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BTS: Big Thumb Syndrome to strike in the New Year

Posted on by Mike Evans

Are you suffering from BTS? If you regularly use your thumbs for typing on the iPhone (who doesn't?) you'd better watch out. Big Thumb Syndrome could be about to strike. The humble thumb has always been a pretty useful digit but it has assumed a major rôle in our lives since the advent of the virtual smartphone keyboard. So much so, in fact, that the bit of our brain that overlords the thumbs in growing. The delightfully named Dr. Ghosh at the University of Zurich says so: "The digital technology we use on a daily basis shapes the sensory processing in our brains."

It's the somatosensory cortex he's talking about here. It's just plain getting bigger. And who's to say that our thumbs won't start to balloon in size as they become more central to our daily communications. This phenomenon is likely to be called Big Thumb Syndrome, so hold off buying those winter gloves, you might need a size larger.

Thumbs are just the start, read more here

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Apple's Genius: Comes top in consumer rights survey

Posted on by Mike Evans

A survey of tech retailers by British consumer-rights group Which? puts Apple on the top bar when it comes to knowledge and explanation of consumer legislation. Mystery shoppers got a satisfactory result from Apple Genius bars on nine out of twelve visits. And Apple managers scored a full ten out of ten for knowledge and helpfulness.

Other retailers, including Argos and Richer Sounds, scored poorly while Amazon was rated poor for telephone support from managers. 

Which? highlighted the fact that many retailers failed to explain the terms of the Sale of Goods Act which gives consumers the right to partial refunds or service for up to six years from the date of purchase. 

Read more here

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Amazon's Echo might just prove a winner

Posted on by Mike Evans

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The new Echo cylindrical speaker from Amazon is a unique beast. Apart from usual the speaker rôle of playing music, the Echo incorporates a Siri-style intelligence. It responds to the "wake word" (another one for the Oxford English Dictionary next time round) which is "Alexa", not to be confused with "Siri". 

Alexa listens for your every utterance and attempts to answer all your desires, including the usual Siri-style information but also ready to add items to your shopping list and other useful tasks. Echo is being launched in the USA and potential buyer can request an invitation that will allow them to buy the speaker for $199 when it is available in the next few weeks. Prime members can snap it up for only $99 for a limited time. 

Echo sounds like an interesting concept. Unlike the phone flop, Amazon could have a winner on its hands this time. When it gets to the UK I could be tempted.

Read more here

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iPad continues to dominate US tablet web traffic with 80% share

Posted on by Mike Evans

We hear a lot about Apple's shrinking tablet market share and the impending world takeover by Android. Yet the statistics continue to show that Apple's tablet is bought by serious users. They account for 80 percent of all North American tablet web traffic, leaving other devices to fight for the remaining share. We can also infer that iPad owners are being exposed to more advertising and are responsible for the lion's share of tablet web commerce. Quite remarkable, really.

Read more here

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Kindle Edition Newspapers: A waste of my valuable time

Posted on by Mike Evans

A month ago I responded to an Amazon offer of a free month's introductory Kindle subscription to a newspaper. There was a choice of several papers including the Daily Mail, The Times and The Guardian. I chose The Telegraph and have been downloading it every day during October. Had I not cancelled I would be in line for a charge of £9.99 a month as from November. 

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iPhone 6 Plus: Your store without iPhone in it is shit

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple's new iPhone 6 Plus is proving far more popular than analysts foretold. Even Apple, by all accounts, has been astounded by the buoyancy of the bigger "phablet" in relation to the iPhone 6, which is itself larger than the 5S. Tim Cook has said that supply may not catch up with demand until 2015. 

In the USA, T-Mobile's John Legere said that the 6 Plus is generating unprecedented demand and at one point accounted for 55 percent of the company's smartphone sales. T-Mobile was expecting the smaller 4.7in phone to account for up to 80 percent of sales. Instead, demand for the 6 Plus was huge: "We got hammered by it," said Legere. He is also reported to have told his staff, "Get on your knees, crawl over there, do whatever the hell you have to do. Your store without the iPhone in it is shit."

