January 30, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Should The iPhone Allow You To Easily Swap Batteries? [Feature]

Friday Night Fights: Should The iPhone Allow You To Easily Swap Batteries? [Feature]

Friday Night Fights: Should The iPhone Allow You To Easily Swap Batteries? [Feature]Laaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen, welcome to Friday Night Fights, a new series of weekly deathmatches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

After this week’s topic, someone’s going to be spitting teeth. Our question: Should The iPhone Allow You To Easily Swap In And Out Batteries? A lot of Android phones let you swap in and out batteries if you’re low on power, but Apple’s never done so. Is this just another example of Apple hardware oppression, or do they have a good reason?

In one corner, we have the 900 pound gorilla, Cult of Mac; in the opposite corner, wearing the green trunks, we have the plucky upstart, Cult of Android!

Place your bets, gentlemen! This is going be a bloody one.

Vincent Messina, Cult of Android

While not every Android device features a removable battery, the majority of them do, and so we’re going to take a look at which is better: having an irremovable battery such as the iPhone or having a removable battery as in the majority of Android devices. I believe the advantages of having a removable battery far outweigh any you get from keeping the battery locked up and I hope to prove it to you in tonight’s Friday Night Fights.

Ahh, the battery, the life line of our precious tech devices. Without a constant power supply, all of our advances in mobile technology are useless and become nothing more than shiny paperweights. We’re always trying to get the most out of our batteries, whether it’s battery saving apps (which use the battery) or simply shutting down phone features when not in use. We never want to be without power and that’s why we have our superhero utility belt full of usb chargers, car chargers, wall chargers, power packs, etc. I like to also think of spare batteries as a tool in which to stay powered up, and that’s why it is important for a device to have the ability to swap batteries.

Having a removable battery benefits the power user the most, but also benefits any casual user who enjoys taking their device outdoors and away from a power supply. For a power user, any additional power source is a good one, and having the option to swap batteries is a life saver when faced with situations where having constant power is a necessity. You can’t always guarantee an open power source to plug into and having a spare can be a life saver. Not only are spare batteries great for emergencies but if your device has a removable battery, chances are there are manufacturers out there that sell larger batteries than can be used as a primary. When you have a device that doesn’t allow for you to remove the battery, you’re stuck with whatever size battery is in there and that’s it.

A recent example comes to light in this whole removable battery debate and that’s the one of the Motorola DROID RAZR on Verizon. Motorola decided to manufacture a top of the line device for Verizon that featured an irremovable battery. Inside they equipped it with a 1780mAh battery to not only handle the strains of video, gaming, multitasking, etc. but of the power consuming beast that is LTE. Well, we all saw how that worked out. Customers were quickly complaining about battery life, and had Motorola designed the RAZR to have a removable battery, they could have simply sold an extended battery to those looking for more power. Instead, they had to manufacture an entirely new device, insert a larger battery, and call it the DROID RAZR MAXX.

Not only does having a removable battery help in the quest for constant power, but it also helps a user do his own tech support without having to bring his device into a store for an issue a simple battery pull may fix. Yes, that point may be moot due to other ways of resetting your device, but the fact remains that sometimes an issue you’re having with your device is simply due to the battery. Maybe the battery won’t take a charge any longer, who knows, but if you had your friend near you (or a spare battery), you could swap the battery for a quick test and voila, you may just need a new battery. You didn’t have to drive to a store, you didn’t have to call support or create a ticket, you simply had to replace the battery. Batteries don’t last forever, and having the ability to just purchase a new one and swap it out yourself is a convenience everyone should have.

We can always use more power, and no matter what battery an OEM puts into your device, for some — it’s just not enough. In the famous words of Tim “the tool man” Taylor — “More Power!”


John Brownlee, Cult of Mac

Back before I had my iPhone, I had an LG Optimus V for a little while, less for any love of the phone than the fact that Virgin Mobile’s plans are extremely attractive. The phone was a piece of junk, a constant annoyance — ask my girlfriend, who inherited the damn thing — but one thing I did like about it was that I was able to pick up a couple of other batteries and slap them in when the Optimus ran out of juice, which it did all the damn time. So I’m not totally without sympathy for the notion that smartphones should have swappable batteries.

That said, there’s a reason the iPhone doesn’t have a swappable battery. Swappable batteries are an inelegant solution to the problem of charging your phone, and compromise both the design and build quality of a device. These are all important considerations.

When I had my Optimus, charging up the spare batteries was a nightmare. I had to slap them into a universal wall charger, line up the positive and negative battery posts and wait for them to charge. There was no way to tell how much charge they had left, or which one was charged and which one wasn’t. And when I needed to replace a battery, I had to essentially turn off my phone entirely and then take it apart.

Compare this to the many juice packs I have for my iPhone. These battery chargers simply connect to my device through the 30-Pin Dock Connector. I don’t have to turn off my iPhone, or take it apart. They charge through USB or a wall socket, and all have indicators to show how much juice they have left. Heck, I even have a couple battery chargers that are actually built into iPhone cases, and can extend the battery life by 150% of more.

