Facebook has finally updated its Like button to allow users to express a much wider range of emotions, or as the social network refers to them–“Reactions”–to what others post.
The new feature, which is rolling out slowly (as Facebook tends to do), will create a far more nuanced experience for everyone, and will have a major impact on our engagement with the platform as a whole.
Amazon takes the proprietary route with its Fire TV set top box and gives consumers one more choice that won’t serve all of their needs.
I’ve always admired Amazon for their customer-centric view of the world. Their online shopping experience is second to none. Their customer service is superb. Their dedication to creating devices and services to meet the needs of their customers has always impressed me – especially given that the hardware space is so competitive (and littered with failures).
So I was really keen to find out what Amazon’s latest toy, the $99 Fire TV set-top box had to offer. Even though it isn’t available to Canadians currently, the U.S. version is likely a very strong indicator of what we’ll get when it arrives.
Sadly, what we’ll get is a series of compromises.
Now that Google’s diminutive WiFi media player is available in Canada, how does it stack up to Apple’s set-top box and which should you buy?
It’s been several months since Google unleashed the Chromecast, a tiny dongle-like device that turns any HDTV into a Wi-Fi enabled display. Initially only available in the U.S., the $35 gadget was very well received and Canadian Reviewer’s Gadjo Sevilla found it to be an easy and reliable way to stream content to a TV.
But if you wanted a Chromecast back in 2013, you needed to order one via the U.S. and frankly that was a hassle. Now that it’s being sold in Canada for $39, the time is right to take a look at this new player and see how it compares to one of the most popular devices in this space: Apple TV.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (or simply not reading Canadian Reviewer) you’re probably aware that curved screens are all the rage. First it was TVs, with both LG and Samsung debuting curved OLED and LCD HDTVs and UHDTVs.
The rationale being that a curved screen offers viewers better picture quality because it eliminates edge-distortion caused by the increased distance of the sides of the screen to your eye. Yeah, I’m not necessarily buying that reason either, but one thing’s for sure: Curved screens are here and starting with the LG G Flex, they’re going to be in your hand, not just your living room. So the question is, why do we need a curved smartphone?
They claim that it’s the iPhone 6, and I think they’re right. Here’s why:
- The case design borrows directly from the iPad mini and the new iPad Air. All of the styling cues are there. Smooth corners on the back of the case, satin-like finish, ultra-thin profile.
- The home button is clearly a TouchID unit, which we would expect Apple to keep in any update of the iPhone.
- The balance of earphone jack, Lightning connector port and speaker/mic perforations are all exactly where you’d expect them to be based on the iPhone 5s layout.
- According to BI, the phone’s screen dimensions are pegged at 4.7″ which up slightly from the iPhone 5/5s/5c at 4″. This might be the biggest surprise of all given that until now, Apple has been reluctant to increase the width of the iPhone, arguing that based on their extensive R&D for the original iPhone, the current width is ideal for most users. But if there’s one thing that Samsung has been able to prove, it’s that a lot of folks either don’t mind bigger phones, or they’re happy to trade off a little comfort in return for a bigger screen size. In any event, it looks like Apple has finally bent to consumers’ tastes on this, although it’s clear from the photo that they have done their best to minimize the impact on width. Look closely – the side bezel is razor-thin, providing what I suspect is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a true “edge-to-edge” display.
- So what about sticking to their guns? Well here’s where we get to the fun part. Rather than acknowledging they were wrong about screen size, I think Apple will market this new iPhone as the “iPhone Air” – the choice for people who want ultra-thin, ultra-light and “the most beautiful display of any mobile phone” while retaining both the 5s and the 5c as options for those who still prefer the original dimensions.
- I expect the price to be the same as the current iPhone 5s, while the 5s and 5c will drop by between $50-$100 at launch.
- So a bigger, thinner iPhone? Is that it? Yes. With the possible exception of the inclusion of NFC and a better camera (you can never have too much improvement in a camera), I don’t think the iPhone Air will have (or will need) any new features. I think the simple fact that folks who didn’t buy the iPhone because the Galaxy line was bigger (and who will now reconsider the iPhone) represents a huge potential win for Apple, especially as they start to compete in China now that they’ve secured the China Mobile deal. I think that Asian users of smartphones have already shown a significant preference for large-screen phones and that this will continue.
