Category Archives: iPhone

Bluetooth Versus Wired



Coloud The Snap Active EarbudsFor some months now, persistent rumors have been flying that the next iPhone will do away with the 3.5mm wired headset port. There have been plenty of people arguing both against and for this idea. Some people say that the demise of the wired headset port is inevitable.

As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been using Bluetooth devices for years. To be perfectly honest, the majority of Bluetooth headsets suck, regardless of price. They typically suffer from poor audio quality, especially those intended for phone calls.
I have yet to find a Bluetooth microphone that produces anything approaching acceptable quality for anything other than phone calls.

Bluetooth stereo is great for certain uses, such as in the car or for use with certain Bluetooth speakers intended for casual listening.

With this in mind, let’s examine how a smartphone would work without a 3.5mm wired jack for the way people use these devices today.

I see plenty of people using wired headsets, day in and day out. That tells me that, unlike the floppy drive, which was dropped because most software was being shipped on CD-ROM’s, the wired 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT obsolete. The 3.5mm headphone jack is NOT falling into disuse. There are still millions and millions of people using wired headsets with their smartphones on a constant basis. Wired headset use is NOT dropping off.

Modern smartphones are also extremely good high-definition video cameras. While they have built-in microphones, because of the 3.5mm headphone jack it is also possible to plug in a wired microphone. Wired microphones on traditional consumer camcorders have either been absent or an option for costlier prosumer models. Take the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away and the option of plugging in a superior wired microphone goes away with it.

If Apple takes the 3.5mm wired headphone jack away, it doesn’t matter to me, because I don’t have an iPhone and don’t want one. There will be plenty of remaining Android models to choose from that keep their senses.

In fact, there have already been Android smartphones available on the market that leave out the 3.5mm wired headphone jacks. The Chinese company LeEco released three jack-less phones in April of this year. Ever heard of them? Me neither, until I did a search. I don’t get the impression they are burning down the barn with popularity.

I make extensive use of Bluetooth as well as the 3.5mm jack on my phone. I will never buy a phone that doesn’t offer a 3.5mm jack any more than I would buy a phone that doesn’t offer Bluetooth or WiFi.


Azoi Kito+ Health Tracker Review



Kito+ logoAfter interviewing Azoi at Gadget Show Live, the team there sent me a Kito+ to review. I’ve been using it to check my vital signs over the past few weeks. If you didn’t read or listen to the original interview, the Kito+ is a credit-card sized health tracker that measures heart rate (pulse), respiration rate (breathing), blood oxygen, skin temperature and ECG.

Kito+ Box

The Kito+ sends all the data via Bluetooth to a nearby smartphone or tablet which displays the readings in real-time.  It’s even more impressive when you consider the Kito+ costs GB£100 (around US$140). The Kito+ can work as a standalone device with both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, or it can be embedded into a case for the iPhone 6 series of phones from Apple. Let’s take a look.

Kito+ In Box

The box opens up to show the Kito+ on the left with the iPhone cases and charging adapter on the right. Beneath the lids are instructions and a USB cable. There are two sizes of iPhone 6 case included, one for the standard iPhone 6 and one for the Plus versions. The magnetic charging adapter snaps into place and the micro-USB cable powers it up. Fully charged, the Kito+ is good for a whole month of tests.

Kito+

Turning to the Kito+ itself, it’s flat on one side with the sensors and buttons on the other. There are four sensors, an “on” button and two contacts for the charging adapter. The Kito+ is easy to use – simply hold in two hands with thumbs on the flat side, forefingers on the big shiny metal sensors and index fingers on the lower two smaller sensors.

As mentioned earlier, the Kito+ sends data to an app for processing, display and recording. It’s a straightforward app without too many bells and whistles, but it does have some good touches, such as being able to email your data to a doctor or physician.

When starting the app, you can either login to track your stats over time or you can go without a login, which is handy if you want a friend to try the Kito+. Once in, the next step is to press a small button on the Kito+ to prep the link between it and the smartphone. I found that occasionally this step didn’t always work but turning Bluetooth off and on again usually resolved it.