Sure, I know Apple didn’t make these charging solutions. I also know that similar charging solutions exist on Android. But that’s the whole point: if these more elegant solutions work on any smartphone and are so much less of a hassle than keeping a bunch of spare batteries in your pocket, then why bother with swappable batteries anyway?

Which brings me to the compromises in design and build quality that swappable batteries cause. If the iPhone, for example, allowed for swappable batteries, the device would be much less solidly constructed. It would need a battery cover, which would not only affect the aesthetics of the device (say goodbye to the iPhone 4”s iconic Gorilla Glass casing) but also making it more susceptible to damage from falls. Think about it: drop an iPhone and if it doesn’t land in a puddle, the worst thing that happens is the glass gets cracked. But if you drop a phone with a swappable battery, the first thing that usually happens is the battery cover pops open, exposing the inside electronics of the device to damage.

So surprise! I’m ultimately with Apple here. Swappable batteries are just a less elegant solution than an external battery pack that attaches to your device, and totally not worth the heightened increase of damage that come from giving easy access to the sensitive, easily-broken electronics inside a smartphone. A phone isn’t a remote control, it’s an expensive computer in your pocket. You don’t need to change the batteries: there are far better ways to charge a smartphone. And to design one.

(One last note: I’m not against user replaceable batteries at all. If your phone battery charges, I believe a user should be able to go in and replace it himself with little trouble or expense. You can actually do this on an iPhone 4S. The difference is, you need a screwdriver, meaning it’s a procedure for phones that can no longer hold a charge only, and not to be frivolously done. Best of both worlds!)

(Via Cult of Android.)

Cult of Mac

Friday Night Fights: Android’s Virtual Buttons Vs. iOS’s Home Button

Friday Night Fights: Android’s Virtual Buttons Vs. iOS’s Home Button

Friday Night Fights: Android’s Virtual Buttons Vs. iOS’s Home ButtonLaaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen, welcome to Friday Night Fights, a new series of weekly deathmatches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

After this week’s topic, someone’s going to be spitting teeth. Our question: Which is better? Android’s three virtual buttons or iOS’s physical home button?

In one corner, we have the 900 pound gorilla, Cult of Mac; in the opposite corner, wearing the green trunks, we have the plucky upstart, Cult of Android!

Place your bets, gentlemen! This is going be a bloody one.

Vincent Messina, Cult of Android

Friday Night Fights: Android’s Virtual Buttons Vs. iOS’s Home Button

Today we’re going to take a look at the virtual buttons introduced in Android and debate whether or not having software specific on-screen virtual buttons is a better solution to Apple’s single button design.

Most of you are using a device that includes those archetypal hardware or capacitive buttons. You know the ones: home, search, back, menu. Of course as you all know, the order of those buttons also varies manufacturer to manufacturer. The different button locations and lack of manufacturer consistency (along with many other reasons), ultimately led Google to abandoned the static hardware buttons in favor of the new on-screen virtual buttons you find in Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich. In my opinion, this was one of the best decisions by Google, and has taken Android into what I believe will be the future of mobile device design.

While Apple has for years implemented the simple design of a one button function hub (hardware button), I believe having any hardware button(s) to be an unnecessary hindrance to functionality and design aesthetics as we move into a future of larger screens and multimedia content. The advent of the virtual button has created a wealth of newfound functionality, increased flexibility, and an overall better looking phone. Having a hardware button fixed to a particular position of a device limits that designated area space and results in a large bezeled section of unused, wasted space. As we lean more and more towards using our mobile devices for things like gaming and watching movies, this space becomes valuable property that could be put to better use. Take away the iPhone’s hardware button and the bezel that surrounds it and you  instantly add an additional inch of screen real estate without changing the size of the phone (now what iPhone user wouldn’t want that?). With that being said, let’s look at some of the advantages of having on-screen virtual buttons.

Gaming

Mobile gaming has advanced tremendously over the years and console quality games on our mobile handsets are now a reality. More people are using their mobile devices as portable hand-held gaming systems, and developers are working towards a multi-platform gaming ecosystem, one where users can take their games anywhere they go. Having more screen on which to enjoy your game and use on screen controls is very important. Gone are the days of cramming virtual D-pads and action buttons into a 3.5” area. Most importantly, gone are the days of accidentally exiting out of a game due to those annoying capacitive buttons being positioned right where you need to hold your device. I can’t tell you how much my gaming experience has improved since the purchase of my no button Galaxy Nexus. Simply amazing!

Watching Movies

Watching movies and videos has become a visually stunning experience on the larger HD screens, and thanks to the removal of hardware buttons, we can now comfortably hold our devices without worrying about closing out the movie or forcing manufacturers to create larger bulkier phones to compensate for fitting both hardware buttons and a larger screen.

Design

Having universal software specific virtual buttons creates a more consistent and recognizable design across Android and helps with the whole “fragmentation” monkey.  Since the virtual buttons can be dimmed or hidden by developers, apps can be made to take advantage of a larger full screen design. Manufacturers can now design slicker, more minimalistic looking devices, void of large ugly bezels and hardware buttons that just look odd when you’re holding your device in multiple orientations.

