Saturday, 3 July 2010 - tech news fast! - tech news fast!

Meet Electricpig’s first Commenter of The Week!

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 11:08 AM PDT

We told you we’d be dishing out some Electricpig mugs (as well as some digi-cash vouchers for iTunes or Amazon), and true to our word we’d like you to meet the author of our first Comment of The Week, RobHWales! Read on, and see how he grabbed our comment-roving eye.

When Apple dished out its official explanation for the iPhone 4’s signal problems, RobHWales was speedy with his judgement. “Weasel words really,” he said. “I could accept it more if they said that the formula changed in iOS4. I see the signal drop since upgrading which I hadn’t before upgrading my 3G. A friend of mine has been getting a lot more dropped calls since upgrading his 3GS.”

But it didn’t stop there. RobHWales says: “Bottom line is that it still appears that there may be design fault. If they can make the performance acceptable with a software fix then good news. What’s the chance that is a couple of months iPhone 4’s will be “improved” with a clear non conductive coating on the steel to “stop scuffs” or some other nonsense”

The last bit made us chuckle, but RobHWales also had some words of advice for the Electricpig team: “I look forward to your review of the effects of the update – before you do it have you tested your phone in a bad signal area? Have you got it to drop a call?”

Rest assured, we’ll be all over Apple’s iPhone 4 “fix” as soon as it drops. Until then, we suggest RobHWales blows off a bit of steam and enjoys a nice cuppa in his brand new Electricpig mug!

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Let’s get this clear: Apple can’t fix the iPhone 4

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 10:12 AM PDT

The iPhone 4 has a signal problem. You know it, i know it, and now Apple has admitted it. But while Steve Jobs and Co have 'fessed up to the iPhone 4's foibles, their open letter to iPhone 4 owners is being widely misinterpreted. It is not a fix. I repeat, it will not fix your iPhone.

What it will do, is lower your expectations in the first place. Apple's open letter says quite clearly that "gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars" in other words, yes, holding the antenna will decrease signal strength, but at present every iPhone ever made, from iPhone 2G to iPhone 4 overstates its signal to begin with.

When you hold the iPhone 4 in the right place (or should that be, the “wrong” place), it appears to drop its signal dramatically, but actually according to Apple, it was never that great to begin with.

You might see posts in the next few hours claiming that Apple has "a fix" for the iPhone, and fanboys will doubtless seize upon Cupertino's open letter as evidence that their beloved iPhone 4 is once again perfect in every way. Don't believe them. If you live in a strong signal area, your iPhone will work just fine, no matter how you hold it. Mine does.

Roam to a less generously networked area, and the iPhone 4 will lower its signal. It'll also drop even further if you hold it "wrong," but those dramatically dipping bars just won't accompany it.

And remember, if you don't like your iPhone 4 losing signal there's still plenty of time to return it to Apple, within 30 days for a refund, or sell it to someone less discerning, and more likely to use FaceTime than you.

Our own explanation of the iPhone 4 antenna "fix" is here: Apple open letter: iPhone 4 signal woes down to software, fix incoming

And some other sites doing a similarly straightforward job of explaining it are below. Happy reading, iPhone 4 owners.

Tech Radar: Apple nails down iPhone flaw, fix coming

ZDNet: Apple can’t fix iPhone reception, will start telling truth about signal strength

Gizmodo: Why Apple’s iPhone 4 Update Won’t Fix Your Reception Problem (Bonus points for the diagram)

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Sony Ericsson keyboard smackdown: X10 Mini Pro vs Aspen

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 10:06 AM PDT

We couldn’t just let the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro and Sony Ericsson Aspen lie around on the desk next to each other without their very reasons for being – a full QWERTY keyboard – being put to the test. Naturally, we pitted them off in a fight for the fastest keys and threw the Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro in to the mix to make it a triple threat. It’s Android versus Windows Mobile and landscape versus portrait in the battle of the boards – read on to find out the surprise victor!