Apple’s iCloud is possibly the best thing to happen to smartphones since the touch-screen. Not only does it seamlessly synchronize your data between all of your iOS devices, it does the same thing for your Mac or PC – and – it acts as a tether-free way to backup the contents of your iPhone.
When I recently switched from my iOS 5 equipped iPhone 4 to the loaner iPhone 4S I started using last week, I used the iCloud restore feature to port all of my settings and apps. The result was astounding. After the restore, which by the way was completely done over Wi-Fi – no tethering to a computer or iTunes – my 4S looked like a complete clone of my 4, right down to the wallpaper for my lock and home screens. The only thing I had to do was re-enter my Wi-Fi passwords.
But I digress…
One thing I noticed about this process was, while the backup and restore via iCloud was impressive, my backup size was really big. In fact, I had already come close to using up all of the free 5GB that Apple allots to all iOS 5 Apple IDs. If I only had the one device, that might not be the end of the world. But the iPhone is just one of three iOS devices I use under my Apple ID and there’s simply no way I was going to be able to back the other two up without needing some more room.
But it turns out there’s a simple way to drastically reduce the size of your iPhone backup.
When you go into your iCloud settings, and check out the options for Backup and Storage, you’ll see that each and every app on your device can be set to have its data backed up, or not. Including the Camera Roll. That’s key, because if you’re like most iPhone users and you make regular use of the awesome camera on these phones, you probably have plenty of photos and videos.
When I checked mine, it was sitting at 4.4 GB!
No wonder I was almost out of room. So I turned it off.
Huh? Yep, I turned it off and saved myself nearly all of the storage space I had been sucking up. I know what you’re thinking, but my photos are *still* backed up.
Here’s why: The PhotoStream feature on iOS 5, when turned on, automatically keeps a copy of the last 1,000 photos you’ve taken, regardless of which device you used, on a 30-day rolling period. And those photos do NOT count toward your Backup and Storage capacity. It’s free storage from Apple, and it’s even better than using your iCloud storage space. PhotoStream sends your photos to your computer which is ultimately where you want them anyway.
There’s only one caveat. If you take a lot of video on your iPhone or iPod Touch, you’ll need to remember to back these up manually, since PhotoStream doesn’t backup your videos – only your photos.
One last thought if you’re thinking that backing up your Camera Roll is something you want to keep doing: your iCloud storage space isn’t the only area that is impacted.
When your phone is locked and plugged into power and connected to Wi-Fi, it will automatically backup your data. For most people, that means overnight while you’re sleeping at home.
Consider that even a backup of 2GB can consume a good chunk of your bandwidth cap, it’s well worth keeping your backups as small as possible.
Make sure you check the full list of apps that are backing up to iCloud – most use virtually no room, but some can be hefty. Check out those Songify and Kindle items in the image above. Only 70Mb between them, but I have very few books or songs in there. It could go much higher.
Despite the initial disappointment that the iPhone 4S didn’t turn out to be the iPhone 5, the new smartphone from Apple is garnering praise from the media as a worthy successor to the iPhone 4 and must-have upgrade for those still using iPhone 3G and 3GS models.
And, as has been the case with nearly every iPhone and iPad release since 2007, eager buyers have been lining up at Apple Store locations around the world. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak got in on the action, despite already having his own iPhone 4S which was delivered to his home.
Given this enthusiasm, it’s a good bet that inventory levels at Apple stores in Canada will be depleted quickly and buyers may not get the model they have their hearts set on.
But the good news with the iPhone 4S, when compared to the launch of previous models, is that Apple has made a point of supplying their partners with healthy stocks of the phone so that no one need go home empty-handed.
There’s no question that Apple stores remain the emotional favourite when it comes to buying iPhones – this time around much more so given Steve Jobs’ recent passing. But if you don’t live near an Apple store, or if their supplies have dwindled by the time you head out to buy, here are your alternatives:
- Bell World
- Virgin Mobile
- The Source
- Best Buy
- Future Shop
According to a report by Parmy Olson on Forbes.com, Facebook has signed a deal with streaming music provider, Spotify, in a move that could see music added to the giant social network in as little as two weeks.
