I've just spent the better half of this morning covering the Apple event, where the company announced its new iPhone, which comes in two sizes: 4.7- and 5.5-inch. After I had written it all up, I sat back and thought about it: I'm just not impressed.
I remember when the iPhone was first announced: I couldn't get it in Australia and had to import it for close to $1000. Barely anything worked on it, with MMS messages not working, the Internet barely having functionality, but at the time, it was ahead of its time. It was a truly revolutionary product, seemingly years before its time. Apple had to create an ecosystem around its new iPhone, and it literally changed the world. Everything we do on our smartphones now can be taken back to that moment, as it's the moment Nokia was shot and injured, and the moment that Google gave birth (through acquisition) of Android.
The last iPhone I personally owned was the iPhone 3G, after which I moved to the HTC Desire. Android was still in its infancy then, but I persisted, at the time, iOS wasn't much better. This was before Siri, before the Maps debacle, before the big fight between Apple and Google. After the Desire, I moved to a Samsung Galaxy S II and never looked back at Apple.
My friends and family purchased iPhones, and even when the iPhone 4 launched, it did nothing for me. iPhone 4S came along and was such a slight iteration, I didn't see the point. Apple began losing millions of consumers to Samsung, and then built the iPhone 5 from the ground up. Even then, with a 4-inch display and no notable features over my Galaxy S3 at the time, I still didn't see myself persuaded to upgrade. Apple then launched the iPhone 5S, another phone that I simply didn't see the point in.
By this time, I had started using many other devices, such as the Nexus 4 which had wireless charging. Once I had used wireless charging, it was incredibly hard to go back. Then came Full HD displays, waterproof smartphones, and much more. After using the Galaxy S5 - which I didn't like at all, and then the Sony Xperia Z2 - which I think is one of the best Android-powered smartphones on the market, I started to pretend to get excited about the new iPhone.
I expected Apple to wow the world, wow the world in the way that Apple once again took the reigns as the leader of the smartphone industry. Revolutionizing the way we use our smartphone, offering technology that is a generation or three ahead of the competition. I expected some next-gen screen technology (something that no one expected, not even the analysts or other experts), wireless charging, expandable storage, and more technologies that would've dragged consumers from other devices, back to iPhone.
Apple has bled tens of millions of consumers to Samsung through its Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5, Note 2 and Note 3. Tens of millions. Android is far bigger and badder than iOS can ever be thanks to Google's undisputed services. Google Drive is multitudes cheaper than iCloud, and includes so much more than 'just cloud storage'. Google Maps and Navigation are so much more superior than anything Apple has offered lately. Google Now is absolutely incredible, and very, very useful - but the same cannot be said for Siri other than playing around with it when you first buy your iPhone. Apple has bled these customers, all while keeping this cult-like fashion label on its iPhone.
The iPhone 6 was just announced, alongside the iPhone 6 Plus, but both smartphones offer nothing new. Sure, we have an improved camera, a faster processor, a higher-resolution display - but nothing, new. Everything is just improved on the iPhone 5S, but we have nothing that truly stands out from teh crowd. The iPhone 6 and its 4.7-inch display isn't even Full HD, with a resolution of 1334x750. Sure, that's better than iPhone 5S, but we're getting to the end of 2014, and Apple's iPhone 6 doesn't even feature a Full HD display.
Right now, I'm using the Sony Xperia Z2 and I love it. Fully waterproof, Full HD display, expandable storage, Android OS, wireless inductive charging, 3000mAh battery (lasts all day, then some), and much more. For me to be pulled away from Android, and all of Google's services, I needed something truly revolutionary. The same can be said for the tens of millions of users on Samsung devices: why would they move away, or back to, an iPhone? There's no reason. The new iPhone is for current iPhone users, so that they don't jump ship to other smartphone manufacturers who are offering bigger screens.
This is all it comes down to: the bigger screen.
