Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot up: iPhone 6 bend results, LED output boost, crypto wars redux

Light emitting diodes (LED) in red, green and blue Light emitting diodes (LED) in red, green and blue. Not members of Daft Punk. Photograph: Steven Puetzer/Getty Images

A burst of 13 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

James Robinson:

I guess I am better off now in some ways. My smart home toys let me know that the temperature in my home generally hovers in the late 60 degree territory during the daytime. I didn't know that before. I know now that as soon as I put a white locator beacon on my key ring, Murphy's Law means that I will always find my keys within three seconds of looking for them, for now and forever more. I can safely conclude that a moisture sensor in my home is meaningless to me because I've lived my life weighed down with very little fear that my home will flood.

The concept of the smart home has problems. I'm a cynic.

This latest work was the culmination of previous research by Chou and his team where they first developed the PlaCSH structure to be used on solar cells to more efficiently focus incoming light. This increased the absorption to as high as 96% of the solar energy being received by the photovoltaic cell, which resulted in an increased efficiency of 175%. As such, the team figured that if such a device was so efficient at absorbing light then, logically, it could also be used for light extraction as well.

"From a view point of physics, a good light absorber, which we had for the solar cells, should also be a good light radiator," Professor Chou said. "We wanted to experimentally demonstrate this is true in visible light range, and then use it to solve the key challenges in LEDs and displays. It is so flexible and ductile that it can be weaved into a cloth."

The team also claims that the PlaCSH organic LEDs are exceptionally cheap to make as they are made using a system called "nanoimprint," a technology Professor Chou invented to make nanostructures in a similar way to a printing press produces newspapers.

PlaCSH = plasmonic cavity with subwavelength hole-array, but you knew that.

A phishing attack may have resulted in the theft of personal information belonging to customers of Japan Airlines's frequent flier club.

The data compromised includes names, addresses, genders and places of work of anywhere between 110,000 and 750,000 members of the program, according to the Japan Times.

Following an investigation – which found that 23 computers contained malware – the airline determined that no credit card or financial information was impacted by the breach.

Just personal information. So that's.. OK?

People expect value from new categories like wearables and sensor networks overnight. But the reality is that the pieces need to work harmoniously, tied together by software. And only after the infrastructure is in place can developers go and create cool new things. Wearables and sensors and connected devices are interesting – but much more so when tied together with killer apps. And platform history tells us that only after infrastructure is laid do developers write software. This was even true for the internet back in the 90's. It wasn't until the web browser and email and other killer apps came along that you really understood the value of the internet, even though it had connected people years earlier.

These system wide network effects in mobile, together with new classes of connected devices, are helping close the divide between the digital world and the physical world. It will continue to fall away gradually as we mature technologically. In five years, it's likely that the notion of an app won't exist like it does today.

Apple applies 25 kilograms (slightly more than 55 pounds) of force to an iPhone 6 Plus to test flex. What does 55 pounds mean in context? Using our Instron, we found that it's approximately the force required to break three pencils.

Consumer Reports' tests pushed the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus much further than 55 pounds. We started light, applying 10 pounds of force for 30 seconds, then releasing the force. Then we increased the force in 10-pound increments, noted when the phones first started to deform (that's what our engineers call it) and stopped the test for each phone when we saw the screen come loose from the case.

The results: all the phones we tested showed themselves to be pretty tough. The iPhone 6 Plus, the more robust of the new iPhones in our testing, started to deform when we reached 90 pounds of force, and came apart with 110 pounds of force. With those numbers, it slightly outperformed the HTC One (which is largely regarded as a sturdy, solid phone), as well as the smaller iPhone 6, yet underperformed some other smart phones.

Throughout most of our test, the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 bent, then recovered completely from each step up in force. But at 130 pounds, the case of the G3 fractured. At 150 pounds of force, the Note 3's screen splintered and it stopped working.

The iPhone 6 turns out to be weaker under this test than the 6 Plus. And slightly stronger than the this year's HTC One M8. The Galaxy Note 3 and iPhone 5S are really strong.

Andrew Orlowski got hold of - and can finally publish - an internet Phones4U document:

As a fond farewell to Phones4U then, this is the way it saw its customers. As far as Phones4U was concerned, the UK was inhabited by such tribes as the iPod Babes, Top Gear Tigers, and Bingo Boilers.

Yes, it's a sustained insult by a company to its potential customers - with potentially Ratneresque consequences had it ever got out. But these stereotypes also allowed a 16 year old with no prior retail experience in a phone shop to sell phones successfully - without wasting the punter's time on something that didn't really suit them. And that's successful salesmanship: everyone was happy.

The UK has changed, and the phone market has changed enormously in nine years. The prepay/postpay split has reversed. There's much less diversity than before. But I wonder how many of the identifiers are still true? "I do well for myself & don't mind telling you! (The "i" on the back of my car is crucial to me!)", "says" Top Gear Tiger. And maybe he still does.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the people of Britain as seen through the 2005 lens of the Phones4U marketing department

Which one are you?

