Monday, September 18, 2017

What happened to the iPhone 9?

Apple just announced its iPhone X. It’s the new flagship iPhone that will be released in November, weeks after the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus go on sale on September 23rd. Apple says you’re supposed to pronounce the iPhone X as “iPhone ten,” and it’s designed to mark 10 years of the iPhone. While the iPhone 8 is an iPhone 7S in all but name, the number jump across all the new iPhone models means we’re now officially missing an iPhone 9.

The iPhone X naming helps position the device above the regular iPhone 8 without explicitly labeling it “iPhone 10,” because most people are simply going to call it the iPhone X and not pronounce it as iPhone ten. Apple knows this, and the company only uses the X logo in its promotional materials. Jony Ive says “iPhone ten” in the company’s keynote video, but I’d be surprised if we hear Apple explicitly call it the iPhone ten on a regular basis.

This subtle difference makes it clear it’s a special edition iPhone, and not an iPhone 10 that’s going to make people think they’re not getting the latest iPhone if they go for the iPhone 8. Let’s face it, the iPhone X is the device people will want, but most will go for the iPhone 8 simply because the X is priced so high.

Microsoft did a similar trick for its Windows 10 naming. The software giant skipped Windows 9 and went straight to Windows 10, but Microsoft did this primarily to encourage Windows 7 users to upgrade. Looking at your PC and seeing Windows 7 when there’s a Windows 10 version out makes it seem all that much older, and it’s a marketing trick that helped promote free upgrades. Apple’s subtle trick does mean that next year’s iPhone names are going to get really interesting. Will we see the iPhone 8S, an iPhone 9, or an iPhone XS? Let the guessing games begin.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

5 iPhone Myths You Should Ignore

Though smartphones are a relatively new technology, there is already a handful of myths surrounding their use. Yes, most of them deal with battery life, and for the most part, smartphone myths are completely untrue.

5 Wireless Connections Are Power-Hogs

Once upon a time, connectivity options like Bluetooth did lead to a drop in overall battery life. But newer devices have better Bluetooth standards. As of Bluetooth 4.0, there is a Low Energy module that has lowered Bluetooth power consumption by half or more. On a similar note, an iPhone connected to Wi-Fi will actually use significantly less energy than one connected solely to LTE. The only exception is if your iPhone is actively “searching” for local Wi-Fi networks. So you don’t have to be obsessive about checking your connectivity constantly.

4 Rice Fixes Water Damage

Dropping a device into water is a nightmare scenario for many people, so it makes sense that users will search for quick fixes. Putting your phone in uncooked rice is one method that’s almost universally recommended. But does it work? Unfortunately, the evidence points to no. In fact, it could actually make your situation worse by speeding up corrosion due to the starches and residue in the uncooked grain. Your best bet is to take your device in for repairs, or worst case, just let it air dry on a shelf or table.

3 You Should Drain a Battery Before Charging It

This is another myth that, at one point in time, may have had some basis in truth. But modern-day lithium-ion batteries don’t need to be drained before being recharged. In fact, it’s probably better to charge your phone from whatever point it’s at rather than wait until it’s dead. If you wait until the battery is completely drained, you run the risk of stressing the battery, and going through the battery’s charge cycles quicker. Just charge your phone when it needs to be charged and you should be okay.

2 You Should Close Out of Your Apps

Many iPhone users make a habit of closing out active apps in iOS’s app switcher to save battery life — but, in reality, it’s not doing them any good. In fact, closing an app actually decreases your battery life, since iOS will need to use up resources and memory to reopen the app later. In many cases, it can use more battery than if the app had just been opened the whole time. On a similar note, closing out apps doesn’t actually speed up your device significantly, as an iPhone manages its RAM usage efficiently already.

1 Charging Overnight Is Dangerous

This is related to other “overcharging myths,” and is similarly untrue. Leaving your phone charging all night is completely safe, as long as you follow some easy tips. It won’t kill your battery’s overall lifespan. More than that, most modern smartphones have tech to reduce energy draw once they’re fully charged. Something that’s more important to keep in mind is your device’s temperature when it’s charging. So keep it cool on your bedside table instead smothered under your pillow or blanket.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Separated at birth?

Both characters are from the Star Wars universe: The Son on the left and the Grand Inquisitor on the right. Both were also dark-side Force users, and both also died by Jedi lightsabers.

Son: First appeared in the Clone Wars.

Grand Inquisitor: First appeared in Star Wars Rebels.