Before Steve Jobs' passing, Apple, and Jobs himself, said that bigger screens were useless, or a fad. Now we have Apple announcing two new iPhones, both with bigger displays. So it's obviously not a fad, and something that Apple is pursuing - because they know where the market is going.
The new iPhone isn't a great smartphone at all, if you aren't looking through Apple's rose-tinted glasses. But if you're an iPhone user, Apple has just unveiled something that might actually keep you from leaving their embrace for the dark side, or just putting up with your piddly 4-inch display. Not that it's a bad thing, but I'm coming from a purely technology enthusiasts point of view.
The new iPhone doesn't have wireless charging. The 128GB model will most likely hover close to $1000 outright. iOS 8 is still limited by its services, for as many options and bits and pieces it offers, Google's services are far superior (and cheaper) in almost every way. The iPhone 6 doesn't even have a Full HD display. No expandable storage, even in late 2014/2015.
Then we have every other media publication out there with nothing but glowing reports on the new iPhone, with every single site I've looked at so far having nothing but positive spin on the new handset. I'm not going to name names, because frankly, everyone is doing it. I don't know what it is about Apple, but tech sites can't seem to judge Apple harshly. Samsung offered more new things with the Galaxy S5 over the S4, and even then, it wasn't a huge leap - but Samsung didn't receive anywhere near the praise that Apple did today.
Apple announcing a new iPhone is almost like the second coming of Christ himself, no matter what he says or does, people would listen.
All in all, Apple disappointed me today, and it's not like I didn't expect it - but I wanted to see more.
During the Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin, Germany, we heard about a slew of new Samsung products, including the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, and better: Gear VR. Gear VR is the result of Samsung's collaboration with Oculus VR, which uses the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone as its screen, slotting into the front of the Gear VR device.
This is interesting and noteworthy on so many levels, where we're finally starting to see what the deal between Samsung and Oculus was. Oculus got early access to Samsung panels, and Samsung got help on its own VR tech from Oculus, and early access to Oculus' SDK. But this relationship goes much deeper, as John Carmack, the CTO of Oculus VR, spending over a year getting this technology working - VR on mobile with Gear VR.
We have some better technology inside of the Gear VR, bettering what is found in the Rift DK2. First off, we have a 5.7-inch 2560x1440 Super AMOLED display compared to the 5.5-inch 1920x1080 Super AMOLED panel found in the Gear VR.
Disclaimer: It takes a lot to have me excited in the tech world, a lot. After years of stagnation in the display and general graphics department, the Oculus Rift is the first thing in a very long time that could really change things. After a year with the DK1 unit, my DK2 turned up today, and wow, wow, wow, is it a massive improvement.
VR isn't perfect just yet, remember the DK in DK2 stands for Development Kit. This is not for general consumers, but Oculus VR are kind enough to not lock it down to specifically just developers. What we have here is a beta product that shows us where Oculus VR is going with VR tech, and if the differences it has baked into DK2 over DK1 are anything to go by, VR is going to be here quicker than you thought.
The original Rift had a 7-inch 1280x800 display, but it had quite a bad 'screen-door' effect - where you could easily see individual pixels in front of your eyes. This was really jarring at the best of times, mixed with the laggy display, it didn't provide a great experience for VR. DK2 on the other hand, features a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 display, which is world's beyond what the DK1 had on offer.
This week I've been deep into testing mobile batteries, or power banks. I have so many in my office it's not funny, but this week has been harder on me than most, as I've let them build up, and then a few more came and now I'm writing reviews on a bunch of new batteries that just came into my office.
I have a bunch of different brands, ranging from Patriot Memory, RAVPower, LUXA2, Limefuel, and TYLT. They all vary in the amount of mAh they feature, and one of the Patriot chargers is its new FUEL iON charger, a wireless charger that I'm excited to test. I have a Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 tablet that I'm going to dock onto it soon for some wireless charging, which should be interesting.
Let's take a quick look at what I have to test over the next two or so weeks.
We'll start with the Patriot Memory FUEL iON, which is the company's new wireless charger. It has a circular design which I'm really digging.
