Two tech geeks.

  • Thoughts on ‘Button Shapes’ in iOS 7.1 Beta 2


    Steven Aquino writes about the inclusion of button shapes in iOS 7.1 beta 2.

    From a AX perspective, what the new Button Shapes do is restore a sense of explicitness to iOS 7′s interface. These types of visual cues are so important to many visually impaired users, myself included. Whereas previously I struggled in identifying whether a label was an actionable control or simply a label, iOS 7.1′s Button Shapes hearken back to the iOS 6-style, This is a button. Tap me!, level of usability. And therein is the point: usability. As I stated, it’s perfectly valid to wince at and decry the visual design of the new buttons, but make no mistake, the addition of this feature is a tremendous improvement for visually handicapped users such as myself. These buttons will make iOS 7 infinitely more usable than it is today, and Apple absolutely should be applauded for addressing a serious issue — not only for me, but even for the normal-sighted as well.

    Very good point. It seems that many people missed the fact that the option is available under Accessibility. The inclusion of the ability to turn on button shapes is for the benefit of visually impaired users. The emphasis is on making iOS 7 more usable for this particular group of people, and not on making it look visually stunning for everyone.

  • Xiaomi’s build-it-yourself wifi router costs 15 cents


    Tech in Asia reports that Xiaomi has announced the beta launch of its wifi router. In this case, beta means you have to build the router yourself. Only 500 units are available at RMB 1 each.

    Xiaomi has gained mass appeal in mainland China for its ability to satisfy users across the broad spectrum of Android, ranging from customization geeks to would-be Apple fans. Of course, the former group would likely be more interested in a build-it-yourself router than the latter. However, Xiaomi might be hoping that once this mundane hunk of silicon and plastic gets in the hands of a few dedicated users, excitement will spread, and so will the router.

  • Android botnet hijacking SMS data


    FireEye reports on a mobile botnet called MisoSMS that is stealing SMS data from Android phones.

    MisoSMS infects Android systems by deploying a class of malicious Android apps. The mobile malware masquerades as an Android settings app used for administrative tasks. When executed, it secretly steals the user’s personal SMS messages and emails them to a command-and-control (CnC) infrastructure hosted in China. FireEye Mobile Threat Prevention platform detects this class of malware as “Android.Spyware.MisoSMS.”

    Seems like the majority of infected devices are in Korea. Still, Android users should remain alert.

  • AirHelp helps you claim compensation that you are entitled to


    Tech in Asia reports about AirHelp, a service that helps passengers claim compensation from airlines.

    Airhelp believes that “you could be entitled to compensation of €250 to €600 ($344 to $826) if your flight is delayed by more than three hours, cancelled, or overbooked.” These claims can be filed even if the case goes back up to three years. Airhelp collects as many compensation claims as possible, processes them, and will take 25 percent commission out of every successful claim.

    Co-founder and CEO Henrik Zillmer first got the idea when his flight got delayed for more than three hours and he wasn’t informed about his passenger rights. And when he found out about his rights, he was hit by a maze of links on the airline website when wanting to submit his claim. Afterwards, he did not hear back from the airline.

    According to his research, “more than 20 million passengers every year are entitled to compensation (an average of €450 ($620) per passenger) but less than one percent actually get the compensation mainly because air passengers don’t know their rights and because airlines don’t inform them and make it as difficult as possible to claim it.”

    You might be owed compensation that your airline did not inform you about. Or the airlines might force you to jump through a series of hoops before they finally pay you. Airhelp is here to, well, help you.

  • Who buys the iPhone 5C?


    Benedict Evans writes about the usage data of iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s based on analysis of Facebook ad information.

    The results show that the iPhone 5c is a lot more popular among women than men.

  • Shameless carriers


    Monday Note writes about shameless carriers.

    In response to Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO, predicting the end of subsidies because “wireless operators can no longer afford to suck up the costs of customers’ devices”:

    I don’t know if Stephenson is speaking out of cultural deafness or cynicism, but he’s obscuring the point: There is no subsidy. Carriers extend a loan that users pay back as part of the monthly service payment. Like any loan shark, the carrier likes its subscriber to stay indefinitely in debt, to always come back for more, for a new phone and its ever-revolving payments stream.