Mods 

With Android and its open environment, the modding possibilities for virtual buttons is endless. With software controlled virtual buttons, mods can be created to provide a wealth of additional information and customizations. Custom text and colors can be added to the virtual buttons, and even entire new buttons can be added or removed to fit a user’s needs. Maybe you prefer only one Applesque button, or perhaps you miss the old 4 button setup, mods can make it possible. You can be completely free of hardware forced design and create your own personal setup thanks to software based virtual buttons.

Overall

In conclusion, having on-screen virtual buttons that change orientation with you, create a more functional and easier experience while freeing users and manufacturers from hardware constraints. They free up unused space and allow for larger screens without the need to increase the overall size of a device. They provide a more optimal gaming experience and help encourage greater multimedia experiences via larger screens. I believe the hardware buttons have outlived their use and will go the way of the dinosaur very soon. There’s simply no need for them when they can be built into the software, and my money is on a buttonless future. As we approach the new age of flexible screens and transparency concepts, the only way we’re going to see Tony Stark’s future phone, is if we get rid of the buttons.

Friday Night Fights: Android’s Virtual Buttons Vs. iOS’s Home Button

John Brownlee, Cult Of Mac

Apple’s minimalistic philosophy when it comes to physical buttons starts way back in the early 80s, when Steve Jobs took the design of the first mouse from Xerox’s PARC labs and, to make it cheaper, dropped all but one mouse button. It’s an obsession that has continued unabated ever since, most recently culminating (on the mouse front) in the buttonless, multitouch Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.

When Apple released the first iPhone, they applied the same concept towards buttons in phones as they had with mice. Instead of having a T9-interface or QWERTY keyboard, the iPhone shipped with just one physical interface button. It was the iconic iOS home button, a small round button slap in the center of the bottom of the device and tattooed with a simple, rounded-edge square. The button only did one thing by itself — brought you to the homescreen — but Apple had seen the truth: once you have a touchscreen, one button is all you need.

It’s a memo Google never got. When Google remade Android in the image of iOS as a touchscreen operating system in late 2007, they decided that every Android phone should ship with four hardware buttons: Search, Home, Back And Menu. Giving credence to Apple’s “one button to rule them all” approach, all of these buttons except home are basically made redundant by a solid software UI.

• Search – It makes sense, of course, that Google of all people wanted to push a dedicated search button on customers, but it’s unnecessary. Most apps don’t actually require search functionality, making a universal hardware button for it pointless, and for the apps that do require search, a software search box does the trick just as well. It’s telling that this was the first hardware interface button many handset makers started leaving off their devices entirely (for example, Samsung).

• Menu – Again, having a dedicated hardware button for menu is something that can be handled just as well by a touchscreen UI. What’s so confusing about Menu on Android is that it’s not consistent: sometimes it will lead to app settings, sometimes to favorites, sometimes to shortcuts, and sometimes not do anything. If a hardware interface button is going to be so inconsistent and superfluous, why have it all?

• Back – Android certainly has its share of ‘Back’ button defenders, but the biggest problem with the Back button, like most of Android’s buttons, is its inconsistency. Using Android’s back button is a mystery: it doesn’t tell you where it’s taking you to, it assumes you, as a user, know exactly where you are and where you have been. Compare this to iOS’s virtual back button, which always tells you where you’re going and never moves you out of an app (that’s what the Home button is for).

Given all the above, I can see why you’d think that Google’s recent decision to give device makers the option of abandoning physical buttons altogether by building virtual buttons into Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich are a move in the right direction. But I don’t. It seems just like typical Android half-assedness: a bizarre attempt to one-up Apple in a buttonless game Cupertino’s not actually trying to play.

Here’s the main question I’d ask: if Android’s interface buttons are superfluous enough to abandon physically, why do you need them to be built into the core OS virtually? In other words, if a device doesn’t really need a Search hardware button, or a Menu hardware button, then why not just allow developers to build on-screen elements for these functions as they see fit? Why have universal software buttons at all? What’s the point?

The point is backwards compatibility, of course. The Android Marketplace is filled with apps that have been — to one extent or another — programmed with those buttons in mind, and ditching them entirely would cause many of these apps to stop working. The virtual buttons, then, are basically a graceless stop-gap: hardcoded Ice Cream Sandwich support for antiquated apps. They’re pointless.

Pointless… and fundamentally broken. Alan Zeino has a great post about this over at his blog, but what it all comes down to is that Google has replaced dumb hardware buttons with equally dumb virtual buttons. Zeino’s summary? “There is no science nor structure to this navigation system at all, and I shudder to think of what a novice… might think of this utter clusterfuck.”

That says it well. Whether you’re using four physical Android buttons or three virtual Android buttons, there’s no universal “science or structure” to trying to navigate Android using its built-in interface buttons. Maybe Vincent’s right and we don’t need hardware buttons at all anymore, but pointing to Android as being proof of that presumed fact is priceless. Android’s having no more luck getting its software buttons right than it did getting its hardware buttons right. Android’s buttons — whether virtual or hard — are a morass of confusing contradictions.

