HiTek Review

A tons of reviews and tips about technology product, software and hardware.

Tag Archives: iPhone

Quick update – DST issue on cellphones

Those are a real pain
Have you ever got to work one hour late, or worse, early because you forgot to set the DST on your alarm? Yeah, me too. That’s why most of us uses our cellphone as our welcoming-back-to-reality alarm in the morning. They all set their time automatically according to a time server, just like our computers, and are always right… right? Well no, the protocol used to update the time over the air on cellphones is horrible. It have no confirmation bit which means nothing certifies you that your phone will update to the right DST settings.

I had a really nice bad luck, and it happened on both my iPhone and iPad. All my friends phones where all right and searching on Google shown that only a few number of people had the same problem.

Workaround
So I’ve figured out a workaround if you are using an iPhone or iPad. Most cellphone carrier will tell you to shutdown the device or to turn airplane mode on. It will not work on iDevices. If you happen to have this problem, the only way to solve it is to remove your sim card and to put it back in. That will trigger a time update and should fix your issue.

About the next post
I’m pretty busy right now, so I still didn’t had the time to write that post about protecting your iDevices yet. But rejoice as it gave me a lot of time to test a bunch of different solutions for both iPads and iPhones and I think I’ve found exactly what you want. Stay tuned for a new update.

WordPress switch
Switching over to WordPress was the best thing that could happen for me. It is so much more easier to manage posts, pages, media and everything that I don’t even know why I stayed with Bloggers for that long. But, I’d like to know it the switch has been smooth with you, readers. So, for those of you how followed me since the Bloggers days, I’d like to know how you like the new layout. Is it good enough? Is it worth paying the CSS edit upgrade and customize it a little? Would you add more stuff to it?

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Understanding flash on OS X

First of all
No, I am not dead. I just don’t like to say stuff that no body want to read anyway so I kept my mouth (keyboard?) shut for a little while.

Second
Next review will be about whatever thing I’ll buy next. It will probably be an iPad or the new rumoured MacBook Pros. I can’t promise anything about this though.

Third, the reason of my post…
As many of you probably heard of already, iPhone OS 4 is coming soon and some of us, like me, already have the beta installed on their phones. Seriously, it is the best operating system I even seen on a phone since smartphone are in the market. There’s a lot of stuff in it that apple didn’t told you which can theoretically bring iPhone OS 4.0 up to par with any DESKTOP operating system out there. That’s just how great it is.

Unfortunately, all that we seem to ear about it these days are bad stuff… which is kind-off strange actually. A big majority wanted multi-tasking. Now that they’ve got it, all that we can read is stuff like: “I don’t really care about it, I would have preferred Flash that this.” Yes, this article is dedicated to you, people that doesn’t have any sense of mobile device logic.

Flash, a plague to avoid
The first reason why anybody would want to avoid Flash like a plague is about stability issue. Here’s a nice one, while I’ve been writing this article, look what popped on my screen!

See, it managed to crash while doing nothing! That little thing made me wonder so I started to investigate on was could be the reason of this crash. After running a little software called Shark, a performance analyzer tool that come with Xcode, I discovered somethings that should have remained buried. What it does it that is detect cache miss (moments when requested data is not available in cache and need to be pulled from an other cache level) in the L2 processor cache and list them.

I have exported the report to a text file and I’m providing it for you to read on this link. It is very easy to understand. The numbers to the left are the numbers of call to a function, the gibberish in the middle is the memory emplacement of the function and the text at the right is the name of the library that provided the function. Now keep in mind that this report was requested during a normal writing session. I have music playing in iTunes and a couple of software is running. Notice anything strange here? First process in the list is the mack kernel (or the OS X subsystems if you prefer). It represent roughly 14.2% of the entire cache misses which is normal. The second one though… I expected it to be iTunes since it is doing realtime audio playback and require frequent access to the processor cache but… no…

In fact, Flash Player represent 51.7% of all the cache miss that happened during this session. Basically, it means that half of the calls that the required my computer to access the RAM during the 10 seconds of profiling happened because of the Adobe Flash library. This is a very good reason to consider it like a plague as it use as much CPU time as a virus! In fact, flash player used 1 minutes 32.24 seconds of CPU time in 4 hours of not using it. As a little comparison note, iTunes only caused 4.4% of the misses and used 9 minutes 23 seconds of CPU time in constant playback during the last 4 hours.