To make it a fair fight, we took random paragraphs from our Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini review, and blitzed them out, aiming to spell everything correctly, with proper punctuation and upper case lettering where required. The results are below, and just to give you some sort of control for the experiment, we can hit 40-50 WPM on a BlackBerry Bold 9700, without any punctuation errors or misspelling.

Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro
We suspected the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro would do well beforehand, and we were right. They keyboard, though landscape, is small enough to give you the benefits of using two thumbs that keeps BlackBerry addicts chained to their ageing phones. The buttons are firm and won’t drop you onto other keys by accident, and though they’re small, they’re well spaced apart. There’s even a dedicated comma button, something BlackBerrys don’t have. Android helps speed things up also, adding full stops instead of double spaces, though its auto punctuation doesn’t match that on RIM’s software, at least not by default.
Score: 32 words per minute

Sony Ericsson Aspen
Before we got hold of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro and Sony Ericsson Aspen to test, we genuinely suspected this would floor the competition. For hardcore emailers, portrait QWERTYs are still the way to go. Sadly though, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations: the software is perfectly speedy, and like Android inserts full stops and capitalises, but the keys aren’t as good as the Mini Pro’s. Our particular foible is that the extra comma key, while a nice gesture, pushes the M very close to the middle of the phone. It’s not symmetrical, and means you’ll quite often hit the N instead.
Score: 29 words per minute

Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro
We’re not going to beauty about the bush here. The Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro is an also ran in these stakes. While our only real grumble with the build of the keyboard is that space bar is small and set very low down, so it’s hard to define, Symbian, as ever, mucks things up. It’s slow, doesn’t capitalise or add periods automatically, and worst of all, bafflingly buggy. We actually had to reset the phone to stop the Shift button from opening up a menu, rather than just, you know, acting as a Shift button. Buy for the camera, not the typing skills.
Score: 22 words per minute

So there, you have it: the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro beats the Sony Ericsson Aspen. We’ll have more in our full Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro review coming next week, but it’s a big thumbs up for the little Google phone’s QWERTY. To be fair, the results are still very close – we’re confident that on both we can get very close to the speeds achievable on a BlackBerry. But it does show that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro has a real and genuine one up over the touchscreen only Mini.

Thanks to for the loan of the Sony Ericsson Aspen

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Steve Jobs: the humdrum truth and why we love the myth

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 08:35 AM PDT

When a batch of emails reportedly tapped out on an iPhone 4 by Steve Jobs hit the web yesterday, I wanted to believe them. The idea of Steve Jobs, Zen-like in his black polo neck, 80s jeans and decidedly retro trainers, batting away the anguished entreaties of an Apple fan about the iPhone 4 signal problems just seemed to fit.

Above all Apple rumours – tales of a new Apple TV or iTunes in the cloud spotting – gossip about Steve Jobs seems to stir up the web the most. We're enamoured with the myth of Steve Jobs, not the more humdrum truth…
Unless you're Stephen Fry, your chance of encountering Steve Jobs as an ordinary Apple customer is about as high as your likelihood of dating a supermodel or developing super-powers. He's just a bundle of rumours, myths and legends, an enigma wrapped in a question popped into a natty polo neck.

The Steve Jobs of our imaginations is about as solid as the iPad was during those long months of speculation that saw it packing everything from a Blu-ray drive to solar panels. That's why the idea of getting an email from the man himself appeals to so many people.

Apple has built up an image as the impenetrable fortress of tech, an impression that was only mildly knocked off course by the iPhone 4 leaks. When Steve Jobs appears at Apple keynotes it's treated like Moses striding down to deliver a brand new set of commandments.

Because there’s almost no sign of Steve Jobs for the rest of the year, when people claim to have received an email from him, it's like the modern day equivalent of having a chat with a burning bush – the prophet has spoken and he wants to tell you why Blu-ray is dead and Android is evil!

