My colleague Alan Buckingham has already listed his favorite tech of the past year, and now it’s my turn. I’ve taken all sorts of new products for a spin over the past 12 months, so narrowing the selection down is actually pretty tricky. Apple disappointed me a little this year -- as the owner of an iPhone 5s I needed a big reason to upgrade to the iPhone 6, and a larger screen and Apple Pay wasn’t it. The iPhone 6 is an excellent phone, but I think I’ll hang on to the 5s for another year. Similarly, the iPad Air 2 just wasn’t different enough for me to consider that either. Thinner is a feature, not a benefit for me.
But fortunately, there was plenty of other new tech around that I did love, and here’s my top selection, in no particular order.
There are few films that have caused as much controversy -- justified or not -- in recent times as The Interview. The Seth Rogen and James Franco movie upset North Korea, was shunned by major cinemas, and earned itself poor reviews when it was screened online and in independent cinemas. Now Apple has announced that the movie can be bought or rented from iTunes.
Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said simply, "We're pleased to offer The Interview for rental or purchase on the iTunes Store." Anyone who wants to see the movie and doesn't fancy opting for one of the numerous versions available through BitTorrent or other sources, can rent it for $5.99 or buy it for $14.99 -- in the US and Canada, at least.
Apple makes really great products; Mac computers included. I respect the closed garden and restrictive hardware from a quality perspective, but I take umbrage with the high prices and questionable business practices. While OS X may look pretty from the outside looking in, after playing with it for long periods of time, it becomes apparent that all which glitters is not gold. My interest in Apple's operating system was very short-lived, as Microsoft's Windows is just a superior product.
Apple promoters are quick to point out the safety and security of Macs, as Apple is less likely to be targeted by malicious software and contains fewer vulnerabilities. As the smart people know, however, OS X is only "safer", as it has a far smaller install base. In other words, because of its lack of popularity, bad guys pay less attention -- its increased safety and security is a myth. I hate to break it to you Apple fans, but it turns out your precious Macs are currently at risk. Comically, this vulnerability is found in Thunderbolt -- you know, that wildly unpopular standard that Apple seems to love, but its accessories are too costly for many users. True, some Windows machines have Thunderbolt, but it is mostly an Apple affair, and now the fruit-logo company's computers are vulnerable because of its method of implementation.
The patent wars are cooling down. Rockstar Consortium's litigation against numerous Android handset manufacturers has come to an end after the group sold 4,000 patents to RPX Corp. The intellectual property risk mitigation company bought the patents for $900 million, ending lawsuits against HTC, LG and Samsung.
Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony formed Rockstar Consortium back in 2011 to purchase around 6,000 patents from the bankrupt Nortel Network Corp for $4.5 billion. 2,000 of the patents had previously been shared between the members of the consortium, and the remainder have now exchanged hands for less a quarter of the original sale price.
It’s that time of the year again when news sites and search engines look back at the stories and events that shaped the year. The top stories on BetaNews are obviously going to be different -- mostly -- from the top stories on other sites because we focus on technology. So in other words don’t expect Kim Kardashian "breaking" the internet to appear anywhere in our list. Although that’s not to say she won’t make an appearance somewhere…
Because BetaNews offers a mix of content, we’ve put together three top 10 lists -- News, Opinion/Editorial, and Guides. With news, it's not necessarily the biggest stories of year that make the list, but rather the content that was viewed the most. All three lists are presented, as ever, in reverse order.
When it comes to security, Apple can and should do better. It is one of the biggest offenders, after all, making quite a few serious mistakes in this area. One of its most-important services, namely iCloud, has been instrumental in this year's celebrity photo leaks scandal, better known as The Fappening. And, more recently, a weakness in its OS X deployment software for iOS apps has exposed hundreds of thousands of iPads and iPhones to the WireLurker malware. And these are just two examples. Unsurprisingly, as the year draws to an end, security remains a talking point in Apple's case.
