I'm Lance Somoza, a professional IT Consultant with over 15 years of industry experience and an obsession for technology. This is my tech soapbox.

Aaron Byrd and Natalia V. Osipova for The New York Times:

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites.

The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. Those limits are central to the concept called net neutrality.

[…]

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

Complete and utter bullshit. ISPs are amongst the shadiest companies out there and Pai is a disgrace to the F.C.C. chairman office.

A brief example of what could theoretically be possible without Net Neutrality rules:

Big online companies like Amazon say that the telecom companies would be able to show favoritism to certain web services, by charging for accessing some sites but not others, or by slowing the connection speed to some sites. Small online companies say the proposal would hurt innovation. Only the largest companies, they say, would be able to afford the expense of making sure their sites received preferred treatment.

For an explainer, read my piece on this subject, Net Neutrality And You.

Please call your representatives and plead with them to pass legislature to preserve Net Neutrality. Visit Battle for the Net for more info and to find out what you can do to help. We may lose this battle, but as long as we keep pressing, we’ll win the war.


Keith Collins for Quartz:

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.

Explanation by Google:

“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” the Google spokesperson said in an email. “However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”

Don’t be evil [and get caught]. ™

On a serious note, when location services are disabled, nothing better be using or logging my whereabouts. Furthermore, who is to say the data they collected was really discarded? Caveat emptor.


Sam Machkovech for Ars Technica wrote a great review on what sounds like a bad product — the new Pixel Buds, Google’s challenge to AirPods. As I started pulling out quotes to comment on, the common theme we as obvious — Pixel Buds sound like they are badly designed. I haven’t played with them myself, but I can see a trend emerging.

Design isn’t just about looks. It’s about the trade offs you have to make to accommodate underlying function. Here’s a quick parallel before we get into Sam’s review:

AirPods

No touch controls. You can set each pod to perform one function via double-tap. The choices are: Siri, Play/Pause, Next Track, or Previous Track. The input is recognized by a built in accelerometer, not a touch-sensitive pad. By the way, here’s my AirPods review if you haven’t read it.

Trade offs: while there is no way to have access to all functions at once directly from AirPods, the result is a nicer-looking earbud (in my opinion) that doesn’t get in the way. Most of the time, other people don’t even realize I’m wearing mine.

Pixel Buds

On the other hand, one Pixel Bud does have a touch sensitive surface for playback control via gestures.

Trade offs: while you do have access to all playback controls, you have these gaudy, circular pads sticking out of your ear that can be prone to accidental touches (see below). Its sheer obviousness is reminiscent of Google Glass.

Now, here’s a few quotes from Sam that illustrate this theme.

On earbud design:

[…] Instead of a stem extending from the primary earbud unit, Google attaches a larger plastic bubble. Thankfully, this increased size doesn’t add significant weight or bulk when wearing the things, but it also doesn’t seem to add particularly improved battery life or other hardware tweaks. (I also actually think the round design looks surprisingly cool in my ear canal. […]

And:

However, the Pixel Buds lack one of AirPods’ best features: sensing when they’re in your ears. Without this ability, the Pixel Buds’ touch-sensitive right earbud can easily get activated when you’re pulling it out or trying to firmly stick it in the charging case. […]

Sam likes the looks of the round disc, but it’s a hard pass for me. Here’s also what I meant about accidental touches.

On the case design:

But Google’s carrying case is definitively worse than Apple’s version. When you want to charge your Pixel Buds, you have to situate them perfectly into the case’s holes, and this requires fitting them in as if the holes were your ear canals, as opposed to the way the AirPods’ stems just fall into place. This isn’t necessarily difficult, but there is more of a required push-to-confirm feeling, and getting that wrong means you can miss the Buds’ crucial battery-charging connection via little golden connectors.

Sounds like a far cry from the AirPods case.

On audio quality:

With a lot of modern pop music, like the latest Kesha and Taylor Swift albums, these equalization effects add a noticeable “sparkle” to high-gloss production elements […] The issue comes from Google’s desire to emphasize the Buds’ speaker placement, which is split into three little openings—two for normal/higher frequencies, and one for bass resonance.[…]

[…] When the effect appeared to sound the way Google wanted, it was enough to make me say, “oh, these headphones are unique.” But I never felt like they made songs sound better and clearer, and they never drew out particular instruments in compelling ways.They did, at least, appear to find the right bass balance […]

[…] older songs sound decidedly flatter and muddier, and bass tones get lost in the mix. I even found this distinction played out in different decades of hip-hop production. […]

This sounds really bad. I hate when earbuds apply their own audio dressing to my music. I wouldn’t have AirPods if they pulled this crap.

