Moto 360: Fatally Flawed

David Pierce, The Verge:

The 360 has a big, round screen that goes completely edge to edge except for one small cutout at the bottom – that’s where the display drivers are, I’m told, and it was essentially an unavoidable design oddity.

It’s not small. It’s not perfectly round. And it’s an ugly permanent reminder of both.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S: Display Review by Raymond Soneira

Raymond Soneira:

Based on our extensive Lab tests and measurements, the Galaxy Tab S is the Best Performing Tablet Display that we have ever tested, not surprisingly with performance that is almost identical to the OLED Galaxy S5 Smartphone that we recently tested and found to be the Best Performing Smartphone Display. The Galaxy Tab S establishes new records for best Tablet display performance in: Highest Color Accuracy, Infinite Contrast Ratio, Lowest Screen Reflectance, and smallest Brightness Variation with Viewing Angle. Both Galaxy Tab S models offer Quad HD 2560×1600 pixel displays (with 287 to 361 pixels per inch), currently the highest for Tablets, with 4.1 Mega Pixels, double the number on your HDTV. Where the Galaxy Tab S does very well but does not break performance records is in maximum display Brightness – the current record holder for Tablets is the Nokia Lumia 2520 with 684 nits, while the Tab S has 546 nits with Automatic Brightness On and 415 nits under manual Brightness (10 percent lower for mixed content with 50 percent Average Picture Level APL and 25 percent lower for an all white screen). High screen Brightness is only needed for High Ambient Light, so turning Automatic Brightness On will provide better screen visibility and also a longer battery running time. Its record low Screen Reflectance of 4.7 percent further improves the effective screen Brightness, resulting in a very high Contrast Rating for High Ambient Light with Automatic Brightness On.

The OLED display incorporated in the Samsung Galaxy Tab S displaces the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX as the top performing tablet display. The 9.7-inch IPS LCD used in the iPad Air is bumped down to number three.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Dan Seifert, The Verge:

Samsung’s big selling point with the Tab S line are the new Super AMOLED displays, and well, they look pretty fantastic. The Tab S line has the largest Super AMOLED displays Samsung has ever used in a mobile device, and they are the first tablets since 2012’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 to use the technology. Samsung boasts that the 2560 x 1600 pixel AMOLED screens offer 20 percent better color range and 100 times better contrast ratio than comparable LCDs. In person, they are very bright and very vibrant, though they still exhibit the over-saturated look anyone that’s used a Galaxy S smartphone can relate to. Samsung is including some software tools to tweak colors and brightness, which help make the displays easier to look at while reading. But really, Samsung designed these for watching video, and for that they look great.

The Galaxy Tab S comes in two sizes: 8.4 and 10.5, both with 2560×1600 pixels.

Samsung Gear 2 vs. Sony SmartWatch 2

Neither smartwatch is appealing to me — the Moto 360 is, just from how it looks (mockups) but looks can be deceiving — but if you were wondering which had the better display between the two, look no further. Ray Soneira:

The OLED display on the Samsung Gear 2 performed very well across the board, almost identically to the most recent Galaxy S OLED Smartphones in almost every test measurement and viewing category. It looked and performed like a small version of a high quality OLED smartphone display – including sharpness, high pixels per inch, brightness, color depth, color gamut, viewing angle, in ambient light, and overall image and picture quality.

Take a look at the comparison table at the link and it is obvious the OLED display used in the Samsung Gear 2 is solid. On the other hand, the LCD used in the Sony SmartWatch 2 isn’t:

In particular, the coarse and heavily pixelated low resolution and low pixels per inch screen made worse with poor anti-aliasing, the very low color depth, the poor color gamut in ambient light, and also the poor viewing angle performance (because watches are not easily positioned for zero degree viewing). Using a combination Transflective LCD comes with a significant performance penalty in both the backlight transmissive mode and the reflective mode that keeps the always on image visible in moderate ambient light and in some but not all high ambient light situations. The choices and compromises made by Sony for the SmartWatch 2 display simply do not work well.

Similar to a smartphone or a tablet, I would think the importance of an excellent display on a smartwatch is obvious. I thought wrong.

Google to buy Skybox

Google:

Google Inc. announced today that it has entered into an agreement to buy Skybox Imaging for $500 million in cash, subject to adjustments.

Skybox’s satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.

Skybox is a Mountain View, Calif.-based manufacturer of private sector satellites, which record high resolution videos and photos of landscapes. Looks to be a good fit for Google Maps.

LG G3: Space Efficient

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

The most impressive thing about this screen is not its otherworldly 538ppi pixel density, but how efficient the designers have been with the space around it. 76.4 percent of the G3’s front is occupied by the display, allowing it to fit a larger panel into the same dimensions as the 5-inch HTC One and 5.2-inch Xperia Z2. LG’s phone is also significantly lighter than the others, making it feel much more streamlined.