Now compare that to iOS and its home button. Maybe it doesn’t need to be physical, maybe it does, but it works. The home button always goes to the homescreen. Everything else is handled by in-app UI. Serene. Simple. Stress-free. And iconic. Just the way Apple likes it.


Well, readers? You’ve seen us trade blows, but if this fight spills out onto the street about Android vs. iOS, whose back would you take? Let us know in the comments.

(Via Cult of Android.)

Cult of Mac

Friday Favorite: After the Deadline

I spend a lot of time in the web browser, so much that I use web apps more than their standalone counterparts. I use twitter.com to compose a tweet, gmail.com to check my email and so on. As a result, I use several plug-ins and extensions to improve the efficiency of my online work. In a previous Friday Favorite, I covered Lazarus, a form recovery tool. Today, I’m going to tell you about After The Deadline, an extension for Firefox or Chrome that’ll spell and grammar check your writing.

After the Deadline works with most text fields in a web browser. It appears as a small ABC icon in the bottom right corner of a text box. When you’re done typing your comment, tweet or feedback, you can click the icon and the extension will both spell and grammar check your writing. When you’re checking with After the Deadline, the ABC icon will change to red. Spelling errors will be highlighted in red; grammar errors in green. One little drawback with the tool is that you can edit the errors, but you can’t edit the surrounding text until you click the ABC icon and turn the checking off.

It’s a step up from OS X’s spell check feature because the grammar check will pick up a lot of writing errors that spell check doesn’t detect. The most common one I get is word repetition such as “the the” or “a a.” It’s not as thorough as a dedicated grammar tool like Grammarly, but those tools cost money and don’t integrate into the browser as an extension.

After the Deadline is perfect for informal writing like comments, emails, or feedback forms. It’ll prevent you from making a glaring spelling error when you’re communicating online. There’s also a WordPress plugin, if you use that CMS. The extension works with Firefox and Chrome for the Mac and is available for free from After The Deadline’s website.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Friday Night Fights: What’s Better? The 3.5-inch iPhone or Android’s 4+ inch superphones?

Friday Night Fights: What’s Better? The 3.5-inch iPhone or Android’s 4+ inch superphones?

Friday Night Fights: What’s Better? The 3.5-inch iPhone or Android’s 4+ inch superphones?Laaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen, welcome to Friday Night Fights, a new series of weekly deathmatches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

After this week’s topic, someone’s going to be spitting teeth. Our question: What’s Better? The iPhone’s 3.5-Inch Display, or Android’s 4+ Inch Superphones?

In one corner, we have the 900 pound gorilla, Cult of Mac; in the opposite corner, wearing the green trunks, we have the plucky upstart, Cult of Android!

Place your bets, gentlemen! This is going be a bloody one.

Vincent Messina, Cult of Android

One of the major advantages to Android and their open-source environment is the fact that you can find it on just about any hardware (which is also an argument against Android). Big screens, small screens, and everything in-between — which brings us to our next topic: Screen Size. Screen size, in my opinion, really comes down to personal choice. Whether or not a larger or smaller screen size is best, is really based on an individual’s needs and personal preference. This argument transcends smartphone boundaries and can be found in almost every area that involves a screen, e.g. computer screens, TV screens. etc. With that being said, I think having multiple options is much better than a one-size-fits-all approach. Can you accomplish most necessary tasks on Apple’s 3.5” iPhone screen — sure. Is it a more enjoyable experience playing a FPS game on a 4.65” screen with more room for on-screen controls — in my opinion, yes.

I’ll start by saying when I first switched over to 3.5” – 3.7” screens, I thought that was going to be too big. Fast forward a couple of years, and I’m now finding those same devices to be too small. Seems strange but it’s the truth (at least for me). I now have a Galaxy Nexus with a 4.65” screen and I find it to be the most beautiful and perfect size I’ve yet to use. Is 4.65” too big for some people — yes. Is it perfect for me — oh, yea!

Having a plethora of choices when it comes to screen size is a great advantage of Android. We are all built differently and what may fit you, may not fit me. You may not have any interest in gaming or watching HD movies and therefore have absolutely no desire for a larger screen, but at least with Android, you have a choice. Phones have evolved into personal computers, they are now mobile TVs, miniature gaming consoles, and full on photo and video cameras. Having options when it comes to the size of the screen on which you will experience these tasks, is as personal and unique of a choice as the individual using them. Why limit yourself to once choice? With that mentality, you mine as well live in a world with one phone, one screen size, one look — you mine as well own an Apple.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’m pro choice. And thanks to Android, I have one.

John Brownlee, Cult of Mac

Generally speaking, when iPhone lovers debate this issue, they do so by just by hotlinking this image which was put together last year by designer Dustin Curtis to show why Apple chose a 3.5-inch display over a 4-inch one:

Friday Night Fights: What’s Better? The 3.5-inch iPhone or Android’s 4+ inch superphones?

It’s a great image that just says loads about Apple’s attention to detail. As you can see, three-and-a-half inches is the sweet spot for allowing most people to text with a single hand on their touchscreen phone, represented by the green zone on each smartphone. Go above four inches, and you can no longer do that: you have to text on your phone with two hands, Blackberry-style.