Julian Sanchez:

Gather around young'uns: Back in the antediluvean early 90s, when the digital world was young, a motley group of technologists and privacy advocates fought what are now, somewhat melodramatically, known as the Crypto Wars. There were many distinct battlefields, but the overarching question over which the Crypto Wars were fought was this: Would ordinary citizens be free to protect their communications and private files using strong, truly secure cryptography, or would governments seek to force programmers and computer makers to build in backdoors that would enable any scheme of encryption to be broken by the authorities?

Sanchez's (long) post is an excellent response to all the concerns about smartphones having better default security than PCs. Why don't PCs have default security as good as smartphones?

Tim Bajarin (who is the older Bajarin - consulted with Diamond Multimedia about MP3 players and Microsoft about tablets in 1991):

To say there was pent up demand for an iPhone with larger screens would be an understatement. One of the things I found out when talking to people waiting in lines for the new iPhones at Apple Stores is many of those who bought the Samsung Note 3 did so because it was the only one out there with this size screen. But now that Apple had one with basically the same size screen, they were going to switch to Apple. I also talked with someone familiar with Samsung's own research on what prompted people to buy a Note 3, thinking it might be the pen or the larger screen. Interestingly, what they found is that many people, especially in Asia, believe bigger is better and that the Galaxy Note in their mind was a premium product. Now that Apple has one of their own, it too will be viewed as a premium product in all of these markets and there is no doubt Apple is going to capitalize on this fact in a big way.

Apple's entering the phablet space with a premium competitor is going to have a major impact on Samsung's fortunes.

"Talking to people and finding out their motivitions" is such a foreign concept to many.

Today spells the beginning of the end for another batch of Yahoo products as investors put more pressure on the company to merge with AOL. Jay Rossiter, SVP of Yahoo's cloud platform group, revealed in a Tumblr post that the Internet pioneer will be closing down Yahoo Education, Qwiki and Directory in the coming weeks and months.

Oh, not Qwiki - it's so useful for.. what does it do?

Jan Dawson:

BlackBerry's results look horrible on the face of them. It's losing money, it's shrinking, it's hardly selling any devices, and so on and so forth. If you compare them to almost any other handset vendor out there, they come off looking pretty bad. But looking at BlackBerry as just another handset vendor is making the very mistake I warned against in my post earlier in the week. BlackBerry's future involves devices, to be sure, but it goes well beyond them.

December 2013:

While a large portion of smartphone owners do use a case to protect their smartphone, one-in-four go case-less, according to The NPD Group's recent Smartphone Case Segmentation Study. Among this group, almost 70% own an Android phone while just 20% are using an iPhone.

One-in-three Android owners who don't have a case said it's because they weren't worried about dropping their phone. A third of iPhone owners who do not use a case say a case would add too much bulk to the design of their phone.

22% of iPhone owners then were unworried about dropping their phone (v 32% Android owners). In all, 87% of iPhone owners used a case; for Android the figure was 66%.

Chinese smartphone vendors are increasing their global market share at an alarming rate.

According to sources in the financial investment industry on 24 September, four Chinese companies – Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi Tech, and ZTE – made up 25% of the global smartphone market in August, a 12% year-on-year gain, which is the highest-ever result.

In particular, the upward trend of Lenovo's market share was noticeable. The Chinese Android phone manufacturer has maintained the third spot by steadily increasing its share with 7.5% in June, 8.0% in July, and 9.2% in August.

On the other hand, the position of Samsung Electronics and Apple, the two prominent smartphone makers, weakened owing to Chinese firms' good performances. Last month, Samsung and Apple comprised only 33.7% of the market with Samsung at 22.3% and Apple at 11.4%. The combined market share of the two companies was 39.9% in June, hovering below 40% for the first time in 21 months. Since then, the number has further decreased, with 35.1% in July and 33.7% in August.


Sameer Singh harks back to the 1980s and 1990s:

when "good enough" PC clones entered the market, IBM's products were the first to be caught in their upmarket march. On the other hand, Microsoft and Intel, suppliers of the two most valuable components of the PC, saw a sharp uptick in their revenues and profits as downstream competition intensified.

But, thanks to Lou Gerstner, IBM also found a way to recover from this decline. First, IBM refocused on their core competence to stabilize their business (selling mainframes to enterprises). Second, and more importantly, IBM de-emphasized highly competitive, commodity businesses and pivoted their business model to focus on layers of the value chain that were not over-served. Thanks to intense price competition and "good enough" products, PC penetration was skyrocketing among businesses. This created an opportunity to profit from new demand for enterprise services and systems integration.

The first half of this IBM's story clearly describes Samsung's predicament today.

But, he suggests, the second half suggests Samsung's path to future success.

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