When successfully connected up, the smartphone shows how to hold the Kito+ and then moves into the measuring mode. This shows a real-time ECG graph and other figures as they are acquired over around 30 seconds. When the measuring phase is done, you can review your vital statistics.

Azoi Kito+ ReadingsAzoi Kito+ ECG

I can’t comment on the accuracy of the figures or the ECG but they seemed to be in the ballpark when I tried to measure my own heart and respiration rate. The blood oxygen measurement didn’t always succeed and it seemed very dependent on correct positioning of fingers and no movement during the test period. However, all the other measurements recorded correctly every time and I never had any figures that were so outlandish as to be unbelievable.

If you are logged into the app as an individual , the data is saved against the date and you can review your historical measurements if desired.

Azoi Kito+

Overall, I think the Azoi Kito+ is a great little device, especially considering the price (GB£100). I can see a number of potential users, from athletes and sportsman, or people who have a heart condition that can use the Kito+ under the guidance of a physician. I’m not medically trained so any docs who read GNC should chip in with comments on their view of the Kito+ and its potential.

For a full unboxing and demo run, there’s a video below. Thanks to Azoi for supplying the Kito+ for review.

 


Azoi Kito+ Health Tracker at Gadget Show Live



kito_homepageOnly a slightly bigger than a credit card, the Azoi Kito+ is a personal health tracking device that measures ECG, heart rate (pulse), blood oxygen, skin temperature and respiration rate. I’ve seen the Kito tracker a couple of times now and every time I see it, I’m impressed that such a small device can gather so much data for so little money (GB£99). Miran from Azoi tells me more at Gadget Show Live.

The Kito+ works in conjunction with a smartphone or tablet to measure the five stats mentioned earlier. The user holds the Kito+ with both hands and two fingers from each hand rest on four measurement points for about 20 seconds, during which the time the Kito+ records the data and passes it on to the Kito app. In real-time the app shows the ECG graph trace and other figures are shown once they’ve stabilised.

Azoi Kito+

As can be seen from the picture, the Kito+ can be embedded into phone cases for the Apple iPhone 6-series of smartphone cases. It’s not essential and the Kito+ works fine outside of a case with Android or other Apple devices. The Kito+ isn’t tied to one person, so a whole family can share the unit.

The Kito+ is available now from Azoi’s webstore for GB£99, which I think is great value when you think of the technology and potential value of the data. I’ll be bringing a full review of the Azoi Kito+ to GNC in the next few weeks.


Catalyst at 2016 CES



Catalyst logoTodd Cochrane interviews Josh with Catalyst, a leading provider of waterproof cases for the iPhone and Apple Watch. The Catalyst line of waterproof iPhone covers have an IP-68 rating and every individual product is tested before the sale to a water depth of 16.4 feet. The Catalyst iPhone cases are also two meters drop proof.

Catalyst also offers phone mounts that fit their waterproof iPhone cases. The phone mounts are priced at $45. The iPhone cases are priced at $74.99 for the iPhone 6S+, and $69.99 for the smaller iPhone 6S. The waterproof case for the Apple Watch is priced at $59.99. All Catalyst products are available now.

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LifeProof at CES 2016



LifeProofDaniele Mendez interviews Gordon Vater, senior public relations specialist with LifeProof. They discuss the new LifeProof water proof battery cases for the iPhone 6s and 6s+. The battery case can double the phone’s battery life. When the phone’s built-in battery starts to get low, simply hold down the button on the back of the case to start the charging process. The waterproof battery case for the iPhone 6s sells for $116.99. The price for the iPhone 6s+ waterproof battery case is $149.99.

They also discuss the LifeProof LIFEACTIV quick mount accessories. A puck is attached to the back of any phone, which enables it to quickly and securely be attached to different mounting devices for cars, belt clips, armbands and also bikes. The belt clip version sells for $26.99. The suction mount automotive version sells for $35.99.

