Apple wants to believe the iPhone is a phone. Okay, assuming it can make phone calls, why is Apple erring on the side of poor usage by customers? It is not good customer service to blame customers. On top of that customers are made to feel like the don't know how to hold a phone after all this time when Apple tells them to avoid covering "the black strip in the lower-left corner of the metal band" with your hand, which would necessitate a new approach to holding the phone (i.e. very delicately with two fingers away from the antenna region). As for some complaints about a similar problem with the iPhone 3GS, Apple recommends you don't cover "the bottom-right side with your hand". Although we understand the reception loss on the iPhone 3GS is definitely not as bad as on the iPhone 4.0. It seems Apple has thrown this one in after hearing about the complaints.

So what happened between iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4.0? Hasn't the reception improved? Apple will probably say they have. And maybe they have. But what about the way the phone is held? Apple have to be aware the same holding technique was applied with the iPhone 3GS. Is the company saying they have solved it be increasing the signal strength? If so, why the reception loss worse with iPhone 4.0?

Or is Apple suggesting the antenna design fault is necessary because it would increase sales of Apple's rubber bumper product? It would be silly if they did.

What else do we need? Will consumers be required to buy a packet of Apple-made safety pins to hold the iPhone together after 12 months of normal use?

In addition, Apple has strictly recommended against any technician or Apple representative performing a warranty service unless the phone is not performing as it should if left sitting on a table. And Apple will not provide customers with free rubber bumpers.

To emphasise the complaints are not serious enough to take action and improve the situation, Apple said on Monday the sales of iPhone 4.0 has topped 1.7 million units for the first three days. That's a lot of Apple loyal fans. And nearly all are presumably using the iPhones the right way or so Apple is claiming.

In that case, every Apple laptop user must be carrying his/her computer inside baby nappies to prevent it from getting scratched and broken. How else can we explain the situation?

30 June 2010

A MacRumours report suggest a reseating and wrapping insulating tape around the SIM card may improve reception on the iPhone 4.0. This may reduce the chances of the SIM card touching the aluminium chassis which in turn may improve the reception provided by the antenna.

In another effort to solve the reception problem, Oliver Nelson made a brilliant discovery. For a fraction of the cost of Apple's own rubber bumper, Nelson wrapped a readily available rubber wristband around the edge of the phone (available from sports stores). After cutting a small slit in the bottom to allow recharging and data transfer, Nelson realised the nifty and clever solution to the current reception problems and has posted the details online. Well done!

One CNET user commented after seeing Nelson's efforts:

"I suppose the DIY method gives the user a feeling of having "helped engineer" a solution.

One could also wrap their iPhone with electrical tape (made to insulate) which is available at any home improvement store in black and many other colors..."

Another CNET user said:

"It is a beautiful industrial design that will have all the Android users green with envy. That is.... until you have to put a friggen rubber band around it in order to get it to function properly.

Don't worry, the rubber band is removable, so when you want to look cool you can take it off at any time."

And yet another CNET user said:

"hahaha.. this is great! Now, consumers can order a box of rubber bands and sell enough of them to earn $30 and eventually get the real bumper case from Apple!"

Further details can be found at CNET.

Will this end up being the permanent solution? Sounds like a better solution than the one suggested by Apple, which is to blame consumers for not holding the phone correctly.

We are glad to see American users are coming up with innovative solutions that works for which Apple is not prepared to do first time around.

And thanks to this rubber wristband solution, Apple really will have to do something about the reception problem. Otherwise there would be little point for users to purchase Apple's own rubber bumper if users can find alternative low-cost solutions.

2 July 2010

In a rare public admission, Apple has told the media there is a problem with the iPhone's reception. And this time we can't totally blame AT&T for this latest fiascoe. At last, users can relax knowing they are not to blame. However the cause for the poor reception has allegedly nothing to do with the antenna design, but iOS 4.0. The company claims the software has stored a "totally wrong" formula for indicating the signal strength. Apparently the iPhone was overstating a strong signal level causing the iPhone to reduce the strength. The solution, according to Apple, is to fix up the software so that the iPhone emits and receives more radiation to help improve the reception. So you can forget about the extra battery charge time you may have had during talk time according to the advertisement. The extra power will now go towards increasing the signal strength.

This by no means prove there is no problem in the antenna design when covered by the hand of a user.

Apple will issue an iOS 4.1 update in a few weeks for users of iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4.0. And hopefully not long after users will see the value of a good Apple rubber bumper for US$29.

NOTE: Apple claims the wrong formula exists in all iPhones right back to the original iPhone 1.0 in 2007. So if you have a first or second generation iPhone and your reception has been weak, Apple recommends you upgrade the phone to have the latest iOS. Sorry, most consumers will have to pay their way through this one (except for those with an iPhone 4.0 — you can get a full refund or a replacement) unless there is success and a good outcome in one of several lawsuits taking place in the US over the poor reception debarcle. Just so long as lawyers can prove poor reception still exists after Apple provides the iOS update.

Or more likely you will get a whopping US$30 discount voucher (or a free rubber bumper) on your next Apple purchase should the poor reception continue.

3 July 2010

Not exactly great timing for Apple Inc. while the reception loss debarcle continues but iPhone users have discovered the new iAds of iOS4.0 have commenced. As if Apple isn't getting enough profit, people will be pleased to see a new world of mobile advertising suddenly pop up in applications. To minimise network bandwidth after AT&T has decided to drop the unlimited data plan, advertisements are embedded directly into applications (similar to Carbon Copy Clone 3.3.2). These adverts get updated when the applications are updated. For other adverts, Apple:

"...uses cookies and other technologies in mobile advertising services to control the number of times you see a given ad, deliver ads that relate to your interests, and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns."

Apple has charged US$1 million to the first advertisers. Later, app developers can make free adverts within their own free apps.

The move by Apple into mobile advertising is a direct effort to compete with Google's AdMob. No doubt Apple will improve and probably make perfect in the next few months the mobile advertising technology thanks to this healthy competition. If only the same could be done to the iPhone and iOS and then maybe web pages such as the one you are reading would contain only helpful tips and methods on how to get the most out of your well-designed and manufactured Apple product.

Or perhaps Google's Android and China's new iPed could be the impetus for this healthy competition and improvement?

Want to Opt-Out of the iAds? Apple offers a funny kind of Opt-Out option. What you do is visit https://oo.apple.com/ on your iPhone and a message will tell you if you are successful. Then, as Apple states at its Knowledge Base article:

"You may still see the same number of ads as before, but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests."


"Opting out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks."

Is this a proper Opt-Out?

Whatever the name we should call this, the procedure must be repeated for all iPhones you have running iOS 4.0. This will be recorded against your personal details through the iTunes Account if you have one, together with the fact that you actually own one or more iPhones. All useful for Apple marketing purposes really.

12 July 2010

Engineers at ConsumerReports.org have conducted lab tests on the iPhone 4.0. While giving praise to the iPhone's sharpest display, best video camera seen on any phone, improved battery life, a front-facing camera for video chats and an "in-built gyroscope that turns the phone into a super-responsive game controller", the loss in reception when holding the phone has been described as a "hardware fault" (even if Apple insists it is a "software fault") and will affect users living in areas of weak signal strength where virtually all other phones from the competitors can achieve good reception.

As reported in the article Lab tests: Why Consumer Reports can't recommend the iPhone 4, Consumer Reports stated:

"It's official. Consumer Reports' engineers have just completed testing the iPhone 4, and have confirmed that there is a problem with its reception. When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side — an easy thing, especially for lefties — the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal. Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4.

We reached this conclusion after testing all three of our iPhone 4s (purchased at three separate retailers in the New York area) in the controlled environment of CU's radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber. In this room, which is impervious to outside radio signals, our test engineers connected the phones to our base-station emulator, a device that simulates carrier cell towers.... We also tested several other AT&T phones the same way, including the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.

Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4's signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that "mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength."

Consumer Reports recommend users stick with iPhone 3GS or other smart phones where reliable phone reception is required.

Or if you must purchase an iPhone 4, make sure you are in an area with very good reception (preferably in the middle of a large city, or consider moving to California where we hear the reception is great and is where all the Apple testing takes place) and consider purchasing the rubber bumper. Country users should steer right away unless they can see a cell tower sitting on top of hill next to their homes.

Or try to see the reception loss as a bonus feature as Winston Song has suggested:

"Well, this actually is a feature. This lower left side of the case was designed as an "excuse key". It works wonder when phone conversation is not going well. Just touch this "soft spot" and well, the call will drop "natually"."

NOTE: Users have noted that a call can sound clear when the iPhone bars drop from 2 to 3 to 0 after covering the offending antenna spot. So long as there is enough signal to reach the cell tower, the clarity of the signal remains fine. But it should be remembered that clarity of the sounds are no indication of signal strength. The signals are not analog but digital. And should the cell tower be able to pick up the signal, the call will always sound crystal clear. It is only when the calls drop when the signal is found to be too weak to pick up by the cell tower.

13 July 2010

AppleInsider.com has disputed some of the methods used by Consumer Reports in obtaining their results together with a host of happy iPhone 4 users having their say. Similarly cheerful Apple users have made their comments directly at ConsumerReports.org. While a few continue to report a clear reception loss resulting in lost calls. Apple has responded by deleting all threads about the Consumer Reports findings on the Discussions forum presumably in anger at the alleged lack of fairness in the lab tests, or to put a more positive light on the product to help make more sales. A copy of the threads can be read at the Bing web site.

If the original lab tests can be relied on, it seems signal strength does drop on most if not all original iPhone 4.0 units (Apple may have quietly rectified this with the latest batch of iPhones). If you are in an area where cell towers are close by, the signal strength will drop when you grip the phone incorrectly over the crucially flawed part of the antenna design but the reception loss is not enough to lose a call. Slightly further away and the iPhone with the upcoming iOS 4.1 update will probably provide significant boost to the signal strength should the phone be gripped incorrectly (something to watch out for and should be measured for consumer safety). Otherwise buy a rubber bumper and signal strength is likely to be almost restored as Amilkar has reported:

"Well as a heavy iPhone user watching the world cup playing games sending text reading the paper downloading emails listening to the ipod and streaming music on the phone YES THERE IS A FLAW!!...I bought the bumper and YES THERE WAS ABOUT 85% INCREASE in signal strength! But then again do I have to buy an additional $30 bumper or ruin the look by putting tape on it? NO!!! Apple needs to simply fix it..."

But if you are in an area where the signal strength is weak, you will find Apple's latest product to be a disappointment. The question will then be whether the iOS 4.1 update will help resolve the reception problems? If so, how much extra power will be transmitted and received to compensate for any potential reception loss? A user by the name of Earl may be right on the money when he said:

"I must admit that I'm a BlackBerry user, which doesn't make me less sensitive to mobile radiation.

I'm not sure if you guys know but the fact that the device has bad reception means as well that it emits much more power in order to keep the connection (data, voice) active... which implies higher exposure to radiation to us the users !

The mobile vendors don't give us this important information which to me is quite obvious...

Lately I have bought an application called tawkon (currently supported only on BlackBerry, wasn't approved for iPhone -> wonder why???) that gives me my exposure to mobile phone radiation constantly and alerts each time it cross a predefined threshold, I suggest that you check out their site www.tawkon.com you might find some very interesting information over there."

Very interesting information indeed. Why was the Tawkon application not approved?

If the reception loss is fixed by the iOS 4.1 update, great! Buy an iPhone 4 with the update together with a 30-day trial just to make sure it does work properly in your area. There is no need for you to miss out on all the fun in having one. And while you are at it, getting one of those rubber bumpers from Apple might be a good thing in case an important business call drops out unexpectedly when you need it most.

As for children using the iPhones, we hope Apple will call in the electromagnetic experts to check the signal boost after the update to make sure it isn't excessive.

13 July 2010

Apple has apparently called in the electromagnetic experts. It is not clear the reason for this. Perhaps Apple wants to find a quick fix for the antenna issue in the current phone model or find alternative explanations to give to the judge in upcoming law suits. Nevertheless, another electromagnetic expert named Bob Egan has come to the aid of Apple claiming the reception loss is probably due to:

1. A detuning effect on the frequency of the signal transmitted and received through the antenna when a finger of the user is placed across the antenna bridge. As Egan commented:

"We also don't know if placing a finger on the antenna bridge is detuning the antenna or detuning the receiver itself." (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple's ally: Engineer says Consumer Reports study flawed: CNET News. 13 July 2010.)

; and/or

2. AT&T could be partially to blame for variation in the signal quality resulting in potential call dropping problems.

Egan adds that ConsumerReports.org used an uncontrolled and unscientific approach to conducting its experiment on the iPhone. As Egan said:

"Bottom line. From what I can see in the reports, Consumer Reports replicated the same uncontrolled, unscientific experiments that many of the blogging sites have done." (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple's ally: Engineer says Consumer Reports study flawed: CNET News. 13 July 2010.)

So it seems no one in the last 10 to 15 years of lab testing mobile phones by ConsumerReports.org has said anything about a problem. So what does Egan recommend should be the way to test the iPhone? More mobile phones for a higher quality statistical result? One can imagine how many mobile phone tests ConsumerReports.org have done so far. Or does Egan suggest we should use Apple's own test equipment to check the product? Somehow one gets the feeling it won't be sufficiently independent to be scientifically useful.

Anyway, how likely are these explanations?

With regards to the second explanation, AT&T remains tight-lipped. Perhaps it is true. Or maybe AT&T has yet to respond to the contrary and find a bone to pick with the engineer. But given the bad publicity over AT&T's network in recent times, it would be hard to think AT&T would continue to have network problems when it decided to continue being the exclusive carrier for distributing the latest iPhones. It would have by now allowed other carriers to share a portion of the iPhone users if for any reason AT&T was struggling with maintaining good reception.

There is one way of proving the claim. Get the hackers out there to jailbreak the latest iPhone and test it on another carrier to see what happens. Luckily for Apple, the jailbreaking solution has not yet been finalised and ready for public consumption. But not so lucky if the iPhones are unlocked and available in other countries. With this in mind, a CNET user by the name of doh2prg has stated:

"It's definitely not an AT&T issue...I'm in Qatar with an unlocked device, and we have the same signal issues when holding it in the lower-left corner as everyone does in the US of A." (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple's ally: Engineer says Consumer Reports study flawed: CNET News. 13 July 2010.)

Not sounding good for Apple.

As for the first explanation, it would show a drop in the number of bars as if suggesting the signal strength from the cell tower is weak. A cell tower must be receiving at the right frequency and transmit at the right frequency for a given iPhone to register a good signal. But even so, surely this brings us back to a flawed hardware design of the antenna. Why? Well, how many Motorola and Nokia smartphones on the market today are experiencing a detuning effect or significant reception loss when held in the hand resulting in dropped out calls? None as far as we can tell. And why should iPhone users have to remember not to touch the antenna, especially at the point where the two antennas coming out of the phone can be short-circuited by the skin of your fingers at close range? It must be because the antenna is not properly embedded inside the phones as is the case in other phones. With Apple, the antenna is encased inside a metal lining around the entire edge of the device where it is easier for the user to become part of the antenna system.

It might look nice, but it is a silly design.

One CNET user made it abundantly clear his concerns about the antenna design:

"When Steve jobs announced that the antenna for the i-phone was outside and was a part of the outer case of the i-phone, I said to myself this is a bad idea.......and I was right. Your body is a good conductor of radio waves[.] You can act like a big antenna. [T]ry to unlock your car using your remote and see at what distance it stops working, than put your remote under your chin make sure to pres the remote to your skin and try unlocking your car again, you will see that you will increase the distance your remote can reach your car. So with that being said , cellular phones emit radio frequencies and power your body absorbs.... What your body [is] essential[ly] doing...is covering or shorting the two antennas together thru your skin. I have been in the electronic industry long enough to have witness the evolution and change in design of a lot of our mobile phone devices. The problem is a design or hardware issue[.] It might be a little software but that is not the real problem. Stick the antenna back inside...the i-phone and see all the problems go away. Or redesign it with a little pop up antenna for greater reach' (Aimonetti, Joe. Apple's ally: Engineer says Consumer Reports study flawed: CNET News. 13 July 2010.)

One would think the engineers at Apple would have noted this problem too?

Apparently they have. In fact, according to this article from The Wall Street Journal, the answer seems to be a resounding "Yes!" But the reason, or so it is alleged, is that Steve Jobs liked the latest metal edge design and didn't want to change it. Now we wonder whether Mr Jobs is thinking he should have listened to the engineers on this occasion.

Maybe next time Mr Jobs will agree to a pop-up antenna. Make it detachable and perhaps users can choose the design they like if the functionality of the phone remains good while still appealing to Mr Jobs idea of design sensibility as well.

However Apple is sticking to a signal strength problem where it claims a wrong formula has been discovered for indicating the number of bars to the user. The old formula it used suggested the phone was receiving too much signal from the cell tower and tried to erroneously lower the signal strength to compensate. This is an incorrect formula issue going back to the original iPhone 1.0 where it is presummed users were generally happy and if there were any complaints about weak signal and loss of reception, it was better for Apple to ignore them until now.

Consumers, on the other hand, are claiming the harder you press over the antenna bridge the more it loses reception as if the antenna is also touching the aluminium chassis of the phone and grounding the signal through the device and the hands and body of the users. There is also talk that the way the SIM card is seated can also play a role in the reception loss as if it too can touch the aluminium chassis. Thus it may not require the user to touch the iPhone for a loss in reception to happen. If any of this is true, it would definitely be a hardware fault.

Whoever is right, consumers will find out soon when the iOS 4.0.1 update gets released. The update will allegedly boost the signal strength thanks to a new formula and so hopefully overcome any detuning effect and, in case of touching the aluminium casing and ultimately the hands of the users, to use the entire phone and user as a giant antenna to really get the reception going like a dream.

So how safe will the iPhones be after the software update?

Indeed the next question on everyone's lips (hands or whatever else is going to become a human antenna and before any tumours might develop in the brain after using this device): Will this update provide a normal boost in signal strength? Or will Apple have to deliberately transmit excessive amounts of power than normal to help compensate for an antenna design that is not suitable for consumer use?

Simple solution. Apple should give approval for the Takwon application to be installed on the iPhone and let it measure the amount of radiation the iPhone generates before and after the iOS 4.1 update is applied. However, something suggests Apple will not approve. Why?

Well, if users discover the iPhone has been modified by the software to emit and receive much higher amounts of radiation after the update compared to before and compared to say the Blackberry where this application can be used and this is consistently and excessively higher than competitors' own models, Apple is almost certainly compensating for a "hardware fault" it knows about since iPhone 3GS was built and the same complaints were made (for which Apple has admitted it knew about).

Apple is hoping a higher signal strength or sufficient radiation output from the iPhone will save the company from an embarrassing product recall costing around US$1.5 billion. Just so long as users don't know how much extra signal strength will come out of the phone.

Or why not be a nice man Mr Jobs...why not give every unfortunate soul, we mean iPhone 4 user, a free rubber bumper? That's the least Apple could do under the circumstances. And it would show goodwill, restore some consumer confidence, and make it look like Apple isn't just focussed on profit. Indeed the triple bottom for Apple shouldn't be:


more profit; and

really ludicrously high amounts of profit.

Please show us there is a human side to the company that can empathise with the users.

15 July 2010

Apple has released iOS 4.0.1.

Installation of the update has not been entire smooth for a number of iPhone users. The best recommendation so far is to disable any anti-virus software you may have installed on your computer or iPhone, or try a different time when there aren't too many people trying to download the update all at once. But for those lucky enough to have been successful nothing unusual has been observed as yet. Or more likely it is a little too early to tell at this stage.

CNET, however, has successfully applied the update and have not noticed a boost in the signal strength other than displaying taller bars on the display (and hopefully showing a more accurate reading). As CNET stated:

"Did today's iPhone 4.0.1 update address the antenna issues? No, and we didn't expect it to. The 4.0.1 update, which Apple promised two weeks ago, addresses only how bars are displayed on the screen. It's a completely unrelated issue. We'll report more on this change later." (German, Kent & Ogg, Erica. What we know about iPhone 4's antenna (FAQ): CNET News. 15 July 2010.)

There could be other changes. For example, a CNET user said:

"I had the same problem with my 3GS that i updated. The first couple days it would drain in a few hours. Not even USING the darn thing. I found out that the Wi-Fi stays connected now even when its not doing anything. I am thinking Apple fixed it with 4.0.1 cause I havent had the problem for awhile now." (Kessler, Topher. iPod Touch battery life dwindled after installing iOS 4: CNET News. 9 August 2010.)

Apple has not provided full details on the changes it has made.

Mr Jobs has indicated he will hold a press conference at 10.00am on Friday 16 July 2010 at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, to discuss the antenna issue. Strictly by invitation, so no difficult questions Mr Jobs hates to answer. Only journalists who love Apple and can wish him all the best. And to make sure it is business as usual at Apple Inc. Mr Jobs will immediately attend another conference.