So, what does it mean? It means that Flash is not only very hungry CPU wise but also memory wise. It also show us that it is not optimized at all and keep on doing more and more request to the system memory.

Touch is the future
Based on what we can see today, people consider touch screen devices as the way of the future. It does have a little futuristic sense to it but believe me there’s nothing impressive in them as they were in use since a good 10 to 20 years! Why am I talking about this? Because Flash is the complete opposite! Flash applications are generally built with a point-and-click interface so around 90% of them doesn’t work at all on a touch based device like the iPhone. There’s no way to access the various menus of the interface because you need to point at them and not click or tap on them. As a result even if you could run Flash on a touch based device like an iPhone, you would not be able of using it as it was not designed for this kind of usage.

Some websites like LinkedIn doesn’t use Flash and still have some compatibility issues with a touch based interface because they try to limit their content to the size of the screen and use scrollbars to let you access the rest of it instead of thrusting the web browser and letting it do it’s job.

Flash on the iPhone?
No way! Never! Not because it sucks performance wise and would drain your battery faster than light, but for the same reason I don’t want an HP Slate. It was not designed to be used with touch in the first place.

iPhone 3G S Review – Software

When 1 + 1 = 3
Many people think that software is not that important. Well, on the iPhone, it is so important that it would probably never had shined as much as it did. iPhone OS 3.0 is what every iPhone users consider the first feature complete iPhone operating system. It bring to the end user every thing that they need and was long promise. Seriously, all that I can think of now is minors upgrades. If Apple release iPhone OS 4, it will be as long standing as OS X which will celebrate it’s 9th year of existence soon.

Cut-copy-paste, undo-redo, push notifications, accessibility features, spotlight, youtube uploading, compass, full-fledged AGPS. What would you want more? Space to store your medias? Is 32GB enough? Space to store you documents? Is 20 GB enough? What do you really need more?

The iPhone as a PDA
Apple want you to see the iPhone as a simple yet powerful PDA. The software was also made accordingly. The first version had only simple and yet very useful features that about every phone has today, unless you found a phone that can’t call, off-course. The second revision showed how much it can really do, by letting third parties play with it. Finally, the third and current revision was designed in response to the users and developers who wanted Apple to let them do more.

Apple want you to see the iPhone as a PDA; With powerful calendar, contacts, media and internet capability. Under this perspective, you will always get limited potential. Even then, this limited potential is still very far away.

What it can do
In OS 3.0, Apple added support for more than 1 000 APIs which bring many more possibilities with them. Right now, you can see augmented reality app emerging, ways to know what’s going on instantly on the world with push notifications, record wonderful videos and publish them directly to youtube and that’s over the already possible stuff. I must say, those features work very well and are functional up to the very detail. Just try to tap the microphone in the Voice Memos app and you’ll see the VU meters peek. Even if it’s not very useful, it show you that it work so well that those who created it even think it’s time to relax and have some fun!

What you can’t do
The limited vision of PDA’s give the iPhone a great knock-back. There’s so much it can do and so little that it does. Ho yes, the app store is full of surprise but no one ever released an app that’s on every single iPhone. An app that could really make that 800$ device do something other than enjoyable. That’s something that would certainly interest business which is not the iPhone’s specialty right now. That something is a fully fledged iWork or Office for the iPhone. There is very much you can do right now with web apps like Google Docs and Office 2010 web services but they where not designed for this. We need a real, official, office suite for the iPhone. We also need it to be used like a USB drive. And I’m not talking about getting root access to everything. Even if it’s just a sandboxed app that work like the iDisk or Air Sharing, it would be perfect. It will let you use those 32 GB of space. And with this come the ability to download any file to the phone, directly to the storage app if there’s no other application that can do something with the file.

Review
There’s not really something to review about the iPhone OS that wasn’t already discussed. The only thing I can add is that the iPhone is now very mature, people and business ready and just wait for a user to download some apps and get it to do it’s job; As the best smartphone on the market yet.

iPhone 3G S review – Hardware

Does it really need one?
No not really, the iPhone is a proven device since the start but, there has been some little changes since the release of the first iPhone 2 years ago. It is the first time two iPhones generation live together in the stores. You now not only have to choose how much space you want. If you’re planing on getting an iPhone and you’re not sure which one you want, this review is for you.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…
First of all, the 3G S is not only about having a compass in a phone. Even if many people only see that in the 3G S, there’s so much more. In fact, it was enough for me to get one at full price! Yup, no one is sending me hardware for review. I do this all on my own! At least, for now… Anyway, back to the iPhone. Well go through some specs comparisons and well talk about software features after that.

