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

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.

This is a welcome move as far as I can see. The old tax disk has been a familiar part of my life and I cannot say I am sorry to see it go. It was always an ugly addition to the windscreen and did nothing the all-round visibility.  I don't get bouts of nostalgia over such things and am ever ready for a bit of change.

Some pundits fear that innocent motorists will be prosecuted in error because of camera misreading of number plates. But we will have to wait to see if this is just another of these scare stories that happen whenever something like this changes. 

My Nissan Leaf is zero-rated for tax in any case. But I still had to apply for and display the free tax disc. Now the expansive windscreen of the Leaf is unadorned and all the better for it. It might even make parking the car on the nearside just that little bit easier.

iPhone is dead. Arise the OneDevice

But why do Apple and other tech manufacturers continue to differentiate between phones and tablets? They now essentially the same product except that the so-called phone is able to make cellular calls. The tablet can do everything except make cellular calls. These days people are making fewer cellular calls. VOIP calling, which is perfectly possible on an iPad, is arguably now more important than cellular. It is free, for starters.

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Apple's silicone iPhone case more grippable than leather

In anticipation of the arrival of my iPhone 6 Plus I bought a red leather case from the Apple Store. Quality is excellent, the leather is softer than I remember from previous cases. Yet when I clipped it to the phone I was not happy. It is too slippery and the phone feels less secure in the hand than it ought. I also took exception to seeing the red border around the front of the case. 

I have now exchanged the leather case for the silicone version, in dark grey, which is more practical and easier on the eye. 

The new case is slightly rubbery in feel and immediately I felt more comfortable holding and using the phone. It's £10 cheaper as well.  

 

iPhone 6 Plus: Nightmare at the bedside

Choosing between the new iPhone 6 and the huge 6 Plus is a problem for everyone. I outline some of the differences in my article on Macfilos/tech. But what of photographers? Many, I know, carry an iPad as a showcase for favourite shots and there is no doubt that the larger screen of the Air or, even, the iPad mini, is a great showcase for photographs. 

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iPhone 6 Plus arrives on time. Hugeness explored

I expected the UPS man to be dressed as Father Christmas when he appeared at the door this morning. It must be nice pleasing so many people in one day. I soon had the Plus up and running. Restoration from the iCloud backup was painless and quick, thanks to my new 150Mbps Virgin broadband. 

The device is now snuggled inside an Apple Project Red leather case (which, incidentally, appears to be made from a smoother and less rigid leather than previous 5S cases) and it even fits in the Belkin iPhone 5 dock without toppling over.

But it is big. When I briefly played with the two new iPhones in the Apple Store I decided that the 6 Plus was not as huge as many people suggested. Now it is on my desk I see the full enormity of the Apple phablet. In some ways the red case surround emphasises the size.

I will reserve final judgment until I have used the phone for a few days. However, since I have been boring you over the months about my preference for a phablet, a one-size-fits-all phone and tablet, I shall no doubt soldier on for the next year. I have no plans at the moment to bottle out and exchange it for the smaller 6.

There is also an unknown factor in the offing: The Apple Watch should play well with the larger phone, enabling it to be kept in a bag and brought out only for web browsing and reading. 

iPhone 6 Plus arriving in UK sooner than originally scheduled

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

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.

Phone is just an app which is not frequently used

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?

iPhone 6 Plus selling out fast after an hour on sale

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. 

 

iCloud Pricing: Legacy accounts to be upgraded

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. 

Apple Watch: Achilles' heel battery life will be its downfall — or will it?

Given the Watch's diminutive size and multi-talented capabilities, once-a-day charging is actually an impressive feat. Unless Apple has surreptitiously managed an overnight revolution in battery technology, I cannot imagine how anyone could have imagined the watch lasting more than one day on a charge.

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Apple truly disrupts the established luxury watch industry

Jony Ive was right when he said that the Swiss watch industry could be in jeopardy. But it isn't only the Swiss industry, it is the entire watch industry. The Apple Watch will do for the watch world what the iPhone did for Nokia and rest of the old dumbphone brigade. Luxury watches have had a good run over the past century and, no doubt, they will continue to sell to connoisseurs who want a faultless piece of jewellery on their wrists. But for the rest of us (and I speak as a former Swiss watch fan and currently IWC owner) the Apple Watch is likely to be the timepiece of choice.

Just as the iPhone showed that the humble phone had much greater potential, the Apple Watch demonstrates just how much more use can be made of the valuable space on the wrist. If it were some cheap, tacky plastic confection we might have some doubts. But the stainless steel or 18-ct gold watch cases with the ability to swap straps for different occasions and activities turns this into an object of real desire. I never thought I would say this, but I can see the Apple Watch supplanting my Swiss timepiece. And I will not be alone. Switzerland does indeed need to start worrying.