There is a good chance he will come with a box bearing gifts for all iPhone 4 users. The gifts will be small, feel a bit rubbery, and just happens to bear the Apple logo on the front. Yep! You guessed it. It is the rubber bumper we have all been waiting for. Sounds like a great idea if he is in such a hurry to get to the next conference.

Psst!...Perhaps someone should tell Mr Jobs a transparent rubber bumper might be the way to go. It will make the users of the iPhone feel cool once again and Mr Jobs can get back to doing whatever he is good at — more designing we suppose?

Anyway, can we hope for some good news to come from the press conference for consumers who are in a bit of pain over the antenna saga with dropped calls or calls that don't get picked up? Don't hold your breath. Observers are not expecting an announcement of any product recall. Why would he? It is too expensive. In the worse case scenario, Apple would merely provide free rubber bumpers to affected users. The aim is to make sure people can make a reasonably reliable call. And if so, there is no legal requirement for Apple to do anything to properly fix the antenna design. If users are looking for a permanent solution, iPhone 5.0 is the way to go. But the phone won't appear any time soon. Try mid-2011 instead.

The press conference may be to rest assure the public that the antenna of the iPhone 4 is perfectly safe to use and will perform as expected so long as the iOS 4.0.1 update is included and you don't hold the phone incorrectly. Sounds like eBay will be awashed with unwanted iPhone 4 devices as soon as the next model comes out.

Time to buy some Apple stocks soon if the price gets any lower than they are right now.

16 July 2010

A day after ConsumerReports.org published another article stating the rubber bumpers do make a difference in improving the signal quality of the iPhone 4, Mr Jobs makes a decision that would save the company over a billion dollars and help iPhone 4 users overcome the latest technological hurdle presented by the continuing "antenna-gate" saga.

The Press Conference began by confirming the success of the iPhone 4 with sales reaching 3 million in a week. Does this include worldwide sales on top of the 1.7 million in the US? We can't be too sure.

To show the iPhone 4 antenna problem was blown out of proportion by the media, a 15-minute presentation was carefully prepared to show the audience how some competitors' phones can suffer signal strength drops if handled incorrectly. The ones selected were the Blackberry, HTV Droid Eris and the Samsung Omnia 2. The demonstration shows the phones had to be gripped with one hand to cover the entire devices in order to show a reduction in the number of bars representing the signal strength. Even so, precisely how many consumers actually hold it this way? And how many complained of drop calls or calls they could not receive from these third-party phones? We don't know from the presentation.

Mr Jobs also mentioned that in the context of the total number of iPhone 4 devices sold so far, only 0.55 per cent of the users have called Apple directly to complain about the antenna issue. As Mr Jobs said:

"Historically for us, this is not a large number."

Well, that's because many users who don't call Apple probably tell the Apple resellers about the problems, or they have to learn to live with the problems or find their own solutions. That's a natural part of life for a number of Apple users. Except on this occasion users weren't prepared to cough up extra for a rubber bumper just to solve the antenna issue. If people wanted to use it without a rubber bumper, that is their perogative. Always ensure the product works without the rubber bumper.

In case there might be other unhappy users, Mr Jobs has kindly added that a 30-day grace period exists for users to decide whether they are happy with the phone. If not, they can return it for a full refund and no re-stocking fee will be paid. Thanks.

But the aim of the conference is to figure out whether the unhappy users of the iPhone 4 will get a fix.

Fortunately the conference finally got to the crucial point when Mr Jobs announced a free giveaway of the rubber bumper to all iPhone 4 users (international users included). Users should be patient as the numbers needed are great. Users should get one by around September 2010. And if users are not happy about having a rubber bumper to spoil their iPhone look, Mr Jobs has personally stated users can get a full refund within 30 days of purchase. Sounds reasonable.

What about the rumours that Apple had a backup plan to provide alternative new iPhones (perhaps an enhanced version of the iPhone 3GS) but with a better antenna design? It is not clear from the conference whether this will happen. It's either make do with the iPhone 4 in its current form by accepting the rubber bumper, or try another smartphone. And Mr Jobs is leaving the decision on a suitable antenna design for the next iPhone to the experts. Sounds like a great idea.

Mr Jobs mentioned the "proximity sensor" is also a little faulty. A software fix will be coming soon.

Finally to emphasise the importance of the user, Mr Jobs said:

"We love our users. We try hard to surprise and delight them. We work our asses off and have a fun time doing it. We do all this because we love our users. And when we fall short, we try harder. We pick ourselves up, and we figure out what's wrong, and we try harder."

Yes, and we love you too.

Now please remember to also love your employees in the sense you are able to listen to them when, say, an Apple engineer says a certain design you like won't meet the functional requirements for users. And be a little more forgiving when an employee makes a mistake. We all make mistakes. It is a question of learning from our mistakes that makes us better people and with it a better company in the future.

Also focus on what the company thinks is historically a small number of users trying to make it clear to Apple there are problems. The problems almost certainly extend to many more users who have to live with or find their own solutions. To make life easier, set up a feedback form on the Apple web site where Apple users can give positive or negative feedback on specific Apple products. And/or get users to mark in their email subject whether it refers to a positive or negative feedback. While the rest can be sorted out by Mr Job's secretary. This should make it easier for Mr Jobs to focus on the areas needing closer attention and should be considerably less taxing on the health of Mr Jobs who, as we can see from his return from holidaying in Hawaii, clearly needs plenty of rest.

So does everyone else for that matter after this antenna saga.

Also love all the developers and not just those at Apple Inc. Of particular interest are the FileMaker developers who want to run their FileMaker runtime solutions created through the Apple-owned FileMaker Pro Advanced software product on the iPad and iPhone, but can't because they may compete with Apple's own applications as well as the fact that Mr Jobs has chosen a different microprocessor to run these devices (the Chinese can use the Intel Core 2 Duo chips for the iPed — an iPad look-alike — so why not on the iPad?). And open up the Apple approval process to allow these developers to run their solutions for businesses and individuals.

And please no more surprises in the future for consumers by way of gremlins creeping into Apple products. The time has come for Apple to show high quality products that are free of all hardware faults and annoyances. And give people the flexibility to do as they wish with Apple products.

This is all users ask for.

During question time, we learn the explanation for why there is a signal drop in the iPhone 4 when Bob Mansfield, head of the hardware department at Apple Inc, joined Mr Jobs and said:

"When you make contact with the phone, you put your body between the phone and the signal sources it's trying to see. Your body is a pretty good blocker of those signals. The fact that you bridge that gap between the antennas is a way to block the signal. When you grip it harder, you attenuate the signal much stronger."

Assuming this is the reason, why was the antenna put on the outside? Mr Jobs gave the following explanation:

"The antenna is an external antenna, and we did that so there would be more space inside for things like the battery."

Sounds like a ubiquitous problem for all smartphone manufacturers. Yet no one at Apple took the time to investigate how other companies managed to solve the antenna problem.

So what's the new antenna design going to look like in the future? Mr Jobs has no answer except wait for the engineers to come up with a solution. But consumers are assured the Apple engineers are working on it as we speak, suggesting we should expect a better iPhone to arrive certainly by mid-2011 through iPhone 5.0. One thing is certain though. Mr Jobs doesn't like to see a larger iPhone to accommodate a relatively large antenna inside the unit. As Jobs said:

"Some of these guys are making Hummers...you could make that, but nobody would want to buy it. We don't know everything, but we try to figure it out pretty fast."

How about considering a detachable antenna design that allows users to decide whether to attach a short stub, or a longer rubber-coated antenna in areas where signal strength might be a little weaker for whatever reason? Because with this solution, Apple should have the complete book on how to build a quality phone. At last we should see the first hardware fault-free new iPhone model arriving in 2011.

In another question about whether Mr Jobs knew of the antenna hardware design fault before the phone was released, Mr Jobs was quickly reminded of an article online where it had been claimed this had been the case. He said there is no evidence supporting the claim. And the Apple engineer Rubin Caballero at the heart of the allegation where it was suggested he told Mr Jobs about the problem has been denied.

Mr Caballero was not at the conference to personally confirm Mr Jobs statement.

17 July 2010

RIM, the makers of the BlackBerry, weren't too happy having their smartphone included as an example of reception loss when covered by the hand during Mr Jobs presentation. The BlackBerry model in question during the presentation is known as BlackBerry Bold. RIM and users of this model have never been able to replicate the loss in bars and hence signal loss using the so-called "death grip" employed by Mr Jobs.

In a statement issued by RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie:

"Apple's attempt to draw RIM into Apple's self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple's claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public's understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple's difficult situation. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance for over 20 years.

...RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage. One thing is for certain, RIM's customers don't need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple."

Perhaps a polite way of saying "Bull!" to Apple Inc.?

On the other hand, a CNET user alleges he can replicate a slight drop in the bars using the Blackberry Curve model:

"Funny, but I can replicate the bar drop on my Blackberry Curve. In an area with solid coverage, it drops by one bar. Out in areas with lower coverage, it kills the call. I've replicated it on both AT&T, and on T-Mobile.

Long story short - RIM has the same problem." (Matyszczyk, Chris. RIM to Apple: Bull: CNET News. 17 July 2010.)

So technically speaking, Apple may be correct even if it wasn't the same model. But one should remember that even if Apple did use the BlackBerry Curve, this is not a significant loss compared to the iPhone 4 or 3.x (a drop of roughly 2.5 to 4 bars using the "death grip"). It seems RIM is aware a signal loss can happen but understands the problem better than Apple and have taken precautions to minimise the problem. And from the users perspective, the numbers appear far less against RIM for signal loss on the BlackBerry than Apple's own phone.

Whatever the truth, Apple has decided a digital movie recording of the "antenna-gate" presentation shouldn't stay on the Apple web site for very long (indeed well before the next iPhone model is even on the drawing board) as noted by Noah Hendrix, a computer science student at Kansas University and confirmed by TechCrunch.

20 July 2010

Apple releases FileMaker Go to permit FileMaker Pro databases to be accessed on an iPad or iPhone. However, runtime solutions generated on FileMaker Pro Advanced will not work. You must use FileMaker Server or FileMaker Pro to serve the databases in web publishing mode (i.e. access via an internet browser on the iPad or iPhone).

If Apple is truly serious, it should provide the option to create runtime solutions to run on iPads and iPhones.

23 July 2010

Are you a UK resident with an iPhone 4? Have you complained endlessly about the antenna problem and any other issues and have a reasonable following from others reading your blog? Well, if you also write your complaint to Samsung UK Twitter's account, you could earn yourself a free top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S smartphone with the latest Google Android OS.

Without a new, updated and hardware-fault free iPhone available to give to disappointed iPhone 4 users, Samsung's offer beats Apple's free rubber bumper case virtually hands down.

As with all good things, we suspect this offer won't last.

23 July 2010

To track down any further sources of poor reception or slower than expected data transfer rates, AT&T has just discovered a bug in its Alcatel-Lucent equipment using the HSUPA technology where it was limiting the upload speeds for iPhone 4 users. The glitch is not believed to have affected other smartphones on the AT&T network. Fortunately that's one less complaint for Apple to worry about.

23 July 2010

Unfortunately the slowness and shorter battery life expectancy (and probably coupled by reduced data download speeds if the phone isn't quick enough to save the data even if the signal strangth is improved and AT&T fixes the bug on its equipment) of the iPhone 3G users after upgrading to iOS 4.0 (and presumably iOS 4.0.1) is something Apple can't quite rely on another company to solve for them. A typical response from an iPhone 3G user has summed up the situation pretty well:

"...my 3G used to work wonderfully. How slow is it? Since iOS4, my 3G is so stinking slow, A FRIGGIN GLACIER WOULD BEAT IT IN A FOOTRACE! This software update has almost rendered the phone unusable. My daughter moves faster when we tell her to empty the dishwasher. Snails and slugs scoff at my iPhone 3G. The California State Legislature will pass a budget before my iPhone will start the next iPod song play. And Al Gore's next massage therapy session is likely to last longer than the last charge in the battery. Oh the humanity!" (Ogg, Erica. Apple to investigate iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

A number of 3GS users are also allegedly reporting a similar problem. As CNET user ikramerica2008 said:

"Happens on my 3GS as well. The S no longer stands for "speed" like it once did. Now it's "stutter". Worst stutters happen when opening keyboard. First letter locks off screen. You can keep typing, but it won't respond. Then when it wakes up, it will enter all the text you typed, but it's hard to get used to that." (Ogg, Erica. Apple to investigate iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

On the positive side, at least Apple has acknowledged the problem and is investigating the matter as we speak. Is there likely to be a permanent solution to this problem? Yes. But somehow those horrible feelings are making a come back again suggesting only a good fork out of US$600 to $800 for a new iPhone will be the best solution.

Rumours have it that Apple may already know the problem is almost certainly due to a slower processor. Yet they somehow managed to forget to tell 3G users with their 18-month old iPhones that the latest iOS4 is meant to run on faster processors. Hmmm? How did that one slip the minds of Apple executives? Anyway, if users can't afford a new iPhone, the next best thing for the company to have this latest issue behind them in a hurry is to get Apple software engineers to put in an IF...ELSE...ENDIF command and reinsert the old iOS 3.x code before the ELSE with a few quick tweaks to improve on it. The rest will go before the ENDIF and will probably remain the same for iPhone 4 and 3GS users. Slap on the iOS 4.1 badge and everyone will think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. It may be just more bloated code, but nothing like a good quick and simple solution to get Apple out of yet another tricky situation.

Or why not do a proper iOS 3.x update that will work for all users right from iPhone 1.0 to iPhone 3G? And while we are at it, make sure the correct formula for signal strength is inserted.

Oops! We forgot (it must be catching like the flu these days thanks to Apple). Apple is a big shareholder company. It is simply not in the business of handing out free and updated old version iOS software to its customers — it costs too much. Apple would rather see users upgrade their iPhones (it makes them more money).

Oh! Silly us again! We also forgot to mention how Apple has kindly put a software block on older iOS installations unless you do a complete restore to factory settings (make sure you back up all your personal data). However the iOS installed through iTunes is always the latest. Tough luck. As a CNET user remarked:

"The difference here is that if you install Windows 7 on your ten-year-old laptop and don't like the experience, you're free to format it and reinstall the original OS. If you want to downgrade your 3G back to iOS3, you have to google instructions and hacker software because Apple won't let you revert - even if you have a copy of the previous OS stored locally." (Ogg, Erica. Apple to investigate iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

Also in agreement is this CNET user when he said:

"The 3G is so slow I have almost no use for it and apple does not allow you to revert back to a previous software version... where does this leave us?" (Ogg, Erica. Apple to investigate iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

Yes, you will have to jailbreak the iPhone 3GS/3G. At least you've got a choice of an iOS version to install so long as you've kept a copy of an older iOS on your backup disk. But hold on! We forgot! You have to be technically proficient to use jailbreaking tools. Anyway, Apple doesn't like users jailbreaking the iPhones — it is against the official user agreement to do so. Bugger!

Sorry. For the average consumer, it is starting to look like you will have to spend more money for a faster iPhone. All 3G users and those affected 3GS users (probably running too many features) will need to upgrade. A CNET user agrees with this assessment when he said:

"They want you to replace the phone every 2 years, it's simple." (Ogg, Erica. Apple to investigate iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

Any more memory lapses?

We can only hope Apple doesn't get the trifecta with iPhone 4 users too (maybe somebody at Apple should put a bet on to see how likely an iPhone 4 user will complain of slowness).

So what's next on the horizon? Will consumers notice how much bigger the iOS is getting and how much faster their iPhones will have to be to run it all? How will Apple avoid bloating iOS 4 with extra code and so become the next "Windows Vista" for the iPhone? Add a faster processor? Well, if it is going to be an Intel Core 2 Duo processor that would be a very good move for consumers. We can see a number of Apple users deciding to run Android OS and the applications they like without Apple approval. Nice one! For Apple, definitely not such a good move at all.

Or Apple might have another bout of amnesia when it finds yet another reason to blame users for the slower speeds. Here's a clue from a CNET user:

"...I tend to be fairly conservative about the resources I leave available to any of the devices I own. I don't stuff the hard drives on my computer full to bursting; if I start to run low on space, I either get rid of stuff or I get a larger drive. I don't fill my iPhone to capacity with a bazillion apps and songs; about a third of my iPhone's storage space is still available, and if I install an app and I find that I don't use it, or install music and find that I never listen to it, I delete it. I'm not a collector; I keep things that I use.

I wonder if that makes a difference? It would be interesting to see if there is a common thread among the people who have problems: do they have little storage space on their iPhones? Do they have very large numbers of disused apps?" (Ogg, Erica. Apple to investigate iOS 4 problems on iPhone 3G: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

These memory lapses really do come in handy when running a shareholder company.

9 August 2010

iOS4 is said to be a real drain on the iPod Touch power supply. CNET has provided recommendations on ways to reduce the power consumption to an absolute minimum. Apple is probably looking into this.

iPhone 3GS users may also be alleging unexpected restarts or applications crashing in the middle of phone calls or other activities lasting more than 5 minutes after updating to iOS 4.0 or 4.0.1. But given that other iPhone 3GS users are not experiencing the same problem, Apple is probably not yet seeing a major problem here. One CNET user has suggested a possible cause: "...I attribute this to the apps not yet being iOS4 certified yet..."

Nearly all iPod Touch, iPhone 3G and 3GS users have reported a slowing down of applications and occasionally unresponsive behaviour of iOS. This is almost certainly due to a slower processor. It is highly recommended users upgrade their iPhones. But since introducing the design flaw in the antenna design, users should wait for iPhone 5.0 (expectedly to be released in mid-2011)

Time will tell whether the next iOS update (probably iOS 4.1) will resolve these issues.

Unveiling the Big Brother within your iPhone (or iPad)

The positive consumer benefits of tracking iPhones is being promoted at a cost to users. If you have lost your iPhone (or iPad), Apple has released Find My iPhone.app. It works by running the application on another iPhone. What you do is enter your MobileMe username and password within the application and, miraculosuly, your lost iPhone or iPad (if turned on) should appear in a Google map and tracked. Feeling a bit peeved that someone has got your iPhone? Well, after you have tracked down the location of your lost iPhone, you can play a sound or show a message on it (perhaps telling the thief, "You are currently under surveillance by the CIA. A bug has been placed in your iPhone. Please leave the iPhone on the table and leave quietly. Any attempt to take the iPhone with you will be met with a hail of bullets in your direction. Otherwise have a pleasant day!"). Or you can Remote Lock or Remote Wipe the iPhone's storage unit of its contents.

Cost for this service is US$99 per year — essentially to set up the MobileMe account. Do it through Google.com and it's free. The same for law enforcement agencies.

You'll need iOS version 3.1.3 or higher for this tracking service to work. Or just use Google.com.

But as a CNET user has said:

"Why have a phone that can be used to track and monitor everything you do? I'm still using pen and paper and meet people face to face to have a conversation." (Musil, Steven. Hackers release browser-based iPhone 4 jailbreak: CNET News. 1 August 2010.)

16 July 2010

Another potential privacy leak to consider is how your iPhone and other camera-enabled gadgets can not only record pictures, but also store the exact latitude and longitude coordinates directly into the image files' EXIF metadata. This can be a problem if you want to be anonymous (which you are entitled to be if you wish).

To disable geotagging as it is called, go to the Location Services settings menu on the iPhone. By default this is always activated. Being aware the feature is "On" helps you to choose when it is a good time to geotag your images or not.

Ben Jackson, a hacker living in New York, is credited for highlighting this issue at a Next HOPE hacker conference.

Jailbreaking the iPhone 4 becomes a reality

That horrid look on Mr Jobs' face when people circumvents his technology solutions has probably returned after hearing the latest news. Yes, the hackers have done it again following the release of the official jailbreaking solution for iPhone 4.0 and 4.0.1. And this time, it is easier than ever before. Now you only need to use your Apple Safari to deliver the tools for unlocking your iPhone. As one CNET user reported:

"It's quite possibly the easiest jailbreak I've ever used." (Musil, Steven. Hackers release browser-based iPhone 4 jailbreak: CNET News. 1 August 2010.)

Apple has definitely got its work cut out to stop this latest move.

It comes immediately after the US Copyright Office ruled on 26 July 2010 how jailbreaking your iPhone (i.e. after purchasing it) does not violate federal copyright law. What you do with the iPhone is totally up to you. So long as you have paid for your commercial applications and hardware tool (i.e. the phone) for running them and can reinstall them easily and quickly should anything go wrong, you can bypass a manufacturer's protection mechanism for the purposes of running the software you want. It is all perfectly permissable and legal for this very purpose. It is only when you try to reverse engineer Apple's own software or other commercial software from third-party developers and/or later resell or distribute the software to other consumers is when you do breach the copyright law. But since nearly all users wanting to jailbreak the phone are not interested in this aspect, it is perfectly fine to unlock your phone if you so choose.