Bill Gates might be richer but he's never been as mysterious as Jobs. He acquiesces to interviews more frequently and has had his image softened substantially by his charitable work with his wife Melinda.

Jobs' personal life is far more oblique. We know he's got three children by his current wife and another from an earlier relationship but he doesn't talk about that part of his life. Most of the time in the press, Jobs is Apple and Apple is Jobs.

When Steve Jobs was absent from Apple following his liver transplant, thousands of words were dedicated to pondering how the company could survive without him. It did but it's still his word that matters most to Apple fans and commentators.

His open letter on Flash sent ripples across the web like a pebble skimmed across a pond. He understands the power of the myth and arguably encourages it. Steve Jobs isn't interested in seeming down to earth or ordinary.

Yesterday’s messages may have turned out to be fake Steve Jobs emails, people will still fire off correspondence to him and some will get replies. Just look at Gawker writer Ryan Tate, who even after Gizmodo's iPhone scoop made Apple apoplectic, got into a long late night discussion with Steve Jobs about the merits of open platforms.

Every economical little email from Steve Jobs has the potential to become a story but while we try to pack those sentences with meaning, we'll always be miles away from knowing much about man behind the myth.

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Dell Streak review: Ultimate buyer’s guide

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 08:21 AM PDT

Didn’t catch our Dell Streak review the first time around? Better catch up quick, as the Samsung Galaxy S isn’t the only powerhouse Google phone on the block right now. Dell’s slab has proved enormously popular with readers, even triumphing in polls, so we thought we’d do you all a good deed and track down the best prices for you right here. Thinking of buying one? Click here to check out our picks.

Read the rest of our Dell Streak review now:
Dell Streak review
Dell Streak review: Build and touchscreen
Dell Streak review: The first true tablet phone?

Dell Streak review: Android OS

The Dell Streak was an O2 only exclusive for a few weeks, and even now isn’t being sold on any other network, rather than unlocked. You might think that might limit the number of pricing options a tad, but there are still quite a few considerations to take into account – including whether you even want to make phone calls on the thing.

Data Only
Unusually for a handset, the Dell Streak is being sold on O2 with the option for data only – with no way to make phone calls rather than just surf the web – for slightly less than with voice included too. This would probably explain why it’s not referring to the Dell Streak as either a tablet or a phone, rather than simply as the Dell Streak, but it does mean quite cheap deals can be had.

You’ve got two options on O2, both stretched over an 24 month contract. The cheaper £25 per month included 300 text messages, a very generous 3G of data and 500MB of Wi-Fi on Cloud and BT OpenZone hotspots, while five pounds per month more gets you 750MB in the same hotspots. It’s not worth the extra money if you ask us, when there’s so much 3G on offer – go for the cheaper option if you have to.

However, if you read our Dell Streak review: The first true tablet phone? post, you’ll know that we urge you not to go down this route. As large as it sounds on paper, the Dell Streak genuinely is feasible to use as a phone, with great battery life, a thin profile and decent sound quality. It’ll fit in your pocket, but not if you start carrying another handset around with you too. We’d strongly recommend paying a bit more for voice, and using it as your primary phone.

Early adopters
As we said with the Samsung Galaxy S and the iPhone 4, if you like to stay on the bleeding edge, you’ll want to get your Dell Streak unlocked if at all possible. That way you can sell it on when the next big thing comes along, get a lot of your money back and upgrade without being tied in for two years, as you will getting the Dell Streak through O2.

Currently, your best option is to buy the Dell Streak through Dell’s website, and it can be had for £449. You can buy it for £50 less on O2, but we’d pay the extra for the option to use any SIM – and it’ll be worth more when it comes to selling it on.

Smartphone users
Fully intend to use your Dell Streak as a phone, rather than a tablet, and for the full length of your contract, without getting roving eyes? That’s cool, we respect that. You’ve got a few tariffs to choose from on O2, and they’re fairly generous, on shorter 18 months tariffs too. For £30 per month and £149 upfront, you can get the Dell Streak with 100 minutes, 500MB of data and unlimited texts, but we’d go for either the £35 per month option with 300 minutes (£59 upfront), unless you know you make hours and hours of calls, in which case, go for the £40 per month with 600 minutes.