It’s a compelling graphic, no doubt. Note that an iPhone user still has the option of texting with two hands, where as the owner of, say, a Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have the option at all.

And, of course, this sweet spot doesn’t just apply to texting. An iPhone user can access any onscreen element with one hand. He can dial a number with one hand, he can play a game with one hand, and so on. On a greater than 4-inch touchscreen, you need two hands if you want to access more than around 70% of the phone’s UI.

Apple doesn’t just arbitrarily pick things like display sizes. This 3.5-inch sweet spot is one that was settled upon by Apple’s engineers after what was probably months of extensive testing. It’s a choice that not only makes the iPhone’s UI more accessible and easier to use for the vast majority of people, but it also makes the iPhone much more friendly to the disabled, the elderly, people who have limited mobility, and so on.

How does someone in a cast, or who can’t move their arm because of a stroke use a Galaxy Nexus? With extraordinary difficulty and great frustration, that’s how.

But let’s not end the debate here. Let’s consider a couple other points.

First of all, the number of different display sizes available on the Android platform is just another element that exacerbates the operating system’s notorious fragmentation problems. Because display sizes can be all over the place, app developers need to constantly be adjusting their apps to play nice with the latest bizarro display. It’s a lot of work, and part of what makes Android a much less friendly development platform for programmers.

But here’s the other thing. Let’s not forget the real reason so many device makers are embracing larger screen devices: by expanding the dimensions of the device, they can cram in more battery, which allows them to mitigate the suckiness of Android’s truly awful power management issues.

For example, the Galaxy Nexus (GSM, HSPA+ version, not LTE) comes with a 1,750 mAh battery to the iPhone 4S’s (again, GSM, HSPA+) 1432mAh battery. Despite the fact that the Galaxy Nexus’s battery is almost 20% larger than the iPhone 4S’s, battery test results show that overall, the iPhone 4S has better battery life:

Talk Time: The Galaxy Nexus gets 8 hours and 23 minutes of 3G talk time to the iPhone 4S’s 7hours and 41 minutes. That’s roughly 8.5% more talk time for the Galaxy Nexus, for a 20% increase in battery size.

Web Browsing: The Galaxy Nexus gets just 3 hours and 1 minute of web browsing over 3G, to the iPhone 4S’s 6 hours and 46 minutes. This is despite a larger battery.

Video Playback: Again, the iPhone 4S is on top, managing 9 hours and 24 minutes of video playback to the Galaxy Nexus’s 6 hours and 32 minutes.

Those are terrible results, and keep in mind that right now, the Galaxy Nexus is being positioned as the best smartphone on the Android platform, the one all other Android phones should be measured up to. According to our calculations, though, if the Galaxy Nexus had a display the same size as an iPhone 4S’s, it would manage a mere 6.8 hours of of talk time, 2.5 hours of web browsing or 2.9 hours of video playback on a single charge. And keep in mind that this is just out-of-the-box: install any number of apps on your Android phone that suck down data in the background and these results would get even lower. Madness.

Vincent claims that the larger displays on Android are a choice. I say they’re a crutch. They allow carriers to cram larger batteries into their devices to hide the fact that the Android platform’s power management is deeply crippled compared to iOS’s. And even when these larger devices do match or even exceed the iPhone 4S in battery life, they do so at the expense of usability and convenience for the vast majority of users… all the while helping fragment Android even more than it is, guaranteeing that the best app developers focus on iOS as a matter of course.

Hey, who wants a 5-inch Galaxy Note now?

What do you think? Is Apple right in offering just one screen size choice for iPhone’s, or are Android makers just deluding themselves? Who do you think made the better argument? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

(Via Cult of Android.)

(Can’t find Similar Posts)

Cult of Mac

Thousands line up in China ahead of Friday launch of Apple’s iPhone 4S

By Katie Marsal

Published: 03:45 PM EST (12:45 PM PST)
Hours before the iPhone 4S is set to go on sale in China, massive lines with thousands of people have formed outside of Apple’s heavily trafficked retail stores.

Throngs of people gathered outside of Apple’s stores in China were captured in pictures shared by Penn Olson on Thursday. China Unicom also began reminding its customers that the iPhone 4S will go on sale Friday at 12:01 a.m. local time with text messages.

The pictures show Apple’s two stores in Beijing and three in Shanghai with hundreds of people lined up at each. Most of the stores have a ticketing system to help protect everyone’s place.

Apple announced earlier this month that it would launch the iPhone 4S in China on Friday, Jan. 13, along with 21 other countries. The device will be sold through China Unicom, which remains Apple’s only carrier partner in the nation of over one billion people.

As an added incentive for mobile customers, China Unicom is offering a heavy subsidy on the iPhone 4S at launch. Subscribers will be able to get Apple’s newest smartphone model for free with a new multi-year service contract, and as little as $ 285 yuan ($ 45 U.S.) per month.

China has become a very important part of Apple’s business with tremendous growth in a relatively short period of time. A year ago, Apple executives revealed that the company’s retail stores in China were its most visited in the world, only three years after the company opened its first retail store in Beijing in 2008.