Apple has tried to counter this claim by stating in a letter sent to the US Copyright Office that jailbreaking would result "in copyright infringement, potential damage to the device and other potential harmful physical effects, adverse effects on the functioning of the device, and breach of contract."

For this reason alone, Apple believes jailbreaking would violate the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Apple also added how its support department has allegedly received "literally millions of reported instances of problems flowing from jailbroken phones". Well, this is an Apple problem if it is true, not a copyright issue. But even if one could argue this point, are we to assume there are more people complaining to Apple about the "adverse effects" of unlocked iPhones than the antenna problems of iPhone 4 and earlier models? Strangely it doesn't get the same widespread media attention as the antenna problem. Yet it is enough to get the attention of Apple to stop the jailbreaking attempts through successive updates to the iOS. Why is this so?

Perhaps there is a better example. How about the Android smartphones? Surely this must represent a classic example. Unfortunately no one in the Android smartphone market is complaining of "harmful effects" (e.g. the unlocked Nokia N900 and those who can jailbreak Motorola's bootloader code). Perhaps Android users are the exception. But hold on! What about Apple laptops? They too could be seen technically speaking as already jailbroken devices, except they are perfectly fine by Apple for users to run any kind of software they like. So just how many laptop owners are complaining to Apple about "adverse effects on the functioning of the device"?

Somehow it isn't too hard to see why the US Copyright Office doesn't quite see it in the same way as Apple on this matter. In fact, a US Court had earlier ruled that:

"Merely bypassing a technological protection that restricts a user from viewing or using a work is insufficient to trigger the (Digital Millennium Copyright Act's) anti-circumvention provision."

A ruling like this would only make it harder for Apple to argue its case to the US Copyright Office.

Consequently it comes down to Apple finding more effective ways to stop the jailbreaking if the company feels this is more important (definitely the case for those third-party app developers needing to make a buck). And if users can jailbreak the iPhone, tough luck. It is a perfectly legal activity for users to do at least in the US (other countries will still have to make their own rulings).

Even if you are likely to have problems with Apple not honouring the warranty because the company sees you have an unlocked iPhone, perhaps the following quote from CNET user Yelonde will give you an idea of what to do next:

"Anyway, it is easy to hide a jailbreak on the iPhone/iPod touch. For example, I jailbroke my iPod Touch, and installed iPodLinux on my old iPod Video. When I had a display problem with my iPod Touch, and the hard-drive went bad on my video, I simply restored the data on the iPods, and turned them into the apple store for repairs. The apple-care representatives saw nothing wrong with it, and repaired the iPods without questions. I suppose this is a little dishonest on my part, but whatever." (McCullagh, Declan. Feds say mobile-phone jailbreaking is OK: CNET News. 26 July 2010.)

No, it isn't dishonest. You paid for the iOS and hardware. You know the other software did not cause hardware damage. So you just reinstall iOS. Just so long as you remember to back up your data and applications before doing a full restore then you will be okay. The only thing you are responsible for is software that isn't designed for your hardware or you choose a third-party software and tinker with its code and discover the software has caused damage to your hardware. It is the same situation with all Apple laptops and desktop machines.

Software manufacturers of any OS or application written for your hardware are required to test the software thoroughly before final release. And, so long as the hardware itself (i.e. iPhone, iPod or iPad) is manufactured correctly and shouldn't know what kind of software or version is being run, it should work with the software without a problem whatsoever. It is the same for laptop users running Linux or Windows on a Macintosh computer and then choosing to reinstall OSX just to get Apple to repair the computer. Better still, you would swap the hard drive with OSX installed and the problem is solved. As for choosing Linux or Windows to run on your Macintosh, these have been thoroughly tested to work in every normal Intel-based machine (unless Apple does something funny to its hardware).

Okay. Now what? Will Apple put in some deliberate bugs into the Apple software or hardware to cripple it should the iOS detect the iPhone is unlocked and then run back to the US Copyright Office stating how right they were? Not a good look for the company.

Or will Apple put in a ROM chip containing iOS and Apple's own applications. Unfortunately it would be an absolute bugger to update knowing the bugs that Apple leaves behind in their software. Or users could visit the Apple store for a ROM chip upgrade? No doubt a great source of additional revenue fot the company. But what would stop, say, a third-party developer creating a flash memory chip to plug into the ROM chip and containing his own version of iOS and applications? Nothing. He may allow any user to store any kind of application on the chip.

Even if Apple could find a solution, its market is likely to be heavily restricted to Apple loyal fans while the rest of the world will purchase Android phones knowing the market will get much bigger than the iPhone, have more applications to run and have less restrictions for users and third-party developers. It will be like Windows/PC versus OSX/Mac except Apple will be more restrictive through the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Unless these Apple products can serve drinks, give you a good massage all over, wash the dishes and do other extraordinary things (you might as well marry your iPhone if this happens), it doesn't take much business sense to guess who will eventually win the smartphone war.

As for developers wanting to run their applications on an unlocked iPhone and distribute them to users without needing the Apple Developer Certificate to make them work, try this freeware software called IdidSign 1.1 (261KB). All you do is select the application and let the freeware tool do all the work in a matter of seconds.

4 August 2010

Already there are hints from users that some Apple software under iOS4 are not running as they should in the unlocked environment of jailbroken iPhones. As one user reported:

"This jailbreak is very unstable. JAILBREAKME works, it adds Cydia, and gives you access... but it seems that somethings just haven't caught up to this innovation yet. For instance, Winterboard isn't enabling themes or tweaks most of the time even with Summerboard on.

Springboard crashes with certain tools. And other apps/programs like Shrink, they just don't work at all.

SB settings and a couple themes are all I've gotten to work. Even the NES emulator is all F-ed up, and totally unstable and errored. Somebody please update Winterboard and everything else to be compatible with IOS4 jailbreak. Otherwise, is the problem coming from this jailbreak????

Hmmm~" (Musil, Steven. Hackers release browser-based iPhone 4 jailbreak: CNET News. 1 August 2010.)

Is the user saying there is a difference in how these applications perform in the locked and unlocked environment? Interesting if found to be true.

Further waiting will be necessary to see how Apple will address these alleged software bugs in the next iOS update.

Apple looking to high-tech amorphous alloys to increase sales

As iPhone users look towards tougher and harder iPhone cases instead of Apple's free rubber bumper, Apple is looking towards a class of hi-tech alloys to increase consumer appeal of the iPhone (likrly to be introduced in version 5.0 or 6.0) and provide the necessary hardness, strength and scratch-resistant characteristics.

Apple Inc. has paid a hefty license fee to the US-based company Liquidmetal Technologies to produce amorphous alloys designed to provide new super hard and scratch-resistant, high strength and lightweight casings for thinner phone designs. Unlike traditional metals and alloys having a crystalline structure, amorphous alloys do not have a crystalline structure. This means amorphous alloys will be resistant to electrical currents due to the way the chemical bonds between metal atoms are broken. And amorphous alloys will have a hardness level comparable to glass making it scrsatch-resistant and strong enough to resist impacts with the ground.

Clearly an important next step in the development of thinner and more durable iPhones in the future so long as other engineering designs are right too.

iPhone 4.0.2 update

Users shouldn't get too excited. Apple has released iOS 4.0.2 update on 11 August 2010 to fix a "security vulnerability associated with viewing malicious PDF files". No other improvements mentioned. Although it is always possible Apple could have snuck in a few other improvements without telling users and only time will tell whether anyone notices anything different. If your update to iOS 4.0.1 has been relatively trouble-free and your rubber bumper-covered iPhone 4 is now working fine, there is probably no harm in applying this update. The only hassle is for you to find some time to download the update and let it do its thing.

However the really important update has to be iOS 4.1. Expect this one to provide significant improvements for most users including 3GS owners. This one should solve the proximity sensor issue among many others. And it should improve the slowness on the iPhone 3G (it is likely Apple will allow background tasks to be turned off and make slight adjustments to Spotlight when indexing the iPhone's storage media to make it seem less taxing on the processor — which you can enjoy right now if you jailbreak your phone). Estimated time of release: October 2010.

If you are on iOS 3.2.1, Apple was kindly provided the same security fix through iOS 3.2.2.

Backup all your personal data before applying the update as a safety precaution (yes, it will take a little longer but worth it for that extra peace-of-mind — maybe you are better off leaving it until the iOS 4.1 update comes around?).

AT&T trying to improve network services for iPhone users

Good news! AT&T appears to be following up on its promise to improve network services in areas where users complain through AT&T's iPhone app known as Mark the Spot (updated to version 2.0 as of 15 August 2010 proving the tool is being used regularly). Areas of high numbers of people using the AT&T services such as in the New York City area are usually given the highest priority. As extra funding becomes available, the less important areas will probably receive better services.

Someone has to give AT&T a great big kiss for being a good boy! Now where's that stick for Apple...

Is AT&T able to make more profit from selling "no commitment" iPhones?

Apple has made a decision in late August 2010 to no longer offer the option to purchase a "no commitment" pricing iPhone for US consumers. Instead, Apple will sell at its online store iPhones at a subsidy price and under a contract with AT&T. But if you want to buy a "no commitment" iPhone, the option is available on the AT&T web site.

This move suggests Apple is trying to give AT&T adequate profit from selling iPhones while not affecting the overall options available for consumers. Just so long as consumers know where to look (i.e. the AT&T web site), you can still buy what you want. Otherwise if you are happy to stick with AT&T for all iPhone network services, then buy through the Apple online store. However some US consumers are reporting a purchase of the iPhone at Apple stores can give you the "no commitment" price under a 2-year AT&T contract if you ask. As one user said:

"Today I purchased an iPhone from the Apple Store in Palo Alto without an ATT contract. Yes I had to pay full price, no big deal. I had it unlocked an hour later and I'm using T-Mobile. In store purchases only...you can't do it online." (Kazmucha, Allyson. Apple No Longer Offering No Contract Pricing for iPhone in the US?: TiPb. 19 August 2010.)

A little confusing for some consumers, but makes perfect business sense to the two principal players selling the iPhones — Apple and AT&T.

In the meantime, some US consumers continue to purchase in Canada or elsewhere (at the "no commitment" price and with an unlocked iPhone), or get your own iPhone unlocked in Europe (i.e. even if they are currently under a subsidy plan with AT&T). As one user remarked:

"Well.. i has my cousin ship me a unlocked iPhone 4 from Canada for the same price of a locked phone here in US..." (Kazmucha, Allyson. Apple No Longer Offering No Contract Pricing for iPhone in the US?: TiPb. 19 August 2010.)

And another user said:

"I wish we could buy the iPhone unlocked here in the states, we travel to Europe to visit family every year and have our old phones unlocked so we can just pop in a sim when we land at the airport. We have given some thought to taking a vacation to Montreal and buy our iPhone 4s there..." (Kazmucha, Allyson. Apple No Longer Offering No Contract Pricing for iPhone in the US?: TiPb. 19 August 2010.)

Not quite an ideal solution for AT&T wanting to make more money out of the iPhone revolution.

Android gains on iOS as Apple prepares the release of iOS 4.1

Apple is feeling the heat from Google's Android OS as market research Quantcast released a report on Friday 3 September 2010 showing the market share of users using Apple's iOS of around 68 per cent in May 2009 has slowly declined to 56 per cent in August 2010. Whereas Google's Android OS has risen from 8 per cent in May 2009 to 25 per cent in August 2010 and still rising. All other mobile operating systems including RIM OS for the Blackberry are weakening slightly over the same period unless Microsoft can come up with an absolute ripper of a mobile OS.

If the trend continues, it is likely the market share will be roughly even between Apple and Google in the next 18 months.

And part of the problem for Apple has been the silly engineering decision to place the antenna on the outside of the iPhone 4, slow iOS 4.0.1 speeds on iPhone 3GS and 3G users, and not allowing sufficient control by users and developers to decide which applications they want to install without going through the Apple iStore.

Apple is hinging its bet on a leaner and meaner iOS 4.1 to be released later in September 2010 to reverse the trend and keep them on top of the mobile smartphone market for a long time to come. Although most of the changes are to correct the problems of iOS 4.0.

iOS 4.1 Update

Apple has released iOS 4.1 update on 8 September 2010. In promoting the what's new details, the company has chosen the more popular additions such as a GameCenter, iTunes TV show rentals, ioTunes Ping, HDR photos and HD video uploads. Looking at the fine print, there appears to be an improvement to the speed of the iPhone 3G. Sounds like Apple has managed to introduce a lot more of the old Goto and/or if...then...endif programming commands to help skip through unnecessary slabs of additional software programming lines that aren't needed by the older phone.

Other necessary improvements include a fix for the proximity sensor that caused some accidental dropped calls, and more reliable and compatible Bluetooth connectivity to third-party car stereo systems.

Still, the need for an iPhone upgrade for 3G users wouldn't go astray if it means getting more features just to make them think they need a faster iPhone. Apple like to make more profit from you! Perhaps there should be a poster with Uncle Sam (looking a bit like Mr Steve Jobs) pointing a finger at you, but wearing an Apple logo instead of the American flag and saying, "We want you to buy an iPhone right now!"

When Apple decides to repair your iPhone

One of the major sticking points for Apple when it comes to consumer complaints concerning a faulty Apple product is how the consumer may tend to hide the fact that he/she may have accidentally submersed the product in some form of liquid and then claim they are entitled to a free repair while it is under warranty.

This is clearly not fair to Apple.

As it is critical for Apple to prove such claims when minimising the cost of repairs under warranty, Apple has been using several sensors on the inside of the backplate for the iPad, iPhone and iPod to detect this situation. It was originally called the Liquid Submersion Indicator. It is a round plastic disk with a liquid that changes colour to red should water or other liquids have entered the products' interior for whatever reason.

The idea sounds great in theory until enough consumers in certain parts of the world complained long and hard that the sensor is not reliable after Apple technicians noticed one or two of these sensors have turned partially red. By the way Apple policy had been written at the time, Apple technicians had the power to reject any product for free repair should any of the sensor disks show a bit of red colour. Not even the Apple Head Office would listen as it tried desperately to ignore the consumers' plight, until they finally did a test recently. And what they found is that in climates of high humidity, the sensor can be triggered to turn red as if the Apple product had been submerged in a liquid.

As a result of this enlightening discovery, Apple has decided to rename the sensor as the Liquid Contact indicator to avoid any legal problems. Now Apple can only hope those consumers who knew they were right have already purchased another Apple product or have moved on.

But if not, and you are one of those consumers with a genuinely faulty Apple product not caused by a submersion in a liquid and were given the rough end of the stick by Apple on this issue, you should try again. It is claimed Apple will be a little more understanding of your situation and will do more rigorous testing of your product this time to determine if what you've said is true. If you've been telling the truth, the repairs will be performed for free under consumer law.

But if you have purchased another product based on false or unreliable information from Apple and realised you didn't need to and want to recoup the costs of purchasing another product, this is something Apple will have to look into on a case-by-case basis.

As they say, "Miracles can happen!"

For further details, see this CNET article.

iOS 4 considered a drain on your power

Not exactly news for people using iPhone 4 with the latest iOS 4.x, but it seems people are finding the product a bit of a drain on their power (if not their pocket). Specifically the drain is on the battery itself. Further testing by users (a pity it wasn't Apple) have identified the cause of this. Apparently it has to do with the number of applications running in the background. Even if you put the iPhone to sleep mode, the applications keep on running in the background.

A MacFixIt reader named R.T. Taylor has kindly suggested you should press the home button twice and scroll right to see all the running applications. You'll be surprised how may are running all at once. Users who have quit these applications prior to sending the iPhone to sleep mode (or just do a complete shutdown by holding down the power button) have noticed a significant improvement in the battery life.

Sounds like Apple will have to provide another iOS update to make the process of quitting applications much easier and, more importantly, let users know exactly what is running in the background. The iOS in its current form is too cleverly designed to conceal or make difficult to users exactly what is going on.

Further details can be found here.

11 November 2010

AppleInsider.com allegedly reports a class action lawsuit has been filed in California against Apple Inc. by the lawyers of Cohelan Khoury & Singer on behalf of a number of iPhone 3G users on the grounds of "unsavory, dishonest and deceptive business practices". Why? Apple's latest iOS 4 was offered on the promise of a "significant advance and triumph" for iPhone 3G users who decided to upgrade to find out. But instead a number of users have discovered slow speed and regular crashing and freezing, making their iPhone 3G a "virtually useless 'iBrick'".

And there is no option from Apple to downgrade the iOS, effectively forcing users to purchase the iPhone 4 to get the appropriate processor speed to handle the new iOS4 features. Not even iOS4.1 update was considered a sufficient improvement if the class action argument is anything to go by other than a marginal hike in speed in some areas. Still certain iPhone 3G users appear to have been left high and dry and seriously disappointed with their experience of iOS 4. And with no other avenue these users can take, it seems the only option is to choose the legal route.

This might be a good time for Apple to provide at least the option for all iPhone 3G users to install iOS 3 on a phone that is clearly not suitable for iOS 4. But such a move right now might make it too obvious to the lawyers that Apple wasn't doing the right thing.

It will look like Apple will have to fight this one in the courts. Indeed the big problem for the lawyers will be how to explain other iPhone 3G users who are doing okay with iOS 4 even if the experience could be improved by purchasing an iPhone 4?

Does this seriously depend on the amount of inbuilt RAM memory in the iPhone 3G which would determine how well the phone behaves under the iOS 4 environment? Are the ones taking the legal action are those with limited RAM inside their iPhone 3G?

It may also depend on just how clear Apple has been in telling iPhone 3G users the exact hardware configuration needed to run iOS 4. Certainly Apple did make it clear some features in iOS 4 will not work on iPhone 3G. But should it be acceptable for the speed to slow down sufficiently and cause regular freezes and crashes? Maybe Apple wants iPhone 3G users to reduce the amount of Apps running on it to improve performance and reliability? Well, so long as Apple made this part clear, then that's fine. But if Apple was not clear, the company could be in trouble.

Maybe the company could save a lot of money simply by making it easy for users to downgrade the iOS. It would be a simple decision to avoid this kind of litigation in the courts.

And it seems this is exactly what Apple resellers are doing for their iPhone 3G users. As this user named invader75 remarked:

"If Apple are selling iPhones at a considerable cost then they should be fit for purpose. In the UK you are covered by trading standard laws, I know, as I contacted them after my iPhone turned into an iBrick. Apples answer? To give me a brand new iPhone 3G [with iOS 3]. This was 18 months after I had my original 3G incidentally. So they admitted there was a problem, but their only solution was to supply me with another 3G which would develop the same issues if I upgraded. I even received a personal call from the manager of our local Apple store apologising about the problems. Needless to say, I haven't installed the update and won't be." (Sensational lawsuit accuses Apple of turning iPhone 3G into "iBrick": AppleInsider.com. 4 November 2010.)

Google's Android OS overtakes Apple's iOS

Latest market analysis indicates the number of smartphones running Google Android has recently overtaken Apple's own iOS as of November 2010. There is now more people choosing Android over Apple's iOS. And with the latest Windows Mobile OS entering the smartphone market and with bigger screens and faster processors in the new phones, the choice of a smartphone has been placed squarely in the hands of consumers.

Number of apps available at this moment in time are 300,000 for the iPhone and 100,000 apps for Android/Windows Mobile phones.

In the next couple of years we will see people using smartphones as a means of paying for everything and never having to carry cash or a credit card ever again. Just swipe the phone over a scanner, type your PIN, and that is your payment completed.

This latest information has been televised on the Australian Channel 7 current affairs program Today Tonight, 19 November 2010.

19 November 2010

Apple Inc. has quickly released iOS 4.2 update. This one is suitable for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS/3G, as well as iPod Touch 2nd generation, iPod Touch 3rd generation (late 2009 models with 32GB or 64GB) and the iPad. Fortunately Apple has allowed users of OSX 10.5 "Leopard" (even the PPC users) to still use iTunes to update their portable devices with the latest iOS. But not OSX "Tiger" users or earlier.

The main improvements to be found in this update are to allow multitasking on an iPad while emphasising the benefit of an improved software technology to ensure the battery doesn't unnecessarily go flat or lose charge quickly; free MobileMe feature for locating your missing device and protext its data should you lose it (or gets stolen); wirelessly stream photos, movies and listen to music in high quality to any AirPlay-enabled speaker, AppleTV or other device; wirelessly print emails, photos, web pages and documents from your device to a printer; and organise applications inside folders to help declutter your Home screen.

It is possible Apple could be focussing more on a better user experience rather than trying to force users to upgrade their devices to something faster to handle the latest iOS through this update.