Dell’s got a range of accessories for the Dell Streak on sale already, including a car dock (Google Maps Navigation on the Dell Streak is superb) at £54.99, a HDMI dock at £54.99, and a leather wallet case at £32. We’ve not been able to test any of these, but we’d honestly advise against the leather case. We genuinely feel that the Dell Streak is thin and scratch resistant enough not to warrant one (Seriously, you’ll never make a dint in the screen), and any extra bulk will be noticeable in your pocket.

We’d also hold off on buying an extra battery for the Dell Streak, priced as they are at £38.99. As we said in our Dell Streak review, the battery life is solid for nearly two days, far outpacing the likes of the HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S, so you’ll do fine so long as you charge when you go to bed.

One thing you probably will need however is a spare charging cable, should you either lose one or need one for work. Sadly, the Dell Streak doesn’t use micro USB, but a proprietary 30pin plug, and you can buy spares for £23.99. Steep? Yes. Useful? Alas, yes.

Read the rest of our Dell Streak review now:
Dell Streak review
Dell Streak review: Build and touchscreen
Dell Streak review: The first true tablet phone?

Dell Streak review: Android OS

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Tweeting triggers a legal high

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 07:38 AM PDT

It's a good week for Twitter: on the day that Twitter hit 1000 tweets per second, and two billion tweets in a month, it's also claimed that tests have shown it to induce positive feelings and our brain reacts the same to Twitter as it does to being around friends in real life, which of course, none of us can actually remember now…

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak performed tests on real subjects who exhibited a "hormonal spike experienced by the groom at a wedding Zak attended". I scientific terms, that's a 13.2 per cent spike in oxytocin levels in ten minutes of tweeting. On top of that, stress hormones cortisol and ACTH were reduced by between ten and 15 per cent, which goes hand in hand with the increase in ox

Zak said that the brain interpreted tweeting as if the tweeter was directly interacting with people they cared about or had empathy for. “E-connection is processed in the brain like an in-person connection." he said.

The main problem with the reserahc is that it had one subject – an enthusiastic reporter. But if the research was expanded, and turned into a scientifically viable piece, it could throw into doubt all the talk about teenagers becoming more and more disconnected from real life socialising. Zak is also claiming that social networking might "reduce cardiovascular risks, like heart attack and stroke".

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Become an Electricpig Facebook fan and win!

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 07:17 AM PDT

If you’re not a Facebook fan of Electricpig, and you’re reading this, why ever not? Hit up our Facebook page, join the legions of gadget fans already on board and get the choice cuts of the latest tech news served right through your social network of choice. Plus, there are iTunes vouchers to be had for fan number 1,000, and even an Electricpig mug (Yup, we’ve got our priorities straight). What are you waiting for? Join up, join in and cross your fingers.

Sign up to become an Electricpig Facebook fan here.

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iPhone 4: FaceTime haemorrhaging data. The real reason it’s not 3G?

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 06:50 AM PDT

The iPhone 4's FaceTime voice calling is meant to be revolutionary, despite the fact that in lots of ways, it's just a reinvented existing technology. But at the same time as FaceTime arrived, network operators across the country began to roll back on unlimited data plans, and introduced data caps, just as your usage begins to creep up. At this rate, will FaceTime ever go 3G?

So we sat down to work it out – how much data, now capped everywhere to somewhere in between 500MB and 1GB, does iPhone 4’s FaceTime actually gobble up?

It seems that the average will be about 2MB upload and 2MB of download per minute, which obviously depends on how static the video is, as a more dynamic background will take more bandwidth, to update more pixels.

