The iPhone’s legacy, 10 years later

January 9th, 2017 is a milestone day in the technology world: It’s the 10th anniversary of Apple’s iPhone. Yes, it’s been a full decade since Steve Jobs took to the stage and introduced the device that many credit with defining the modern smartphone. But was it an overnight revolution? Well, no. Despite all the initial hype, the iPhone actually represents a gradual reinvention strung across many years. It wasn’t the first out of the gate with many basic concepts, but its fresh approaches to those concepts helped smartphones escape their niche business-tool status and become the must-have companion devices they are now.

The most conspicuous improvement is the one that’s likely staring you in the face: the touchscreen. While touch-enabled phones were far from a novelty in 2007 (PalmOS and Windows Mobile had supported it for years), Apple was the first to implement a touchscreen you wanted to use. Most touch displays at the time were resistive (pressure-based), with all the precision and sensitivity of a billy club. Complex gestures were out of the question, and you frequently had to use a stylus with interfaces that simply weren’t meant for your fingers. It’s no wonder why many touch-capable phones at the time still had keyboards and directional pads. Why poke at the screen when it was less painful to tap buttons?

The iPhone’s capacitive screen and multi-finger touch interface were revelations in comparison. Not only could you ditch the pen — you could use intuitive gestures like flicks and pinches. You could focus on actually getting things done instead of fighting with controls, and apps like the web browser (which was the first truly full-featured mobile browser, we’d add) were a joy to use. Even in 2007, it was clear to many that large capacitive touchscreens were the future. Most big phone makers started shifting away from resistive displays and physical buttons, and those that were slow to change (BlackBerry and Nokia in particular) wound up struggling. Apple definitely wasn’t alone in spurring the adoption of modern touch: Android helped it take off in a big way, particularly when the Motorola Droid arrived in 2009. The iPhone got the ball rolling, though, and it’s safe to say that the shift toward touch wouldn’t have happened so quickly without Apple’s help.

iPhone Goes On General Sale In Tokyo

It wasn’t just hardware that made a difference, as the iPhone was also crucial to jumpstarting the market for smartphone apps. Mobile software certainly existed before, but the industry was almost hostile to its very existence. You often had to ‘just know’ where to find apps, and those portals that existed either demanded exorbitant royalties from developers or were controlled by carriers eager to exclude apps that competed with their services. Even installation and updates were awkward. It wasn’t uncommon to find smartphone owners who’d never downloaded a third-party app. Why would they when they didn’t know where to go or what to do, and creators frequently shied away?

Enter Apple’s App Store, introduced alongside the iPhone 3G in 2008. It suddenly gave legions of smartphone owners easy access to third-party software. Moreover, the barriers to making and selling those apps were much lower — when there were straightforward tools, better royalties and millions of potential customers, even tiny teams could make blockbuster hits. Mobile apps quickly became much more popular, and in some cases vital. Would social services like Instagram and Snapchat be as big as they are today if the App Store hadn’t made their concepts practical? Would smart homes or wearables exist if you couldn’t easily get the apps that make them work? The app model that the iPhone pioneered made built-in software stores virtually mandatory on smartphones, and those handsets wouldn’t be as dominant as they are today if there weren’t an abundance of apps to fulfill tasks that would otherwise require a PC.

The iPhone hasn’t always changed the game quite so dramatically. In many cases, it was more about nudging technology forward just enough that it became popular. Take video chat, for instance. The concept certainly existed before FaceTime arrived with the iPhone 4 in 2010 (more than a few phones already had front-facing cameras), but it was Apple’s dead-simple approach that made the difference. If you had someone’s phone number, you could start a video call. There were no special carrier fees or complex video conferencing solutions to fight with. While FaceTime didn’t conquer the world the way the App Store or multi-touch screens did, it spurred demand for video chat services and served as the template for extra-simple apps like Google Duo.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs Unveils New iPhone At Developers Conference

You can even argue that some tech wouldn’t have gotten very far without an iPhone boost. Fingerprint readers are the classic examples. Before the iPhone 5s, fingerprint scanners on phones were frequently more trouble than they were worth (ahem, Motorola Atrix). Touch ID simplified it down to a quick and easy tap, and spawned the surge in fingerprint readers you’re seeing in everything from the latest Samsung Galaxy through to the Google Pixel. Recent efforts to get rid of passwords might not be as feasible if fingerprint readers still required multiple swipes.