AppleInsider

Apple closed at a record high on Friday; hits all-time intraday high today

On Friday, January 6, Apple stock quietly achieved a milestone by closing at an all-time record high price of US$ 422.40 per share. Even better, the stock has just passed an all-time intraday high (it was at $ 427.75 earlier this morning). That puts the company’s market capitalization tantalizingly near $ 400 billion.

That’s not the highest price the stock has ever reached. On October 17th, Apple’s stock reached an intraday high of $ 426.70, but closed lower. During the months of October and November the share prices tumbled, along with the rest of the market, but AAPL has seen a remarkable recovery in the last month.

Much of this boom in the share price appears to be a run-up to Apple’s quarterly earnings announcement on January 24, according to Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt. That announcement, which covers the all-important Christmas quarter, is expected to be chock-full of good news from Cupertino.

[Chart generated by AOL DailyFinance.com]



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Friday Night Fights: Is Samsung Really Copying Apple? [Feature]

Friday Night Fights: Is Samsung Really Copying Apple? [Feature]

Laaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen, welcome to Friday Night Fights, a new series of weekly deathmatches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

This week’s topic is one personal to both iOS and Android fans alike: is Samsung really copying Apple’s designs for its Galaxy series of Android smartphones and tablets? Samsung and Apple are brawling it out on pretty much every continent on Earth trying to get to the bottom of this issue, so it’s only fitting that we try to settle this one in the ring too.

In one corner, we have the 900 pound gorilla, Cult of Mac; in the opposite corner, wearing the green trunks, we have the plucky upstart, Cult of Android!

Place your bets, gentlemen! This is going be a bloody one.

Vincent Messina, Cult of Android

We’re all well aware of the past year’s ominous patent battle between Apple and Samsung. Apple claims Samsung has infringed upon numerous patents and that they are simply protecting their intellectual property (something I find ironic, considering Samsung manufacturers 26% of Apple’s iPhone components). While patent laws are an entirely other debate, I’d like to take a moment to give my opinion on whether or not Samsung has been “copying” Apple.

Okay, so is Samsung “copying” Apple? I’d have to say yes, and no. I believe Apple’s claims of Samsung “copying” their design because they sell rectangular phones with rounded corners to be absurd. The fact that they appear to believe they invented the black rectangle is also beyond comprehension. To me the whole thing wreaks of Apple’s inability to further its own innovation and is a feeble attempt to squash anyone who does. As for Samsung, while inspiration, and developing products based off of a successful model, are common practice and to be expected, they could have tried a little harder to differentiate themselves from Apple (which could have been accomplished with a few subtle and easy changes).

As a tech lover, it breaks my heart to see such attacks on progress, choice and innovation. Apparently Apple believes no other company, person, or entity should be allowed to further use, produce, or improve upon their patented black rectangle with rounded edges. Sometimes a design comes along that just works and it becomes the inspiration for further innovation and development. Take the telephone for instance: 99% of all fixed phones are similarly designed. A long portrait designed piece of hardware with an earpiece on the top and microphone on the bottom. Each phone has similar square/rectangular buttons with the numbers 0-9 and a digital screen for viewing called numbers and information. They are designed this way because it works, it’s comfortable and functional. Should we not allow companies to manufacture these phones in a similar fashion because we may not be able to differentiate them from one another? Should every manufacturer be required to design an entirely new body and framework for the basic phone? Maybe Uniden should only be able to produce triangle phones, while AT&T must produce oval shaped phones with the earpiece on the bottom and microphone on top?

This is the sort of asinine thinking that is going on right now in the world of Apple and its patent lawsuits. I think the focus should not be on whether or not these products look similar or are “copied,” but on the important legal stance of whether or not Samsung is maliciously trying to deceive consumers into thinking they are buying Apple products. I believe this is not the case, and that is why I believe this whole thing to be nothing more than Apple trying to compensate for its obvious decline of market power.

Every creation was spawned from a previous model and there’s no instance in the world of a pure invention or innovation that doesn’t get its inspiration from somewhere. Man got his inspiration to seek out flight from watching in awe as birds soared high above. The marvel of the Sistine Chapel was inspired by biblical lore, and even our precious world wide web itself was conceived by using technologies that had already existed. Should we lose out on these magnificent accomplishments simply because companies arrogantly feel that they “own” and have exclusive rights to ideas and shapes? This insidious path toward the destruction of innovation will never garner my support and is Kryptonite to the super powers of inspiration.

I can’t even begin to fathom a world where companies are forced to produce geometrically assigned products in only the colors they’ve managed to patent. I seem to recall the mobile market being flooded with manufacturers using the flip phone design, yet I can’t recall any lawsuits regarding ownership of such design (there may very well have been, I just can’t remember)? Must be an Apple thing.

So, are some of Samsung’s designs similar to Apple’s — yes (extremely similar). Does Samsung at any point in time try to deceive consumers into thinking they are selling an Apple product — no. Are there clear indications that the device is not an Apple device — yes. Can you bring a Samsung device into an Apple store for support — no. Does the receipt for my Samsung device say Apple iPhone, iTouch, iPad, or iAnything — no. Have I ever in my entire life encountered someone who thought their Samsung Android device was an Apple iPhone — no. Samsung’s products may look similar, but they are NOT Apple products and they do not attempt to portray themselves as such.