Via Apple Insider

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iPad Air & iMac 5K: New toys, new decisions, more cash to spend

Posted on by Mike Evans

The Apple event last week had been widely trailered and it was no surprise to find new iPads and a new iMac. I was disappointed not to find the rumoured retina-screen MacBook Air making an appearance nor, for that matter, any upgrades to the laptop range in general. This rather puts on hold my strategy of replacing my 15in MacBook Pro retina in the near future. 

Seductive display

The new 27in iMac was a pleasant surprise. I was immediately seduced by that gorgeous 5K retina display. Having previously stated that I would never again buy an iMac (a great display to last five years trapped in a body that will be out of date in two) I felt my resolve weakening. I can just imagine this beast on my desk and I am sure I would love the resolution, especially for my photographic work. The problem is, this becomes a very expensive computer when tricked out to my satisfaction. Add the 4.0 GHz quad-core i7, 32GB of memory, a 1TB SSD drive and a few other fripperies and the bill comes to an eye-watering £3,500. This is very much in MacPro territory but, of course, you do get that wonderful 27in retina display thrown in. And if you follow Marco Arment's suggested specification you could shave off a few hundred pounds without serious compromise.

There is still a big snag. After two years the computing bits will be looking ancient but the magnificent screen will easily last another three or even five years. So, again, I have to ask myself if this is the right choice. Had Apple had introduced a retina-display Cinema Display at the same time I would have snapped one up in an instant. It is what I have been waiting for for several years. I understand, however, that a new 5K display would not play well with any other current Mac, including the latest MacBook Pros, so that is probably the principal reason the Cinema Display has again been neglected. It's a pity, though, because it would be the perfect answer for many users who prefer to keep their computing power up to date and don't want to have to lose a display every time there's an upgrade. On the contrary, it would be possible to use the new 27in iMac as a monitor in conjunction with a new generation of Macs a couple of years into the future. On that basis the iMac seems more justifiable.

Faced with these choices, my decision is to sit on the fence a few more months. If in doubt, do nothing is very wise advice.

iPad choice

The new iPads don't demand as much thought. Last year I chose to go with the retina-screen mini in preference to the iPad Air. In the meantime, along came the iPhone 6 Plus which, although not an iPad, is sufficiently large to be a daily carry-around device for casual productivity work. After a few weeks with the 6 Plus I no longer want to carry the iPad mini. And if I don't need to carry it, why not get an iPad Air 2? 

That's the logical plan. My mini is up for sale at Amazon and I will be buying one of the new iPad Air 2 models, primarly as a house device for reading magazines and browsing. It is also something I can pack when I know I am going to be doing lots of writing or editing while on the move.

The thinner, lighter and much faster iPad Air 2 offers a great excuse to upgrade. In addition, I am fascinated by Apple's new built-in SIM card and can't wait to try it out. I now see ultimate freedom from these annoying bits of plastic that are so easily lost. Federico Vittici has produced a masterful overview of the new iPads on Macstories and I recommend a browse if you are in the market for one of these svelte newcomers.

With the introduction of the Air 2 and the iPhone 6 Plus, the poor mini is squeezed. As far as I am concerned, it has almost lost its raison d'être.

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Review: Snugg leather flipcase and stand for iPhone 6 Plus

Posted on by Mike Evans

Two weeks into my iPhone 6 ownership and I have already explained how I decided to keep the larger phone instead of exchanging it for the 4.7in model. I like it and I do not find the size a problem. I also recounted my adventures with the cannibalised Logitech Folio Keyboard and I now have a serviceable, ultra-thin little keyboard to go with the 6 Plus. Just one thing was missing: some form of stand. The orange teapot was merely a temporary diversion.

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Road Tax: Now you see it, now you don't

Posted on by Mike Evans

As from this morning, drivers in the United Kingdom have a clearer view of the road. Gone is the round tax disc that motorists have had to display for the past ninety years. Instead, authorities will now rely on roadside cameras to read number plates and check with the national database. Police officers can check that a car is insured and taxed just by feeding the licence number into the computer.