Mobile payments got a similar bump. There’s no doubt that the iPhone was late to the tap-to-pay party when Google Wallet and other options were available years earlier, but Apple Pay was the first to really get some traction. It didn’t require carrier support, special apps or other convoluted terms — you just had to keep your thumb on your home button while buying your coffee. Android Pay and Samsung Pay certainly do some things better, but there’s little doubt where they got the basic idea for their fingerprint-based shopping.

And let’s not forget voice recognition. Although Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana have clear advantages, it was Siri on the iPhone 4S that kicked off the concept of a built-in AI-powered assistant. Before then, voice commands were primarily restricted to direct, robot-like instructions. The iPhone introduced plain-language questions, contextual answers and other concepts that many take for granted today.

RUSSIA-APPLEPAY/

To be sure, the iPhone has sometimes been (and occasionally, still is) on the trailing edge. It took until 2014 to get an iPhone larger than 4 inches, well after Steve Jobs was convinced nobody would buy one. You can’t use the near-field wireless for anything but payments. You also can’t add removable storage, swap your battery or get a greater-than-1080p screen. And of course, enthusiasts who insist on choice and customization still have a good reason to prefer Android or Windows 10 Mobile.

Even so, it’s evident that the iPhone has created a vast legacy over the past 10 years. One way or another, the smartphone in your pocket owes a small debt to what Apple has done, whether it’s the basic design or a feature you use every day. And the competitive landscape has forever changed. All the rival smartphone platforms from 2007 either died or lost most of their relevance, and you can trace their downfalls back to their inability to adapt to the iPhone’s breakthroughs in a timely way — even if Android was sometimes the one to sound the death knell. The next 10 years probably won’t be nearly as revolutionary given how mature the smartphone market is these days, but that doesn’t diminish the iPhone’s past accomplishments.

Image credits: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images; David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

Engadget RSS Feed

Canada finds Apple’s carrier deals don’t hurt competition

France may think Apple is up to no good with its carrier deals for the iPhone, but you won’t hear similar gripes from Canada. The country’s Competition Bureau has determined that there isn’t “sufficient evidence” to show that Apple had illegally strong-armed carriers into deals that gave it preferred treatment. While there’s no question that the iPhone is a “must-have” for carriers, the regulator says, the terms only have a minor effect at most — there’s plenty of competition, and ditching Apple’s agreements wouldn’t significantly change the playing field.

The investigation started in 2014 after the Bureau received info hinting that Apple was placing a heavy burden on providers. As in other countries, there were concerns that carriers had to buy a minimum number of iPhones, agree to up-front retail subsidies and give Apple a “most favored nation” clause that prevented rivals from getting better treatment. What evidence exists suggests that carriers could easily “mitigate” these terms, according to the decision.

From first-hand experience, the findings appear to hold up. The Canadian market is big on the iPhone, but you’re just as likely to see carriers push the latest Samsung phone or the Google Pixel line. You’ll frequently see other flagship devices get more prominent treatment, or discounts that aren’t offered for Apple’s handsets. While this doesn’t rule out the possibility of overly strict deals, it’s clear that there’s no international consensus on Apple’s competitive stance — it largely depends on individual markets.

Via: AppleInsider

Source: Competition Bureau

Engadget RSS Feed

My quest to find the perfect rideable at CES

Electric vehicles are a huge part of CES this year. From the Honda NueV to the Faraday Future FF91, everyone’s attention is laser-focused on gas-guzzler replacements. While these are exciting, though, for me they pale in comparison to another, smaller form of transportation: rideables. Spanning skateboards, scooters and bikes, these little machines are perfect for a city-dweller such as myself. With a camera in hand, I’ve been scouring the show trying to find the very best. My mission: To find my dream rideable.

Onewheel+

Onewheel+: Hands-on

First up was the Onewheel+. Its creator, Future Motion, is no newcomer to CES, having unveiled its first prototype at the show in 2014. The company has come a long way since then, fine-tuning the design with its first production model 12 months later. Now it’s back with the Onewheel+, a souped-up version with a revamped motor and deck design. The underlying concept is unchanged, however: a single tire sits in the middle, while two wooden panels — similar to the nose and tail of a skateboard — rest at the front and back. You stand sideways and lean on the nose, which hides a pressure sensor, to push the strange contraption forward.