Unfortunately for Canadians and Americans, Spotify has yet to sign the necessary agreements with North American record labels to bring its very popular product to Facebookers in Canada and the U.S.
Olson makes the connection between Facebook and Spotify clear for those who aren’t familiar with the two organizations: Not only is Mark Zuckerberg a big fan of Spotify, Facebook’s first president and early Napster employee, Sean Parker, sits on Spotify’s board, while the two companies also share investors.
But the coming-together of these entities is not limited to dollars and directors. While Spotify started out in 2006 as a way to listen to music online, it has grown considerably since then, most recently in 2010 when it added a social networking feature powered by – you guessed it – Facebook.
Once integrated into Facebook officially, according to Olson, a Spotify icon of some description will appear to the left of users’ Newsfeed.
The intent is move Facebook’s media strategy forward (they already have a movie agreement with Warner Bros.) while giving Spotify access to a massive new source of potential subscribers. Spotify’s free service is ad-supported, but they also have a paid service which is ad-free and offers a higher bitrate for the music streams.
The real question however is: Will this new socially-powered angle prove tantalizing enough to Facebook users to make a real difference for either company? After all, this is hardly an original concept. Microsoft tried to make music social with their nearly-defunct Zune product – even going so far as to let users of their Zune media players “find” other Zune-ers who were located within range of the device’s Wi-Fi connection. Apple has kicked this can too with their poorly received Ping product which is now a feature built-in to every copy of iTunes and several of their devices including the iPhone. Yet even with Apple’s significant market share, Ping is hardly a success story.
But if social music on Facebook is going to be a success, it will happen in Canada. Why? Turns out our very own country has the world’s most extreme users of Facebook. I can’t say I’m surprised. Sync readers seem to have an insatiable appetite for all things Facebook-related. So that’s all the more reason why Spotify has to hurry up and sort out whatever remaining legal hurdles it faces with record labels and add Canada to its list of supported countries. Heck, given how rabid Canadians are when it comes to Facebook, it might make sense to get the Canadian deals ironed out first, before the U.S. – we could be the perfect test-bed for new features.
Alright readers – your turn: Are you excited by the idea of being able to share your musical tastes with your FB friends via an integrated platform like Spotify?
Only on days that the Montreal Canadiens are playing a playoff game, you can go to any BestBuy or BestBuy Mobile outlet – but only in the Montreal area – and pick up an iPhone 4 for $99 on a three-year contract with Virgin Mobile. The longer the Canadiens stay in the Playoffs, the longer the offer continues.
Oh, there’s one other catch: You’ll need to download this coupon and bring it with you when you roll into one of their stores for the offer.
But wait there’s more…
Turns out Montrealers aren’t the only ones who get to bask in the iPhone Playoff celebration. The same offer is being made in British Columbia. Grab the coupon and head in to any BestBuy or BestBuy Mobile location anywhere in B.C. This offer is good for (you guessed it) any day that the Canucks are playing a playoff game.
Though it may not always be apparent from my occasionally incoherent ravings on this blog, I am an English major.
And like many English majors, I tend to be a bit of (a) stickler when it comes to the evolution of our language. I wrinkle my nose at terms like “mixtape”, “staycation” and “frenemy.” I resent it when people use words that have had long-held meanings in a new context e.g. “voluptuous” now means “overweight” in certain circles.
And for a very long time I insisted that it was “e-mail”, not “email.” We even debated the word here in the office with most of the twenty-somethings doing a very poor job of hiding their amusement that
us we old-timers could cling so firmly to our precious hyphen.
For years however, I had the power of the press behind me. Every traditional publication at least, was consistently using “e-mail” so I certainly wasn’t going to abandon it.
Today however, the hook that I had been hanging my e-mail hat on, was unexpectedly taken away in the form – of all things – a tweet.
Not just any tweet. An official tweet from the folks who run the AP Style Book twitter account, in which they said:
There we have it. Not that the Associated Press is necessarily the last word on spelling, but if they have now moved to a world of hyphen-less emails, it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way into more official records such as the Oxford English Dictionary.
So long e-mail. We had a good ride, but I think our time to part ways has come. I’ll miss you old friend. I’ll always remember with great fondness the time you entered my life and all of the promise and excitement that you brought with you. I will especially miss your hyphen. It suited you.