Recent Articles By Charlotte Henry [RSS]

The End of 'Beautygate'

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The iPhone XS and XS Max came with a feature called SmartHDR that increased the dynamic range of photos.  It also reduced the local contrast and the phone’s performance in low light. The lowlight issues were fixed by decreasing noise reduction, which, when combined with the lack of contrast created a smoothing effect. This was particularly noticeable in selfies and came to be known as ‘Beautygate’. With iOS 12.1 Apple tried to fix the problem. Did they succeed? A video from AppleInsider takes a look.

Advertising Fraud on Android Apps Uncovered

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Buzzfeed News has discovered a  sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme targeting Android devices, in which ads were shown to bots, not real users. The article estimates that those behind the scheme “stole close to $10 million from advertisers who used Google’s ad network to place ads in the affected websites and apps”. The fraudulent scheme operated across a  large network of Android apps, including some aimed at children.  It raises major questions about the reviews process used by Google. The article noted that “the Google Play store has a less rigorous app review process than Apple’s App Store.” Here’s some of what Buzzfeed News found:

An investigation by BuzzFeed News reveals that these seemingly separate apps and companies are today part of a massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. More than a dozen of the affected apps are targeted at kids or teens, and a person involved in the scheme estimates it has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from brands whose ads were shown to bots instead of actual humans.

Apple Headphones Might One Day Auto-Detect Right/Left

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Headphone patent

A new patent reveals that Apple is trying to use microphone to solve the problem of people wearing headphones the wrong way round. Typically our headphones are marked either L and R or having some other kind of indication as to which side is which. Apple has a new patent, reported by AppleInsider,  for a “system and method for automatic right-left ear detection for headphones.” It would use the microphone in the headset to discover the headphone’s orientation and alter the left and right channels accordingly. The patent details a system of five microphones per ear cup, including one inside. Here’s a little insight into what might be on offer in the future:

By listening to the voice of the user, and monitoring the volume of the voice by each microphone, the headphones can determine which edge is closest to the user’s mouth, and therefore which orientation the headphones reside. The offsetting of the top-side microphones also allows for just those two microphones to be used, with the logic the microphone of the two that has the louder volume is closer to the mouth.

How iOS Helps a Blind Veteran Return to the Water

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Here is a feel-good story for a Friday. Apple has made public the story of Scott Leason—a US Navy veteran and keen surfer…who happens to be blind. The story details how by using an iPhone XR, and the VoiceOver application in particular, as well as an Apple Watch, Mr Leason is able to undertake a number of tasks and partake in his beloved water sports. He said,“When I’m at the end of a line behind a boat just like anybody else, I forget I’m blind. And then when I come into the beach and there’s people around [his dog] Snickers and I go yeah that’s my seeing eye dog and I got a board in my hand and they go, ‘you’re blind?’ That’s a cool feeling.” It might be easy for some to be cynical about Apple promoting this, but for most of us, it is equally easy to forget how crucial technology and the accessibility tools modern devices have are to people with a variety of disabilities. Surfs up, Mr Leason!

How iOS Helps a Blind Veteran Return to the Water

Github announces it hosts 100 million repositories

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GitHub, the widely used code management and development tool, revealed Thursday that it hosts 100 million repositories. VentureBeat has a good breakdown of the news and the current state of the platform. It includes the fascinating bit of trivia that Algeria has the most repositories per capita, while Egypt boasts the highest number of open source repositories. GitHub is used by approximately 31 million developers around the globe. It was bought by Microsoft in June for $7.5 million.

Source code management and developer collaboration platform GitHub today announced users have now created 100 million repositories. For context, GitHub had 33 million repositories when the company was founded in 2008, and nearly one in three repositories were made within the past year.