    Meanwhile, some carriers are offering a cheaper contract if you choose to pay for the phone in full.

    In the meantime, AT&T has finally followed T-Mobile’s initiative and has unbundled the service cost from the handset. If you pay full price for your smartphone, an AT&T contract will cost you $15 less than with a subsidized phone on a 2-year agreement.

    Mobile carriers know that they are overcharging customers. It has taken an “un-carrier” like T-Mobile to make drastic changes to get other carriers switching from existing practices. Carriers believe they can get away with it because customers are tied to contracts.

    Just yesterday, my telco called to offer me a S$4 discount per month because I have not renewed my contract. It sounded like a nice gesture until the lady went on the explain that should I cancel my line, I would have to pay the company back. So if I enjoyed the discount for five months and then cancel my line, I would have to pay them $20. They might call it a discount but it sure doesn‘t sound like one.

    This is just another way for them to deter subscribers from terminating their lines, just like how they use a phone contract to tie down customers for two years.

  • Target refuses to sell Beyoncé’s album after it was first released digitally


    Digital Trends reports that Target is refusing to sell Beyoncé’s self-titled album because it was first released digitally.

    Releasing a statement about the company’s disinterest in the new album, Target spokesperson Erica Julkowski said “At Target, we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections.” 

    Julkowski continued “While there are many aspects that contribute to our approach and we have appreciated partnering with Beyoncé in the past, we are primarily focused on offering CDs that will be available in a physical format at the same time as all other formats. At this time, Target will not be carrying Beyoncé’s new self-titled album ‘Beyonce.’“

    How is this different from when an album is first released on CDs? Consumers can still choose to download digital copies if they have no intention of paying.

  • Qualcomm caught off guard by Apple’s 64-bit A7 processor


    A common barb thrown at Apple is that the company uses outdated hardware and sells them at premium prices. If you look at things like the Retina Display, TouchID, and many more, you’ll know that the statement isn’t true.

    We recently confirmed that Qualcomm should be offering 64-bit chips in the second half of 2014, which is roughly a year after Apple introduced the 64-bit A7 processor. At the very least, it’s good to see that Apple’s move is increasing the speed that new competing devices will have 64-bit processors, which is a benefit to consumers.

    Qualcomm Insider: Apple 64-Bit Chip `Hit Us in the Gut’

    “The 64-bit Apple chip hit us in the gut,” says the Qualcomm employee. “Not just us, but everyone, really. We were slack-jawed, and stunned, and unprepared. It’s not that big a performance difference right now, since most current software won’t benefit. But in Spinal Tap terms it’s like, 32 more, and now everyone wants it.”

  • WeChat is going international with m-commerce


    The Next Web reports that WeChat is going international in a different way to WhatsApp.

    M-commerce isn’t a new idea for other chat apps too — Japanese messaging service Line has, for example, dabbled in selling items via its app. Just yesterday, it announced it was going to hold a flash sale for users in Thailand via a partnership with all-in-one e-commerce logistics firm aCommerce and L’Oreal’s Maybelline New York.

    However, as Chinese Internet giant Tencent also owns payment service Tenpay, WeChat’s team can easily tap on the technology to settle the necessary backend work. Tencent already rolled out an update to Weixin in August, incorporating payment services. All users have to do is link an online banking account to Weixin to pay for items and they are good to go.

    I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. Tencent can also tap on location data to push location-specific deals to users and allow them to pay using their phone. There is a lot of potential in that without even factoring in the impact of iBeacons.

  • Microsoft’s CEO search going nowhere


    Monday Notes discusses Microsoft’s fruitless CEO Search.

    For a large, established company, having to use an executive recruiter to find its next CEO carries a profoundly bad aroma. It means that the directors failed at one of their most important duties: succession planning. Behind this first failure, a second one lurks: The Board probably gave the previous CEO free rein to promote and fire subordinates in a way that prevented successors from emerging.