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iPhone 6 Plus arriving in UK sooner than originally scheduled

Posted on by Mike Evans

When I ordered the iPhone 6 Plus last week I was quoted a delivery date between September 30 and October 3. Yesterday I got a revised delivery of this coming Monday, September 22. Today came another advice, threatening delivery tomorrow, September 20. This year Apple seem to have speeded things up considerably. 

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Relonch camera turns your iPhone into a bokehlicious device

Posted on by Mike Evans

After last week's flurry of news from Apple I turned my attention quickly to Photokina in Cologne and you can find my many reports on Macfilos Photography. One item that caught my attention and has a tech/Apple flavour is the Relonch camera which turns marries the iPhone with a pro f/2 prime lens. Read all about it here.

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Phone is just an app which is not frequently used

Posted on by Mike Evans

I am fully with Horace Dediu on this:

Phone is just an app which, for me at least, is not frequently used. I communicate with my iPhone but the go-to app is iMessage or FaceTime or Skype or maybe Email or Twitter. Phone is something I use so rarely that the interface sometimes baffles me. And yes, it’s an Internet appliance. Browsing is something I do quite a bit but many of the browsing jobs-to-be-done are done better by apps. News, shopping Facebook and maps are “things which were once done in a browser."

He makes the point that when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone he described it as a combination of a wide-screen iPod, a phone and a breakthrough internet connector. These three things, says Dediu, are no longer the most used features.

Similarly, the Apple Watch was launched as a precise timepiece, a new, intimate way to communicate and a comprehensive health and fitness device. But it will develop over the coming years and who is to say what its most useful features will be seven years hence?

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iPhone 6 Plus selling out fast after an hour on sale

Posted on by Mike Evans

All models of the iPhone 6 Plus except the 16GB base (which, I suspect, is not favoured by those going for the larger screen) are now on 3-4 weeks' delivery. In contrast, the smaller iPhone 6 seems to be 7-10 days for all configurations. Despite reports that the 5.5-in model has been introduces solely to cater for the Asian market, I think Apple will be surprised at the amount of interest from the USA and Europe in particular. The reason phablets have not been more popular in these markets is that Apple has not had one until now. It will be fascinating to get the sales figures after the weekend. 

Postscript: By 11 am on launch day all colours and configurations of the iPhone Plus had sold out at all UK Apple Stores. No details on further availability. 

 

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iCloud Pricing: Legacy accounts to be upgraded

Posted on by Mike Evans

Two days ago I changed my £70-a-year 50GB iCloud plan to the new 200GB storage limit for £35.88 a year. Then I read several articles suggesting that the 50GB plan would be continued for legacy account holders with the implication that the price would be calculated pro rata with the new plans.

After a long chat with Apple Support I am assured that this is not so. All legacy plan holders will be automatically updated tomorrow or early next week. So anyone on the current 50GB tariff will migrate to the 200GB plan for around 50% less than they were paying before. There will be a pro-rata adjustment on the previously paid annual subscription.

This solves the conundrum and it is probably best to sit back and wait to see what happens. After the upgrade you can change the plan at any time.

At the moment, with three devices backing up, I am using under 30GB of iCloud storage. But this will change when iCloud Drive comes online in the next few weeks. iCloud will assume much of a versatility of Dropbox and I suspect most users will start to need more storage. 

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iCloud: Apple storage costs slashed in UK

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple has now posted the new, cheaper iCloud storage costs and you can upgrade or downgrade at any time. I was on the old 50GB package (55GB including the free initial 5GB awarded to all iCloud users) and paid £70 for the year, equivalent to £5.84 a month. The new rates are:

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iPhone 6 Plus: Is this the the end of carrying around two devices?

Posted on by Mike Evans

There's only one snag to carrying just one communications device. Occasionally I leave home without my iPhone and only realise when I've gone too far to make it reasonable to return. Now, of course, I can turn to the iPad which can do everything the iPhone can do except make cellular calls.

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