Samsung isn't spying on you with a battery chip.

If Samsung really wanted to spy on you they'd use something better than the NFC coil in the battery. They could, if they wanted, choose to put a camera, or even two (would they dare do such a thing?!) in the handset, or maybe even a microphone - that'd be really useful for spying. Or even 3 microphones. And GPS too, then they'd see everything, hear everything and know where you were, and if they could add some kind of internet function then they could send all that data back automatically. Maybe they'd even enable a function that could listen out for keywords all the time...

The thing people have been ruining their phones over in a spate of Facebook videos is the Near Field Communication chip in the battery of their Samsung handsets. It's used like the wireless chip in your credit card (or your iPhone 6, for that matter) to relay information to a reader or between two phones. They've been in phones for years. It's not going to spy on you. If Samsung wanted to spy on you, they have everything they need already installed and you know about all of them. Some of them are main selling points.

This viral rubbish is akin to the "iPhone in a microwave" garbage. Here's one of the videos that caused all the trouble with that, but everyone with an iPhone already knows that the battery percentage goes up a little after you've restarted it.

Apple/Taylor, and why Apple Won.

Taylor Swift wrote a letter to Apple asking to be paid during the three month free trial Apple will be offering to users of it's new music service. Apple said "Okay" pretty much instantly. Why? 

On the face of it, it looks like a great victory for artists and shows the power of Taylor Swift as a media brand. It makes it look like Apple fears what she might be capable of, how damaging it might be for the brand, how it might hinder the start of Apple's new frontier into music streaming.

I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans...

This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…

These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much...

We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period…

I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done...
— Taylor Swift

Above - a relentless barrage of praise for Apple in Taylor's letter.

In reality, you don't have to think too hard about who the real winner is here. Are the royalties Apple will be paying out going to cut into Apple's profits? Is it going to adversely affect them or the way they do business. Nope, not even slightly. Apple would not care either way if they paid artists during this time or didn't, it makes 0% negative difference for them. They'll be paying out peanuts to artists in the short term for a colossal gain in the long term, compared to the money they make already without the streaming service the money they'll be handing over won't even register a percentage point in their outlay over the year. Plus, I don't think they'll mind all the praise Taylor lavishes on them in her tumblr post at the same time as criticizing them for their policies.

There are two winners here, no losers. I've seen a number of headlines declaring Taylor Swift a winner, but there's no thought gone into that except "lets grab a quick headline". 

Yes, Taylor Swift comes out of it looking peachy; look at what her colossal power has caused Apple to do, and how quickly as well. But Apple had a big victory as well, and everyone's ignored it.

Apple have secured goodwill, from consumers and artists, with a phone call. They now have consumers saying "look how good Apple is being to musicians, paying them even though we're not paying for the music during the trial". Compared to the negative feeling the music industry has towards Spotify, Apple come out looking like the true friend of the musician. "If you want to support the artists, come to Apple Music" they're screaming out, without saying a word. And as it's Taylor Swift as well, the artist who slammed Spotify earlier in the year, getting her on side is a big deal.

I overheard earlier today - "I'll be dumping Spotify soon, as soon as Apple Music arrives, they'll be better for the bands..." and that's the exact image they have won this weekend.

And with Apple ramming the three month trial onto every iPhone user, giving them time to make it their default player before making them pay for it, it's not as if Apple needed this help to get their service up and running, but the extra publicity has helped and I'm sure Tim Cook isn't exactly overwhelmed with grief at having to hand over a few grand to Taylor and friends to rake in the millions in subscriptions that'll head his way in month 4.

So, in the end, Taylor Swift gets to release her album, 1989, on Apple Music because they've made this concession for her and all artists, she gets to make more money because of it as well, and she gets to look like she's still standing behind her principles. Remind me, why did she remove that album off Spotify again? And Apple get to look hard done by temporarily, but in the end it'll pay dividends as they'll be the ones that really supported the artists even when Apple themselves weren't getting paid. Win/win.

LG G Watch R or G Watch Urbane?

The original G Watch R

The original G Watch R

The hype around the G Watch Urbane, the latest Android Wear watch to actually be released, has started to die down now as the sales have started. What is the difference between the original round LG offering and it's new sibling?

Urbane
(of a person, especially a man) courteous and refined in manner.
”he is charming and urbane”
— Google definition

The original G Watch R was a bit of a surprise and a bit misunderstood when it first arrived. At least from my point of view, it seemed to be a bit ignored. It wasn't as much of a looker as the Moto 360, but was actually a far more capable device when you looked at the specs.

It has long battery life, thanks to having a 410mAh battery and an OLED display that only uses power to display coloured pixels. I get 2 days out of mine. It was also fully round, no flat tire, and could display a watch face permanently. If you chose to turn off ambient mode, you can stretch the battery to 4 days with little use. It's waterproof to a limit. Most importantly it has a Snapdragon 400 series quad core chip running the show, far outclassing the competition in the Moto 360, which runs a single core TI OMAP from 2011. 

