We’ve been working on a recap of the biggest stories in mobile and tech from last year. With our good friend Scottie Ladeaux we’re going to bring you a new post looking back on our picks from 2013 every Thursday.
Working on this series have flown by are we’re already down to #3 in the countdown. What were your top ten tech stories from last year and what do you think is still left to cover?
Right now, we’re looking at a big event from 2013 and that’s Apple’s new mobile releases: iOS 7 & the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. We going into a bit of detail into the background behind the design decisions that went into iOS 7 as well as ways to hack the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S.
iOS 7 is the new version of Apple’s mobile OS and we first got a look at it on June 10, 2013 at the Worldwide Developers Conference. It has been hailed as the most revolutionary iteration yet but to understand why, we need to back up a bit and revisit some Apple history.
In case you don’t remember, there was a huge backlash from users when Apple replaced Google Maps with their own app in iOS 6. It was an inferior app but was also rushed out and riddled with glitches and errors.
These ranged from the humorous – such Dublin zoo being positioned in London – to the downright dangerous after Australian police released an official warning than some errors were potentially life-threatening.
Following this fiasco Scott Forstall was dismissed from his post and Jony Ive was put in charge of the interface. Forstall and Steve Jobs have long been proponents of a design philosophy called skeuomorphism and were responsible for all the realistic user interface elements in iOS such as the the plasticy 3D buttons in the calculator and the yellow lined paper in the Notes app. iCal’s leather-stitching effect was apparently based on a texture Steve Job’s private jet!
In contrast, Ive thinks this produces an inconsistent look and feel between different apps and is a proponent of flat design. He was supported by senior Apple UI designers see skeuomorphic design as unnecessary “visual masturbation” and said “skeuomorphism was getting totally out of hand, particularly where the UI metaphor started limiting functionality”.
After Ive took over, the look of iOS7′s interface is strikingly different. Gone are cluttered wood grains and paper textures, and instead you get minimalist icons and a clear, bold palette.
This turned out to be rather controversial as many professionals criticised iOS 7 as too childish and generally badly designed. There were also usability concerns as many clickable regions were now just plain sans serif text and no longer look like buttons which seemed to go against Apple’s easy-to-use ethos.
As a result, new features were rather forgotten. But, while there was barely any functionality added to core apps, iOS 7 did pack in many enhancements such as finally introducing a usable Control Centre, tweaking the camera app, improving the multitasking ability, and adding more notifications as well as a nifty faux 3D parallax effect. The Safari web browser also gained the ability to open more than 8 tabs, thank goodness.
But iOS 7 was just the beginning – Apple’s biggest news was the new handsets. Unfortunately for tech fanatics, by the time they were officially announced on the 10th September there wasn’t anything new or unexpected for Apple diehards.
Predictions based on leaked photos and Apple’s Apple’s £225 million acquisition of mobile security firm AuthenTec turned out to be correct and the iPhone 5S sported a new fingerprint sensor. The other news was that the it had a phenomenally-powerful 64-bit A7 CPU as well as an integrated M7 motion co-processor that would continuously monitor data from the accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope.
There were also slight improvements to the camera hardware but what seemed to get people most excited was the new gold (or champagne) colour option.
The other “new” handset was the iPhone 5C which was effectively a rebranded iPhone 5 with a new plastic shell. It seemed aimed at shaking off the top-end reputation of the iPhone brand to be more appealing in emerging markets. However, the price still seemed high at £469 or $549 for the 16GB version and an even steeper £549 or $649 for the 32GB version. Analysts were disappointed that it didn’t make the £300 price point especially as we know from the parts list that Apple makes about 100% profit just on the hardware.
Both phones were released on the 20th September last year with the official public release of iOS 7 two days earlier on the 18th. Unfortunately, within days of the release, the highly-touted Touch ID fingerprint scanner was cracked by the Chaos Computer Club, a German hacking collective.
They’ve since refined the method but to start with they simply photographed the fingerprint at 2400 dpi, digitally cleaned up the image, and then laser printed it at half that resolution onto a transparent sheet using as thick toner as the printer was able to produce. By applying a layer of standard PVA glue, the toner left an indent producing a fake fingerprint that just needs some damp breath applied to break into an iPhone 5S.
Of course, despite this, the sales figures of both phones has been very impressive– within just days of the launch in September, Apple had shifted almost ten million iPhones landing them a new sales record. So another iPhone launch and another massive success for Apple.
The only downside would be the relatively poor sales of the 5C so far. Despite Apple artificially-constricting the supply of the 5S , the 5C is selling three times slower. Nevertheless, there’s evidence it’s making inroads into its target markets and even seems be winning over new customers with about half its buyers switching from competing brands.