Google releases latest Nexus S smartphone with new Android Gingerbread software

Google has launched on 17 December 2010 the latest Nexus S smartphone. Combined with the much anticipated new Android OS believed will put a serious challenge to Apple's iOS4.2 and it is likely Apple will struggle to sell more iPhones in 2011 unless Mr Jobs can find a new killer feature. Google has already got all the goods to compete with the latest iPhone. And now it will go one step further by hinging its hopes on a new feature called NFC technology. In plain English, it means the ability for users to swipe wirelessly their smartphone over a new contactless reader supplied by Visa and Mastercard to help pay for any purchase you wish to make. When combined with some form of biometric password system and it should prove the most convenient way of doing shopping without carrying cash. And it will allow authorities to see precisely what users are purchasing on their credit cards and link this directly to the names of the users.

Now if only the Nexus S had a harder outer casing materials to reduce the number of scratches and this would have been a true killer smartphone for 2011. Perhaps an opportunity for Apple Inc. to introduce iPhone 5 with the new amorphous alloy casing for super hardness and a virtually scratch-resistant surface?

Cost to purchase Nexus S outright without restrictions or locked down to any phone carrier is US$529, and includes 512MB RAM, 1GHz CPU, a four-inch touchscreen, 16GB in-built flash memory storage, 5-megapixel camera and a VGA front-facing camera, gyroscope, a proximity sensor, a quad-band radio, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi b/g/n.

19 November 2010

Apple is feeling the heat from Google with the new Android smartphone. The company has decided to announce on the same day as Google's launch the official date for the App Store to open. The date is set for 7 January 2011. In addition, Mr Jobs has got an NFC technology expert to discuss ways of how to incorporate the feature into iPhone 5 (currently in development). But Apple will have to go the extra mile to get consumers to buy the iPhone.

Will 2011-12 be the time for genuine high-quality smartphones coming to the foray for consumers?

23 December 2010

Apple Inc. along with several commercial app makers arecurrently being sued by iPad and iPhone users for allegedly collecting personal information and sending it to advertisers without consent from the users. The breach in privacy could also extend to the latest OSX in the case where your personal information could be sent to software manufacturers without your consent. Filed in a federal court in California on 23 December 2010, the lawsuit claims:

"None of the defendants adequately informed plaintiffs of their practices, and none of the defendants obtained plaintiffs' consent to do so."

Apple did at one time , apparently in April 2010, follow the privacy laws by getting developers of apps for the iPhone and iPad to adhere to an Apple policy not to pass on personal information to a third-party except where it is needed for the functionality of the app (e.g. when a contacts database sends personal information because the user has explicit given approval to do so by presisng the appropriate buttons, or when there is a bug and the user permits personal information to be sent with the bug report to the developer). Now it is alleged Apple has changed its mind in order to appease advertisers and increase the potential revenue of developers' apps.

It will be interesting to see how this will develop. Will Apple be forced to make its iOS and OSX software more transparent and clear to users to ensure the company does adhere to strict privacy laws in the wake of this latest lawsuit.


This next update reveals some new features such as the ability to share your iPhone 4 cellular data with up to 5 devices via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and/or USB and so match the competitor's own same feature available for some time on Google's Android OS; more sharing of iTunes Home on your PC or Mac using the computers' own iTunes 10.2 or higher version; and watch videos and photos from the built-in camera to an Apple TV. Further improvements to the way iOS handles Javascript has resulted in faster web browsing.

For iPad users, the side switch can now double up as a volume mute and orientation lock switch.

iOS4.3 has been released 2 days earlier than expected to allow Apple to release the new iPad 2, to be released on 10 March 2011.


US Congress is expressing more than just a casual interest in the way information obtained from the location tracking system built inside various smartphones are stored, where they are sent, and how to disable the feature should a user choose to do so. Of particular concern in this inquiry is Apple's latest iPhone 4.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to the chief executives of top smartphone OS developers, including Apple, Inc., Google, Inc, Microsoft Corporation, Nokia Corporation, Research in Motion Ltd and Hewlett-Packardand following concerns expressed by some users of a possible mobile privacy breach. Indeed, a number of users have claimed a history of locations visited by the iPhone, iPad and iPod for Apple products have been stored by Apple, Inc. for some specific purpose and there is no option to disable it. Representatives from the various developers will testify at the hearing, scheduled 10 May 2011 to help determine if this is true, to what extent the information is being used and for what purpose, for how long the information is stored, and whether users should be given the choice to disable the feature and/or clear the location information at will.

If the tracking information is used by the developers (or there is a potential for other third-party members to access this information) without the knowledge of consumers, it may constitute a privacy breach under current US Communications laws.

Among the people expressing the concern and who are part of the Energy and Commerce Committee are the chairman Fred Upton who signed the letters, along with Republicans Greg Walden, Lee Terry, Mary Bono Mack and Marsha Blackburn.

Seems like a reasonable inquiry to embark on behalf of consumers, and makes the politicians look like they are doing something useful for society. A great move.

5 May 2011

Perhaps in response to the inquiry into iPhone security and privacy concerns, Apple Inc. has wisely decided to update iOS to version 4.3.3 with changes to how the cache (a place for storing bits and pieces of information about what you do etc) is stored. According to Apple Inc. the changes are described as:

"* Reduces the size of the cache

* No longer backs the cache up to iTunes

* Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off"

Any other changes we don't know about?

More security improvements would follow in iOS version 4.3.4 on 15 July 2011 when Apple explained what has changed: "Fixes security vulnerability associated with viewing malicious PDF files."

Does this mean Apple has come to an end in improving iOS and potentially OSX and is now focussing on security-related issues? Or was the company helped along by recent reports and court cases where it had to improve its security in the wake of consumer complaints and concerns?

So where to now?

Steve Jobs resigns from the Apple CEO position

24 August 2011

It has been expected but when was anyone's guess. Finally, Mr Steve Jobs has resigned from his position as CEO of Apple, Inc. Analysts speculate it is due to health reasons as the former long-standing leader has been battling cancer and recently had a liver transplant. Jobs will take on a less stressful role as principal consultant for the company as Tim Cook takes hold of the reigns as the new CEO.

Prototype for iPhone 5G, 4GS or 4S may have gone missing at a bar

CNET has learned from sources familiar with the investigation of lost property (presumably the San Francisco Police Department) that another Apple employee has accidentally left behind a prototype of the upcoming iPhone model at the Cava 22 bar sometime in July 2011. On this occasion it is alleged that whoever picked it up had decided not to sell or tell anyone about it. Very wise. But why keep it?

At any rate, despite someone trying to appropriate the property for his/her own use (considered illegal under California state law since 1862), Apple electronically traced the phone (using GPS technology) to a two-floor, single-family home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood. The owner looked a little perplexed at the sight of a couple of Apple representatives and four police officers as he was asked questions and was served a warrant to search his home. The phone (apparently switched off at the time) was never found. Apple employees tried to offer money to the owner for its return with no questions asked. He claimed not to know anything about it.

Police Chief Greg Suhr has confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle that his department had carried out the search.

To this day, it seems no one knows the whereabouts of the elusive prototype.

Expected release date for the new iPhone is presumably around October 2011 according to sources in the Taiwanese company responsible for building the iPhones. Apple will make a final decision on the official release date very soon.

There is also every indication the new phone will come with a faster microprocessor as found in the iPad 2.0 device. And perhaps something else to make the phone easier to find when lost.

iPhone 4S

Apple has announced on 4 October 2011 the iPhone 4S revealing something of the modest nature of the improvements included in this model. Apple hasn't gone overboard in releasing lots of new features and adding every conceivable latest technology the company could find into the iPhone 4S. For example, there is no 4G data networking capability which we know is about to get introduced for all new smartphones by December 2011. It seems Apple is happy to maintain reasonable sales. Considering 40 per cent of its US$345 billion market share value is due to sales of the iPhone and there is still enough interest from loyal Apple consumers to buy the latest Apple product, Apple has done just enough to keep itself competitive with other phone manufacturers.

For instance, Apple has upped the ante in the processing speed by incorporating the ARM-based Apple A5 dual-core processor as used in the iPad 2 (and so reducing unnecessarily high levels of heat emissions for a modest gain in processing speed, which is now about 800MHz using the new processor) in line with the latest Android and Kindle Fire tablets and smartphones now being released. This will be a welcome improvement from the hotter single-core processor of the iPhone 4 but probably not enough to entice users to upgrade straightaway as most functions they will use won't appear to be that much faster on the latest iPhone. There is a higher resolution screen, improved antenna design, and a voice-recognition assistant called Siri to allow you to speak into the phone and perform various tasks without using your hands. A welcome new feature likely to attract people who don't have the great hand dexterity needed to manipulate this device and get it to do their bidding.

A dual-core graphics processing chip is also introduced to help render images on the screen at a much faster rate (Apple claims a 7x increase in graphics capability), together with RAM graciously increased to 1GB compared to the 512MB for the iPhone 4.

Of considerable focus for Apple in this model (presumably to help consumers take better family photos for those special moments) has been the in-built camera. Apparently users can now admire themselves and anything else for that matter in all glorious details thanks to an improved 8-megapixel (3,264 x 2,448 pixels) camera with a faster 1.1 second start-to-shoot time and with face detection technology incorporated as well. Plus the camera can take better pictures in low light conditions due to a new backside illumination feature. Some commentators are claiming the camera is just as good as the Samsung Galaxy II, if not slightly better in some areas such as colour tonal range.

There is an option to plug the phone to a TV and mirror what's on the screen of the phone to the TV in excellent detail. Seriously, if you happen to have 1080p recordings of video and movies sitting on your iPhone 4S (incidentally, the phone does video record in 1080p including a video stabilisation option to keep things well-focused), these can be played back over the TV.

The latest Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology has been added hopefully with more reliable and quicker wireless connections to other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Battery times have allegedly improved to 8 hours of 3G talk time, or 10 hours of continuous of video watching, or 40 hours of continuous MP3 music listening.

And finally, the phone will probably be installed with the latest iOS 5. Any other improvements are likely to be felt within the new OS and hopefully will be bug-free.

No other changes in terms of its overall 'metal band' design and screen size. Despite the modest improvements, most existing users will welcome the extra speed, increase memory, and a better antenna design. Just on the antenna issue, it wouldn't be surprising to see a massive queue of previous iPhone users lining up at the front door of Apple stores just to get away from the old design. Anything to make the phone less of a hassle to use and more enjoyable in the long run will always go down well for the Apple loyal fans.

But will it be enough to grab non-iPhone users and stop them from considering a purchase of the latest Android smartphone? If the iPhone did come with the latest 4G data networking capability, the answer would have been a resounding "Yes". But without it (the phone remains a fairly reliable and switchable GSM and CDMA network device for all those friendly connections to worldwide phone carriers) and most users contemplating a new smartphone who have never tried an iPhone will continue to be tempted by the latest Android phones.

Still, no one can complain from the improvements.

The phone will be on sale in most countries from 12 October 2011. Price under contract will be between US$199 (16GB model) and US$399 (64GB model) depending on memory capacity. The unlocked version without a contract with any phone carrier starts at US$649 (16GB model) and goes up to US$849 (64GB model).

Interestingly, Gizmodo's revealing article on the actual cost for Apple to build an iPhone 4S through its Taiwanese company is allegedly between US$188 (16GB model) and US$245 (64GB model). Of course, this cost doesn't include R&D and testing although we hear the testing is done principally with the help of consumers such as yourself for a price that is virtually nothing to the company (also known as beta testers in the industry although by now the iPhone should be close to being the final and most reliable version we should come to expect from Apple at this stage). Whereas the R&D component involves mainly choosing a faster processor and improving various components such as the camera, the antenna design and refining iOS to make it more useful and easier to use for consumers.

Perhaps a little more R&D from Apple could one day see 4G technology incorporated into the next iPhone model and so minimise the likelihood of the model reaching its obsolescence age sooner than expected?

5 October 2011

Steve Jobs lived just long enough to see his masterpiece of the iPhone 4S finished. Just one day after CEO Tim Cook of Apple, Inc. revealed the new features and release date of the latest model, Steve would die after his long battle with cancer. We hope this model and every other model to come from Apple, Inc. will help us to remember the great man through the pleasure, ease of use, long-lasting and durable, and intuitive design consumers seek for the rest of their lives.

31 March 2012

Online Marketing Trends has broken down the actual iPhone Cost Structure as well as the real cost of manufacturing an iPhone as of 29 February 2012. According to this online article, it appears the cost to Apple is US$293 (we assume this is the latest 4S model). Several interesting graphs are presented for the reader. In the iPhone Cost Structure graph from Asymco obtained from various BOM estimates from iSupply and other sources, the software cost component for a top-of-the-range iPhone appears to be US$46 (Apple iTunes overhead, Apple accessories and services such as iCloud, and payments to developers); the hardware component is US$204 (battery, display, memory, camera, cellular component, sensors, wireless LAN, and mechanical aspects); putting together the hardware components by the manufacturer is US$15; packaging and sales is US$11 (the box for delivering the iPhone to consumers, and sales package); shipping is US$3; R&D aspects is around US$11; Selling, General & Administrative Expenses (SG&A) is $37; and various minor expenses such as including warranty, depreciation of capital equipment owned by Apple and IP licenses at around US$32. In total, the real cost of manufacturing an iPhone is US$293. It leaves Apple with US319 to pocket (and give to its shareholders) from each iPhone unit sold.

When we add good marketing techniques, a consistently good eye for compact and simple design that always seems to hit the mark with consumers, and a host of useful apps to bring greater multifunctional features and abilities, the cumulative sales graph from Asymco suggests the iPhone can outstrip the sales of iPad and iPod touch (although doing very well in their own right) and even the humble Mac computer (again doing very well and seems to be getting better over time as the product gets more solidly built and with fewer hardware faults to report). The original well-built Apple II computer before Apple became a shareholder company and marketing costs were kept low and with a high price tag was thrown in for good measure to show the product did sell, but rather slowly and at a very steady rate right up to the point where Apple decided to stop producing it, which was around 17 years after its official launch.

Its remarkable what a bit of extra marketing, good design, pressure from shareholders and other aspects can do to sell Apple products quickly and in phenomenal numbers.

Please note that all these figures have not been officially confirmed by Apple.

iOS 5

Everyone involved in the development of iOS 5 must have taken their recommended allowance of V-juice for a change. Because there has been a major overhaul in the way the push and pull notification system has been improved. Somewhat flaky in the past especially on the iPod Touch and iPad, it seems someone at Apple has managed to pull some kind of magic rabbit out of the hat to make this feature work virtually flawlessly and beautifully. Amazing. Well, the latest iOS 5 has to. With the release of iCloud, users need to see the value of the new technology with a good notification system where you are notified of new information and files being pushed to the server from your computer and anyone else's for that matter which have the same but better quality information (e.g. MP3 music). While visually it looks the same, the changes in iOS 5 are more "under-the-bonnet" and significant enough with the 200 or so new features to take many iPhone and iPad users by surprise. Well done!

Other innovations include iMessage to enable the transferring of text, photos, videos and other information to other iOS users absolutely free. A nice addition considering people are paying enough for their monthly phone fees let alone new third-party apps. Anything extra from Apple which is both useful and free is always welcomed.

Another addition is the to-do-list combined with the Reminder.app to let you know what needs to be done. Just tick off the items you've completed at the press of a finger. But the nice touch if you are happy for big brother to see where you are anywhere on the planet 24/7 is to let the location feature track your iPhone's whereabouts (i.e. yourself) and if you happen to be in a location where you need to complete a task, you will be reminded with a message to perform the task.

Another improvement is a feature to de-clutter the screen of all the newspapers and magazines reading site apps you launch and visit to get the latest news and have them stored in a single location called Newsstand. Each site will now be treated as like an eBook.

New camera controls allow the volume control to adjust the shutter. And taking pictures is much quicker than ever before.

The only criticism with iOS 5, if you can call it that, can be observed by technology analyst Shane Richmond when he said:

" Apple's iOS designs show an increasing trend towards skeuomorphic design, that is to say they add design elements that are non-functional but hark back to analogue objects. Usually this is done to make apps feel comfortably familiar but it shows a weakness for ornamentation that is absent from the way Apple designs its devices.

The worst examples are in elements such as the 'stitching' in the centre of the pages in the iPad Contacts app and the fake pages in iBooks. This can be seen in the iOS 5 Twitter integration too: tweet a link to someone and it will be attached to your tweet with a 'paperclip'. Why that's necessary is anybody's guess. It's a subjective thing but, for me, it's cheesy and pointless." (Richmond, Shane. Apple iOS 5 Review: The Telegraph. 12 October 2011.)

Otherwise it will be interesting to see the reaction of consumers should they decide to buy the latest iPhone 4S and run iOS 5 at the same time. Will it be enough to get the iPhone back into a leading position with respect to the Android market?

iOS 5 — a real power drainer

News from iPhone users running iOS5 has been generally positive with the only three main issue to note: (i) the high power usage; (ii) voice recognition a problem for Australian users (was originally designed to work well for American users); and (iii) numerous bugs in the newly-introduced Documents in the Cloud app.

Battery life had been given the biggest criticism due to the high power usage. Perhaps iOS5 is trying to overcome call drop outs due to poor signal output? Might explain Ina Fried's explanation of the cause for the problem when she said:

"The problems appear to vary based on what network a user is on, usage patterns and other factors."

It is a statement that suggests it could be anything. In other words, it may suggest if you live in the country the phone may naturally boost signal strength compared to city users. Unfortunately such an explanation will not work for some city users who have the same problem. So various other factors are conveniently thrown in to mask the real problem such as how often the user makes calls.

In the end, no one really knows except Apple.

As one user named RakeshPDX reported in the Apple Discussion Forum:

"Did somebody notice a major power drain issue after iOS5 upgrade on iPhone4? Last night at midnight, it was ~90% charged. In the morning, it was 37% charged. By noon, it was dead. I didn't make even 1 call during this time. Connected to Wi-Fi at home and strong 3G signal. Bluetooth is off, location services are off, all that stuff. The same phone's battery would last for 40 hours with my normal usage with IOS 4.3.5. Anybody knows if any specific feature of iOS5 is causing this battery drain?"

And it doesn't matter which iPhone it is that gets the iOS5 update treatment:

"Upgraded my 3GS to IOS5 on Wed and now it runs out of battery after about 6 hours with no use, 4 hours or less with occassional email use. Had to recharge it 3 times yesterday, and after 4 hours today. That doesn't work for me since I'm on the road a lot. Not only that, PDF attachments, even small ones, take a while to load and are then blurry for a long time while it slowly sharpens the focus and sometimes it doesn't ever get sharp. Multi-page PDFs are now **** to try to read. This is with 5 bars of 3G coverage. Never had these issues until this upgrade."

Maybe the real problem is that while the phone remains on standby, iOS5 is still trying to constantly call back to some server and this is where the power drain is coming from? Could Apple be constantly trying to gather diagnostic data from users to see how people use the phone? Question is, "What other data is being gathered?"

At any rate, Apple has acknowledged to AllThingsD the problem stating:

"A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices. We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks."

Fortunately, the iOS5.0.1 (build 9a402) update has become available addressing all the main specific issues. Among the other fixes mentioned, Apple claims the improvements include:

  • Fixes bugs affecting battery life
  • Adds multitasking gestures for original iPad
  • Resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud
  • Improves voice recognition for Australian users using dictation

Latest iOS 5 jailbreak solution

For latest iPhone and iPad jailbreak solution, visit here.

And if you wish to jailbreak the AppleTV, visit here.

Latest iOS 5 jailbreak solution

We may sound like a broken record player, but it continually amazes us to see the tenacity of some developers in providing a jailbreak solution for the iPhone. The latest is a software tool called Absinthe 2.0.4. This one will, with incredible ease, create an untethered jailbreak iphone running iOS 5.1.1. A couple of things to remember though is that this tool will only work if you have updated your iPhone to iOS 5.1.1 through iTunes. Otherwise, backup your data, and do a clean "full" restore through iTunes. And don't try this tool on other iOS versions — only iOS 5.1.1 will work at the present time.

Supported devices running iOS 5.1.1:

  • iPad3 (WiFi/CDMA/Global)
  • iPad2 (WiFi/CDMA/GSM)
  • iPad1
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 4 (GSM), iPhone 4 (CDMA)
  • iPhone 3GS
  • iPod 4G
  • iPod 3G

Unsupported devices:

  • iPad2 WiFi R2 (new model)
  • AppleTV 2
  • AppleTV 3

Is Apple feeling the pinch from Google, Inc.'s Android market, and others?

In an attempt to stay ahead of the jailbreaking movement and the increasing popularity of Android smartphones and their free-to-access apps for the mass-market, Apple has decided to focus its attention on the benefits of the new iOS6.0 that has just been released.