Patriot also sent me their new FUEL+ 9000mAh battery, which has a truly gorgeous yellow styling. I didn't think I'd like it, but it is really growing on me, and quick.
Next up we have the LUXA2 EnerG 6600mAh charger, which I think I'm going to really love. I absolutely loved the EnerG 8800 model - especially with its $29.99 price point. I can already feel the Editor's Choice award for this one.
RAVPower is a company that I'm beginning to deal with more, and after reviewing their kick ass RP-PB14 Xtreme 23,000mAh Portable Battery Charger, this new charger should keep me happy for a while.
I have a handful of Limefuel's chargers in my office, but this new rugged one is one of the best. It really is strong, with my testing already starting on this one - dropping it on the ground, without it busting at all. Gotta love something that is durable and can be thrown around a little, especially when this sits in my car for emergency charges.
Lastly, we have TYLT's Energi 5K battery. I just wrapped up my reviews on the Energi 2K and 3K batteries over the weekend (which should go live onto TweakTown next week sometime). I loved the Energi 2K and 3K chargers, so I'm sure I'm going to feel the same thing with the 5K version.
There you have it! This is what I'll be doing over the coming days, snapping a bunch more photos and giving them some real-world testing before I begin writing up my reviews of them next week.
The day that Oculus VR announced the Rift Developer Kit 2 (or DK2), I clicked the "ORDER RIGHT NOW" button and paid via PayPal. I knew what to expect coming from the first DK1 unit, but the increased screen resolution and other associated, improved technologies built into the DK2 unit have me more excited than most products I receive through my lab.
Today, Oculus VR delayed the shipment of the first batches of the new Rift headset to do some last minute work on the updated Oculus SDK. I thought I'd be mad, but I never promised myself a certain date, or week to receive it - or else I would've been disappointed. I don't mind about the delay, but it just creates more excitement for when I get it.
I have setup my original DK1 unit once again and have been downloading copious amounts of Rift demos and games, even buying some games from Steam that are compatible with the Oculus Rift. I've got a few that I'm in the middle of playing, so I'm going to do some comparison tests between DK1 and DK2 when I get the second development kit.
I'm going to have a full write up on this in the coming week or so, but I wanted to vent some of my anger on a blog. So, two months ago I signed up for the National Broadband Network, or NBN. The NBN is the best Internet a consumer can get in Australia, but you have to be living in a specific suburb, house or state to get it.
I moved house a few months ago with a large reason on deciding on this house is that it was connected to Tier 5 NBN, meaning I get 100/40Mbps. In Australian standards, this is like going from dial up Internet to massively fast Internet access. Well, after huge problems even getting them to come to my house, they arrived yesterday morning to install it.
After it was installed, I thought I was all good - I was wrong. After two hours of using it, and thinking about how damn fast it was - downloading apps onto my phone, syncing my Google Photos onto my Drive account, and streaming a YouTube video at 1080p - all at once, something I could never do before, it died. My entire NBN connection died. It has been dead for 27 hours now, with 7 phone calls to my provider (iiNet) to try and resolve my issues.
According to iiNet, they have never experienced a consumer with this problem - just my luck. The bigger problem is that the NBN Co, the company behind the national roll out of fiber Internet for Australians, is government-owned. I can't go to anyone to complain, or to get my problem fixed quicker. The NBN Co pushes out all of its jobs to contractors, so there is no care in the world when it comes to a single person having a problem, like I am now.
As I type, I'm on hold to my ISP to try yet another trick on the NTD box (my 'modem'). I hope it ends up working, but for now, this has just been headache after headache. Eight weeks without proper Internet is killing me.
Right now, I am tethered to the mobile connection on my Telstra-powered (Australia's biggest mobile network) Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone, as I have no home Internet connection. I've recently moved into a new house, which is in a brand new estate - and NBN-enabled. If you don't know what the NBN is, it's Australia's National Broadband Network.