Let's start with the good news, first. Apple has pushed an update for OS X 10.10 Yosemite, 10.9.5 Mavericks, and 10.8.5 Mountain Lion, seemingly for the first time, to quickly fix a critical vulnerability discovered in NTP (Network Time Protocol), a protocol which is widely used to synchronize device clocks with dedicated servers. Normally, OS X updates are not applied automatically, but this one is apparently so critical that it is.
Wearables are on track to hit 168 million shipments by 2019 with the sector driven by Apple’s long-awaited entry into a segment it will eventually lead.
A new report from Berg Insight predicts that wearable technology shipments will hit 19 million in 2014, up from 5.9 million in 2013, before accelerating to 168.2 million by 2019 thanks to a compound annual growth rate of 54.7 percent.
Oops! Less than a month ago, Microsoft accidentally let it slip that it was about to acquire email firm Acompli. Not to be outdone, Apple has now let a cat out of the bag a little early as well. A job ad spotted by iClarified shows that the company's Apple Pay service is set to expand outside of the US.
While rolling out outside of the States is not exactly surprising, Apple has given no hints about the timescale it is working to. More and more companies are signing up to get involved with Apple's contactless payment system, and a European launch was all but inevitable -- and now we know for sure.
The financial crisis in Russia is beginning to have an impact on the rest of the world. The value of the rouble has been fluctuating tremendously, but is generally on a downward trajectory -- it plummeted in value by 20 percent so far this week. For Apple the uncertainty about how things could pan out is too much, and the company has stopped sales of iPads, Macs and iPhones on the Russian version of its online store.
As reported by the BBC, Apple had to increase its prices in Russia last month as a result of the devaluing of the rouble. But now a more drastic step has been taken. Head to the Russian Apple Store now and you're greeted by a virtually blank page rather than the latest tech from the company.
There are just two things I’d improve about Apple’s new iPhone -- its durability and battery life. Both are reasonable, but could be better. This is where BuQu’s PowerArmour case comes in. It will protect your device from drops, and provide up to 100 percent extra battery life. What’s not to love?
The Apple certified "Made for iPhone" case has an integrated 2,800mAh battery that keeps your phone charged at all times, and is sourced from the same manufacturer that provides batteries for Apple’s devices so you know it’s going to last.
Microsoft is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the US government, and the fight has led to an unlikely alliance between several rival companies. Microsoft was handed a government order requesting access to emails stored at a datacenter in Ireland. The company has been battling the order for several months, and now Apple, Amazon, Verizon, and HP are among the big names lending their support to the fight.
It's not just technology firms who are putting their names forward in support of the challenge of the search warrant. Several global media outlets, including the Guardian, the Washington Post, and CNN as well as numerous trade associations and advocacy organizations have signaled their support for Microsoft.
In a near-perfect example of how there is always more than one way to look at things, Edward Snowden has very different views on Amazon than Amazon users do. On Friday, Snowden appeared -- as ever -- via video link at the surveillance symposium at the Cato Institute. He condemned Amazon's lack of encryption of customers' searches, referring to the practice as "morally irresponsible".
But Snowden's condemnation of Amazon comes at the same time as a study by Bizrate Insights which finds that more than 45 percent of online shoppers trust the site with their payment and personal information. So why the disparity?
If you're looking for a new way to hand your money over to Apple, you're in luck. It's been a long time coming, but Apple now accepts PayPal payment in both the US and the UK online stores. Accepting this method of online payment is something that customers have wanted for some time, but Apple has previously been reluctant to embrace PayPal.
In fact, PayPal was only recently given the cold shoulder by Apple. The company was ignored when Apple Pay was introduced earlier in the year. It seems that relations between the two companies have improved -- there is money to be made, after all.
We're entering the season of giving and receiving, and it's safe to assume that one of the most popular electronic gifts this year will be tablets. With three key platforms to choose from, various price-points, different sizes, and a bewildering array of manufacturers, which one should you opt for? One factor that's well worth considering is durability.
SquareTrade, a company offering extended warranties on electronic devices, has drop-tested ten of the most popular tablets to see which can handle the abuse. The results might surprise you. Perhaps most startling is how poorly some of the big names fared.