What’s your thoughts on iOS 7 and do you own an iPhone 5C or 5S? What do you think is going to take the top two spots in our countdown from last year? Please do drop comments on this story and your predictions for what’s coming next.
Now that the iPhone 5C has been out for a while, accessory makers have had a chance to tweak and perfect all of their companions for Apple’s new device. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been testing and trialling the whole gamut of smartphone accessories, from battery packs to music docks and Bluetooth headsets to ultra-hardy cases. Now we’ve made our assessment on everything we’ve tried and so, in a bid to make your buying decision is as easy as possible, we’ve narrowed it down to the very best five accessories currently available. Read on for more…
As everyone who owns a smart phone knows, battery life leaves a lot to be desired it’s especially compared to the dumbphones were used to not so long ago. The iPhone 5C is no different – even though it packs an impressive amount of battery life for such a high-performance handset, anyone who has experienced going out for drinks after work on a Friday night and not getting home until the early hours of the morning, will be familiar with running out of mobile phone power when you need it the most (e.g., getting a hottie’s number or finding out the night bus times).
It’s not always practical to carry around charging cable to top up your phone the out and about and it doesn’t matter how good your iPhone 5C is – it’s completely useless when it won’t even turn on-again any more…
This is where the Morphie Juice Pack PowerStation Pro comes in. Morphie have been pioneers in producing additional battery packs for iPhones and this is one of their flagship products. It features rugged metal construction as well as an additional 6000 mAh of battery power to ensure that your iPhone will keep chugging on for days and days. Even better, it has an output of over 2 amps meaning it will recharge your phone as fast as possible. It is also impact and splash resistant.
It may be expensive, but this is a high-end product and should be able to recharge your iPhone 5C to full capacity at least twice meaning it’s perfect for a long weekend away. It can also charge standard USB devices from its meaning it’s quite versatile. From experience, we know that this product can be an absolute lifesaver is worth taking with you everywhere you go.
The AZATOM Home Hub is a stylish looking black and chrome dock that comes with the new lightning connector which means it can interface seamlessly with the iPhone 5C as well as the iPhone 5S and the latest iPads and iPods. It features 30W of clear stereo sound including dedicated bass drivers and adjustable EQ. It’s perfect for a bedside music system as it also features an alarm clock and built-in radio.
The build quality is excellent for the price and we’re really impressed at how good the sound was for such a small item. You don’y need to worry if you have other devices that don’t have the lightning connector as it also can play back music wirelessly over bluetooth. This makes it perfect for households where not everyone is using iPhones as even Android devices can pair with this speaker system. Remember that buying a lightning cable Apple will set you back at least £15 alone – it’s just a little bit more to get this full featured dock.
Overall, we loves this item. It has classic and stylish British design, packs a great punch without sacrificing sound quality and is incredible value compared to the competition.
This stylish-looking case is designed to perfectly fit the iPhone 5C. It is made out of a combination of thermoplastic polyurethane and polycarbonate for unparalleled protection. The black version looks great but there are also beautiful looking two-tone coloured options to go with whichever vibrant iPhone 5C you chosen.
The SPIGEN SGP Tough Armour Case does its job well protecting your phone and still lets you use all the features such as the headphone jack, external speaker and the camera. Unlike some other cases, there’s no issue with the cutout interfering with the flash and reflecting back into the lens.
The case has an air cushion shock absorber built-in and is well worth the money to keep your phone safe.
The iPhone 5C may come with the super protective Gorilla Glass which resists scratches and chips, but it’s still not bullet-proof. Nothing could be worse than unsightly damage your new expensive smart phone, and broken screens is an increasingly common issue.
In fact, the latest insurance figures say that as many as a quarter of iPhone users are using a phone with a broken screen and we can only imagine how many have their display blighted by scratches and chips.
For these reasons, a decent screen protector is a no-brainer at this price the Anker Anti-Glare Screen Protector is a steal. It uses high quality Japanese-manufactured PET film which was a perfect fit the new screen. You get three screen protectors for your money and, as well as being antiglare and 90 fingerprint, it has a silky smooth texture and crystal clear optical properties mean your phone will look great.
The JETtech Diamond Leather Case is a durable flip-style synthetic leather case that will make sure you protect your new expensive phone. We really like the feel of it as its got a nice slippery texture that means you accidentally drop your iPhone even when using it one-handed. Even better it comes with a built in stands which allows you to view videos on your phone from a variety of different angles without having to strain your neck.
The quality is decent and the price has crashed down recently sued getting a lot of bang for your buck. There are few issues with using it in the stands just the clips holding the phone side, but if you like the look of this offers a great style and pairs perfectly with the new iPhone 5C especially if you get one of the darker colour choices of phone.