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mJoose Case Boosts Smartphone Signal Strength



mJoose LogoThe mJoose is a 3-in-1 phone case for the Apple iPhone 6 series and Samsung Galaxy S6 that protects the phone, extends the battery life and boosts the phone signal. Is this too good to be true? Don Baine assesses the mJoose with John Casalaspi, VP Sales.

Originally an Indiegogo campaign that was 546% funded, the mJoose is a sled-type case in matt black or bone white that surrounds and protects the phone. Embedded within the case is a 3,000 mAh rechargeable battery and an active signal booster. Unlike passive boosters, the mJoose has built-in circuitry to receive the phone signal, amplify the signal and pass it on the the smartphone. The active boost will add about two bars to the signal strength and could make the difference between making a call and not. It works across all carrier frequencies from 2G to 4G for all carriers, whether GSM or CDMA.

The mJoose will be available in the next month or so for the iPhone 6 series – it’s in the last stages of Apple accreditation. The version for the Galaxy S6 and Edge phones will arrive a little later. Pricing will be around US$149.99 retail depending on model.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com

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Cook Reluctant To Fundamentally Alter iOS?



Created with Microsoft Fresh PaintCould Apple be faced with the classic innovator’s dilemma?

About 10 years ago I got bit by the Apple bug. A friend sold me his original Mac Mini running a G4 processor, and I was immediately hooked. At the time the machine was no powerhouse, however it was quite capable for basic computing tasks of the time. It died a few years later following lots of use, probably of a failed hard drive, though by then totally obsolete and not worth trying to repair.

Once Apple made the switch to Intel chips, I was all in. Apple computers were more expensive, but at that time Apple gave good value for the extra cost. My first two Apple laptops could actually be upgraded with larger capacity hard drives and more memory. The now 9-year-old white plastic MacBook still boots up and works well helped by the addition of an SSD, and the 17” MacBook Pro from 2007 still works though has developed a stuck mouse button problem. The problem with both of these machines is that technology has continued to move forward and my expectations have changed.

If we look back, technological devices are continually converging. The most useful functions of a particular device almost always get recombined into new convergence devices. The original devices may end up going completely away, or can end up as specialty devices. Device convergence pressures are relentless, driven in large part by new technical knowledge.

Steve Jobs seemed to have a particularly good knack for being able to pick out which convergence devices would catch on with the public and position his company to take advantage of what he saw coming. Like an expert surfer setting himself up for major waves, Jobs did this with the iMac, the original iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Jobs also had the ability to pivot if he saw that his personal predictions were wrong, for example adding apps to the iPhone after famously saying people didn’t want apps on their smartphones.

After he knew his death was impending, Jobs is said to have left Apple with at least 5 years’ worth of new product ideas.

Since the death of Steve Jobs more than four years ago on October 5, 2011, Apple has gone on to become the richest corporation in history. However, that success is perched precariously on the continuing phenomenal sales success of the iPhone.

In the meantime, technology and customer expectations have marched on. The pressure for device convergence yields for no one. Capacitive touchscreens now dominate the landscape. Gordon Moore’s Law continues its march forward towards smaller, cheaper and faster.

In portable computing, I now have a tablet in the form of a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 that is also a real PC capable of running desktop software. Since getting the Surface Pro 3, I am using it for everything – writing articles, podcast audio recording and editing, HD video editing including 4k, watching movies, and another use that turned out to be a total surprise. The Surface Pro 3 (and 4) comes with the Microsoft Pen. I now find myself motivated to learn the skill of drawing and digital art, which came completely out of left field.

My computing expectations have changed. I want a true convergence device. Apple doesn’t offer such a device. Furthermore, Cook keeps resisting the convergence idea itself.

Tim Cook again today discouraged the idea of making a Mac/iPad convergence device. Quoting Cook:

“We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad. Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

Why not experiment? Cook’s statement is couched in terms of “protecting” the customer, and “worrying,” but I believe something else is going on. Cook is afraid of radically altering the iOS experience, after all the iPhone is Apple’s giant cash cow. Why wouldn’t Cook want to innovate iOS beyond altering its cosmetics? Is Cook reluctant to tamper too much with the iPhone for fear of damaging iPhone sales?

Has Apple ran into the innovator’s dilemma?