Perhaps Samsung can get out of this mess by claiming the front of their device is actually the back, thus the design is entirely different. =\

Just remember, all inventions were made using tools already invented. Take away those tools and everyone loses. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Apple should be proud of their accomplishments and relish in the fact that they have inspired entire companies and have helped form our current mobile ecosystem. Apple should quit with the antics and continue to focus on innovating and creating products people love. That’s all I’m saying, because these lawsuits aren’t going to magically produce an iPhone 5, or iPad 3 — you know, the things consumers really want from Apple.

In the end, the consumer is the one who ultimately decides what they want to purchase. Apple needs to stop thinking they can choose for them (or limit their choices) and allow the market to thrive. We all realize Apple’s incessant need for control, but it’s misguided and will ultimately lead to their demise. Apple is quickly becoming known as the company that sues everyone, and is slowly losing their once-held public perception as innovators. Samsung will continue to thrive, and if Apple wishes to do so as well, they need to get back to doing what they do best, marketing and development.

I will not pretend to know whose design was first but I do know it takes more than a couple of months to put together a working test unit, and Samsung clearly had one around the same time Apple did.

Friday Night Fights: Is Samsung Really Copying Apple? [Feature]

John Brownlee, Cult of Mac

To the casual observer, Apple and Samsung’s round-the-world patent and IP violation lawsuits must seem an awful lot like two spoiled Valley Girls taking their “Oh my gawd, Becky, stop copying my style!” lawsuit on an international tour. There’s a tendency to want to shake your head, to think the whole thing is just so pointless: who cares who first thought of wearing leg warmers over leggings, or plaid skirts with hooped bangles, when all teenage girls have always looked so much alike anyway, right?

But let’s try another analogy. It’s 1983, and Michael Jackson has just pulled on his iconic candy apple red leather jacket in Thriller. It’s a completely signature look, unseen by any performer before, right down to Jackson’s wet-look hairstyle, rolled-up sleeves and ankle-cut jeans. Now let’s say in 1984, Paul McCartney not only starts wearing the same jacket during all of his performances and videos, but when Michael Jackson complains, McCartney sues him, claiming he stole the Moonwalk from him.

Which is the better analogy? The latter, easily. Samsung is attempting to steal Apple’s signature, totally unique style, and having been caught red-handed, is now trying to muddy the waters by saying Apple violated patents. See the difference?

One thing everyone can generally agree upon is that most modern smartphones and tablets look roughly alike. They all have capacitive touchscreens. They generally eschew physical buttons in favor of software controls. They all run apps. They all have extensive multimedia capabilities. They all have internet connectivity. And so on. They are all, broadly speaking, minimalistic touchscreen rectangles that run apps.

At the end of the day, the issue here isn’t that the iPhone was the first smartphone to be a minimalistic touchscreen rectangle that runs apps. It absolutely was, and saying otherwise is ridiculous. But that’s not really the point, because while that is true, what Apple really did with the iPhone is put its finger on the precise pulse point of what people really wanted: a thinner, less complicated multimedia smartphone that acted as a true pocket gateway to the Internet. It’s important that Apple was first, but let’s be brutally honest here — not only can Apple not patent that idea, but a company like Samsung can’t be expected to sell smartphones that haven’t learned key lessons from Apple’s success. To do so would be letting down their customers.

So the problem here isn’t that Samsung’s devices run apps, or that they have touchscreens, or that they have a bare minimum of physical buttons, and so on. Whether Apple has patents for these things or not, Samsung can’t be expected to make smartphones in 2012 that don’t do these things. The issue is that, time and time again, Samsung has copied Apple’s style.

Not convinced? Here’s a short list of blatant swipes:

• Samsung’s homescreen icons look nearly identical to Apple’s. Every modern smartphone might need a Phone.app, but not every Phone.app icon must be a white telephone jauntily tilted at the exact same angle with a green background.

• Samsung is both certifying and advertising cases for their Galaxy Tab series of tablets that look exactly like the iPad 2 Smart Cover, right down to the color choices.

• Samsung is advertising the Galaxy Player using a product shot that is identical to that Apple used to advertise the original iPod touch.

• Samsung’s own Galaxy showcases prominently feature Apple icons on the walls.

• Both the inside and outside of the retail packaging to the Samsung Galaxy Tab are identical to the iPad’s.

• Samsung’s latest budget Galaxy smartphone, the Galaxy Ace, looks exactly like the iPhone 3GS.

• Samsung is hiring the same extremely identifiable actresses that Apple has previously featured in its own advertisements.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Samsung’s devices look like Apple’s. Their advertising looks like Apple’s. Their packaging looks like Apple’s. Their accessories look like Apple’s. Their software looks like Apple’s. Heck, even their USB chargers and cable connectors look like Apple’s!

Still not convinced? Even Samsung’s attorneys working on the Galaxy Tab vs. iPad lawsuit can’t tell the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab apart from a distance!