The experience is exhilarating. The first time I stepped on, I just couldn’t find my balance. It’s like learning a bicycle: When you’re starting out, the hardest part is taking off and stopping. Once you have some forward momentum it’s monumentally simpler to stay upright and change direction. Turning is another matter entirely, however. You need to push down on your toes or heels, just like a skateboard, to start a frontside or backside carve. At first my turns were slow and wide as I struggled to commit and lean into the board. After a few minutes, however, I was snaking around the car park like a pro. (Or rather, not a total newbie.)

I was impressed. I wanted one.

The new motor inside the Onewheel+ offers a smoother and more predictable ride than its predecessor. That’s important because you can take this rideable on tracks and other unstable surfaces, thanks to its wide, chunky tyre. Rocks and branches will still pose a problem, but it’s now easier to avoid them or bounce along with precision. The company’s custom “Hypercore” has also increased the wheel’s top speed from 15 to 19 miles per hour. Unwanted motor heat is pushed out through the axel, and regenerative braking can recover up to 30 percent of its power output.

URB-E Sport

URB-E Sport: Hands On

I was impressed. I wanted one. But I couldn’t declare Future Motion the winner without knowing what else was out there. My journey led me to the URB-E Sport, a foldable electric vehicle that looks a bit like a scooter. The tiny wheels and stunt pedals certainly give that impression from afar. But there’s no deck for your feet to stand on, merely stunt pedals that attach to the bottom of its unusual V-shaped frame. The way it unfolds is reminiscent of a Brompton bicycle, with just a single button that triggers the release. Pop the two handlebars down and you’re ready to go.

The original URB-E started as an Indiegogo project in 2014. It was sold as “the ultimate last mile vehicle” with a top speed of 15MPH. While impressive, the $ 1,500 price-tag meant it was well out of most people’s price range. After shipping the first production models in late 2015, the company has returned with a new “Sport” model. The name is a bit misleading, however. It’s actually a little slower than its predecessor (the top speed is now 14 MPH) and can only hit 16 miles on a single charge. But in exchange, you get a drastically reduced price of $ 899.

I had a blast nipping around the Engadget trailer, standing up on the pedals and scooting past bemused colleagues.

It was still plenty quick for me, and I was able to ride immediately. You just sit on the saddle, engage the motor and twist the throttle like a motorcycle — it’s really that simple. I had a blast nipping around the Engadget trailer, standing up on the pedals and scooting past bemused colleagues. While there are some advanced maneuvers, including one where you engage the throttle, plant your foot and quickly turn on a dime, I felt like I had mastered the Sport within a few minutes. It was still fun to use, but I missed the sense of skill and progression offered by the Onewheel+.

That’s not to say the URB-E Sport doesn’t have its perks. A nice saddle and pushrod suspension system should make it comfortable for longer stretches than the Onewheel+. In a first for the company, you can also take the battery out and use it to charge other devices. The removable “Eddy” power pack, named after Thomas Edison, has four USB 2.0 ports and one USB-C socket, and can charge an iPhone 40 times over before running out of juice. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the charge you’ll need to ride the URB-E Sport to your final destination. It weighs 30 pounds, so you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of the city with no juice.

Zboard 2 Pearl

I left the URB-E Sport behind feeling a tad conflicted. It was zippy and practical, but I missed the adrenaline rush I had experienced with the Onewheel+. I wanted something that could sit somewhere in the middle, providing speed and flexible, expressive riding in a somewhat sensible form factor. Determined to succeed, I made an appointment with Ben Forman, a mechanical engineer and founder of ZBoard. His company has been working on the ZBoard 2 electric skateboard for almost two years now. With $ 900,000 in Indiegogo funding, the team has produced multiple versions and tested them with its most passionate backers.

Now, Forman has a board which he’s confident will be the final model. It comes in two versions, Blue and Pearl, which will retail for $ 1,299 and $ 1,499, respectively. Both have a top speed of 20 miles per hour, but the similarities end there. The Blue has a range of 16 miles, while the Pearl can hit roughly 24 before needing a top-up. However, that added endurance means the Pearl weighs a little more and takes four and a half hours to charge. You also get a darker rosewood deck, rather than the Blue’s Canadian maple, and a wider set of wheels that can better absorb the impact when you hit bumps in the sidewalk.

There are many electric skateboards (hello, Boosted) but the ZBoard is unusual because it doesn’t require a handheld controller. Normally, a rider needs this to accelerate, check their battery and switch between modes. Not so with the ZBoard 2, which uses pressure-sensitive footpads instead. Leaning on the front sensor will cause you to accelerate, while hammering the back one brings you to a stop. Each pad has a sweet spot and it took me a while to understand how I should be standing and pressing with the balls of my feet. Gliding around a half-empty car park, I would find myself struggling to move forward, only to suddenly lurch into top gear.