The NBN provides users with up to 100/40Mbps connections for a decent price ($100 or so for 1TB data at 100/40Mbps) which in Australia's terms - is pretty damn good. They came a month ago and said that they couldn't install it because my fence was in the way, which was something they could've drilled through - but from what I've read online, the NBN contractors seem to do these types of things often.
I had to make another appointment before I flew to Taiwan for Computex two weeks ago, and that appointment is a little over 12 hours from now. Being tethered to my mobile connection is killing me, so I'm hoping to have my fiber connection up and running tomorrow. I'm a little excited, as I'll actually be able to download and play Watch Dogs, and a bunch of other games that I've been waiting to play.
I even went to buy a Nintendo Wii U today, but hesitated because I have no Internet connection - all I want to do is play Mario Kart 8! This is the world we live in now though, isn't it - without an Internet connection, what good are all these fancy consumer electronics? #firstworldproblems.
I'm a black hole of technology and games - I love them all. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Computex in Taipei this year, but there was nothing much that really stood out and hit me in the face saying "look at me, play with me, you want to take me home!"
I'm now sitting back in Australia at home, capturing in a bunch of E3 2014 content and writing up a bunch of news on the various games and tech shown off at the show. We've seen some truly incredible things at E3 this year, something I didn't think would happen - a few of the stand out things for me would be Alien: Isolation - which looks absolutely pants-wettingly beautiful. Creative Assembly has just announced that it will built Oculus Rift support into the game, something that has me excited beyond belief.
The Division - which is something I've had my eyes on for quite some time looks delicious, as always. The four-player cooperative play is going to have me having a bunch of fun in that game, and it is hitting next-gen consoles and PCs only - something I love to hear.
The Wii U has seen some love, with some massive sales thanks Mario Kart 8 - but we're also hearing about a new Zelda game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong (working title) and much more. I think we're going to see a much better Nintendo in 2015, a company that has its crap together, ready to take on the lukewarm next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
Oculus VR is at the top of its game at E3 - but it is something you need to see in person, and not read about. But, it's great to see the now Facebook-owned VR startup working with AAA developers, and getting more and more talent jump on-board the limitless VR train.
One of the games I hold closest to me is Half-Life. The original Half-Life was the start of Valve, with Gabe Newell riding off of the money he made at Microsoft in the early days (after leaving the company) to form Half-Life. It nearly didn't make it, after years of development hell and reboots of virtually all parts of the game, it was released to great applaud from both critics, and fans.
Half-Life sits on the same throne as Quake and Unreal for me as first-person shooters that defined my teenage years. LAN parties with those first-person shooters were always fun, but it was Half-Life that stood out from the rest. It had a gripping story line, unique puzzles, for it's time - advanced AI, and so much more.
When Valve finally released Half-Life 2, after the hacking scandal with lost source code, it was met by even bigger success. At the time Valve was launching Steam, which was hated by virtually every gamer on Earth. Steam took a couple of years to win gamers' hearts, but it well and truly did. Now it has become the digital distribution platform for gamers, beating virtually every other competitor by a mile.
On our Authors page, my blurb states that I'm "a PC enthusiast - with a passion of hate for games to be built around consoles. With FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with high-end, custom-built PCs".
This is 100% true - I'm a massive PC fanboy, something I've been since I was young (I'm 31 years old). I was a huge fan of the 3dfx cards, 32-bit color being pushed in Quake III, and much more. The news that Unreal Tournament was returning, and not hitting the consoles, really struck a chord with me. Epic Games is behind it, a studio that I had mostly lost my faith in. Why? Gears of War.
Gears of War was a third-person shooter for the Xbox, with Epic Games all but tied up developing the Unreal Engine, but pumping out Gears of War games. The Unreal franchise - the first-person shooter games, not just the engine - was thrown to the side. Why call it the Unreal Engine if it doesn't power any new Unreal games? Well, Epic Games sold the rights to the Gears of War franchise to Microsoft, freeing up serious dev time obviously.