<<<Speculation Below>>>
The Son was not a Sith but was simply a dark-side Force user. Anakin Skywalker killed him with a single impalement of his lightsaber after the Son's Father began to die. When the Father died, his body vanished. Not so with the Son's, but neither with the Daughter's either for that matter. Then the area began to collapse with falling debris as soon as the Father vanished, and Anakin was not able to confirm the Son's death too due to suddenly reappearing on his ship. (It's always good to double-check a bad guy's death!) Thus, my speculation is that the Son survived much like Darth Maul survived being cut in half, and returned much later in Episode VII to be the villainous, zombie-like Snoke, also not a Sith  but merely a dark-side Force user. The more you look at the two, the more they look alike!

Update: This speculation was fun, but I think this is another case of "separated at birth." While they do look similar and have similar backgrounds, the Son hailed from Mortis in Wild Space, a region "south" of the "southern" Outer Rim, whereas Snoke hailed from the "western" Unknown Regions of the galaxy. It's too different. So we'll have to see what the Star Wars gurus have up their sleeves for Snoke's mysterious origin. [9/18/2017]

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

3 Ways iOS 11’s NFC Capabilities Will Change Your iPhone

Apple’s new iOS 11 software is slated to significantly expand NFC [Near-Field Communication] and RFID [Radio-Frequency IDentification] capabilities for the iPhone 8 and other compatibles devices. Sparing all the technical jargon, here’s what expanded NFC capabilities could do for you.

At its simplest, near-field communication (NFC) allows for secure, close-range wireless data transfer without the need for an internet connection. On iPhones, it’s used for Apple Pay — and thus far, its use on iOS devices has been restricted to Apple’s proprietary tap-and-go services. iOS 11 changes that with the introduction of Core NFC, a new framework that would allow developers to create apps that can read NFC tags.

Here are a few ways expanded NFC capabilities can revolutionize your iPhone.

#3 Detailed Product Information & Purchase

For the most part, NFC has largely been focused on commerce purposes — and that trend will certainly continue. But developers are already looking into ways to take NFC beyond simple tap-and-go payments. Take WISeKey’s solutions, for example. The cyber security company recently announced that iOS 11 now supports its CapSeal smart tag, a method mostly used for anti-counterfeiting purposes but could open up a range of possibilities. Using CapSeal, an iPhone user could tap their device on an NFC tag on a wine bottle – the producers of that wine could then display a customized message to the user, relaying information or letting them know if the bottle has been opened or not. Taken further, CapSeal and similar tech can be used to purchase a wine bottle on-the-spot, without the need to stand in line or check out at a register.

#2 Interact with Your Environment

With third-party support for the iPhone’s NFC now opened up, developers can easily program information-relaying features into their apps — think a QR code without the need for a camera. Apple hinted at this ability at WWDC, giving the example of using an Apple Watch to interface with gym equipment to sync heart rate, speed, incline and other information with Health. But it doesn’t end with gym equipment. A museum, for example, could place an NFC tag near a piece of art to display information about the artist on a user’s phone. Theme parks could install NFC tags to let users easily download maps and schedules. And an NFC-tagged movie poster could bring up the film’s trailer when an iPhone is near it. The possibilities of location-based interactions are endless.

#1 Automate iOS Tasks

Using third-party NFC tags, an iOS user could also automate a wide range of tasks. Admittedly, Apple hasn’t exactly expanded on these potential capabilities, but similar functions have been available on Android for a while. It’s just that Cupertino has historically shied away from opening up third-party support for its device’s NFC technology. But the potential is there now, and in later versions of iOS, we could see a groundswell of new features. It’s not a guarantee, but the possibilities are exciting. Place an NFC tag in your car, for example, and you can tap your phone on it to automatically bring up a navigation app and commute data. Have an NFC tag by your bed, and when you put your phone down near it, it could automatically set your alarms. And Samsung recently came out with a “smart suit” that could turn your phone to silent for meetings with a simple tap on the suit’s buttons. Apple developers may have to play a bit of catch-up, but Core NFC could open up a whole new world of capabilities.


Friday, May 26, 2017

10 things you didn’t know about the background characters in the iconic 'Star Wars' cantina scene

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the release of George Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope,” which didn’t just launch the one of the greatest movie franchises of all time but also the summer blockbuster, let’s look back at one of the movie’s most memorable moments: the Mos Eisley cantina scene.

It’s where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) find a pilot to take them to Alderaan. You guessed it — Han Solo (Harrison Ford).

But Kenobi wasn’t joking when he told Luke that in Mos Eisley, “You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Let’s look back on ten interesting characters who were in the cantina the day Luke and Obi-Wan walked in.