In an official WWDC and keynote presentation on 12 June 2012 of the latest changes, it is clear Apple is doing more than just get ahead of the competition. In a bold move that has left some observers questioning whether it is the right move given the control Google has on certain popular services, Apple is going to drop Google Maps.app (installed on default for all iPhone/iPads in iOS5.x and earlier) in favour of Apple's own version with enhanced features that for some reason Google has decided not to make available on the iPhone/iPad, but only for Android users. Perhaps it is just a time delay to get the new features into the Apple app version? However, Apple doesn't quite see it that way. Realising Google is flexing its muscle by deciding when new features will appear on the iPhone/iPad, Apple has decided to go at it alone.

Among the new mapping service features currently available for Android users, these refer primarily to the ability of showing three-dimensional images of cities in a type of "flyover" effect for those curious to see how the cities or towns look (nice, but is it necessary?), as well as a more useful feature that allows real-time updates of traffic conditions on the roads as well as a turn-by-turn navigation system. It is particularly in the last feature that has got Apple feeling a little sidelined because Google chose not to (or have not yet implemented) the new feature on the iPhone/iPad.

It is unclear whether Google is trying to quietly gain more ground on Apple through the delay. Google hasn't said anything about it. Apple is giving the impression it might be the case. Or else both companies are playing a very good game with consumers. Certainly any attempt to drop Google Map.app in favour of Apple's own app is a risky move since Google controls the data behind its mapping service. But, then again, if Google was to specifically drop the mapping service in its entirety for all Apple users, it would signal anti-competitive behaviour and this could result in some form of legal action, especially while other users can access the service for free. It is unlikely Google will do anything along these lines.

Or could it be that Google wanted Apple to go at it alone? Google may have decided it was too costly and time-consuming to maintain two separate apps (one for iPhones/iPads and another for the Android market) just to satisfy two different devices because Apple wants to be "different" and have greater control? The closed nature of Apple's own devices and iOS and the choice of a different processor (using the A5 type) to force other people to create a separate set of apps to run specifically on iPhones/iPads (let alone another for the PC smartphone market) could be a little too much.

We can only speculate on what really happened.

Beyond that, Apple had to improve the voice-activated software called Siri and to make it more useful in many more applications, including the new Apple Map.app; and Apple has seen the need to improve the address-bar search on its Safari browser (probably after seeing how much better the Android version of searching is).

Expect more competition to take place in the smartphone market as Google gives Apple a good run for its money.

This is probably all that was needed to get Apple to produce better-quality products - more competition. It just had to take a big company like Google to get Apple off its backside and start properly competing as it should.

Other non-surprising announcements made by Apple include the usual improvements to the laptop line-up of MacBook Pros and the MacBook Air. These improvements are mainly to keep up with latest technologies in terms of new processors, the extra capacity of new hard drives and flash memory drives, and other components, with special emphasis this time around on reducing the price slightly to compete better in the PC market, and to be a little more sensitive to the economic difficulties many U.S. consumers are experiencing. It may also signal a potentially new approach from Apple to selling electronic goods in the future for which more and more people are slowly learning just how much they actually cost. Furthermore, as Microsoft prepares for the release of Windows 8 in conjunction with the release of Apple's OSX "Mountain Lion" later this year, there is going to be very little differentiation in the OS features and general looks, not to mention the things people can do with apps on the Apple iPhone and Google Android markets. At the end of the day, the only differentiating factor left will be the price. It is likely in these tough economic times for most people to chose the product that is cheaper rather than stay with a fancy Apple logo-branded machine.

iOS 6.0

Released on 19 September 2012, a number of improvements in iOS 6.0 should sway most iPhone users to this update. The biggest loss is probably the Google Maps.app. In fact, many users are finding the Apple replacement of Google Maps (known not surprisingly as Apple Map.app) to be a bit of a disappointment. For example, one user said:

"I have marked so many locations in off-the-beaten-track places, that without Google Maps on my iPad I could not find these places again.

I can't use IOS6, if it contains no Google Maps.

Of course Apple is adamant in developing its own maps (that at the time of this writing apparently can't even find the airport in Tokyo, according to the Wall Street Journal), and Google do not make an IOS-map-app for fear that if they did, it would be rejected by Apple." (MacUpdate.com. 21 September 2012.)

Not even the update to iOS 6.0.1 released on 1 November 2012 has improved this app.

If you are thinking of getting an iPhone, wait for a while. Because then Apple will have released the latest iPhone 6 running the latest iOS. Then you can see what you are getting for your money.

Is it all worth it? The general impression is that the iPhone is a considerable improvement. But then again, there is already the Samsung Galaxy III which does everything the iPhone can do and more. And it just happens to have Google Map.app on it too, just to rub it in a little more. Better left to consumers to decide what's best for them.

iiOS 6.1

Released on 28 January 2013, iOS6.1 update addresses the following:

  1. LTE support for more carriers.
  2. Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only).
  3. iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud
  4. New button to reset the Advertising Identifier.

These changes should make life a little easier for people who use these services regularly.

Other changes may exist at the lower level of the OS, but it isn't absolutely clear. The update is directed primarily to those who have an iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, although all mobile devices should gain some benefit from this update.

However, as of 11 February 2013, reports have come in from users of at least two problems,

One problem concerns a dramatic increase in the battery drain in running the device and its iOS, with some users reporting overheating issues. TheNextWeb gives a possible explanation for this:

"One possible theory links this problem with Apple Mail and Microsoft Exchange. As pointed out by Michel de Rooij (as well as Windows IT Pro, Paul Robichaux, and SharePoint Pro) it appears iOS 6.1 is throwing up malformed meetings, causing devices to get into a sync loop which in turn causes excessive transaction log growth on Exchange mailbox servers. This then leads to Exchange performance issues and transaction log drives can potentially run out of disk space."

In essence, a software bug has crept into iOS 6.1.

There was also another problem: this time for iPhone 4S users. Vodafone in Europe has warned:

"...some customers may occasionally experience difficulty in connecting to the network to make or receive calls or texts or to connect to the Internet [after updating to iOS 6.1]"

The phone carrier was recommended users do not update to iOS 6.1 at the present time.

iOS 6.1.1

An amazing sense of urgency must have reached the people at Apple, Inc. Less than 2 weeks after the last update, this latest update of Monday 11 February 2013 suggests Apple has found something serious in iOS 6.1 and had to be fixed. According to Apple's release notes, iOS6.1.1 provides mostly a security update, and fixes a cellular performance and reliability issue on the iPhone 4S. Nothing else is mentioned.

A good update for iPhone 4S users, and anyone who is scared of security vulnerabilities on their devices. However, it seems the update fixes other problems too, such as improving the battery life. Perhaps we have entered a new era where companies are now realising they need to make people think this is just another and relatively minor security update? A security update could now mean tweaking the user interface, making certain new features work properly (again!), fixing up programming mistakes in the last update, and/or stopping users from jailbreaking their devices, In fact, security updates could also involve changing a few settings to help give Apple more access to your personal information stored on your devices. Just call everything a "security update", and everyone will think we need to update immediately for our security and no one will really know exactly what has been changed until they try the updated iOS.

A good way of hiding all manner of dubious new features and, of course, embarrassing programming mistakes.

It is either that or Apple has a way of understating the importance of this update despite how obvious the problems needing addressing had been.

iOS 6.1.3

Another famous supposedly minor update. This one fixes the following issues:

  • Fixes a bug that could allow someone to bypass the passcode and access the Phone app.
  • Improvements to Maps in Japan.

The first fix came relatively quickly after reports were published in newspapers of a hacking method to bypass the passcode. One such article can be found at The Telegraph (UK). As Matt Warman, the technology reporter for the newspaper, stated:

"Millions of iPhone users have added a four-digit security pin code to prevent unauthorised users from accessing their phone, but a new loophole in the latest software now means that anyone can bypass it. With a dozen simple steps, the iPhone's email, contacts, text messages, voice mail and even video calling can be accessed in version 6.1 of Apple's iOS software.

Techcrunch, a gadget blog, called the exploit "a massive backdoor to some of the iPhone's core functions".

Posted on YouTube by a blogger identifying themselves only as VideosdeBarraquito, the Apple hack has been viewed by nearly 4,000 people, and replicates a similar flaw with earlier software, iOS 4.1."

Is it really that simple? Apparently so according to Barraquito. He said:

"This works in any iPhone model with iOS 6 or higher, for now. I've tried it with all iPhone models, and always the same result."

The alleged steps involved is essentially the following:

  1. Press emergency call
  2. Dial 112 call and hang up.
  3. Lockphone and unlock it.
  4. Hold lock button for 3.5 sec and press emergency.
  5. When contact appear take a screen shot.

Quite remarkable if this is true. For if this exploit has been there across many different iPhone models (going back quite a few years), it might be a good idea for Apple to start paying a few of these hackers to find other exploits instead of waiting for one to come up, or hoping no one will find security bugs in iOS (by which time plenty of hackers and people in the CIA and other places are already enjoying the exploits and doing whatever they like).

Apart from those two fixes, the only thing Apple doesn't tell you it has changed in this update is to allegedly stop jailbreaking solutions from being applied to your iPhone/iPad according to this MacUpdate user named Prypjat:

"Note that iOS 6.1.3 breaks any jailbreaks you have installed. Don't upgrade if you rely on one."

Let's see how long it will take before the jailbreak developers come up with a solution. Already Barraquito is claiming a new exploit exists. As he stated on his YouTube web page:

"iOS 6.1.3 has a new security flaw, but can be avoided easily. New video coming soon."

The security of iOS is not looking good.

iOS 7 and iPhone 5s — the killer consumer combination?

iOS 7 released on 18 September 2013 for mobile Apple devices takes advantage of the new 64-bit A7 microprocessor now incorporated into the iPhone 5s. In fact, Apple has touted the latest offering of the iPhone 5s as the first mobile phone to sport a 64-bit processor (the major point of difference over the Android phones, but we all know it won't last long). Thus it seems speed is the primary motivation for developing this upgrade with native 64-bit libraries, drivers and system kernel, together with a little judicious reorganising of the interface for quicker access to your favourite apps.

In terms of the user interface, the graphics are less 3D-like but still has some gradient fills to make the 2D icons look attractive. The 2D approach is mainly to make it easier and quicker to identify the app you wish to run. Basically simplifies the brain's processing of images in order to quickly recognise the images. The only complaints so far in this interface choice from the company from users is mainly the limited contrast between grey icons against a grey background. For example, Pennyhead of MacUpdate said:

"...some of the icons could use a little work; the grey on grey icons in the phone app for example."

The changes done to iOS 7, although relatively familiar to existing iOS users, are sufficiently great enough to the point where one could claim a new product. Certainly the focus on speeding up general access to apps and a faster processor will certainly give this impression. The changes to the interface would just add to this impression. As Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, said:

"iOS 7 is completely redesigned with an entirely new user interface and over 200 new features, so it's like getting a brand new device, but one that will still be instantly familiar to our users."

The 200 new features mentioned by Apple are mainly found in Control Center, Notification Center, improved Multitasking, AirDrop, enhanced Photos, Safari, Siri, Camera App (mainly to speed up auto-focus and give better dynamic range in the colours and contrast of your pictures), and the introduction of the new iTunes Radio — a free Internet radio service that knows the music you like from the music you have in iTunes. Also making a debut is a new fingerprint security technology and corresponding app to manage this personal biometric data which enables the owner to access the iPhone by pressing his/her finger on the screen. Apple claims the fingerprint data is not stored outside the iPhone, but kept in memory of the device (and it won't matter if power is lost, it will remain secure).

Another security feature is the requirement that the person carrying the iPhone can no longer erase data or re-activate the device after it has been remotely erased until he/she enters the Apple ID and password of the original owner. This is necessary to ensure the Find My iPhone app can actually find the iPhone should the owner lose the device and need to track down its location. Clearly, erasing the data and re-activating tends to make things difficult for the app in achieving this goal. So technically it is a major improvement.

However, Apple seems to have stopped short of providing a security button to allow users to clear personal data from the iPhone (requires users to purchase a third-party app to achieve this). This is something users have noticed while using iOS 7 and an iPhone as the free storage space quickly gets used up. it suggests Apple somehow needs this information to be kept for long enough to allow data to be pushed to their Apple servers when users decide to sync their iPhone with a computer. AsPennyhead of MacUpdate said:

"One thing that would make iOS allot better is a purge function for the "Other" data which seems to keep growing. Then I wouldn't have to keep restoring my devices."

At any rate, when combined with the iPhone 5s, what you get should be a fairly attractive product and should provide some competition with Android phones. Only question is, for how long? With Google and alternative phone manufacturers hot on the heel of Apple, the difference may well disappear to nothing by Christmas 2013. For Apple, it probably doesn't matter. The crucial thing is that the latest iPhone with iOS 7 sells really well, which is all the stakeholders of the company are looking for. Given the improvements made and when combined with iPhone 5s, it probably will.

iOS 7 should work with iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini and the fifth generation of iPod Touch (i.e., iOS 7 still holds onto legacy 32-bit applications until iOS 8 is released).

As for iPhone 5s, a new 8 megapixel camera is added, as well as the 64-bit microprocessor. To keep things cool during processing, a separate M7 motion co-processor handles all the continuous data gathering and analysis of the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass, and developers of new apps can take advantage of new APIs that control and measure this data from the M7 chip. So expect some new games coming soon. And there is also the Touch ID system for gathering fingerprint data when touching the screen with a finger (another useful feature for Apple and law enforcement agencies, as well as the users). Expect new security apps in the future to make use of this such as identifying persons who have picked up your iPhone without your authorization (so you know who has been snooping around), as well as helping software manufacturers to identify users who may not be using legitimate software.

Physically speaking, no major reduction in size — the device has the same dimension as the iPhone 5. What you do get, however, is a faster iPhone, much faster when combined with iOS 7. If you are just a light user of the device making occasional calls, listening to music, and take the few photos here and there, you are better off staying where you are. However, for power users and anyone who needs the extra speed, the iPhone 5s is likely to be popular.

Price for the iPhone 5s will not change from its predecessor. So if this model is still too expensive and worried about the potentially short battery life per charge, Apple has introduced a no-thrills version known as iPhone 5c. You still get a good 4-inch Retina display and the latest 8-megapixel camera, except the use of an A6 microprocessor and fewer in-built features will allow for a longer battery life. iOS 7 is included, and comes with 13 LTE wireless bands touted by Apple as more flexible and greater than any other smartphones (apart from iPhone 5s). The entire steel frame for holding the components acts as an antenna, but the polycarbonate casing ensures reception is not lost when you hold the phone. Probably will be useful to school kids, mums and the person with light uses for the phone even though the price is not quite that much cheaper than the big brother version.

Reviews of iOS7.0.1 are generally positive although a number of users have commented that it is a fairly radical change to what people are use to (probably referring to the new icons, simpler interface of some apps, and how things are organized by Apple). If you have never used an iPhone before, you will probably get used to it (give it a few weeks and you'll be fine). Also questions are being raised about battery life on older iPhone models (including the iPhone 5) after upgrading to the latest iOS. And someone mentioned FaceTime is in need of bug fixes to stop it from crashing when being used while sending a call. As with all such changes, one should always wait until a major update is released before jumping on the technology bandwagon.

One MacUpdate user, Jokyo, commented:

"You are not missing much in ios7. I had it for 2 days and luckily reverted to IOS6 which is far more user friendly. Oh, and how I wish I was still using iTunes 10.7, which was really the ultimate iTunes. Dare one hint that Apple are losing the plot?"

And another, 22duke, said:

"A couple of nice improvements however overall I think in regards to usability the design is a step backwards, no clear differentiation any more, everything is white and plain especially in apps like contact and calendar "

Another issue to get up the nose of some users is the requirement that you must update to iTunes 11 in order to get iOS 7 for your iPhone. Talk of a bloated iTunes software with features being lost or not performing as most people have come to enjoy and find most useful in previous versions (especially version 10.7) suggest some users are not making the move to iOS 7 because of this silly restriction. Other users have recommended downloading iOS 7 directly rather than through iTunes as the solution.

Despite such comments and certain irritations to users, it seems the sales of iPhones has never been better. This was probably because iPhone 5S is such a better phone in terms of performance that many existing iPhone users are just going straight for the latest. But with the phone comes iOS 7. And it is here that people are claiming not a lot has changed and the interface in some apps is fairly basic compared which is unusual for what users expect from Apple. Then again, if it works, who cares right?.

27 September 2013

A very quick update bringing iOS to version 7.0.2. Apple has discovered a way to bypass the Lock screen passcode. Fixes in this update should solve the problem. Expect a major update to come, probably before Christmas.

31 January 2014

We have reached iOS 7.0.5. Changes are quick to make it harder for developers with software to jailbreak the iPhone. Each successive change seems to address mostly minor issues of uaeability and interface issues. Certainly no substantial improvements.

February 2014

EvasiOn 7 is available to jailbreak iPhone and iPads running iOS 7. This is a completely untethered solution. One can imagine Apple isn't happy. A new update is probably in order.

10 March 2014

Apple released iOS7.1 probably to address the jailbreaking solution. In the meantime, the update focuses on fixing the crash bug with the Home screen, better performance for iPhone 4 users, and an improved Touch ID fingerprint recognition technology to increase accuracy and speed.

In terms of new features, Apple has introduced CarPlay to permit the iPhone to connect to the latest media center units of cars built from 2014 onwards so that drivers can communicate via voice or other means to the iPhone to do things like handling phone calls, play music files, get directions, or access the address book etc. A useful addition for some users. And to stop the voice recognition system known as Siri from listening all the time and doing things without your awareness or intention, Apple now provides a manually option. This time you can press and hold down the Home button and speak to your iPhone and it will respond. Let go of the button and Siri will stop listening.

Refinements to the iOS7 interface, including a cleaner and easier look at Calendar events in the new Month view.

And iPhone 5s cn now enable HDR automatically in order to get the camera to take better pictures.

Overall, a better and more useful update from Apple for all iPhone and iPad users.

iOS 8

Released on 17 September 2014 while giving Apple plenty of time before Christmas to iron out the latest bugs, iOS8 is the result of what appears to be more careful checking of functions and how they work (especially those aspects of the software that people commonly use, such as the pop-up keyboard and Mail.app) as well as spending extra time looking at all the bugs and interface oddities people have mentioned in iOS7 and finally addressing just about every one of them. Plus there are a few new features thrown in, and of the more useful variety too. Apple has (finally) done its homework. iOS7 may have been aimed at showcasing a new look, but iOS8 actually delivers on the features and functions that people are looking for to make life easier and saves them time.

For example, if you were annoyed by the incredibly tiny X button on the Retina screens of iPhones and iPads just to close a simple tab on a web browser window because it is hard to get the tip of your finger to hit the button properly, iOS8 has finally come up with a new gesture to let you close a window more easily.

Another welcome improvement is the predictive text keyboard technology. Designed to save you time, the new technology will now suggest words it thinks you are trying to type and you can accept the preferred word or you can keep on typing away. Of course, you might be thinking, "Hmm? Now where have I seen this before?" Well, you have probably seen the technology applied on older mobile phones, it is just that Apple has finally caught on and made it available on its iPhone. So not exactly new technology, but at least it is something to make life easier.

While on the subject of saving time, iOS8 also introduces the ability to add your voice/audio messages directly to email messages without ever needing to type a single line of text. It is basically an attachment of an audio file containing your voice message and iOS8 can interpret the file at the recipient's end with his/her own iPhone and the message will be played back. It means message banks and answering machines used by telecommunication companies and domestic households and its associated extra costs are now a thing of the past. Or if you are one of those people who prefer to see text written down but don't want to type it, the improved Speech-to-Text feature will be a welcome addition.

Another time-saving feature is to permit a single click on the top-of-screen notification banner when you have a new message, read the message, and reply to it without ever leaving the current app you are using.

New swipe gestures have been added to make sorting of email messages quick and painless (a rarity these days we hear). No more clicking a button to tell the app whether a message has been read or should be deleted or moved to another folder. Depending on how you swipe your finger across the screen, you will perform the same common functions in a way that is quicker once you get the hang of it.

Family sharing of photos, music and videos are now easier and accessible in a wireless manner between iPhones. There is even a variety of HealthKit APIs and associated app added to help you monitor your own or other people's health with different pieces of equipment supplied by your doctors and have the data organised and presented by the Health Kit app inside your iPhone in real time and delivered over the network so that medical professionals can grab this information and make their own assessments. A good decision.

And when you are ready to unwind and play a game or two, you might be pleasantly surprised by the extra performance of your iPhone (you will probably need iPhone 6 to get the most benefit) thanks to Apple's new next generation graphics API designed to handle the graphic requirements of iOS as well as games apps and videos you wih to play, with greater efficiency and with extra speed when a dedicated Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) chip is added to the iPhone. Current iPhones definitely have separate GPUs to handle the graphics aspects so as to free up the main CPU to perform other tasks. So you should already see vastly improved performance under iOS8 without sacrificing battery life or overheating the phone from playing too many of those 3D games.

