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  • Newsletter Issue #722

    September 30th, 2013

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Sometimes I think I could devote the rest of my life to writing articles about the foolish comments made by some members of the tech media, not to mention financial pundits. But since that’s already being done in lots of places, I’ll just limit my comments to individual situations.

    In any case, on The Tech Night Owl LIVE this week, Kyle Wiens, from iFixit, told you all about his company’s tear-down of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, and you learned what it’s made of, and how difficult it is for you to service it yourself. You’ll also got a comparison with other smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One.

    While I’m not really interested in opening up an iPhone anytime soon, I can see where Apple made decisions that some might regard as curious. So, for example, if you actually wanted to replace the battery on an iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, you have to find a way to heat up the unit to loosen the adhesive. Now I don’t know if there were reliability problems with the iPhone 5, where the battery wasn’t attached in such a fashion, but that doesn’t mean Apple is listening.

    And please don’t get me started about the issues of adding memory to the recent versions of the 21.5-inch iMac.

    Once again, we presented cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, from Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, who again revealed some of the “bozo” comments from the tech media about why they regard record sales for the new iPhones as bad news. Yes, I’m serious; that’s what they’ve been saying.

    You’ll also heard from Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer, who talked about the new iPhones, and the incredibly popular iOS 7 upgrade.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present another listener roundtable that features two of our most prolific and knowledgeable posters, which include forum moderator Goggs Mackay and long-time forum member Mike Jones (“mike”). We’ll focus heavily on what’s wrong with paranormal research, and why a new paradigm of investigation should be considered. We’ll also discuss the influences of sci-fi on the UFO field and popular culture.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

    THE iPHONE 5S: NO MOTION SICKNESS HERE

    Welcome to the world of WackyGate. You just knew that people would find something wrong about iOS 7 other than fonts that are too thin. And, by the way, there’s an Accessibility option that makes the fonts bolder, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    As I was setting up a test unit, a 32GB silver iPhone 5S, I read reports from that some people have complained of motion sickness, evidently the result of that parallax 3D effect when you use the standard or “dynamic” wallpaper background. Of course, it’s a trivial matter to change the wallpaper, and you can also reduce the motion effects in the iOS General>Accessibility settings. But that’s way too logical.

    In any case, every time I set up a new iPhone, I am reminded of how easy it is, particularly when you already have a backup of an older model. Last week, for example, when I set up an iPhone 5c that my wife will be using during this extended review period, I used my last backup as the template. After that, it took just a short while to adjust Mail for her default address and her signature. I also configured alert settings to fit her needs, changed the wallpaper to a color and design she preferred, and that was it.

    With the iPhone 5s, I used the older backup with few changes, mostly to reflect the fact that the email service we use now employs Microsoft’s ActiveSync for push email (it’s not Exchange). You might think this regular polling process would reduce battery life, but it doesn’t seem to have any noticeable impact. It didn’t on the Samsung Galaxy S4 either, by the way.

    If you’ve already used an iPhone 5, the experience is quite familiar. The case is still metal, assembled via a sophisticated machining process that took some time for Apple to master. Supposedly early deliveries of the original iPhone 5 were slowed because it took time for the factory to master this construction scheme. The iPhone 5s is backordered too, but maybe because of the fingerprint sensor.

    Speaking of which, Touch ID is, as you’ve read, a fairly painless process to configure. First you have to enter a four-digit passcode, which serves as a backup in case fingerprint recognition fails, or after you restart the unit. Once that’s done, you will see an illustration of a gray fingerprint, at which time you simply place your chosen digit on the Home button. You place, not click. In a second or so, you’ll feel a slight vibration, at which time you lift it and place it down again. This operation is repeated as the gray fingerprint lines become red, at which point you’ll see a prompt that your fingerprint has been fully scanned. The second part of the process involves placing the edge of the finger on the Home button to get a wider ranging image. That design decision gives you a little flexibility, so you don’t have to fret over whether you placed your finger in the exact position each time.

    Your success will be rewarded with a picture informing you the setup is complete. Congratulations. There won’t be blaring graphics or some silly sound effect. That’s not Apple’s way. You will also be able to scan four more fingerprints in case you want a choice, or you want to grant access to another family member.

    In practice, you learn to just place your finger on the Home button, and in just about a second, your fingerprint will be recognized and you can go about your business. You can even have your fingerprint authenticate purchases from iTunes and the App Store, but this is an option you do not have to use if you’re not confident of the security of the process.

    Beyond the changes wrought by iOS 7, the key functions of the iPhone 5s seem somewhat faster and more fluid. Animations are subtly snappier, and some apps open faster — sometimes a whole lot faster. The 5s benchmarks more than twice as fast as the 5c, but real world differences aren’t always as drastic. As apps are recompiled to support the new flagship iPhone and 64-bit, you’ll definitely see differences. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be in your element.

    Apple has also improved the camera noticeably with a better lens, larger pixels and a smart twin-LED flash scheme. All told, pictures in low light are brighter, with more accurate colors. The slo-mo video effect is gimmicky, but fun, although there may be issues when you transfer the content to a Mac or a PC.

    But most of you will forget the frills and the fluff and simply want to take casual snapshots. But with the improved home movie and panoramic features, you’ll have a lot more fun with your 5s. This is very much in keeping with the Apple Way. You don’t have to worry about the process, or the sophisticated technology behind all the new features. You just sit back and enjoy with minimal configuration.

