10 April 2014 ~ 0 Comments

#3: iOS 7 & the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

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.

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06 December 2013 ~ 1 Comment

Top 5 iPhone 5S cases

iphone 5s

Last week we looked at the best accessories for the new iPhone 5C but don’t worry, we weren’t neglecting Apple’s flagship, the iPhone 5S. As many of the accessories for the 5C can also be used on by 5S, we thought we would take a slightly different tack and concentrate just on protective cases.

Even though the build quality of all iPhones is excellent, many all of you will know from experience that they are not indestructible. After you spent hundreds of pounds on the latest and greatest mobile technology, it only makes to spend little bit more to make sure you keep it protected at all times.

Today we round up the best five cases on the market for the five best whether you want a sleek and stylish model that can pop in your pocket or the toughest case available for active lifestyles in all weather conditions.

1. Case Mate Tough Xtreme

Was £39.99 Now only £17.99

more info

casemate tough xtreme

The Case Mate Tough Xtreme is a military grade case which offers the best protection for your treasured iPhone. It is specifically intended for people with very active lifestyles and will keep your phone safe from harm the matter what you’re doing.

It looks great on the phone and includes a snap on screen protector to save your Gorilla Glass display from scratches. There is a choice of colours and, despite its hardiness, it is especially designed to keep the overall form factor slim and not too bulky.

This is certainly one of the highest quality cases available and offers really practical protection and even the most jarring of bumps and scrapes.



2. OtterBox Commuter

Was £29.99 Now only £11.99

more info

otterbox commuter

The OtterBox Commuter is a flip case for the back of the iPhone 5S. It includes an impact-absorbing rubber layer which protects the phone from sharp impacts should you drop it on a hard surface. As it only attaches to the back of the phone, you have full access to all the functions and using the phone and making calls is simple when using it. It also has generous cut-outs on the back to accommodate the camera and flash.

A nice touch about the OtterBox Commuter is that it offers silicon covers that keep dust and other débris out of the various plugs and ports on the iPhone 5S. It also includes a screen protector to prevent damage to the screen.

The only flaw is that, as it is open in design, there is no protection against water damage although this does mean that it is rather more sleek than some cases. And if you use the silicon port protectors, this can prevent water getting inside the phone to damage it.

The case looks great and, despite not being very chunky-looking, it’s very practical and provides effective protection of the phone. OtterBox are well-known for making quality cases and this is no different. It’s a small price to pay for preventing your iPhone 5S from getting scratched or damaged.



3. SPIGEN Ultra Flip Case

Only £24.99

more info

spigen ultra flip

The SPIGEN Ultra Flip Case is a beautiful piece of kit. It’s a sleek and stylish flip cover for the iPhone 5S and looks gorgeous on the outside and even better with its lovely microfibre Chamude lining. The case fits absolutely perfectly for the new iPhone five arrests.

The build quality is high and, although it isn’t the most rugged case in the world, it will certainly offer ample protection from slips and drops. The price is a little dear compared to other compatible cases, but if you want the good looks that come with this flip covers, you’ll find it’s money well spent.



4. Griffin Survivor + Catalyst

Was £59.99 Now only £38.73

more info

griffin survivor catalyst

Even though it is heavily discounted, the Griffin Survivor + Catalyst is by far the most expensive of the cases that made it to our top five. However, Griffin is effectively giving you two cases for your money and this level of protection is completely unprecedented and unmatched elsewhere.

The case is advertised as being waterproof to 3m of pressure and is especially designed for people who are involved in watersports but still need to keep their phone with them. The special gasketed design not only keeps out water but other things that can damage your phone as well such as dust, sand and grease.

Of course, as with any worthwhile phone case, it also offers impact protection and should protect your iPhone from even the highest of accidental drops with its shock absorbing bumpers. We found that the case really looks the part with its bulky protective polycarbonate frame. But despite its protective powers, you can still use all the features on your phone.

This is a great case that works exactly as advertised. If you lead a rough-and-tumble life or are often out on the water or on the ski slopes, it is an excellent choice that provides all the protection you could need.