Watch out, this place can be a little rough.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Here’s What to Do After Dropping Your iPhone in Water

Dropped your iPhone in the water, the toilet, or the swimming pool? It can be a very frustrating moment to see your iPhone drenched with water, but panicking and rushing to dry it with anything that you find is not the solution and may actually cause more harm.

In most cases, you can still save your iPhone after it has been exposed to water, but it’s important that you take the necessary precautions to limit the damage and avoid causing extra harm. Here’s the process of dealing with an iPhone that has been damaged by water.

Precautions to Take When an iPhone Is Exposed to Water

  • If your iPhone is plugged in to a power source, unplug it immediately as it can cause short circuits. Also, disconnect USB cables, headphones, or any other accessories connected to it by a wire.
  • Completely dry the external surface of the iPhone with a piece of cloth. Avoid using electronic devices for drying, such as a hair dryer.
  • Hold your iPhone upside down and gently shake it to get liquid out of the ports and sockets.
  • If the iPhone is still turned on, power it off by holding down the power button.
  • If your iPhone is in a case, take it off to avoid any liquid being trapped inside.
Now that you’ve taken the necessary precautions to limit the water damage to your iPhone, you’re ready to dry the internals.

How to Dry a Wet iPhone

It’s a popular concept to stuff a wet device into a bag full of rice to dry the internals. Based on my experience, this actually works and helps to absorb the moisture within the iPhone.

  1. To get started, grab a plastic zipper-lock bag or anything else that can be filled with rice.
  2. Now fill it with rice and place the iPhone in it so that its entire body is covered by rice.
  3. Leave it there for about 36 hours or more until all the moisture is absorbed by the rice. Be warned that some dust or rice grains may get into the ports.
  4. An alternative option is to use silica gel which is more effective in drying a wet device, but you’ll need lots of them to cover the iPhone.

Once you’ve waited for at least 36 hours and feel confident that the iPhone has dried completely, take it out and try switching on. In most cases, the iPhone will turn on successfully.

If your iPhone doesn’t turn on, then you should take it to a nearby Apple Store and have it inspected. Keep in mind that iOS devices have a liquid contact indicator that shows whether the device was damaged by water, so make sure that you don’t claim that the iPhone stopped working without any apparent reason.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

R.I.P. MP3

R.I.P. mp3: Patent Holders Declare the Audio Format Officially Dead

Mp3, the decades-old digital audio format that gained widespread popularity over the last 15 years in large part by Apple’s iPod devices, has officially been killed off and will no longer be licensed, according to the format’s majority patent holders at the Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS.

In a brief statement that was published to its website late last month, the Fraunhofer Institute explained how its myriad of patents pertaining to the encoders and decoders of the 25-year-old mp3 format have expired, and that the digital audio standard of old will heretofore be replaced by the much more advanced and higher-quality ‘Advanced Audio Coding’ (AAC) format.

“On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated,” Fraunhofer’s statement reads, in part, while adding that “We thank all of our licensees for their great support in making mp3 the de facto audio codec in the world, during the past two decades.”

The mp3 code was initially developed in the late 1980s as a collaborative effort between the Fraunhofer Institute in conjunction with previous developments from the University Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany. Although more advanced audio codes exist today, mp3 was nevertheless popularized by Apple when it first introduced the iPod back in 2001, which brought the historically lower-quality format to the mainstream and was the primary format of audio tracks available via the iTunes music store. Although there inherently exist a number of more advanced, higher-quality formats, mp3 still remains a popular choice among consumers today.

“Most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family, or in the future MPEG-H,” the Fraunhofer Institute said, while adding that “Those [formats] can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3.”

The expiration of the Fraunhofer Institute’s patents and its subsequent decision to stop licensing the mp3 format is largely a symbolic move, however comparable to how manufacturers oftentimes adopt the next-generation of a technology while still offering intermittent support for the technology that preceded it. For instance, when the CD-ROM drive began infiltrating the PC market in the mid- to late-1990s, floppy disc drives were still considered a popular option for reading software titles among PC users.

In much the same way, while the mp3 format revolutionized the way and efficacy with which users downloaded music files — and while it will likely remain a popular choice for some time to come — more advanced file formats, such as AAC, are already considered the new gold standard by many in the industry.

Of course, mp3 will not cease to exist, as the statement published by Fraunhofer might suggest; but rather due to the expiration of its patents, the firm will merely cease licensing the format to vendors and their audio-centric music platforms such as iTunes.