    That approach is the polar opposite of how it’s done in Androidland, where many features involve lots of setups and reconfigurations, with no guarantee things will work properly. In some cases, they simply don’t. Samsung’s proprietary Tilt To Scroll feature, not part of the normal Android installation, is one area, and there are many, where usability was never considered.

    Now you might wonder about battery life what with all the new circuitry. I haven’t actually run any tests with stopwatches as others have done. Instead, I just went about my business, and it does seem as if both the 5c and the 5s last somewhat longer than the iPhone 4s I used last year. Compared to the Galaxy S4, which actually has a higher battery life rating, the iPhone survives longer between charges in the  real world. Indeed, Apple’s performance claims for their mobile gear tend to be largely verified in independent tests.

    The long and short of it is that, once again, Apple manages to deliver a superior product with a superior user experience. That explains the higher customer satisfaction ratings compared to Android and other platforms. Sure, more Android gear is activated on a daily basis, but a hefty percentage of those activations are for cheap, poor performing gear running older versions of Google’s OS. The handset makers who sell that stuff make very slim profits, so it’s nothing to celebrate.

    ABOUT THE WORLD OF FACT CHECKING

    When a certain U.S. Senator derided the value of fact checkers the other day in a marathon speech, I started thinking strictly about our little corner of the world. Since Apple’s stock price began its great roller coaster ride in late 2012, there have been huge numbers of reports that, in essence, claim that the management at Apple is just plain dumb.

    It doesn’t matter that the iPhone remains highly successful and that, despite somewhat lower iPad sales in the last quarter, Apple has sales and profits that are the envy of the industry. The feeling is that the company is being overwhelmed by competitors who build cheap commodity gear, and the only solution for long-term survival is to sell cheap commodity gear.

    When the rumors arose about a forthcoming iPhone 5c, a less expensive iPhone, the analysts suggested it must sell for less than the iPhone 4, which then retailed for about $449 on average. This, they suggested, was the only way for Apple to gain market penetration in emerging markets and reach customers who couldn’t afford an iPhone.

    So you can imagine the screaming when it turned out that the 5c was mostly last year’s iPhone 5 in a new dress, and a new marketing scheme. Sure, the front-facing FaceTime camera was better, battery life was up to 20% longer, and the LTE radio was more usable in more places. But it wasn’t cheap enough.

    Had Apple kept with last year’s marketing plan, they would simply have sold the iPhone 5 unaltered at $100 less, the same price being charged for the 5c

    Now there’s nothing whatever wrong with the 5c. It’s a perfectly good smartphone and holds its own against most of the competition out there. Sure, Apple hasn’t gone for displays larger than four inches just yet, so hold it a little closer. The tinier iPhone is easier to put in your pocket or purse, and is more convenient to use with one hand. There is that.

    Understand that Tim Cook has said on several occasions that Apple won’t build cheap stuff. He was crystal clear about it, but the media must have forgotten, or assumed it was nothing but corporate spin. So they continued to assume that the 5c should have been less expensive, and that, by failing to follow their demands, Apple screwed up big time.

    Of course, Apple is a private corporation and is thus only answerable to the stockholders who own shares in the company. They do not have to build the products the media wants them to build, or sell them for the prices the media wants to set. But by getting good profits on every sale, and continuing to earn high revenues, their ongoing success is assured.

    Notice, for example, how Apple made an S.E.C. filing after the high iPhone sales were announced that indicated expected total revenue would be at the high end of their guidance. At the same time, some media pundits were complaining that the record iPhone sales were really bad news for Apple.

    It doesn’t matter that the more sensible and logical writers out there continued to report the truth, and not the silly pronouncements from people who continue to want to make good news seem bad.

    Sure, it’s always possible that future sales will disappoint. Maybe building a mid-priced iPhone 5c was the wrong answer. Maybe Apple should have sacrificed profits to make it another $100 cheaper. But you wonder why the media doesn’t pay equal attention to Samsung’s curious product design decisions for their flagship products. Consider all that junk filing the modest storage space on the Galaxy S4, up to half on the 16GB version. Consider touting a display that totally washes out in even medium sunlight.

    Consider how many tech and financial writers praised Samsung for claiming to ship 10 million Galaxy S4’s in the first 28 days on sale, a figure that was not duplicated during the second month. Apple moved nine million in just three days, and that’s was a bad thing. Do you see the disconnect?

    Sure, Samsung might deliver a 64-bit Galaxy next year, along with a fingerprint sensor. But how will these features enhance the user experience? Or will they? Having a feature doesn’t mean it necessarily works properly. That’s the question that ought to be answered, but you know it won’t. Oh and by the way, Samsung has announced a gold version of the Galaxy S4. Why? Well, what is the hot color on the iPhone 5s?

    All right, Samsung also claims to have built gold handsets in previous years, but how many heard of them, or actually bought them?

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #722”

    1. Len Swierski says:

      So glad to hear so many positive things about the 5s. I am getting one in about two weeks after using a 3Gs for over 3 years. It should be a vast improvement, I am sure. Thanks for your efforts, Gene. It’s great to see you keeping the tech media in perspective.

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