The downsides of the G Watch R are it's slightly questionable appearance. It's way better than anything else was at the time, mine is mistaken for a normal watch all the time until it lights up for a message, so it's easily ignored and inconspicuous. The issue comes with the size, mainly, slightly larger than a normal watch with a big bezel needed to house the screen gubbins. LG made the choice to scribe numerals around the bezel, including an upside-down "30" at the bottom of the watch face. It can be seen as rather chunky by some. I've never had an issue.

Roll on the G Watch Urbane, praised by so many, with it's flashy looks and bigger price tag. If you looked the the wrists of the presenters at Google I/O, you'd notice it was out in force. Is it actually any different than the G Watch R though?

Delving into the specs, the two models are identical. The same display, chip, memory, sensors and battery size (the Urbane has 10mAh extra listed). It has a slightly different shape, necessitating a slightly different dock. It also has certificated WiFi that the G Watch R lacks at the moment so it can run Wear 5.1.1 with all the features enabled. The G Watch R has the same WiFi module, but it isn't tested or certificated by the FCC or local equivalents at the moment. Oh, and a different shell. That's it.

Both watches will qualify as top Android Wear devices, they both have the most powerful hardware available in the category, but that's the same for most Wear devices. The screen really sets them apart though, a feature they both share.

In the US, this different shell was apparently worth $100. That's a ton just to get a slightly more polished looking device. And that shell isn't without it's detractors either. Some find it gaudy, the gold model being bright and noticeable. Of course, it is slightly less chunky, the polished and rounded edges do take away some of the chunky image of the Watch R. 

It's not actually any less chunky though. It's a millimetre thicker, although it's a millimetre shorter and one off the width as well. You still have the flattened bezel around the edges of the screen as well, not shown particularly well in the photos from LG's site. It's also heavier than the Watch R.

Another sad thing - LG have discontinued the G Watch R - it's production line supposedly changed to Urbane models now (an easy switch to make, you might agree). So if you did like the Watch R, time is limited to go out and get a good deal on the same hardware as the Urbane.

Thankfully though, the Urbane in the UK doesn't have as big a price markup. The Urbane can be had for as little as £215 on Amazon UK right now, stock is limited from this reseller though. That's only around £15-20 more than the Watch R, hopefully prices will come down everywhere if this is now the only round LG offering.

Moto X 2014 at £229... Should you?

At £229 the Moto X is an absolute steal, but there are a few caveats to that as well.

At that price, the other handsets you'd normally be looking at are the slightly more expensive HTC Desire 820, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, and at £299, the Galaxy A5. None of these are going to outperform or be as nice to use as the Moto X. All three have lower powered processors, cameras around the same quality or worse, and they're not designed to be flagship devices. You're going to be better off with the Moto X over any of these due to it's speed, the longevity of the hardware, the customisation options etc.

That doesn't mean you should buy one though. If you're in the market for a flagship, go and get a new flagship. This is the 2014 model for a reason, it's last year's hardware. Granted, it is good hardware, but it isn't going to stand it's ground against the likes of the Galaxy S6 or the LG G4 in any area except the software usability. If you want flagship specs, get a current flagship.

You'd also have to be able to deal with the new Moto X release that's on the horizon. There's a reason the Moto X is so cheap. It's an inventory clearout. The new model won't be far away now, and if you get this one and then don't have to funds to get the new one that you might really want, you're stuck.

But if you are cost limited, this is perfect. You won't do better than picking one of these up and adding a SIM only deal from Three (others are available) with unlimited data. Here's what you could stand to save:

  • Device - 16GB, £229
  • Service - All you can eat data and minutes on Three for 12 months, £27 a month, unlimited data and 600 minutes is £22 a month
  • Total for 24 months - £877.

Sure, you could save the outlay and go for a contract GS6 instead. Here's how that would work out on Three for comparison:

  • Device - 32GB GS6, no downpayment.
  • Service - unlimited data and minutes, £44 a month.
  • Total for 24 months - £1056

So you're saving nearly £300. Not a massive amount, but we're talking about getting these on Three so it will be the smallest difference, the disparity between the networks would make a more stark difference if we were to compare to an unlimited data contract on EE for example, which doesn't exist. The best they could do is 20GB a month and it would end up being £1330 for 24 months with a 32GB GS6, nearly £600 more with a data cap.

But we're comparing apples and oranges here. It's not fair to compare the Moto X to the GS6. It does show, however, that you can get a flagship experience without paying a full flagship price, and there is money to be saved - a huge amount - if you're not burning through all that data. You could be spending £11 a month on the contract instead of £27 if you were a little more data savvy, which would bring a Moto X into the realms of under £500 for 24 months.