5. Snugg iPhone 5S Leather Case

Was £35.98 Now only £17.99

more info

snugg leather case

The Snugg Leather Case is a sleek looking pouch perfect for any professional to keep their phone safe whether at work or on the weekends. It comes with a practical slots to hold onto your oyster card, credit cards or even to popping some business cards bring going to meetings.

The case looks great no matter which colour you choose and holds the phone perfectly. You might even say it is a “snug” fit. While the protection cannot match some of the sturdy cases, the build quality is excellent and it comes the lifetime guarantee.

We especially liked the elasticated strap and magnetic tip which makes it easy for your phone out when in a hurry. This case has a classy look at has now been reduced to have a much lower price tag than you would you expect – a great buy.



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04 December 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Has the iPhone 5C tanked?

iphone 5c

It’s been a few months since Apple’s release of its new mobile phones, the flagship iPhone 5S and the “budget” option, the iPhone 5C. It’s fair to say that the sales figures have been very impressive – within just days of the launch in September, Apple had shifted almost ten million iPhones making it a new sales record for the Cupertino company.

However, industry analysts have not failed to notice that Apple did not reveal the split in sales between the two devices. And, in actual fact, it turns out that there’s a fairly significant difference. The actual disparity is far bigger than most people were previously predicting.

We’ve seen the latest report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech which suggests that the more expensive iPhone 5S is outselling the 5C by a threefold factor. Kantar Worldpanel is a well-established market research company that has been headquartered in London since 1997. Their latest research report looked at data from UK sales up until the end of October.

Following the initial announcement announcement of the phone, the lacklustre specs of the 5C combined with the relatively high price led many to predict it would suffer from poor sales. However, almost no one expected the discrepancy to be quite so significant.

It is tempting to see the relatively poor sales of the iPhone 5C to be a failure. After all, Apple has been dogged by reports that have been artificially-constricting the supply of the 5S in order to try and shift more units of the less desirable 5C. Factually, it is certainly the case that the 5S has been barely able to keep up with demand. And it has also been reported that Apple’s Chinese factories are shifting production away from the 5C to produce five best handsets at a faster rate.

However, despite having a much higher price then almost any other handset on the market, evidence does suggest that the iPhone 5C is making some inroads into its target market of poorer households, especially in richer Western nations. Twice the proportion of iPhone 5C owners have lower incomes when compared to owners of the iPhone 5S.

Most encouraging for Apple is the fact that the 5C is drawing customers away from their big rivals; Samsung in particular. While the vast majority of iPhone 5S owners were already Apple converts and had upgraded from a previous iteration of the iOS smartphone, the iPhone 5C seems to be winning over new customers with about 50% of the buyers coming from competing brands. Certainly its lower price point has a huge part to play in that.

One mustn’t be too hasty to declare the 5C success, though. Arguably the cost is out of reach of the majority of consumers and, despite an aggressive marketing campaign, only older and cheaper models of the iPhone have any chance of making substantial inroads into emerging markets around the world.

Indeed, Apple’s market share overall is still in decline. So while the iPhone is shifting boxes at a frenetic pace, Android and Windows Phone are taking ever-increasing bites out of Apple’s share of the smartphone market. In fact, the latest figures show that Google’s Android is by far the most popular mobile platform in Britain largely due to the widescale availability of lower-priced handsets running the operating system.

With the entrance of cut-price Chinese manufacturers such as Lenovo, Zopo and Star into European markets, we predict that this trend will only continue into 2014. It’s likely that android we running on more and more people’s phones over the coming few years especially if Apple refuses to be competitive in the lower income price ranges.

Smartphones are now truly mass-market devices – almost every new mobile phone sold nowadays in Britain is a touchscreen smartphone. Already, Android is on more than seven out of every ten mobile phones in Europe and dominates more than half the market in the UK. Meanwhile, Apple’s lingering behind but less than 30% of the market and BlackBerry has been almost entirely squeezed out with less than 3% according to the latest figures and this year.

So, what you make of these figures and the report that the iPhone 5S is outselling the iPhone 5C by three to one? Does this latest new surprise you at all or is it what you’ve come to expect from the latest iPhone launch? And how do you see the battle between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS continuing over the course of next year? Please let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

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