On lack of function:

[…] I held a finger on my right Pixel Bud panel, said “set timer for 30 seconds,” and started pouring hot water. Thirty seconds later, the timer began beeping… but I couldn’t turn it off. Tapping my Pixel Bud did nothing.

Double-tapping will dismiss a timer (among other things) on AirPods.

On the language translation feature:

During a reveal event, Google demonstrated the Pixel Buds’ additional perk: hold a button down on your Buds and talk, and the translation will project from a Pixel 2 phone. Then the other person can speak in the other language, and the resulting translation will be piped directly into the Pixel Buds. Nifty!

Trouble is, that’s not exactly how it works. For one, in this use case, the non-Bud speaker has to be close enough to the phone to hold down an on-screen button and only when he/she speaks, at that. Additionally, when my Pixel 2 was in sleep mode or doing something else, and I held my finger on the right earpiece and said, “help me translate Spanish,” I’d run into Bud-phone sync issues. Either the Google Translate app wouldn’t boot as promised, or the app would boot but with the Pixel Buds not working. This happened a few times in public, often while describing this seemingly wondrous feature to a person at a coffee shop counter, to my utter embarrassment.

This is a really cool feature, but I’m sad to hear it doesn’t work as well as it could.

Here’s the truth: Google is still learning how to design their own hardware. Stemming from issues with Home Mini and Pixel 2 XL, this is just the latest development. Should we give them a pass? No. Do I think they are serious about making their own hardware? Yes. However, time will tell if they have the resolve to deliver without these issues. I hope they do.


Brian Heater for TechCrunch:

A spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”

On the last two Fatherboard episodes, I speculated this might be the case since we hadn’t heard anything more from Apple on a release date.

This isn’t one of those must-have-on-day-one products, so I doubt there will be any backlash in Apple taking the time to get it right. Furthermore, delaying past the holiday shopping season speaks volumes on how much they care about their products. They don’t want to rush something out that is unfinished.

Still crickets on that iMac Pro, though…


Remember the delight of experiencing iPhone for the first time back in 2007? That vision of the future, free from flip phones, T9 texting, WAP websites, carrier logos plastered all over your device — the list goes on.

Ten years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and there is still no mistaking the clear and apparent magic dwelling in every iPhone. Never has that been more apparent than iPhone X — Apple’s modern masterpiece.

As much as the original was a vision of the future, so is iPhone X, as a wondrous piece of magic glass.

Apple has never been afraid of changing the iPhone experience on us when new technology demands it. Never before, though, have they changed it so radically than is apparent with iPhone X. Never before has Apple released three different flagship phones with differing interface elements. You know what they say — never say never. Apple is keeping us on our toes.

It’s a year of massive change for iPhone, so let’s dive in with my most extensive review yet.


Summary

After brief woes on the Dodgers, we dig into our amazing experiences using iPhone X over the past week ahead of Lance’s forthcoming review.

Note: In this episode, we may have accidentally said the phone has been out for two weeks, when it really has been one.

Topics

  • iPhone X

    • Pick Up/Delivery Experiences
    • Design
    • Screen
    • Gestures
    • Face ID
    • Other
  • Other

    • A [?] bug
    • Apple’s AirPower mat may cost $199.
    • A $12,000 Beatles Jukebox

Links

How to Listen

Contact/Follow Us


Warning: you are entering first world problem territory.

The car I bought earlier this year has Apple CarPlay, and it’s fantastic. If you’re not familiar with the functionality, CarPlay allows your iPhone to display a specially-designed iOS interface on a compatible car’s touchscreen. You can then access a set of stock iOS apps like Phone, Messages, Maps, and Podcasts, etc., along with a few select third-party apps such as Overcast, Tune In Radio, and Spotify. In other words, your car’s touchscreen acts like a secondary display for your phone. It is highly simplistic by nature, but leaps and bounds better than crappy ‘infotainment’ systems and their crappy interfaces.

I love CarPlay mostly for Maps 1, as it displays directions on your car’s screen just like a standalone GPS would. Siri is also super helpful in the car when composing an iMessage or placing a call — the usual stuff.

The only downside of CarPlay is that I have to plug in my phone every time I get in the car. I don’t have the freedom to just start the engine and have it connect automatically like it would if I were using a standard Bluetooth connection that’s been around for years. Sure, it’s nice that the phone also begins charging since it’s plugged in, but unless I’m on a road trip, I would be more than happy with a slower charging rate say via… wireless charging. I think you know where I’m going with this.