Maybe a couple of the above things are accidental, sure. But while all modern smartphones may have to be broadly iPhone-like (and all tablets iPad-like) just to succeed on the market, they do not all need to be identically advertised, branded, or accessorized, nor have software and hardware design elements that are the doppelgängers of Apple’s. And using these techniques, Samsung has built a smartphone business that is second only to Apple’s in number of devices sold.

That may be great for Samsung in the short-term, but long-term, it’s bad for everyone. It’s bad for Apple, who has to watch one of its biggest manufacturing partners steal, then degrade their unique, original style by using it on inferior devices. It’s bad for Samsung, who is trading in the long-term profits of coming up with their own cogent, equally appealing smartphone design philosophy in favor of the short-term gains of being an also-ran and iPhone clone. And it’s bad for you and me because it stagnates competition. One of the biggest device makers on Earth is just stealing all their ideas from someone else. That means that Samsung is less likely to come up with unique, revolutionary new designs that will, in turn, prod other device makers (including Apple) to new heights.

There have been plenty of great smartphones since the iPhone that haven’t tried to pretend to be iPhones or violated Apple’s IP, most recently Nokia’s first Windows Phone, the Lumia 800, a device that explores its own ideas and has a truly wiorld-class construction, interface and operating system. Samsung has a choice. Unfortunately for everyone, the choice they’ve made is the most shameless one.

Okay, that’s the bell. What do you think? Who had the stronger argument on whether or not Samsung copied Apple, and do you think anyone missed any good points? The match may be over, but we’re taking this fight to the streets, so let us know your thoughts on the subject in the comments! Nothing to say? Check back next week for our next bout!

(Via Cult of Android.)

Cult of Mac

Daily Mac App and Friday Favorite: CodeRunner

CodeRunner is a text editor for people who write code. It comes with built-in syntax highlighting for AppleScript, C, C++, Java, JavaScript (Node.js), Objective,C, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, or shell scripting.

I have been using it for a few months, mostly for writing shell scripts, and love it. The color coding makes it easy to immediately tell when I am missing a quote or some other basic syntax flaw, which means making fewer mistakes. It automatically applies templates (which are editable) to new files, so whenever I start a new shell script, it automatically includes the header lines and some other settings that I always use. In fact, it defaults to using the same template as the last kind of file you saved, so if you tend to write in one language, it will automatically pick that language and template. Otherwise you can choose manually.

One of my favorite aspects of it is a built-in terminal console, which lets you test the script without switching over to Terminal or iTerm. A recent update even made it possible to define arguments, compilations flags, or arguments before sending it to the built-in console. The console automatically appears when needed, and can be shown/hidden with a keyboard command.

CodeRunner offers “completions” (for example: automatically adding a closing bracket when you open one), but it also lets you turn that off if you don’t like it. There are even themes to change the color combinations. I tend to prefer a simple black-on-white, but there are several dark background/light type options as well. In Lion, CodeRunner supports Autosaving, Versions and Fullscreen mode. It also supports “tabs” (multiple documents in one window) if you want to use them, but doesn’t require them. Generally I don’t like tabs in any apps except web browsers, but it is handy to have the option to keep related files together when working on separate projects.

CodeRunner isn’t going to replace a complex program like BBEdit with integrated FTP and a multitude of configurable options, but it doesn’t need to. I own, use, and love BBEdit, but I use CodeRunner exclusively for writing shell scripts now, and vastly prefer it for that purpose.

If you want a lightweight tool for writing scripts, you should definitely check it out on its home page or download it from the Mac App Store for $ 10. (Also: if you use regular expressions — especially if you have trouble with them — be sure to also checkout Patterns, an app by the same developer which makes it much easier to see how they expand. I’ll probably review that more fully another day but it’s currently on sale for $ 3 instead of $ 5, so you might want to check it out soon.)



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple’s ‘Red Friday’ sales launch in several Asian countries

A one-day “Red Friday” sale on Apple’s online store has hit several Asian countries in celebration of the Lunar New Year, including China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Discounts on the Hong Kong store are broadly similar to the modest discounts Apple offered during its Black Friday promotion, with one-day price reductions of no more than ten percent on Apple’s own gear.

Discounts on third-party accessories are a bit more generous, so if you’re looking for a case or some other accessory for your Mac, iPhone, or iPad, the one-day Red Friday sale may be a great time to buy.

Apple’s Red Friday sale runs for the rest of today only, so if you live in one of the eligible countries be sure to check it out.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Friday Favorite: WhatFont, a website font analysis tool

If you’re the type of person who looks at the design of a webpage, you’ll want to download and install WhatFont. WhatFont is a straightforward tool, designed by college student Chengyin Liu, that apparently parses the CSS of a website and pulls out the font used in a section of text. It also tries to figure out the font in an image, but the tool warns you that it’s not accurate. From what I’ve seen, WhatFont uses the CSS font tags of the surrounding text to guess the text on the image. The tool probably assumes websites will keep the font uniform across a page and not mix Helvetica text with Lucida Grande in an image.

WhatFont is one of those basic tools that’s nice to have around when you need it. Sure you could do it be hand by looking at the source code, but WhatFont takes the tedious part of parsing code and does it for you. It’s available for free from Chengyin Liu’s website.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog