Tesla Instant Acceleration Saves the Day

Jason Hughes posted this:

Distracted driver in the Prius almost plows into me while waiting to make a left turn. I floored it instead.

Pretty incredible. I wonder if in the future cars will be able to do manoeuvres like this on their own. Teslas have auto braking, but what about auto acceleration?

iPhone 7 Versus Google Pixel

Today, Google announced their new smartphone: the Google Pixel, priced identically to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I've been trying to think of reasons why someone may choose to buy either device, besides purely Android or iOS preference. 

So, I made a list:

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

£599 - £719

  • Dual Cameras: 2x Optical Zoom
  • Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Water Resistance
  • 3D Touch
  • Taptic Engine
  • A10 Fusion Chip
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 7000 Series Aluminium
  • Apple Stores in Every Major City
  • iCloud Backup
  • The App Store
  • Included Headphones
  • Software Updates on Day 1

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

£599 - £719

  • Unlimited Photo Backup
  • Fast Charging
  • Daydream VR Support
  • Headphone Jack

Improve Speed and Accuracy of Touch ID

I just learned a sweet way to improve Touch ID on an iOS device. This trick appears to actually increase the fingerprint information saved to your device, which results in both faster unlocking and the ability to increase the area of your fingerprint that Touch ID recognises. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode
  2. Ensure you only have one copy of each finger added. (I used to add my right and left thumbs twice to improve recognition. There is no need for this now due to this trick.)
  3. When the fingerprint you want to improve is added, simply rest that finger on the sensor as if you’re unlocking your device. You’ll see its name pulse grey to confirm recognition.
  4. Keep doing this, imagining the sensor taking a picture of your fingerprint each time it pulses grey. 

You can prove this trick works by immediately trying the very bottom of your fingerprint and seeing that Touch ID fails to recognise it. If you then try the centre of your finger and slowly work your way down, it will add the necessary data in steps until it detects your finger.

In typical Apple fashion, this advanced feature is only there if you’re looking for it. I’m glad it’s been discovered and I’m even more happy that I no longer need my thumbs added twice.

Why the Apple Watch Can Afford to Cost Thousands of Dollars

Great article by Sam Byford, with some surprising insights from Vertu creative director Ignacio Germade. Comparing the Apple Watch Edition to luxury travel starts to paint the product in a light which makes more sense.

People fly first-class because of the luxury experience of how it feels to be in first-class. People will buy the Apple Watch Edition for these same reasons.

Maglev Train Reaches 311mph Whilst Carrying 100 Passengers

This is incredible technology. BBC News:

The maglev trains are even faster than Japan's famous bullet trains, which currently travel at about 320km/h (200mph).

The nose of the old bullet trains had to be redesigned to stop sonic booms happening when they exited tunnels. Imagine the design challenges when designing an even faster >300mph train.

The Cheapest Way To Buy An iPhone In The UK

Below this brief update is my original article from 2012. It’s slightly out of date, but this update explains all you need to know.

If you can, buy your iPhone directly from Apple, unlocked. Shop around all the carriers and choose the best SIM-only plan for you — on the shortest terms possible. I recommend nothing longer than a SIM-only 30 day rolling contract. This gives you the flexibility to switch carriers on a whim if a cheaper or better deal appears. I recommend 3’s SIM-only 30 day contracts (that’s what I use now), and Giffgaff’s various 30 day “Goodybags”. (The reason I use 3 is because their data coverage is better in my area, and the cost is only slightly higher than Giffgaff. The customer service and random added fees are worse with 3, though. Giffgaff are awesome.)

The Math

Let’s pretend you want an iPhone 6 Plus, 64GB, Space Grey. You want a good amount of data per month, too.

Buying iPhone from EE:

  • iPhone 6 Plus 64GB Space Grey (probably locked to EE): £149.99
  • 20GB data, unlimited minutes/texts, £58.99 for 24 months
  • Total = £1,565.75

Buying iPhone from Apple and using 3’s SIM only 200 plan:

  • iPhone 6 Plus 64GB Space Grey: £699.00
  • 3 UK’s SIM-only plan - Unlimited Data, unlimited texts, 200 minutes, £15 per month
  • Total = £1,059

That’s a saving of over £500.

Even though the upfront cost around £600-£700 for an iPhone seems crazy, factor in 24 monthly payments of only £15 or so and you get a much lower overall cost after 2 years.

I currently own an iPhone 5, off contract. I bought the phone outright from Apple shortly after release for £540. I use the cheapest carrier available to me in the UK. That happens to be giffgaff. I pay £12 a month for unlimited texts, unlimited data and 250 minutes. The coverage on giffgaff is great, because they run on O2's network. O2 have one of the best networks in the UK.

The reason I bought my iPhone outright is twofold. Firstly, it's cheaper. Sure, £540 upfront for a phone seems like a lot of cash to lay down — a regular contract would let me drop just £279 for the handset — but I'm given the luxury of £12 a month thereafter (with no lock-in), whereas contract users are tied to a specific company for at least 12 months, at a cost way above what I'm paying.

If you do the maths, over 12 months I pay £684 for my phone and data plan, whereas a similar 12 month contract on Vodafone would cost £771. That difference in price is a lot of apps. Or even a few of these.

There are additional benefits to buying an iPhone directly from Apple, which include the device being unlocked — if another mobile operator springs up who happens to offer a better deal than giffgaff, I can switch. I'm also not obligated to pay £12 every month. Because giffgaff have extremely fair pricing, sometimes it'd be cheaper for me to just top up a little and let it last me over a month1. This is especially true if I'm often using WiFi, and therefore little data. Because my iPhone is unlocked, it also holds a substantionally higher resale value.

The Device And Carrier Are Separate

The iPhone is a portable computer. It just happens to connect to the internet for most of the tasks it's used for. When you think of a traditional computer and the internet connection which accompanies it, they are clearly defined, separate entities.

All the power of mobile phones has ended up in the hands of the carriers. People buy their phones by walking into stores run by carriers. When compared to how people buy computers, it seems crazy. Imagine buying a desktop computer from a Vodafone store.

This coupling of mobile device and mobile carrier is coming to an end. The value in the device/carrier relationship is all in the device. The iPhone changed everything.

I believe we would be better off if we all treated mobile phones like computers and carriers like broadband providers. £540 for a portable computer isn't expensive. But £41 a month for 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data is insane.

I look forward to a future where device manufacturers hold more power than carriers. The balance is shifting. It's only a matter of time before it topples completely.

If you would like to join giffgaff, please use my affiliate link. We will both receive £5 free credit. Thank you.

1: Even though it may be marginally cheaper for me to not always pay £12 every month, I tend to top up on a monthly schedule just for the convenience of knowing I have unlimited data if I need it.

Receiptmate for iPhone: My TidBITS Review

It’s a handy little app:

The ideal Receiptmate user would be an individual just starting out in the paperless world and looking to track expenditures for personal reasons — if your employer requires you to submit expense reports in specific formats or enter receipts into an invoice management system, Receiptmate may not meet your needs. However, for those of us who are just looking to do something with our receipts rather than throwing them out or letting them pile up, Receiptmate's simplicity and focus are compelling.