You see, Apple launched a wireless implementation of CarPlay in September 2015 along with iOS 9, but it has yet to be widely adopted. Only a few automakers and/or third-parties support it. Hell, standard CarPlay is just now seeing larger adoption amongst automakers and third-parties, but I digress. To use wireless CarPlay, your car must meet Apple’s standard CarPlay requirements in addition to having a Wi-Fi radio 2 and appropriate automaker support. And I don’t think I need to tell you how slow automakers are when it comes to adopting this kind of technology.

With the introduction of Qi charging in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, I’m hoping we’ll see increased adoption of wireless CarPlay sooner rather than later. Think about it — this setup has the convenience of Bluetooth audio, the huge convenience of CarPlay itself, and the convenience of charging without plugging in a cable. I want to get in the car, rest my iPhone X down on a Qi charging pad (or not) 3, all while having it connect to wireless CarPlay automatically.

Some cars come with Qi chargers built in, so automakers are sort of getting there. Now that iPhone 8 and iPhone X have launched, there’s no better time for Apple to push for rapid adoption.


  1. Yes, Apple Maps. In my experience, it’s on par with Google Maps nowadays. ↩︎

  2. Which my Honda does have, so it’s even more frustrating that they haven’t turned on support for this. ↩︎

  3. It would have to be grabby or cushioned to ensure the phone stays put. ↩︎


Swati Khandelwal for The Hacker News:

Yesterday some users spotted a fake version of the most popular WhatsApp messaging app for Android on the official Google Play Store that has already tricked more than one million users into downloading it.

The app maker added a Unicode character space after the actual WhatsApp Inc. name, which in computer code reads WhatsApp+Inc%C2%A0.

However, this hidden character space at the end of the WhatsApp Inc. would be easily invisible to an average Android user browsing Google Play Store, allowing this dodgy version of the app to masquerade as a product of WhatsApp Inc.

According to Redditors, who first spotted this fake app on Friday, the app was not a chat app; instead, it served Android users with advertisements to download other apps.

What a total shit show. Google removed the app from the Play Store, but not before it was downloaded by one million people. Think about how damaging this could be to the WhatsApp brand. I also wonder how vulnerable this makes Google to a lawsuit.

Google has touted advanced malware scanning as a feature of Android 8.0 Oreo, dubbed Google Play Protect. That’s nice and all, but this protection should be baked in to the Play Store for everyone, not only for operating systems with a .2% market share. Turns out the often-complained about walled garden that is Apple’s App Store has its benefits.


A collection of Interesting stuff about Apple’s new iPhone X. I’ll be updating this as more is discovered.

11/3 at 5:30pm:

Apple’s CYA Article on OLED Color Shifting and Burn-In

Apple has posted an article with more information on the Super Retina Display. Of most interest, they call out the normalcy of OLED that is color shifting and possible burn-in:

If you look at an OLED display off-angle, you might notice slight shifts in color and hue. This is a characteristic of OLED and is normal behavior. With extended long-term use, OLED displays can also show slight visual changes. This is also expected behavior and can include “image persistence” or “burn-in,” where the display shows a faint remnant of an image even after a new image appears on the screen. This can occur in more extreme cases such as when the same high contrast image is continuously displayed for prolonged periods of time. We’ve engineered the Super Retina display to be the best in the industry in reducing the effects of OLED “burn-in.”

To mitigate this, Apple recommends keeping iPhone X updated, using auto-brightness, setting Auto Lock to a short duration, and avoiding the display of static images at maximum brightness for long periods of time.

These are normal concerns with any OLED panel. From my personal experience, the off-angle color shifting is noticeable, but not terrible. Apple says they engineered the OLED panel in iPhone X to be the best ever, so this is more likely some good “CYA” in the event customers experience light burn in after a lot of use. Hey, it could be worse.

11/3 at 2pm:

Face ID in Action

The Verge used a camcorder’s night vision mode to capture video of the iPhone X’s dot projector in action. This is very similar to Microsoft Kinect. Apple of course bought PrimeSense, the company behind the original Kinect back in 2013. Today, we witness the fruits of their labor.

iFixit Teardown

iFixit has performed their annual new-iPhone teardown, and it doesn’t disappoint. From reading through the teardown, it’s clear iPhone X is an engineering marvel. Take a look at the L-shaped battery composed of two cells, the stacked logic board, the TrueDepth camera system, and more. Unreal!


I picked up my iPhone X this morning and am absolutely loving it so far. Face ID hasn’t failed once, and the screen is so good it almost doesn’t look real. I’ll be making plenty of notes over the next few days in preparation for my full review in about a week’s time.