Color accuracy, contrast, and viewing angles are all very good. The black background behind the G3’s on-screen Android keys is dark enough to seem to melt away into the phone’s black frame. Additionally, unlike Sony’s Xperia Z2, which struggles outdoors, the G3’s IPS display is bright enough to remain useful on a sunny day.

The 5.5-inch LG G3 sports a pixel format of 2560×1440, the same as a 27-inch iMac.

(When I plug in 2560×1440 and 5.5 inches I get a resolution of 534 ppi. To get 538 ppi the diagonal length needs to be 5.46 inches.)

iOS 8: Random MAC Address for WiFi Scanning

Retailers are tracking you and have been tracking you for quite some time. They know a lot more about you than you think and probably more than you know about yourself, at least in terms of external behavior. And they know this thanks to the way your phone works when it searches for WiFi signals to connect to. Stephanie Clifford and Quentin Hardy, The New York Times on July 14, 2013:

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

All sorts of retailers — including national chains, like Family Dollar, Cabela’s and Mothercare, a British company, and specialty stores like Benetton and Warby Parker — are testing these technologies and using them to decide on matters like changing store layouts and offering customized coupons.

Understand you don’t have to connect to the their WiFi for these retailers to track your phone. When you have WiFi turned on your phone looks for a WiFi connection and sends out its MAC address, a unique identifier. These phone tracking systems automatically logs any WiFi-enabled phone within the WiFi’s signal range. iOS 8 will change this. Luis Abreau shared via Twitter what he found during Session 715:

In iOS 8, Wi-Fi scanning behavior has changed to use random, locally administrated MAC address […] The MAC address used for Wi-Fi scans may not always be the device’s real (universal) address

What does this mean: iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices running iOS 8 when looking for WiFi signals to connect to will give out random MAC addresses and make tracking your iOS 8 device meaningless. That’s nice, but I’d like to have this feature on iOS 7, right now.

The Tablet PC in 2014

via John Gruber. Timothy B. Lee, Vox:

Tablets aren’t PCs. Indeed, iPads and Android-based tablets have succeeded precisely because they ditched the complexity of traditional PCs. Microsoft’s determination to make “tablet PCs” is a sign that the company doesn’t understand the economic forces behind the mobile computing revolution.

Tablets can be PCs. To me, a tablet is just a form factor: a piece of glass with the guts behind it. The Surface Pro 3 is a good example: imagine it running Windows 7.

The economic forces behind the mobile computing revolution? I don’t think there’s a mobile computing revolution in the classic sense of the word computing. Post-PC devices like the iPad are mostly used for triaging emails and responding to some of them, browsing the internet, playing casual games, etc. And yes there are some who use it as a serious productivity tool, but the iPad is mostly a non-computing device in the traditional sense of the word computing; the Surface Pro 3 on the other hand is. You work on that 12-inch tablet PC.

You wouldn’t want to read a book on it. Nor would you want to play Candy Crush on it. You certainly don’t want to use it as a camera to take photos and share them on Instagram. What you do on the Surface Pro 3 is compute: word processing, creating/modifying Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. (Again, yes you can do these things on the iPad, but it actually takes more work and effort than on the Surface Pro 3 with a keyboard and trackpad.)

Smartphones and tablets are a good example of what business guru Clay Christensen called a disruptive innovation: a technology that’s simpler and cheaper than the technology it replaces.

I don’t think smartphones and tablets (like the iPad) are replacing personal computer like the Mac. There are fringe usage scenarios where the iPad can and does replace a Mac, but most everyone I know who has an iPhone and/or an iPad also have a personal computer. Easy tasks such as text-only emailing is an example where an iPad can be used instead of a personal computer. Creating a complicated newsletter on the other hand is more easily done on a personal computer. The iPad can be used to make one, but it isn’t as easy or productive.

In short, the iPad was a hit because it didn’t have all the features of a full-blown MacBook.

Again, I don’t know of anyone — maybe I just know the wrong people — who bought an iPad and said, “Time to ditch the Mac.” For quite some time I think we’ll own and use three broad categories of digital devices: personal computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Microsoft’s Surface tablets have a funny shape and muddled user interface that make them a poor alternative to a full-fledged PC.

A funny shape? Looks like the shape of an iPad to me. I agree the user interface can be much better: I would recommend Windows 7, which would reveal the fact that the Surface Pro 3 is in fact a real full-fledged PC.

And they’re too complex and expensive to be a serious alternative to an iPad or Android tablet.

The 64GB Surface Pro 3 starts at US$799. The 128GB WiFi iPad Air goes for $799. I don’t think the hardware specifications can be apples-to-apples compared, but to call the Surface Pro 3 too expensive? Consider how expensive a hypothetical 64GB 12-inch iPad would be.

Desktop operating systems have been too complex for quite some time. OS X doesn’t have to be; Windows was designed to be. There really is a need for a simpler experience on personal computers, but that need isn’t limited to just the Surface Pro 3. But why does a personal computer running a desktop operating system need to be a serious alternative to an iPad or an Android tablet? It doesn’t.