Component iPhone 3G iPhone 3G S
Core
CPU ARM 1176JS(F)-S v1.0 @ 412 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 @ 600 MHz
RAM DRAM, 128 MB DRAM 256 MB
GPU PowerVR MBX Lite 3D PowerVR SGX
Storage NAND Flash, 8 or 16 GB NAND Flash, 16 or 32 GB
Connectivity
Wifi 802.11 b/g 802.11 b/g
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR 2.1+EDR
Cellular GSM 850 900 1800 1900
GPRS/EDGE
UMST/HSDPA 850 1900 2100
GSM 850 900 1800 1900
GPRS/EDGE
UMST/HSDPA 850 1900 2100
7.2 Mbps HSDPA
Navigation
GPS A-GPS A-GPS
Compass No Yes
Others
Ear-Phone Stereo ear-phone
Microphone
Basic remote
Stereo ear-phone
Microphone
Advanced remote with volume control
Voice Control No Yes
Screen 3.5″
320×480 px
18 bit colors
Scratch resistant glass
Two fingers touch-screen1
3.5″
320×480 px
18 bit colors
Scratch resistant glass
Three fingers touch-screen
Oilophobic coating1
Camera 2 megapixel still 3 megapixel still
640×480 30 fps video
Auto-focus
Automatic macro mode

Majors changes
The iPhone 3G S was advertised as a very fast iPhone and there is specs to back those claim up. The Cortex-A8 is between 2 and 4 times faster than the older one. This make your web-browsing faster, your games smoother, and since the CPU is the bottle neck of that device, even data transfer is getting faster. Believe it or not but the iPhone 3G S sync 80% faster than the iPhone 3G.

With more memory, you can now run bigger and more complex applications without continuously getting interrupted by low memory warnings. With the iPhone 3G, applications had about 40 MB of free memory to run2. This is not very much when the interface itself is using a lot of graphical elements. OS 3.0 doesn’t eat very much RAM than OS 2.2.1 so if you choose the 3G S, you will literally get 128 MB of unused memory over what there already is. This is a real plus since, even with all that RAM, you’ll often run around 25% of free memory. But this time, no app will fill it up. At least, none that I know of!

The GPU also got a bit refit. The SGX is up to 4 times faster than the MBX Lite. This means better frame rates in games, smaller CPU usage when playing videos because of it’s wider support for hardware decoding codecs and more complex animations with support for Open GL ES 2.0.

Limited world
If you’re beginning to see my point you’ve probably stop reading here and got the iPhone 3G S. It’s not like the iPhone was a closed platform with very little developers. They will use those new technologies at their full potential. They will not cut features just to support the old 3G. If you don’t upgrade to the 3G S, you will see more and more of those low memory warnings and softwares that can’t keep up with the old CPU and GPU.

If you are using the iPhone solely for business purpose and can wait 2 or 3 seconds for your apps to load then the 3G is for you. On the other side, if you PLAN on using the iPhone only with business software, then there’s 90% you’re wrong and you’ll want to try that last game. If that happen, you might suffer a big deception.

Minor changes
The rest is pretty much minor. They are just add-ons that might be nice to have. First there is that support for 7.2 MB HSDPA which is nice but the iPhone can’t process data at that kind of speed anyway and there is no support for HSUPA which limit the 3G upload speed to 384 kbps. The new ear-phone are nice, specially if you own an iSkin Revo for the iSkin Solo. As this belt clip block the volume control, it’s nice to still have them on the ear-phone. There’s also a pretty nice new camera (which I use a lot by the way) which is nice addition and already well implemented. On the other side, there’s been report of issues with the oilophobic coating which loose grip with time and let marks on the screen under very high température.

Conclusion
That’s it! If you already own a 3G and feel that the app you use are a bit slow, you might love the speed boost the 3G S can give you as it make it feel just like if you had multi-tasking. See you next week with the iPhone OS 3.0 software review!

1: This data is not official but it would match the accessibility feature set, only available in the iPhone 3G S.
2: This is a best case scenario. There’s about 44 MB of available RAM when the device is rebooted. After 3 days, there’s generally less than 20 MB of free RAM remaining.

Little found that you might LOVE!

iPhone/iPod goes well with MacBook’s
Today, I just discovered something very interesting about the MacBook Pro I used in the recent benchmarks I did. Every one that use an iPod or specially an iPhone knows how well it goes with a Mac. It would seem that the match is even more interesting since the release of the iPHone 3G S, the iPod classic 7G, the iPod nano 4G and the iPod shuffle 3G. What do they all have in common is the new ear-phone set which come with remote and microphone that work with all those devices. And I mean ALL of them, including the late 2008 MacBook Pro!

There is absolutely no trace of that feature in any document apple provide for the MacBook Pro nor any iPhone or iPod but it work; And not just the play/pause button, all of it. You’ve got volume control, play/pause next/previous track working AND the mic! Just plug it in your MacBook, play a track in iTunes and you’ll see. For the microphone part, open “System Preferences”, go to the Sounds panel and then in the Input tab, watch for the “External Microphone” source and rub the microphone with your fingers. You’ll see the VU meter responding instantly, confirming my saying.

Now, if you have a MacBook with an iPhone 3G S or recent iPod, you can have a private conversation, on the go, with iChat using those favorite ear-phone of yours.

Have a good week!

iPhone 3GS upgrade in Canada

The iPhone 3GS pricing just went live
Today, Rogers and Fido announced their pricing for the new iPhone 3GS. They will cost 199 CAD for the 16 GB version and 299 CAD for the 32 GB version. Or, are they? That’s if you’re ready to get involved in a pretty big adventure since those come not with 2 years contract but 3 years contract! Well… Ok… It’s not that bad if you really think about it since you’ll obviously be able to upgrade next year to the newer version. Well… Kinda… What they don’t tell you is that it’s not because you pay 125 CAD a month to get a basic plan that they will do you some favors.

This is the exact situation I am with my iPhone 3G right now. I have a plan that I consider basic when compared to our USA counterpart (details follow) and they are asking me to pay the full price to get a 3GS! What does that tell? Well it make me feel just as someone who didn’t gave them just about 1 500 bucks during the last and want an iPhone. That’s it! I have to pay the same price as someone who want an iPhone 3GS without any plan, no 3 years engagement, ANYTHING!

This is just outrageous!
Why the heck would I have to pay 800 CAD for an iPhone 3GS where you can get the same damn thing for 500 USD just 200 km south! It just doesn’t make sense. And on top of that, Canadian buyers need to endure a three year contract with a company that will do anything to suck up you money. We already have to pay close to 3 times more than in the US to get a plan that is close to interesting. This is just outrageous!

My iPhone 3G
This is my actual situation. I’m stuck in a 3 year engagement (about 1 year done) and paying roughly 124.67 CAD each month for this plan :

Call time (day) 300 minutes 45.00 $
Call time (evening) unlimited
Call time (weekend) unlimited
Call time (incoming) unlimited
Call time (waiting) 2 000 minutes
Data Plan 6 GB* 30.00 $
Visual Voicemail yes 8.00 $
SMS 2 500 20.00 $
Show called ID yes
MMS none 1.50 $ per messages
Network Access fee yes 6.95 $

*: This plan was only available for 3 month after the release of the iPhone 3G.

What do you think?
Do you think, just like me, than Rogers and Fido should not have to right to do this kind of thing? That what they are doing is just like big gas companies? I want to hear you opinion and even more if you think you might have a solution to this plague we are suffering.

Update 2009-06-17 20:43
I just talked to a fido representative and she said that even if Fido’s offer look final, it is not. They still haven decided on an upgrade pricing so they prefer to do not talk about it right now. She also said to ask an other time next week for further information.

Update 2009-06-27 14:21
Well, Rogers are offering them at the same price I stated earlier but Fido stuck with a very uninteresting pricing. They give us a 100 CAD rebate which is nice but still pretty low. Anyway, I decided to get my hand on an iPhone 3G S 32GB for review on this blog. It should get here in about 1-2 weeks.