Alas we have perhaps run into a fundamental difference between Tim Cook and Steve Jobs. One of the hallmarks of Steve Jobs was his willingness to cannibalize existing sales with new product convergence devices. For example, the iPhone cannibalized iPod sales because the iPod function was converged directly into the iPhone.

The new iPad Pro at the end of the day is just a physically larger, faster iPad. Trying to use the iPad for anything more than a media consumption device is a genuine pain. The iPad itself is just a giant iPod Touch. An iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone.

Thus, the innovator’s dilemma. Does Apple come out with a tablet that is also a touchscreen Mac similar to the Surface Pro 4, or a touchscreen Mac that also doubles as a tablet similar to the Microsoft SurfaceBook? Would such a hybrid device cause customer expectations for the iPhone to change in ways that might negatively impact sales?

Apple as a corporate machine is showing signs of rusting around the edges. Recent software and hardware product releases haven’t gone smoothly. Products seem rushed out the door before they are ready for primetime. Some customers waited months for the pointless Apple Watch. The new generation 4 Apple TV has interface problems, as well as bugs. The latest version of OS/X El Capitan is afflicted with many continuing bugs. iOS 9.x has continuing bugs. Even the new iPad Pro was inexplicably put on sale without the availability of the Apple Pencil stylus or the Apple Keyboard, both initially sold as being fundamentally important to the existence of the product. These problems would have never been tolerated or allowed to happen if Steve Jobs were still around running the Apple show. The well-oiled machine that was Apple under Steve Jobs is starting to fall into corporate dysfunction.

Apple has plenty of money in the bank, and iPhone sales are likely to continue to be strong in the short to mid-term, even if the nature of the iPhone itself isn’t fundamentally altered. That being said, technical knowledge and Moore’s Law continue to march ahead. Customer expectations change – will Apple?


iOS Bug Causes Text Message Crashing



Apple LogoApple’s iOS is generally considered to be a world-class operating system for mobile devices. But some things slip thru even Apple’s meticulous fingers. It was recently discovered that a specific string of text, sent as a text message, will immediately cause the recipient’s iOS device to crash. The bug requires no action on the part of the person receiving the message. As soon as the text pops up in the form of a system notification, the device will immediately crash and reboot.

The flaw was originally discovered by some Reddit users. They noted that if a very specific combination of Arabic characters are strung together and then sent as a text message, the receiving device will automatically truncate the text with an ellipses (…) at the end when it’s displayed as a system notification. And there’s something about that particular character string that iOS really doesn’t like, resulting in a hard reset of the device.

Considering that it takes such an odd combination of circumstances to trigger this iOS bug, it’s doubtful that most people will be affected by it. Of course, some pranksters will surely make use of it while they can. Apple has already acknowledged the problem and has said it’ll be fixed in a future update.

In the meantime, if you do receive an errant message that triggers an annoying crash, after your device resets, go into the Messages app and delete the conversation. And then consider blocking the sender, at least until the next iOS update comes out.


Would You buy a 12 Inch “iPad Pro?”



apple logoCoverage of tech industry rumors has really turned into a cottage industry in recent years. Nothing fuels the rumor mill more than anticipated new products or product updates from Apple. It seems like every time a tech blog gets the tiniest shred of information about a potential new iThing, dozens of websites then kick into overdrive with endless reaction and speculation pieces.

I tend to ignore most of this cruft but one rumored item that’s being tossed around by tech pundits has me somewhat intrigued. That item is the so-called “iPad Pro” (also referred to sometimes as the “iPad Plus”). The iPad Pro is believed to be a 12 or 13-inch iPad. This would be the largest modern iDevice Apple has ever made, eclipsing the size of the iPad Air 2 by about three inches. It’s even been suggested that the iPad Pro will come with a built-in USB port, a first for Apple touchscreen devices.