On the bug front, there are not too many of these little digital critters to be seen (at least not those that are glaringly obvious). If one could quibble over any specific app in this regard, it would probably be the latest Mail.app. This is the one that has been singled out as possibly needing a little more attention from Apple to fix as users have observed it crashing a few times. Expect iOS8.1 to address this issue very soon.

Remarkably iOS8 will run on an iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and the fifth generation iPod Touch, but do expect it to slow the performance of these older models just a tad. On more modern iPhones with separate GPU and CPU processors, things should be more snappier and efficient to use. How it affects battery life, especially on older iPhones, is an area yet to be tested.

Overall the improvements are heading in the right direction, and as soon as Mail.app is made more stable (why Apple has not noticed this and fixed it is anyone's guess), it should be the best iOS ever. For users deciding whether this is the time to buy an iPhone or an Android, the choice has been made more difficult with the availability of iOS8. Andoids with their bigger screens and relatively easy OS to use may favour one group of users, but iOS8 on the latest and faster iPhones and now bigger screens will make the competition much more intense between the smart phone manufacturers.

Now the only thing left to wait for is Apple to allow more customisations and changes to be made by users. This is the only thing restricting iOS8 compared to Androids. When will this policy ever change? No one knows yet.

18 September 2014

It did not take long for the critics to cry foul over this latest venture into iOS8 territory from Apple. The biggest deal breaker in this latest update happens to be the size of the update itself. Those users with 32GB or less (really bad if you only have 16GB) have discovered the hefty amount of space needed to install iOS8. Just for the installer it is 5GB. Once you have installed it, it becomes at least 5.7GB. Compared this to iOS7 which was only 1.8GB. Why the whopping size for iOS8? For those users with plenty of their own personal files filling up the flash memory space of their beloved portable Apple device, this is a major problem for them. Either they will have to delete their personal files such as photos, music and videos, or do as Sam Murphy Kelly has suggested, which is to pay more for an iPad or iPhone with 64GB or greater. As Sam said:

"If anything, the 5.7 GB requirement to update to iOS 8 is a friendly reminder from Apple that you may need to splurge for the 64GB next time."

And guess what? No options to upgrade the memory in iPads and iPhones (it is all soldered down permanently on the logic board). Tough luck. And just to make it harder, Apple will not allow an easy option to downgrade to iOS 7. Unless there is an obscure utility that can hack at Apple's own servers to see the iOS firmware download option, Apple clearly does not want anyone to downgrade their iOS.

It will make some people wonder how many more Apple products will end up in landfill as a result of this silly upgrade?

Before installing iOS8, check to see how much memory you have on your iPad or iPhone. If you have plenty, go for it. But if things are looking a bit precious memorywise, start cleaning up and organising your personal files. Once you are finished, back-up the files to your computer using iTunes. Now check to see if you have enough memory. If you still don't have enough, you are in serious trouble. Time to upgrade your iPad or iPhone.

Oh the joys of upgrading your technology.

NOTE: For users of iOS5 or later, Apple automatically backs up your personal files to its iCloud server. Check Settings - iCloud - Backup & Storage to control this aspect.

25 September 2014

A plethora of bugs have emerged in the latest iOS forcing Apple to quickly release iOS8.0.1. Previously the HealthKit apps were delayed due to a bug, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Another bug was found to stop some apps from accessing the photo library. Then we have another bug to stop ringtones from being restored following iCloud backups. There are also issues relating to Apple's Reachability feature. For older devices such as the iPhone 4S and iPad2, a significant slow down in speed was noticed (it is much better on iPhone 5 models) as well as a serious battery drain from running the Messages.app. And we could go on, and on, and... Well, you get the picture. So consumers could be forgiven into thinking most of these bugs were fixed with this iOS 8.0.1 update. Only one problem: users kept on noticing new bugs. And these latest bugs were serious. In fact, Apple had to pull the iOS8.0.1 update from its servers within minutes of its release after users reported problems affecting the most fundamental aspects when using an iPhone—the inability to access data services, and the Touch ID does not work on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple is working hard to release the next update to fix these issues (are there any more to report?). As an Apple spokesperson said:

"We apologise for the great inconvenience experienced by users, and are working around the clock to prepare iOS 8.0.2 with a fix for the issue."

However, this might be the least of Apple's worries, as reports have already come in of the poor choice of a metal casing for the iPhone 6 Plus (see below for further details).

26 September 2014

Good move from Apple. It has quickly supplied an iOS8.0.2 update. It may be more than 16GB of download later (the previous two downloads were for iOS 8.0 and iOS 8.0.1), but at last the really bad bugs are quashed, and some speed improvements have been made for really old iPhone 4S and iPad 2 users. Now, are there any more bugs to be found? We can only hope not, especially for Apple's sakes considering its share price has dropped by at least 4 per cent as a result of this latest fiascoe (and especially the iPhone 6 Plus metal casing stuff-up). Why is the company still making these mistakes? Or does the CEO think it can still get away with these mistakes in the same way Steve Jobs could in the past? One could almost argue that John Cleese of Faulty Towers could make better decisions if he ran Apple as the head CEO.

Apple has got to stop tinkering with its software and just get it right before it is ever released to the public. And provide enough flexibility for users to add what they want to iOS to make it more useful. Apple is just simply doing too much and not getting the fundamentals right and stable enough for everyday use.

21 October 2014

No surprises to hear Apple has released iOS 8.1. A necessary update for everyone who just could not wait to get on iOS 8 before all the bugs were quashed. Fixes a whole swathe of bugs within Messages, Safari, accessibility features and general quirks that somehow seeped into iOS 8 (e.g., screen rotation may stop working etc). Furthermore, Apple has even managed to improve the performance of iOS 8 running on older mobile devices such as an iPad 2. A truly remarkable feat. However, for really old Apple devices or if you need every ounce of speed you can get, turn off all forms of animation in the iOS 8 system preferences. Of course, not all the bugs are fixed, but can one expect a properly tested and bug-free software from a company that seems more interested in providing a rough "prototype" iOS with the public acting as beta testers until iOS 8 is stable and functional enough for Apple to work on the next additions for iOS 9 that it wants to see while making people think they are getting features they want (only if it means getting people to use the latest software and only just enough to make people think it is a substantial improvement from the previous version)? Obviously not. Please note that more bugs still exist even after applying this update, including sudden slow downs in the downloading and displaying of images from Facebook when other non-iOS machines work fine, and those who may have problems sending emails (or receiving them if they are slightly on the large size in terms of certain attachments) may continue to experience this issue after this update. And, of course, a number of your favourite apps will almost certainly not work properly until they are updated for compatibility by their developers. So you will have to wait for Apple or third-party developers to have all this sorted (and be prepared to open up your wallet again for some who might decide to offer the fixes and a few improvements as an upgrade).

21 October 2014

Further bugs were quashed with iOS 8.1.1 since the end of October 2014. However, a major update is still needed with plenty of users who have trouble running their Safari browser, sending emails, getting notifications to work properly and access specific apps through it, and other issues (but strangely does not affect all users).

10 December 2014

Apple has managed to find time to do a minor improvement to the notifications bugs and made the virtual keyboard appear in more apps including Safari, Maps and third-party stuff, and somehow worked overtime to get the Singapore English added too for those users desperate to receive this feature (probably a lot of people). To show how much effort has been made to get things fixed, Apple has called this update iOS8.1.2. It would be very interesting to see how long it takes to get iOS 8.2 or even 8.5 out with all the bugs fixed. Here is the official bug fix for this update:

* Fixes for keyboards that may not appear in Safari, Maps, or other third-party apps in iOS simulator and it offers Siri support for Singapore English.

* Repairing a bug that caused notifications to fail to open an app.

Fixed an issue that caused WatchKit apps to stop working in iOS 8 simulator

31 December 2014

Why are we not surprised? Apple has done another superb job of attracting a legal class action. This time iOS users of 16GB iPads and iPhones are up in arms over the latest revelation that iOS 8 is a memory guzzler. They claim, according to Paul Orshn and Christopher Endara who filed a complaint in a California court on Tuesday 30 December 2014, iOS 8 is storing all kinds of additional information (probably personal stuff as well as a history of what users do on their Apple devices — all in readiness to send to Apple's own servers) during use. This causes the flash memory of the device to quickly fill up with junk (well, that is the interpretation according to the users, although Apple might argue otherwise). For those users with 16GB devices (Apple still offers this limited memory size for the latest iPad and iPhone models without thinking or realising the situation for users, yet somehow has chosen to get rid of the 32GB model, leaving users with no other option but to purchase the most expensive 64GB models if only they knew the true situation with iOS 8, which they didn't) this is a serious problem.

One can imagine the amount of money spent by these users on purchasing the latest iPad or iPhone 6 (even for the 16GB model) only to discover, through no fault of their own after upgrading to iOS 8, the limited memory left on their devices. And now, after using their devices for an unspecified period of time (apparently for not very long), the free memory users thought they still had has suddenly disappeared faster than they can say, "Holy Toledo!". The complainants who filed the legal action claim as much as 23.1 per cent of the storage capacity is filled up with this extra information generated by iOS 8. So for a 16GB iPhone, that's around 3.7GB. Quite a significant amount when viewed in terms of how many digital pictures through the in-built camera that can be taken, or how many MP3 songs that can be stored. However, it is also reasonable to imagine a number of users would need to be able to take video on the Apple devices as well, and this takes up more memory. At any rate, it is still a fair whack of the memory lost. Furthermore, it seems these users have to contemplate paying more for the 64GB models just to overcome this silly situation. No way Jose for many 16GB iOS users! Apple should have seen this coming, yet continue to quietly offer consumers the 16GB model while promoting the benefits of iOS 8 without telling them the true "memory limited" situation.

Very cunning.

Combine this with the deliberate effort by Apple to prevent users downgrading to iOS 7, it is perfectly understandable to see why users are taking up the class action against Apple, basically on the grounds of misrepresentation of the Apple devices' memory capacity and iOS 8 requirements with no easy means of solving the problem, except to pay more money (unless there is a tool to allow users to download an earlier iOS version, which Apple does not, for some reason, want to promote if there is such a tool).

When will Apple learn? Or is this already the clearest sign of a company facing major financial woes in the coming years because it cannot innovate and provide new, and better quality products. Instead Apple has to be sneaky in keeping quiet on important details until users are forced to pay more money to fix the problem.

Come on Apple, get yourself together and provide quality products that focus on the consumers (and less on its shareholders and profit).

iPhone 6

Released within a day or two of iOS8, the iPhone 6 is a completely redesigned exterior casing that is thinner (6.9mm) and more "rounded around the edges" compared to the iPhone 5S. Its dimensions is 5.44-inches tall and 2.64 inches wide designed to be more practical in carrying around in the hand and placing in the pocket than the Samsung Galaxy 5S (i.e. not quiet as wide).

The screen size has also been beefed up on the iPhone 6 as a consequence of the intense competition from Samsung, HTC and other phone manufacturers. The previous iPhone 5S had a screen of about 4 inches across the diagonal. Apple has upped the ante to a 4.7 inch IPS Retina HD display (1,334 x 750 pixels) for the iPhone 6. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy 5S of 5.1 inches, it may be a tad smaller but only because Apple intended to make the iPhone 6 more easier to use and carry compared to the Samsung model. The decision is a good one. However, if you like your screens big (to match the egos of most males), Apple has you catered for with a whopping 5.5 inch display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) on the iPhone 6 Plus in case you ever need to brag about it to your friends. Screen quality will be the least of your worries with this current breed. Both models will show a vibrant and clear image with only a slightly sharper image with the iPhone 6 Plus, but you may not tell the difference when looking from more than 3 inches away from the iPhone 6 screen.

Speaking of the iPhone 6 Plus, it is virtually identical to the iPhone 6 except for its larger casing and screen size, and comes with an image stabilisation technology when you need to take sharp pictures through its 8MP iSight camera even with the occasional shake of the phone. The thickness is 7.1mm, but compared to the 7.6mm of the iPhone 5S, this is a noticeable improvement and barely is any different from the iPhone 6.

The whole front end with its colourful screen is covered in glass for a reasonably scratch-resistant surface (better than the polycarbonate or some other plastic surface). The front end with its screen will be either white or black (you choose), and the back end will come in grey, or a silver or gold brushed metal effect.

Another noticeable improvement is the introduction of the Near-Field Communications (NFC) technology designed to let you use your phone to make payments simply by pressing the phone against an NFC receiver. The big plus with this one is the very short range communication designed to improve security of your sensitive personal and financial information. You need to have the phone within about a few millimetres away from the receiver for the information to be transferred. This prevents anyone else coming close to capture the data during the transaction. This should prove to be extremely popular and a necessary move toward a secure and cashless society.

The motion co-processor has been upgraded to M8, which means that not only do you have the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass, but you also have barometer support. This one is designed to measure air pressure and so give indications of your elevation. And when the iOS8's Health app is used, this barometer feature will come in particularly handy too for gathering other forms of data.

The phones now sport the latest 802.11ac network protocol. This means your iPhone will no longer be a network bottleneck problem like it once was thanks to the latest speeds approaching 433 Mbps. This is faster than most ISPs offer for internet access. So you should find things to be snappier while internet-browsing.

All models come with iOS8 pre-installed as expected, and the newest A8 64-bit dual core chipset to help provide a 25 per cent increase in CPU speed and 50 per cent in GPU output (the latter needed for quick graphics drawing to enable games and videos to run smoothly and display data quickly at the high resolution of the screens supplied). When combined with the new graphics API of iOS8, this product should do particularly well for gaming enthusiasts. Overall, you should have effectively a 1.4GHz dual-core processor out of this model, which is more than respectable compared to other smartphones on the market. If you want to play games a lot, we recommend the iPhone 6 Plus with its bigger screen and a cooler device because the iPhone 6 gets quite warm (if not almost hot) to hold when playing graphics-intensive games or watching video.

Two negatives to report with this product at this early stage:

  1. The iPhone 6's battery doesn't provide more time to run the device compared to the iPhone 5S (it is about the same if not slightly worse depending on the type of things you do on your phone). Worse-case scenario of continuous video-playback tests indicate the iPhone 6 lasts about 10 hours and 19 minutes compared to the iPhone 5S of around 10 hours and 50 minutes. Due to the larger casing in the iPhone 6 Plus, you will naturally get a bigger battery, meaning you can enjoy up to 12 hours of continuous video watching.
  2. The aluminium backing case is prone to being scratched easily with just a little bit of sliding around on a flat and smooth table. So you will need a protective casing of some sort that won't make it look ugly and not much thicker that it is.

Other than that (and apart from price), there isn't much negative review to report about this product at least at time of writing this review. Of course, it is early days yet.

So what is it like on the wallet? If you mean getting rid of it, this is technically feasible with NFC but don't quite do it right now. There are still some issues to be resolved such as getting enough merchants, banks and government departments to switch over to NFC. On the other hand, if you are referring to the costs, here is the harsh reality: If you pay top dollar, you can have the iPhone 6 Plus with a maximum of 128GB flash memory (but you can order the iPhone 6 Plus with 64GB or as little as 16G to save a little money, except the 16GB model is not recommended given the size of iOS8 and how much room you will need for your personal files including a few videos). Or go for the cheaper iPhone 6, which is about US$199 on a 2-year contract. If you intend to buy it outright, the cheapest iPhone 6 with 16GB costs US$649. Purchasing the iPhone 6 Plus is the same as the iPhone 6 of the same memory specs but just add US$100 to the iPhone 6 price. The most expensive is iPhone 6 Plus with 128GB costing around US$949. Since the 2-year contracts are now competitive over the long term compared to an outright purchase and going on a SIM-only plan, the total cost to own the iPhone at the end of the contract period is going to be about the same as purchasing it outright. So for most users, it is likely that they will go for a contract of some sort with a telco company and pay the monthly costs.

If you are still lusting after an Apple iPhone, you are recommended choosing the iPhone 6 with 64GB or more of flash memory (there is no 32GB option) to store reasonable amounts of new apps and personal files. The iPhone 6 Plus is better if you want a cooler temperature model and a longer battery life, but given the serious bending problem of the casing observed by numerous users (see below), we would not recommend it (please note that Apple may have reinforced internally a new batch at time of writing this since fewer people are reporting the issue). For most users, the more compact design iPhone 6 standard is preferable for greater portability and a more comfortable hold in the hand and pocket. Of course, if you can afford it, you should max out all specs to 128GB to avoid the silly situation later of wishing you had more memory to handle future updates to iOS with its increasingly memory-hungry requirements (that is, in terms of storage). Then again, you have to weigh up the options as to whether maxing out the specs is the way to go considering the fact that Apple comes out with a new iPhone every couple of years (and probably an updated model will be released in 2015), you will probably do well sticking to the 64GB model and wait until the price of 128GB comes down for the next model.

If you need a phone with a decent screen size and top image quality, good speed and able to multitask, this latest release should give you this and a few more extra features thrown in to boot. Plus the 64-bit chipset is still hard to beat while other Android models are waiting on Google to supply an OS capable of handling the 64-bit environment. When that finally happens and the Android phones do get the 64-bit Intel chipset treatment, you can expect the competition to heat up once again in the phone market wars in the next 12 months.

26 September 2014

The Apple supporters, mostly in the United States, have come out to support the American company's launch of iPhone 6. The result has been a strong sale. After one week, more than 10 million phones were sold. With the large numbers sold, the real testing of the product has already begun. Apple may claim to have put in the most testing and quality control work ever into any iPhone it has made with the iPhone 6 and presumably also its bigger brother the iPhone 6 Plus, but already about a dozen users have returned their phones (mostly the iPhone 6 Plus) stating the device casing is too soft and bends easily when carried in the pocket. Its very thin size design and soft scratchable metal casing is revealing a major weakness. The only reason why many other users have not yet returned their iPhones is because more time is needed for people to use the phone in a real-life context. Once enough time passes, a lot more devices will probably reveal this problem. Otherwise, you must treat your iPhone 6 Plus like it is a baby (which is what's keeping Apple afloat on the sharemarket for now). The problem is certainly not as bad with the iPhone 6 standard as this video suggests (alternative download here), with only the slightest amount of bending will occur (so it will take more punishing treatment). As a result of this observation (certainly unnecessary given the company's experience with smartphones), we have to say the iPhone 6 Plus still remains a toy, but an expensive one at that. Not a professional device for use by everyone in virtually all conditions.

In fact, the poor choice of the metal for the iPhone 6 is surprising considering Apple has already purchased the rights many years ago (a decision Steve Jobs made to ensure Apple survives well into the future, if not in selling Apple computers, then definitely in supplying the toughest casings for any electronic device) to use the LiquidMetal technology to build the hardest and toughest casings on the planet. These new amorphous metals are virtually scratch-proof and extremely hard (i.e., you can't bend them) and should be low cost to produce. Why are we still waiting for these metals to come out in a consumer product such as the iPhone 6? It is time Apple provide the best product it can and stop giving consumers cheap mass-production toys sold at ridiculously high prices. Put quality into everything, including the materials to build the products, and sure people will be happy to pay extra for something that will last a lifetime.

Is this asking too much?

27 September 2014

It has been suggested that the public should probably come together to write a book for Apple, Inc. titled, How to Build a SmartPhone for Dummies. Then perhaps all these basic hardware issues of the iPhone can be fixed permanently. Unfortunately, things are a bit late for Apple. Now the company will have to come up with a solution for these casings. Maybe, if they are lucky, not too many people have purchased the iPhone 6 Plus and just focus the repair extension program on these models? Whatever the decision, the next best thing is to create some kind of super tough magnesium alloy casing to replace what appears to be an aluminium metal casing (clearly chosen to keep the costs down for Apple) if for any reason the amorphous metals still cannot be used as yet. Or perhaps we should all be cryogenically frozen and hopefully the technology in the far future can wake us up and then we can all enjoy properly made Apple products.

29 September 2014

If you want a tough smartphone that doesn't bend with any force in the hand or in the back pocket while brutally sitting down on it, try the new Moto X. Yes, it is an Android phone, but if Apple needs a standard test case to show where the company needs to be when building unbendable iPhones, this android phone is the place to start.

November 2014

Apple may have found another solution to the case bending issue. Some internal reinforcements may have been introduced in a new batch of iPhone 6 Plus devices. A pity this did not get done earlier, kind of like during the product testing stage before it is sold to the public.

10 March 2014

Some improvements to the memory guzzling requirements of iOS 8 through the 8.1.3 update has been provided by Apple recently. For 32GB iPhone users, approximately 1.2GB of space has been allegedly freed up through a simple application of this update. Amazing. And what an improvement. Now will 16GB users be happy and keep quiet about the fuss? At any rate, Apple has released iOS 8.2 to hopefully free up more space, which is quite feasible considering how cryptic the company is in telling users what exactly has been changed. At the moment, the only things the company are willing to mention about this update are as follows:

"This release introduces support for Apple Watch, and also includes improvements to the Health app, increased stability and bug fixes."

Perhaps Apple has made the change under the umbrella of "bug fixes"? Who knows. Certainly the company could argue now that all the "hot air" from consumers about the memory guzzling issue of iOS8 was just a passing phase and all it needed was a "bug fix" and nothing sinister like checking your private information surreptitiously. It is the only way Apple will avoid getting sued by users of 16GB devices.

So far the iOS 8.2 update, with hardly anyone complaining at the present time, suggests Apple could be out of the Christmas period of needing to get things out-the-door quickly to keep the shareholders happy. It is quite possible the company could be concentrating a little more on producing better quality work for consumers. It needs to. The company has been riding too much on its reputation to carry them through those periods of poor product testing. Now consumers are weary of what the company will produce next.

iOS 8.4

Yep, another update from Apple, released on 1 July 2015. The impending iOS 9 is coming later in 2015 so Apple has decided to test out its latest new music streaming service called Apple Music (well, at least it is simple to remember, direct to the point, and has decided to drop the 'i" in front of the name for a change) on Apple users (i.e., beta testers). Nothing like a little help from consumers to improve the service and the app as a whole so that future users can see how great the app is in iOS 9. Fortunately some users are touting an improvement to what they originally had for playing music. So Apple seems to have done the right thing in this area.

The other major improvement to get a good looking over by the company is mainly by way of enhancements in the iBooks app (sorry, Apple forgot to drop the 'i" in this one). And finally, some bug fixes sorely needed to make iOS 8 more reliable in the area of preventing accidental or deliberate rebooting of Apple devices through a series of specific Unicode characters. The rest of the bugs are mainly to make the location data work properly with GPS accessories, and to ensure the new Apple Watch apps don't try to re-install themselves after being deleted (huh? Shouldn't a properly deleted app not be able to reinstall itself? Sounds like there is something else in iOS 8 to make sure you never lose these apps).

Despite these modest changes, will it remove all the annoying aspects of the iOS and make it easier for users to tap away on their iPads without accidentally losing windows, access etc? That's another story, and time will tell exactly what Apple has done to help its customers.

14 August 2015

iOS 8.4.1 update is virtually entirely devoted to fixing up bugs in iCloud Music Library and Apple Music after Apple realised that a lot of people use their iPhones to listen to music (and naturally the company is being sensitive to their needs and catering to their every wish). Everything else appears to be perfect in Apple's eyes. If this is not the case for you, you should expect the next major iOS update to come very soon.

As for any unexpected changes to get up the nose of some Mac users, iOS 8.4.x is characterised by a loss of one very useful feature known as Home Sharing. Here is one user's view on the matter:

"Be advised, home sharing from computer to iOS device is apparently not supported on iOS 8.4 according to numerous reviews and posts on Apple's support forum. Computer to computer and computer to AppleTV app still working. It has been suggested this is either deliberate, to get people to sign up for the new Apple Music service, or perhaps legal (no longer allowed to stream music to iOS device, as part of licensing agreements with music co's as part of new Apple Music launch). Which leaves open the possibility the feature may be restored in a future update. But for now, if you rely on home sharing to an iOS device, you should not upgrade."

It probably means another developer will have to fill in the gap and provide an app to do exactly what you want. The only slight problem is whether Apple will allow such an app on its AppStore. Certainly this would be one way to find out the reason for Apple choosing to remove this feature (is it a legal issue with music companies, or a miscalculated oversight on the part of Apple?).

iPhone 6s and iOS 9

Apple has released iOS 9 and iPhone 6s in September 2015. The combination of the two are designed to minimise a lot of the bugs and internal hardware issues that has plagued iOS 8.x and iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Of particular interest in this regard is how the metal casing of the new iPhone 6s now uses a new aluminum alloy combining aluminium with mostly zinc and a few other elements, compared to the aluminium, magnesium and silicon used in the previous iPhone. The result is a marginally heavier and much denser material providing more significant strength to withstand the bending that can take place when the phone is carried in a pocket. This improvement alone might be worth selling up the previous iPhone 6 and getting the latest. Or if you are not fussed in having an iPhone, there are tougher mobile phones out there from other manufacturers. But if you like your iPhone, it might be worth your while getting the iPhone 6s.

Combined with fewer bugs in iOS 9, hopefully this is one product that people can just relax and use it for the purpose it was intended for a long time.

Apart from a couple of extra colours to choose from, the iPhone 6s looks identical to iPhone 6. The improvements are mainly internal. For example, camera technology has been given a boost with a 12-megapixels offering; a slightly heavier new LCD screen containing a new technology called 3D Touch (also known as Force Touch) because of new pressure-sensitive sensors in the screen that adds more functionality to its apps simply by pressing harder on the screen to access more functions or menus; and a faster A9 microprocessor. The protective glass screen has also been given a make-over thanks to a new type of chemically strengthened process to make the glass almost unbreakable and scratch-resistant (probably based on Corning's Gorilla Glass line).

The camera is probably worth discussing in more details. In would appear that Apple has been able to compete with other mobile phone manufacturers by offering a 5-megapixel camera on the front facing side of the iPhone 6s, but has increased the resolution for the back-facing camera to 12-megapixels. It means you can now shoot ultrahigh resolution 4k videos. Combined with a more responsive autofocus and emphasis on colour accuracy, the camera improvements are now seen as a major positive feature. The only thing you will have to remember is that the files saved on the iPhone to hold your 4k movies will be much larger. In other words, you must forego the temptation to buy an iPhone with just 16GB of flash memory because it is cheaper. Now is the time to consider moving on to the 64GB or higher flash memory sizes. You will definitely need it with this phone.

Apple is being a bit cryptic about the full capabilities of the new A9 microprocessor. What little has emerged since time of writing this review, Apple claims the processor will be 70 per cent faster than the A8 for standard computing tasks such as opening an app, and up to 90 per cent faster at graphical tasks such as running game apps and watching videos. There also appears to be some power efficiency features thrown in but difficult to confirm. Certainly would make sense if it did considering all the things this phone can do.

In terms of the latest and fastest Wi-Fi connectivity, Apple has generously provided this in the iPhone 6s. Apple claims the latest Wi-Fi is twice as fact as the previous model where the latest Wi-Fi technology is implemented at certain hotspots.

And finally, the iPhone will be blessed with a reasonably stable iOS 9. Hopefully gone are the days when consumers have to regularly download gigabytes of data just to update the iOS because of silly mistakes and bugs from Apple.

Incredibly, Apple still continues to offer a 16GB iPhone 6s model despite the presence of the 4k video capabilities. This suggests that a lot of naive people will be sucked in to the cheaper versions thinking this is all they need. If you intend to use the camera quite a bit, forget the idea. Go straight for the 64GB for an outright purchase of US$750. And if you can throw in an extra US$100, get the 128GB model for US$850 and be done with it. If you want to have the larger iPhone 6s plus, add an extra US$150 on all the prices you see here.

However, before you do part with your hard-earned cash, you should wait to see if the iPhone has anything else wrong with it. If it is as good as it now appears, the only improvements will be to receive a thorough update for iOS 9 just before Christmas 2015 and then things should be right for you. Of course, if you can't wait, you know where to go to get one.

Or consider Apple's new pricing plan introduced for U.S. residents (and soon for other countries) where you can now pay U$32.45 per month for the 16GB iPhone 6s right up to $42.45 per month for the 128GB model over 24 months with the option to upgrade to a new iPhone each year at the same monthly cost. It will still be the same storage capacity model, and eventually you will end up paying almost the full price after the end of the 2-year plan, but you no longer have to stick to your iPhone model and later pay extra upfront if you decide to get a newer model. You just swap over the old phone for something newer at the time, whether it is iPhone 7 next year, or the 7s in two year's time, and so on. The advantage for Apple in implementing this plan is that it forces consumers to constantly pay for their phone on a regular monthly basis (and so makes it seem financially viable to most consumers to own an iPhone), and it helps Apple sales numbers to remain healthy every year. Because ideally Apple wants people to constantly get rid of their old phones every two years and move on to the next model. This new plan is designed to encourage this type of behaviour with consumers. Only question is, what happens to the old phones, and where do they end up? Are they recycled, and how much ends up in landfill?

In summary, the iPhone 6s may not have undergone a radical change in its appearance from the previous model, but there are enough "under-the-bonnet" changes to make the upgrade almost worth it. In fact, just on the tougher metal casing feature is probably enough to see many iPhone 6 users making the upgrade without persuasion from the company. For everyone else with an older iPhone, it is a question of whether the extra speed, a better camera, and a new iOS is worth making the move. If things are fast enough for you with what you have and are happy with the pictures the camera takes, you will probably not bother. However, if you really want to take decent quality photos and home videos of the family, watch lots of videos on the iPhone, and love to play lots of games, the move to iPhone 6s couldn't come fast enough.

Maybe this is the time to upgrade or purchase a new iPhone?

24 September 2015

Oops! We spoke too soon. Apple has just released the iOS 9.0.1 update. It means you will have to download 1GB more of data to benefit from what Apple is describing as a minor update. In the IT world, this usually means numerous "bug fixes and performance enhancements" as Apple stated.

30 September 2015

Quickly finding some more bugs thanks to early widespread public testing of the official release of iOS 9, Apple has quickly issued the next update. Now at iOS 9.0.2, Apple claims the following issues were fixed:

  1. Fixes an issue with the setting to turn on or off app cellular data usage.
  2. Resolves an issue that prevented iMessage activation for some users.
  3. Resolves an issue where an iCloud backup could be interrupted after starting a manual backup.
  4. Fixes an issue where the screen could incorrectly rotate when receiving notifications.
  5. Improves the stability of Podcasts.

Given the number of fixes, 5 of them in total, shouldn't this be iOS 9.0.6? Or should it be iOS 9.1 with whatever number of fixes were made in iOS 9.0.1?

iOS 9.1 update

For a relatively major update to version 9.1 (from 9.0.1) suggests that Apple is being quiet about the full range of changes (and possible improvements) despite its modesty about the changes it is willing to say to the public. Whatever the company is up to these days, this update will hopefully start to fix up a range of known bugs to have appeared for users. For now, Apple is quite happy to say the improvements made were as follows:

  1. Live Photos now intelligently senses when you raise or lower your iPhone, so that Live Photos will automatically not record these movements.
  2. Over 150 new emoji characters with full support for Unicode 7.0 and 8.0 emojis

Perhaps this is Apple's way of saying, "We have heaps of problems to fix, but for you we just say everything is fine and only needs a couple of slight improvements or additions to make the iOS experience seem even better for you."

If you have discovered certain obscure problems recently with iOS 9.0.1 and these have not been specifically addressed or mentioned in Apple's official statement of the changes made, we can only recommend installing iOS 9.1 just to find out.


iOS 9.2 update

A lot more fixes as Apple is more focussed on looking at iOS 9 and with new features:

  1. Apple Music improvements by way of creating new playlists when adding a song to a playlist, newly-created playlist appears at the top of the list, multifunctiona; iCloud button now downloads albums or playlists by tapping on it, see which songs have been downloaded with the new download indicator in My Music and Playlists etc. Generally it should make it easier for Apple to see the music you listen to and learn more about who you are as you purchase music from the Apple Music store.
  2. A "Top Stories" section in News to keep abreast of the latest news of the day.
  3. Mail Drop feature in Mail.app now allows for sending large attachments. Also fixed a problem for some users unable to access mail attachments with POP email accounts.
  4. Various improvements to iBooks.app, such as allowing you to listen to an audiobook while you continue browsing the iBooks store.
  5. Various fixes to Safari.app to make it more stable.
  6. Various fixes to Podcasts for greater stability during use.
  7. Fixed a problem with Contacts.app that sometimes incorrectly displayed no results during a search.
  8. Fixed a problem with Calendar.app from not displaying all seven days in week view.
  9. Live Photos stays on after a user restores from a previous iCloud backup.
  10. Fixed an issue where the Camera screen may stay black when attempting to capture video.
  11. Activity.app fixed for an issue that prevented viewing the day of Daylight Savings Time transition.
  12. Updating iOS can sometime stop an alarm from going off when set by the user. Now fixed.
  13. Problems in not being able to login to Find my iPhone has been addressed.
  14. Problems in not being able to perform manual iCloud Backups from completing is fixed.
  15. Improved keyboard responsiveness when using Quick Reply. Also includes improved punctuation input on the 10-key Chinese keyboard with new expanded view of punctuation symbols and better predictions. Cyrillic keyboards fixed for an issue of where the caps lock would be unintentionally enabled when typing at URL or text in email fields.
  16. Fixed problems with VoiceOver when using Camera face detection. Added the features to allow VoiceOver to wake up the screen, and invoke app switcher with 3D Touch gesture.
  17. Fixed the speech rate of Speak Screen issue.
  18. Improved functionality for Switch Control users when using 3D Touch.
  19. Can't view data in Health.app? Now fixed!
  20. Fixed an issue that could prevent Wallet.app and Lock screen alerts from displaying.
  21. And a few other fixes too (mostly unmentionable by Apple).

At least Apple has pulled out its thumb as of December 2015 (and just prior to Christmas) to put a bit of effort into getting iOS 9 to a level of stability and functionality users expect to see (after spending the heaps of money for a iPhone, iPad etc). Hopefully all the problems from Apple will be forgiven by iOS users as soon as Christmas Day comes around.

25 March 2016

Not all bugs have been fixed. It has taken a while of testing by the public, but it would appear Apple needs more closer attention to a new bug that stops the battery percentage fro updating should you change the time zones. This is just one of several new bugs to be identified by users.

30 March 2016

iOS 9.3 was released only to introduce a menagerie of new bugs. The most serious are the ones causing a complete lock out of the device on older iPhones, and clicking on links will cause apps to crash on newer phones. The existence of bugs is to be expected when a company introduces a number of new features and technologies. However, on this occasion, the number and seriousness of the bugs has increased to the point where it has become a systemic problem for Apple. And the bugs are not limited to iOS 9.x. Long-standing bugs and security issues with its flagship software, FileMaker Pro 14, are also not being eliminated with each upgrade, and now the app has reached a point in its development where it will suddenly quit after working on it for a short while. Just try it. Open one FileMaker Database, get it to open a second database and while it is showing a splash screen and still running a script, get the original database to open another database. Bang! The whole application collapses, bringing down with it the databases. Apparently running two scripts simultaneously causes the application to freak out and fall apart. How silly.

Why so many bugs? Certainly the most notable observation in all of this is the way Apple is happy to add only a few new features and expect people to pay dearly for the privilege of having them through an upgrade, yet it will not fix all the bugs (except for the most serious ones). Apple either can't or refuses to fix all bugs. As a result, the number of bugs have been increasing with the release of different Apple software products in recent times, such as FileMaker Pro 14.x, OS X El Capitan 10.11.x, and iOS 9.x.

And at last, a point has been reached where a newly introduced bug is now capable of bringing down iOS 9.x with greater ease.

Tim Biggs tries to give an explanation for why this might be happening:

'It has become clear these issues aren't solely reflective of any carelessness or hubris on Apple's part, but rather of the reality that the company literally can't test its software rigorously enough to weed out all the bugs anymore." (Biggs, Tim. "Apple's iOS 9.3 has more bugs, and you better get used to it": Digital Life (The Sydney Morning Herald). 29 March 2016.)

Then again, Claris Corporation, the original makers of FileMaker Pro spent a little more time in the quality control aspects. The result was the most stable and reliable products on the planet. Unfortunately, Claris has been bought out by Apple, and now we have a situation of "How do you start a New Zealander in small business? Just give him a big business and let him take it from there."

Need another example? Try Aldus, the original makers of PageMaker. Great software. No one can fault it in terms of bugs, and extremely reliable to use. Thank you. As soon as Adobe got its hands on the product, it has transformed PageMaker into Adobe InDesign with more than its fair share of bugs to contend with. No thanks. Adobe may be a lot like Apple in not fixing all the bugs in the hope of getting users to purchase upgrades, but at least the company does do a little bit of software testing before releasing its products in the marketplace. So luckily no serious bugs to report from this company as yet.

Apple, unfortunately, is a different beast altogether.

With news reports of the serious bugs on show for the world to see, we can be fairly certain Apple will re-release iOS 9.3 (if not, perhaps iOS 9.4 in a week or two) to quash the more serious bugs. Don't expect other bugs to meet a similar fate even if users notify Apple about them (in writing). Those bugs are generally too minor to do anything about, and to an extent this is probably what Apple wants. Seriously, how else can we encourage users to pay for new iPhones and iPads and/or upgrade iOS? Complexity of the software may be one thing (and Apple could be trying to cry poor in not being able to properly test its software), but deeper down a number of these bugs are designed to achieve a much more deeper and sinister objective for the company. In the meantime, not fixing all the bugs will help the company to save money and this will translate into a bigger profit (exactly what the shareholders want to see).

It is no wonder Samsung has become the most popular and best selling mobile device manufacturer on the planet. Combined with Google's Android OS, the quality control is far superior to anything Apple is able to produce today.

1 April 2016

No, it is not an April Fool's Day joke. Apple really has released the 300MB iOS 9.3.1 update. Yay! Now all we have to do is wait for the remaining bugs to be fixed (any cartoons of a skeleton holding an iPhone as he waits for all the fixes to come around but never does?).

Please note that Apple is only saying the improvement made was:

"Fixes an issue that caused apps to be unresponsive after tapping on links in Safari and other apps."

Either the other serious bug for older devices is not yet fixed, or the fix has quietly been added to this update (perhaps the two serious bugs were interrelated?).

We should also note how long it has taken Apple to fix the one or two serious bugs — about 2 days. Imagine if Apple could spend two days for each bug they receive from users. By the time Apple is ready to provide users with an iOS 10 upgrade in say 12 months from now, the company could fix more than 100 bugs and have time to add a dozen new features and fix the bugs in those features and for the small team of "bug fixing" programmers to take more than a month holidays in the Bahamas (all expenses paid by the company). And when users do use iOS 10, it would already be one of the most stable and solid programs ever made, and Apple would be making a bigger profit.

Truly amazing.

All these claims of the software being too complex to fix the bugs is hogwash. It is up to Apple to spend the time and a bit of money from the profit it makes to fix the bugs. That is all there is to it.

Airmount 1.0.3

It is a long time coming, but you can connect your Mac to your iPhone (and technically an iPad as well) wirelessly using Bluetooth and move files (video, music, pictures and text) back and forth between the two devices without ever needing to go through Apple's own servers or to grab a cable to connect the devices together and use iTunes. You won't see this coming from Apple! The freeware tool you can download for both Mac and iOS (unfortunately, the latter still requires you to access the Apple store although technically you should be able to wirelessly transfer applications to your iOS device, but it is interesting to see Apple has not stopped anyone from downloading and using this product, which is nice) is called Airmount 1.0.3. very simple to use and quickly shows you which iOS devices are accessible on the wireless network. It is about time consumers are given back the power to control their own lives and protect their own privacy and not leave it in the hands of other companies.

iPhone 7

A release date has been set for the iPhone 7: 16 September 2016. So far the usual fancy adverts of "better this and that compared to the previous model" are now flooding the internet in preparation for what Apple hopes will be a profit-boosting second financial quarter. And perhaps for once, the hype behind this phone might actually be true so long as the new iOS 10 expected to be installed into iPhone 7 does not have too many bugs, and the casing is hopefully tough enough not to bend under normal use, among other things. As usual, you should not be drooping at the mouth at this stage, and instead just wait a bit until the iOS 10 bugs are substantially quashed and people are not sending back the phone for manufacturing design problems.