Pixel Starships for the Mac

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Whilst procrastinating and surfing through the app store on my MacBook Pro I came across a new game Pixel Starships made by Savvy Soda. Unable to resist anything that is a) space b) pixellated and silly, I immediately downloaded. The premise is simple. You are the captain of a starship and you must conduct missions, earning rewards and building your ship and crew as you go. Pixel Starships is fun, silly and totally addictive. If you spent hours playing Clash of Clans or similar on your phone, you will enjoy this. Available in the Mac App Store for free (with in-app-purchases).

Pixel Starships for the Mac

New iPad Pro Means it is Time for padOS

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2018 iPad Pro with USB-C

It is fair to say that Ben Lovejoy from 9to5Mac is a fan of the new iPad Pro, including the “perfection of the rounded corners in the display.” He is increasingly recommending it to non-techies over a MacBook. His one gripe though is that he thinks the iPad Pro needs its own operating system – call it padOS. I can see the case for this. The iPad Pro, in particular, is now so advanced that people are doing an increasing number of high-powered tasks on it. The device needs an operating system that reflects that. As Lovejoy points out, Apple argues against converged devices. So why not add an extra operating system into the mix so that each hardware offering is compatible but has a unique software environment so users can truly enjoy devices to their full potential?

But while the iPad Pro isn’t trying to be a Mac, it is a grown-up device and it needs a grown-up operating system. Not macOS, but rather a tailored version of iOS, designed to take advantage of the additional capabilities of the iPad. What some people have termed padOS.

Xiamoi AirDots - the Latest AirPod Copy

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Xiaomi Air Dots

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” the old saying goes. If that is true, Apple should be feeling very flattered indeed. Chinese company Xiaomi has become the latest firm to imitate the AirPods with its AirDots wireless headphones. It is not just the name that’s similar. The design of the AirDots shares a lot with the AirPods. They are fully wireless and have a very familiar look charging case. The next generation of the AirPods is thought to use Bluetooth 5.0, and the Air Dots utilise that same technology. In fact, the biggest difference is the price. The Next Web reported that the Air Dots will retail for just $30. Here is a bit of what they make off this copy-cat offering:

It seems like everyone wants to get on the AirPod bandwagon. Apple’s wireless earbuds have proven so popular that shedloads of companies are copying the format and releasing similar-looking versions of the audio gear. The latest in this line? The Xiaomi AirDots. The earbuds have many of the same features as the AirPods. First off, they’re true wireless, meaning there’s not a cable in sight on the headphones themselves. The Xiaomi AirDots also have touch controls on the side of the buds and come with the now standard charging case.

Reuters Looks at Apple's Challenges in India

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Apple India

India is home to a large population full of very tech-savvy. Not surprisingly, Apple is keen to increase its sales there. However, small incomes, high device costs and cheap alternatives are making this increasingly difficult. A good piece of analysis on Reuters reveals that even those in Bengaluru – India’s Silicon Valley, are resisting high-end new Apple devices. To compound the difficulties, Apple faces high import tariffs in India and lost some of its top executives in the country this year. While I suspect that tales of Apple’s demise in India is somewhat premature, there is little doubt the firm faces big challenges to keep the country’s 1.3 billion consumers buying its products. Here’s a snippet:

But in a country where the average per capita income is around $2,000 a year, even the cheapest of this year’s new iPhones, the XR at 76,900 rupees ($1,058), costs twice as much as many of the alternatives. Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research says that iPhone sales are falling as a result. From three million phones in 2017, sales may sink to two million this year, according to their estimate, the first decline in four years.

New iPad Pro and MacBook Air Now Available in UK

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LONDON – The new iPad Pro and MacBook Air are available for UK customers. Currys PC World is offering new iPads from £769 (US$1,011).  The retailer is also offering customers £50 ($66) off the price of the new device if they trade in an older tablet.  The new MacBook Air is also available, starting at £1,119 ($1,472). However, the 256 GB SSD model seems to be currently sold out. Currys PC World is also offering financing options on the new devices.

New iPad Pro and MacBook Air Now Available in UK