After five minutes, however, Forman declared that I was ready for the streets. (Gulp.) We both ventured out on our Zboard 2s and cruised around some of the quieter roads near Downtown Container Park. At first I was nervous, but the sensation quickly gave way to joy. The ZBoard’s acceleration is wild, especially when you ramp it up to the higher “expert” and “ludicrous” modes. We were flying (within the speed limit, of course), creating long, arching turns when the opportunity arose. I’ve always been a fan of board sports, so this feeling of joy didn’t come as a great surprise.

If I had the money, I would gladly own them all. But as I waved goodbye to Forman, I knew my quest had come to an end. Of all the rideables that were shown at CES this year, the ZBoard 2 Pearl was my favorite. It’s fast, maneuverable and, just like surfing or longboarding, it gives you a chance to express yourself while riding. You can keep your Toyota Concept-i and Chrysler Portal. There’s only one electric vehicle for me, and it doesn’t need an AI assistant, selfie cam or autonomous driving mode to impress.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Engadget RSS Feed

Instagram photos now look better on iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

When Apple announced that it’s latest iPhone would snap brighter, more vivid pictures with its “wide color capture” feature, Instagram was quick to promise an updated app to support that expanded color gamut. Turns out, they were half right: today Instagram co-founder and CTO Mike Krieger announced that Instagram users on iPhone 7 and 7 plus can now take full advantage of their phone’s new camera — and they don’t even need to update the app.

According to a short statement on Krieger’s Twitter, Instagram’s support for wide color capture has been rolled out to almost all users, noting that the feature has slowly been trickling onto user’s phones since the app’s last update. Users of Apple Live Photos will find that those import seamlessly now too — converting into Boomerang photos via Instagram Stories. Small updates, to be sure, but a definite boon for iPhone users. After all, who doesn’t like more vivid photos?

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Twitter

Engadget RSS Feed

Use this app to find your keys like you find your Pokémon

We’ve seen Bluetooth item trackers before, like Tile and Protag’s Duet, but they’re usually pretty dull. Pixie, on the other hand, will curb the anxiety of losing something by turning it into a game. Like other trackers, Pixie uses Bluetooth, but it also adds augmented reality into the mix, so your phone will actually show you where the general area where your device is. Once you get in real close, it’ll start pointing you left and right like a good old-fashioned game of hot and cold. You could also use it to cheat at hide and seek with your kids.

Pixie has another trick up its sleeve. If you have multiple devices, they communicate with each other which helps the app know where they are with greater accuracy. The makers of Pixie claim it’s a similar principle to how GPS works, but in fact there’s no GPS going on here, so you’ll still need to be within general Bluetooth distance from the item you’re trying to find (around 40 feet).

One thing I thought clever was that Pixie has made an iPhone case that has one of the trackers baked right into it. The trackers, called “Pixie points,” look like a large, thick, guitar plectrum, and have approximately 12-month battery life. They’re also solid little critters, with IP67 dust-and waterproofing. Ideal if you lose an item outside in the rain — your phone might not fare so well, but at least you’ll find it.

Pixie comes in packs of two (including a phone case) for $ 49, or packs of four (again, with a phone case) for $ 99, and will be available starting January 25th. Just don’t lose your wallet in the meantime.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Source: Pixie

Engadget RSS Feed

Earin’s latest wireless earbuds tout AirPod-like controls

Fancy the subtle tap-based controls of Apple’s AirPods, but want something that’s not quite so conspicuous (or conspicuously targeted at iPhone owners)? Earin wants to talk. It’s introducing its second set of wireless earbuds, the M-2, and they promise a taste of AirPod-like control in a subtler design. You only have to tap an earbud to pause your music or answer a call — no reaching for your phone or fiddling with buttons. It’s not as sophisticated as the AirPods (you won’t be talking to Siri as easily), but the simplicity remains a big deal.

The M-2s are also more ergonomic than their cylindrical ancestors. Battery life hasn’t changed much, though: you can expect 3 hours on a charge, and the magnetic charging capsule will give you a total of 12 hours of listening. This is more for your workout than a long flight, in other words. Earin hasn’t divulged pricing, but the new earbuds should hit shelves near the end of the first quarter.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Source: PR Newswire

Engadget RSS Feed