2015 does seem like the year for the iPad to go Pro. Traditionally, Apple has rolled out new additions to its existing product lines slowly. And while the original iPad has seen a number of upgrades over the years, its overall form factor hasn’t really changed. iPad Mini, the successor to the original iPad has gone thru some iterations of its own, but like the original iPad, its overall size hasn’t changed much since the premier edition. And while the first iPad pretty much ushered in the era of modern tablet computing, competitors have been quick on Apple’s heels to design comparable devices. Walk into any retail store that carries electronics and you’ll see larger-sized tablets running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems. But nothing from Apple.

I’ll admit, I’m usually a sucker for new Apple things. I’ve owned a total of four iPhones over the years, one iPad 2 and one iPad Mini. After a year of living without a cell phone, relying only on my iPad Mini for mobile computing/communication needs, I recently got back into the iPhone game, and its caused me to do some reconsideration on the role of mobile devices in my life. Overall, I find I’m using the Mini less and I’m leaving it at home more often. I’m still using the Mini as part of my audio production toolkit, and it’s nice to have around the house for things like looking up recipes or the occasional game of Flight Control. But for things like e-mail or listening to podcasts, I find I’m using the iPhone more. Given that the Mini is becoming more of a “stay-at-home” device, I don’t really need the smaller form factor, which is incredibly convenient when traveling. That led me to consider swapping the Mini for an iPad Air 2. That’s when I started seeing the iPad Pro speculation.

I’m legally blind, so I tend to prefer larger screens anytime I can get them. In a lot of ways, the iPhone Six Plus is really the first smartphone I’ve had that I can truly use. And while the Six Plus display is unquestionably big at 5.5 inches, the Mini’s display is still bigger, coming in at nearly eight inches. But even with that extra real estate, the Mini is still light and relatively easy to hold in one hand. This is important for me as I have to hold the device relatively close to my face in order to really see what’s on the display. This was really difficult to do with the iPad Air 2, not only because the device was too big to hold in one hand but also because it was kinda heavy. This gives me some pause in ditching the Mini for a larger iPad, as I don’t want to wind up with a device that’s awkward or difficult to use at times when I might need to hold the device in order to see it properly.

Which brings me to the iPad Pro. Apple has made great strides over the years in making its devices thinner and lighter. So while the Pro would still be the largest iPad ever, it may actually weigh less than the iPad 2 I used to have, thus making it a bit more manageable as a handheld device. There’s also an ever-expanding market of third-party stands, mounts and cases that allow mobile devices to be used in different environments while freeing users’ hands from having to hold those devices. If the iPad Pro turns out to be real, a plethora of these accessories will surely flood the market. And it almost goes without saying that a larger-screen iPad would be great for someone like me. I often have to rely on the zoom function built into iOS to see things on my iPad Mini’s screen. A larger screen could make that unnecessary. At the very least, I might not have to zoom in as much to properly see what’s on the display.

And really, display size is just the tip of the iceberg as to how an iPad Pro could be useful to me. All of the current prognostication is placing the potential release of the new device to happen during the fourth quarter of this year. There’s still a lot of time for this particular rumor to turn into digital vapor. For now, I may go out and take a look at some of those other 12-inch tablets on the market, just to get an idea of what the form factor is like. Of course, none of those devices will truly replicate what an iPad Pro will be like, but it’s a start.


iStick Flash Drive at Gadget Show Live



MyiStickFlash drives and smartphones have never really gone well together for the simple reason that full-size USB is only present on desktops and laptops, making it tricky transferring files from PC to phone. Android has a love-hate relationship with SD cards and micro USB OTG is only present on a handful of devices. As for Apple, one of their camera kits is needed to view external USB storage but only handles photos and movies. Whether original Apple connector or newer Lightning, there’s no easy solution.

Fortunately, salvation is at hand for Apple owners with iPhones and iPads equipped with Lightning connectors. The iStick is a flash drive that has both a USB and a Lighting connector with a clever sliding mechanism that pushes out one or other of the connectors. Movies, music and documents can be accessed directly from the iStick without copying the files to the iPhone.

MyiStick Range

Available in a range of capacities from 8 GB (£49) to 128 GB (£199), the iStick colour denotes the capacity and the aluminium body compliments the Apple range. Check out the interview to learn more about the iStick.