If we can believe the hype so far, the improvements for this model are mainly in the following areas:

  1. Waterproof
    Apple claims the iPhone 7 is waterproof. Well, to put some reality into this claim, it is not likely the company means you can take it with you on your next deep sea dive (even if you could, how would you be able to make a call anyway?). It will mainly be an opportunity for you to look at the screen just below the surface of the water (or if you accidentally drop your phone in the toilet — how many people have done that before? — and want it to still work so you can quickly re-sell it to the next unsuspecting buyer and get a new one for yourself later). Beyond that, it is not exactly clear how your fingers can navigate the screen while underwater. Perhaps the 3D touch screen sensors will use the pressure part to tell the Phone what you want.
  2. A brighter screen
    Apple claims the screen is about 25% brighter than the previous model, and comes with slightly more colours. For most people, they may not see an obvious difference. However, those users who live and breathe by the iPhone and probably use it religiously at night might swear by the brightness and extra colours claim.
  3. Longer battery life
    Despite the brighter screen with the potential for more power consumption, Apple has managed to pull a magic rabbit out of the hat in terms of a longer battery life. Apparently it is the longest battery life of any iPhone the company has ever created. This one single claim on its own might be enough to see many existing iPhone users jump at the opportunity to have a decent new phone that lasts longer between charges. It is one of the major criticisms of previous iPhones for many years. Now, thanks to more integrated electronics and new low-powered chips, it is now able to compete with the best Android smartphone on the planet.
  4. Greater performance
    Apple claims the new A10 Fusion microprocessor (please note the company's need to make the new chip sound more sexy and awesome and, therefore, a positive selling point has been made through the marketing term "fusion") will double the speed of all its usual operations you might do and watch it perform compared to iPhone 6. If you are just making calls, the speed won't matter. It is just another phone. However, if you are itching to do some Photoshop work on your images or run the latest games, the speed might come in handy. Sorry, the A10 will not run Intel-based apps from your Mac or PC. The iPhone world is really unique. So be prepared to endure further the need to stick to a completely different microprocessor than in the standard variety of computers .
  5. Audio improvements
    This is a biggy for this model. Why the previous model never had this new audio feature is beyond us, but finally it has arrived. Probably after watching what users in the real world do with their iPhones (or other smart phones), the company has finally realised that people actually listen to their favourite music in stereo while jogging, sitting on the bus or subway train etc. There is even stereo audio capabilities for both the speakers built (less useful) in as well as through the wireless connection to earphone plugs (now called ear pods by Apple). And the speaker is said to be 2x louder to hear audio. Not enough to annoy the hell out of your neighbours at home with loud music, but enough to start a riot with people sitting next to you at peak times in the subway train. Should be fun. Finally, it is not clear whether a 3.5mm headphone jack will be supplied for direct wired headphone connections, but it would not be a surprise if Apple did make the decision to go without it. Already Motorola has decided two of the latest new phones will come without the headphone jack. We will see if this ends up being a major oversight, a rumour, or the way forward in technology.
  6. Faster data transfers via Wi-Fi
    A significant improvement (if the wireless servers are up-to-date) is the ability to download (or upload) data at a potential rate of 450Mbps (it depends on the quality of your Wi-Fi network and server to achieve these sorts of speeds). This is said to be 3 times faster than the iPhone 6 for comparison. It basically means that as more companies supply greater amounts of video-rich files (so you can watch your favourite TV shows etc) and bigger apps, you will notice less waiting to grab this data, and pay more in your monthly bills for the extra data you have downloaded. So make sure you are on a decent plan that gives you huge amounts of data download capabilities, or preferably unlimited if you can get it (the ultimate aim at a reasonable price).
  7. Worldwide roaming is improved and quicker to access
    With 25 bands included, the iPhone 7 is set to handle more cellular stations throughout the world than ever before. Worldwide roaming is now easier and faster with this new model.
  8. No more silly 16GB storage option.
    Since these "memory chip" things are permanently soldered to the logic board, the minimum Apple will provide is 32GB. An improvement from the 16GB offering in iPhone 6 (almost worth laughing, until you see how many silly customers have bought the 16GB version thinking it is enough to do everything they want). Still, even at 32GB, it really should have been 64GB. The only reason for continuing with the 32GB option is mainly for the benefit of Apple to purchase them cheaply as the demand has dropped for these chips and hence make the costs lower to build a new iPhone (but you still pay the high price as if the 32GB chips are the latest and greatest technology on the planet). In reality, the way people use their iPhones, you are better off bumping up the storage to the max if you can afford it. A 256GB storage option is available, which should meet your needs for the next couple of years, especially in the light of more and more TV programs and movies becoming available online and forcing your smartphone to handle the volume of data. More importantly, the ability to take HD movies with two cameras makes it a necessity to have ample room to store everything. So don't be stingy
  9. Updated cameras
    Speaking of cameras, the iPhone 7 Plus model will have room to hold two optical camera lenses. One will be dedicated to 28mm wide photography to help grab the extra wide landscape shots. And the other is at the 56mm equivalent, designed mainly for portrait use (to ensure the face is well-proportioned, accurate, and true-to-life). There are plans underway for new apps that will make use of the data coming through the two lenses to help perform tasks such as estimating the distance to the subject, as well as clever digital techniques to replace the blurry background portion of a picture with a sharper version. The former will be interesting, but the most useful will be the latter. Generally if you have ever seen those top quality movies where the entire picture looks incredibly sharp no matter how far away or close various objects might be, this is because of an Australian invention from an expert cameramen who has found a way to take a shot of the same scene using two lenses but focussed differently to handle close range and far-away subjects and merging the images together to produce a sharp scene throughout. Well, it is possible the same technique can be employed in the new phone. The app to achieve this clever trick is not yet available. For now, the presence of two lenses is mainly to give more options for a better photo in the two main areas we take pictures — either to record a landscape, or a picture of someone we want to keep a memory of for keeps sake. As for picture resolution, both cameras will record a respectable 12 megapixel for all the pictures. Very reasonable. Please note that the idea of dual lenses in a smartphone is not unique to Apple. Already the Android market of phones are now selling this technology as standard in the ZTE Axon and Axon Pro, HTC One M8, and HTC Butterfly 3. Apple is merely catching up with the competitors with this latest iPhone 7 Plus offering to would-be Apple buyers.
  10. iOS 10
    You will be using the latest new iOS version, so be prepared for various bugs. Hopefully the majority will not stop you from making calls or anything silly like that. Mostly minor things that you may not notice immediately. Or perhaps, given how new the stereo sound capabilities and wireless headphone feature are at the moment, Apple might still find a way to stuff around with this and stop the sounds working properly and for users to wait on an update to fix it. Surely the company would not do anything like this, would they?

Overall, the iPhone 7 appears to be a seriously improved version with lots of necessary additions and updates if Apple hopes to compete with the world-leaders in smartphone technology (mainly from Samsung). But then again, Android manufacturers are probably waiting in the wings, just watching and deciding what they will come out with in the next more spectacular smartphone device within a month or two of Apple's official iPhone 7 release, and then the Apple offering may seem a bit antiquated in its technology. For Apple it doesn't matter. The critical thing is getting the hype in now and people to walk out with the new iPhone in great quantities to boost profits. Then, whatever other companies might do would seem to be the natural order of things.

In some ways, Apple may actually succeed at last in providing a decent iPhone in a package that may well live up to its hype. We just hope iOS10 can also live up to the hype and deliver real stability and performance in a truly easy to use interface.

24 September 2016

Yep, the only thing letting the iPhone 7 down just a tad is iOS 10. Apparently there is an issue with the sound. As one MacUpdate.com user stated:

"Hmm, it says above:

'Version 10.0.2: Addresses an issue that could prevent headphone audio controls from temporarily not working'.

Interesting sentence. Presumably means 'Addresses an issue that could temporarily prevent headphone audio controls from working' Or, in other words, 'Addresses an issue that could temporarily cause headphone audio controls not to work'.

Nice to see the issue has been addressed rather promptly from Apple. Most other issues, mainly to do with freezing on older iPhone 6 using contacts.app, seems to be addressed since iOS 10.1. As of November 2016, Apple has released iOS 10.2. Hopefully consumers can finally feel confident Apple has sorted out its problems with iOS, just in time for Christmas.

iOS 10.3.1 update

If you have to go for a version of notable stability and performance, it seems Apple has finally got its act together with this update. Although it focuses on bug fixes and an important security bug fix for people running WiFi (a third-party person could, if he/she is within range, run arbitrary code on the WiFi chip), apparently there are very few issues to report. Highly unusual? Perhaps. Of course, nothing can ever be absolutely perfect, but this is one update that should give you the least headaches compared to any previously released version (well, at least for version 10).

Just to add to the surprising nature of this latest observation, even the update process is described by everyone as smooth. If anyone could nag about anything, it would be that the updating process takes a long time, and one MacUpdate user said:

"No landscape view for important apps like music or podcasts."

Despite the generally positive response from this update, as with any update it is always important to keep a backup of everything personal on your iPhone or iPad on a separate disk. This update works with 4th generation iPads and iPhone 5 and higher.

iOS 10.3.3 update

Released on 19 July 2017, the improvements are not significant. More cosmetic than anything else, and most to do with security fixes. Overall useability still remains high and positive among most users.

iPhones 8, 8 Plus and X

Sensing the pressure to deliver something to the consumers following the release and increasing popularity of alternative smartphones from Samsung and others, Apple has decided iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X needed to be released pretty soon. Might as well be now. Better to do it now to help iron out any bugs before Christmas than leave it in December when people might start to wonder why there are problems with the products at such a crucial time of the year (with the heightened risk of refunds or replacements as a result).

Apart from keeping things simple with the desire from the company to match the iOS version number to the name of the iPhone, making it really iPhone X, all of the new phones offer modest improvements (even if the Apple CEO and other executives likes to tout these improvements as "revolutionary" and "amazing"). If you like the idea of simplicity and want to match the iOS version number with the iPhone name as part of your fashion statement, you will have to remember that this is only if you buy the premium product version. For everyone else who considers AUD$1,500 or more too much to buy a phone (and run some apps), there is always the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The latter two phones contain the usual yearly hardware updates to keep them relatively competitive with Samsung (but not overwhelmingly innovative and amazing that you want to go out and buy one straightaway, but at least there are improvements), such as a faster A11 Bionic chip processor, a new camera, and the ability to wirelessly charge up the battery (an essential — took a long time — improvement in the light of issues regarding the longevity of some plug-n'-play ports that act as both a charging station as well as data transfer). Nothing spectacular there, including the price which is AUD$1,079 and AUD$1,229 for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus respectively.

But now that the company is worth over USD$850 billion dollars (and fast becoming the first trillion dollar company), helped along significantly with enough American users wanting to buy and support its products, it means the company can afford a little more room to splash around in R&D (not the money, of course) and be a little more innovative. To this end, Apple has produced the iPhone X with a few extra features added. These new features were reportedly described by Apple CEO Tim Cook as "the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone". Well, let us see.

A feature touted as special in iPhone X is the OLED screen that now goes all the way to the edge. Nice, but doesn't Samsung already have this feature as standard on the latest Galaxy smartphones?

Oh well. Let us have a look at the next feature.

Another thing said to be unique to the iPhone X is the ability to recognise faces when unlocking the phone. Leaving aside the somewhat embarrassing moment when Apple senior vice-president Craig Federighi had trouble getting his iPhone X to recognise his face during the presentation (no product is perfect, right?), we are assured that this is a minor issue and soon it will be the way of the future. No more remembering passwords or using your fingerprint (not unique enough apparently), Now you simply point the camera at your face and it will magically unlock the phone. The technology is not exactly new as many city councils are seeing a need to introduce Orson Wells' 1984 measures by installing cameras everywhere and connecting them to a central computer to have the images processed and recognise faces in a crowd. Apparently, what makes it different for Apple is the ability to put in the same or similar software for this technology into the phone and use the in-built camera to observe a person's face and use it to unlock a phone. There must have been a lot of sleepless nights to make all this work, except not quite on the day of the presentation.

Anyway, critics argue that the "face recognition" technology is not entirely secure. Apparently the technology is not yet sophisticated enough to discern every single face on the planet in a totally unique way. For every million or so people, we are told that each one of them will have roughly one person somewhere in the world with such similar features that it can fool Apple's face recognition technology. And, of course, it assumes the CIA, FBI, or criminals don't catch on to the idea of finding someone similar in appearance to bypass the iPhone's security system. Or why not a reasonably high quality photograph of the individual? Not so, according to Apple. We are told the camera and software is clever enough not to be fooled by a photograph, or a mask (so long as it is not a highly detailed replica of your face, such as you might see in the wax museum of famous people). But if a real person wears a hat, wear glasses, or grows a beard, there would be less differentiation between similar-looking people. It means more people could potentially unlock the phone, making it more likely that the phone will accept the face as allegedly from the original owner. A little disconcerting. Otherwise, the technology is considered "smart" enough to assume that you are the right person irrespective of whether you are wearing glasses, beards, or a hat. Comforting to know.

If you are wondering whether Apple can keep a digital photo image of your face during this unlocking procedure, this is certainly possible. However, Apple will not advertise this capability openly. This is more about helping you to use the iPhone in the easiest way possible. Or you can be sure there will be people out there who will find a way to install malware apps into the iPhone and grab plenty of pictures of how you look and send them anywhere in the world. And to make sure this face recognition technology is considered useful and the norm for everyone, Apple intends to link your face to emojis to the point where you won't have to select the appropriate icon. You just look at the camera, show an expression or emotion, and the software will hopefully select the right emoji. Remember, you do not have to be accurate in your facial appearance. Things like the poop emoji does not have to be imitated on your face precisely. If it catches on, then this technology to expected to become standard in next year's "basic" iPhone model (i.e., 9 and 9 Plus).

Apart from that, Apple has logically removed the X Home button. A natural simplification while the face recognition technology is available. Furthermore, all data relating to your face will be kept local on your phone, not in the cloud. This ensures that no one can hack a database and retrieve a picture (or pictures) of your face or other details.

No other new features other than the ones introduced in iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were mentioned for the iPhone X. Cost for the 64GB model is AUD$1,579, or $1,829 for the 256GB model. Not exact cheap, but then if you are Apple or a dedicated Apple user fan, it won't matter, right?

iOS 11

The biggest emphasis here by Apple is to show its new and better App Store despite one Macupdate user stating:

"I honestly wonder why Apple had to cripple the AppStore and make it unusable. The reviews can not be sorted after date, rating or anything at all. They show in random order and make the complete review system painful to use.

Music and podcast app are not supporting landscape view.

Oh yeah, and control center does no longer properly disable the corresponding service.

I wish such basic stuff would at least work reliably..."

If this single "improvement" hasn't quite tickled your fancy as yet, there are the following additions and improvements to consider when upgrading to iOS 11:

  1. Siri (the thing that talks to you) is getting more human-like in its voice and is getting into more apps than ever before, such as notes, to-do lists, and reminders. Siri will also make suggestions based on your usage of Safari, news, Mail, and Messages, as well as the top stories from Apple News service. Note that by version 11.1.1, Apple stated, "Fixes an issue where Hey Siri stops working".
  2. Taking pictures should get a whole lot more sharper thanks to the introduction of optical image stabilization in portrait mode (an essential feature for a small device that can move around a lot in the hand and should have been standard in earlier iOS versions).
  3. Since Apple has realised a lot of people use an iPhone to take pictures (and not just making phone calls and sending/receiving a bit of email text and other data), Apple has introduced yet another HEIF and HEVS image and video file format to its repertoire. This is mainly to compress the images without losing quality so more pictures and video can be stored on your iPhone (an increasing problem for older iPhones with their limited flash memory capacity compared to the latest iPhone 8 and X).
  4. You can view animated GIFs (an ancient web technology but Apple has decided not is the time to allow people to see these moving images in web browsers and other apps).
  5. More details in Maps, such as indoor maps for major airports and shopping centers, and speed limit information. And you now have more efficient one-handed control of zoom.

  6. iPads will now come with a Dock for recently accessed apps (much like OS X's Dock feature).
  7. One-handed touch screen keyboard access and other improvements.
  8. A means of augmenting reality with images superimposed on real-world scenes. Mainly useful for businesses and government to let people know where to find things, or what's happening in the area by moving the iPhone's camera and looking at the screen.
  9. Apple wants to share your playlists with your friends on other iPhones (and allow music industry people to see if you have purchased legitimate music from the iTunes store).
  10. Improvements to sharing health data and your location in times of emergency to the right contacts.
  11. Use FaceTime to capture photos on the camera of another person's iPhone or Mac.
  12. Improved accessibility options for the visually challenged

and a few other improvements.

The changes are mainly to ensure users can do what they want on a mobile device. Not much indication of security fixes and stability bugs. Assume this is the case. It appears this upgrade is a logical build on what was already a reasonably stable iOS 10, but with enough improvements to make it seem like a worthy upgrade. However, make sure you have a reasonably up-to-date iPhone to have the grunt to run all the features. As one Macupdate user stated:

"Been running 11.1 on my aging iPhone 6 Plus. So far it's been running fine. But I can see it's time for a newer phone!".

May 2018

Further loss of some useful functions, such as not being able to copy and paste into a message as an attachment the saved PDF of a web page, and finger swipe to the left to show calendar, have been noted. Apple must have figured few people ever use these functions.

Is Apple deliberately slowing down older iPhones over time to force users to buy new iPhones?

Comments from iPhone users at Reddit.com are revealing somewhat disturbing information depending on whether you feel compelled to upgrade your iPhone or not. As the battery of the iPhone gets older and has to be replaced after around 1,000 times of being re-charged (and preferably after 500 full charge and discharge cycles according to Apple, although it would prefer users buy a new iPhone), users have noticed the microprocessor speed slowing down. Plugging in the AC adapter makes no difference. The only thing to affect the microprocessor speed is the age of the battery. As soon as you get a new battery, the speed goes back up.

It is not clear the reason for Apple doing this unless it is a question of extending the life of the battery by reducing the speed and with it less power requirements. However, the use of an AC adapter does not change the speed as if suggesting something more sinister.

Guardian.com has picked up on this odd observation. As was reported in its article, "Apple reduces speed of iPhones as batteries wear out, report suggests" published on 20 December 2017:

"Following user reports that older iPhones with ageing batteries performed worse than the same smartphones with replacement batteries, founder of benchmarking firm Primate Labs John Poole collated data from the company’s Geekbench program that is run on thousands of iPhones.

He found that results from benchmark tests from the iPhone 6S running iOS 10.2 pooled around the expected performance peak showing what the iPhone 6S was capable of without any hindrance.

But from the introduction of iOS 10.2.1 in January 2017, the data showed five peaks — the first matching the maximum performance as with iOS 10.2, but the following four at relatively set intervals showing steps downwards in performance.

The same was seen with tests run on the iPhone 6S running iOS 11.2, which was released in December 2017."

The problem is claimed to be worse on iPhone 7 running iOS 11.2 or higher.

Poole has noticed in November 2017 efforts by Apple to replace batteries in some iPhone 6S models after users reported observing their phones suddenly shutdown when the battery charge reached 40%. But due to the likely high costs, Apple came up with a software fix in iOS 10.2.1 to solve the shutdown problem, but this was about the time the microprocessor speed started to go down.

So either Apple is trying to make older iPhone models obsolete by lowering microprocessor speed to make users think it is time to upgrade, or Apple is reducing power requirements by lowering microprocessor speed to solve the sudden shutdown problem. Take your pick.

Unfortunately the latter explanation will not explain why the clock speed is reduced in iPhone 7. To avoid a situation of users thinking Apple is forcing them to upgrade their iPhones, the company will have to provide a reverse fix for iPhone 7 users. And why not return to full speed for all users who choose to plug-in the AC adapter?

21 December 2017

Apple has admitted the iPhone 6S does slow down the older the battery gets. The explanation is that the iPhone 6S is subject to sudden shutdowns, especially in cold environments, when the battery reaches a certain charge level unless but the company believes the software update to address this issue was merely to reduce power consumption by lowering the speed. The announcement came on 21 December 2017, nearly a year after the whole "slow down" fiascoe started with the iOS 10.2.1 software update. A pity such information could not have been mentioned in the version history back in January 2017 when the update became available.

For those iPhone 6S users who have purchased a new battery, you are entitled to a refund. For all other users, a new battery will be installed free-of-charge should you decide the slowing down of the iPhone is not advantageous to your line of work.

iOS 12.1.1 to 12.1.3

The emphasis on iOS 12 is on speed and reliability, and to a certain extent the speed aspect has been achieved. However, on the reliability front, the specific update to versions 12.1.1 to 2.1.3 is marred by loss of cellular data and a flakey Wi-Fi connection, making the iPhone not much more useful than a paper weight with a fancy address book.

As Gordon Kelly reported to Forbes.com in the article titled "Apple iOS 12.1.3 Release Has A Nasty Surprise", 26 January 2019:

At this stage, serious questions must be asked of Apple’s iOS quality control. The WiFi problems started in iOS 12.1.2 and have gotten worse in iOS 12.1.3 while the cellular data bug can be tracked back to iOS 12.1.1 before getting worse in iOS 12.1.2 and ultimately leading to a carrier warning with iOS 12.1.3.

Apple’s pledge with iOS 12 was to focus on performance and reliability. It actually fulfilled its promise on speed, which makes iOS 12 a very appealing upgrade, but its failure with reliability is twofold. Not only are major bugs still occurring, what’s worse (since bugs are inevitable), is they not being fixed as a priority from release to release.

And, given the iOS 12.1.3 feature list, there’s no reason for any iPhone owner to play Russian Roulette with their device right now…"

Interesting considering we are not even on the superstitious version 13 yet where the bugs are likely to increase for inexplicable reasons.

iOS 12.1.4

Just when you thought iOS 12.1 is not unsettling enough, a vulnerability has been found on Monday 4 February 2018 to allow anyone to activate FaceTime on another iPhone and eavesdrop on unsuspecting iPhone users without ever requiring the users to accept the call. Fortunately Apple is being reasonably quick to send out an iOS 12.1.4 update to address this security bug.