So if FaceTime takes up 4MB a minute, that means you'll reach 1GB in 256 minutes, and 500MB in 128 minutes. That means that you'll get a fraction over 4 hours of FaceTime allowance per month if (or indeed when, it’s ever allowed over 3G). And all that only matters of course if that's the only thing you use your iPhone 4’s data connection for. Use apps, browse the web or check e-mail, and you’ll eat into your 1GB cap even quicker.

Turn this into a daily limit, and you're looking at round about 8-9 minutes of FaceTime action per day, or about 4 daily video nattering with a 500MB allowance, which doesn't sound that much. Which raises another question… who's going to shoulder those sex line data charges when, as Steve Jobs has pledged, FaceTime goes live over 3G?

Have you been using FaceTime? Tell us in our poll

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Apple open letter: iPhone 4 signal woes down to software, fix incoming

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 06:25 AM PDT

Apple has put out an open letter about the iPhone 4 signal problems that have become every tech head's favourite topic of conversation recently. So what's Apple's conclusion? It says the iPhone 4 signal issues are down to it getting its sums wrong and is promising that iPhone 4 software fix we'd previously heard talk of. Here's Apple's explanation…

After a little bit of bragging ("The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple's history…judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever") and noting that other handsets ("…Droid, Nokia and RIM phones") have similar issues, Apple reveals the result of its investigations.

While there have been claims that the iPhone 4 signal issues are down to faulty antenna design, Apple says different: "Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong."

Apple says that users who see a huge drop in signal when they grab their iPhone 4 in the "wrong" way are actually in an area with weak signal. The reason they didn't notice before? Their iPhone 4 was giving them a falsely high signal reading.

To fix that part of the iPhone 4 signal snafu, Apple says: "We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula." It also suggests that the error has been present since the very first iPhone so all models will get the fix.

Apple also reminds you that you can return your undamaged iPhone 4 within 30 days for a full refund. Bad news if you tried the iPhone 4 signal solutions involving nail varnish!

Hopefully this iPhone software update will put an end to the issue. But if the problem has been around since the very first model hit the market, why did it take Apple so long to realise?

If you've experienced iPhone 4 signal problems, does Apple’s explanation make sense?

Out now | £varies | Apple

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Nokia boss promises Symbian 4 N-Series phones

Posted: 02 Jul 2010 06:04 AM PDT

Nokia is sticking with Symbian. Anssi Vanjoki, the new head of Nokia Mobile Solutions, has come out swinging on Nokia's official blog, with talk of a Symbian ^4 N-Series phone to follow the Symbian ^3-sporting Nokia N8. Symbian's taken a kicking from the critics recently but Vanjoki says Nokia is getting ready to surprise us. Can it turn the tide?

Vanjoki kicked off his strident defence of Symbian with some love for the Nokia N8. He says: "I believe it is going to surprise a lot of people with its power and speed. The camera and HD quality video and deep integration with Ovi services will make this an entertainment powerhouse."

But if you've been hoping to see a Nokia N9 running Symbian you're out of luck. Vanjoki confirms that the N8 will be Nokia's only phone packing Symbian ^3 with the rest packing MeeGo. He also categorically denies that Nokia will introduce an Android device.

We are going to see Nokia N-Series handsets with Symbian ^4 though. Vanjoki says cheekily: "We 'never comment on future products' but a Symbian ^4 N-Series device is a strong possibility. A very strong possibility."  We saw a Symbian ^4 video a few months back with the suggestion that phone will touch down in 2011.

There's also talk of the Nokia's first MeeGo device is Vanjoki's post. He reconfirms that it'll be arriving this year and makes a clear distinction between it and Symbian: "As Symbian gears up to compete with the likes of the iPhone and Android, MeeGo is taking clear aim at the computing space." So MeeGo tablets a go go then!

Though Nokia was once the leader, Vanjoki admits that it's now "a challenger" with "fight on [its] hands". Do you think it can turn the tide with the Nokia N8? And will MeeGo be able to compete with the iPad and the onslaught of Android tablets?

Due TBC | £TBC | Nokia

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