You can now get the alternative web browser Firefox for iPhone and iPad in the App Store. Except its not really Firefox as you know it on the desktop, because the underlying engine is all WebKit, not Mozilla’s Gecko renderer like it is on the Mac. This is the same as the iOS Google Chrome app — the App Store rules require browsers to use the Safari WebKit engine. This isn’t really a bad thing, the WebKit rendering core is the industry leading mobile (and desktop) engine.
You might want to use Firefox for iPhone and iPad if you use Firefox on the Mac, due to UI similarities for the browser chrome or just for syncing convenience. The Firefox app will sync bookmarks, open tabs across all your devices by logging into your Firefox account. These are the main differences between Firefox and the native Safari app.
With iOS 9, it is now possible to install screen brightness app Flux (or f.lux). Flux adjusts screen brightness and color depending on the time of day automatically, so you aren’t blasted with bright light at bedtime or early in the morning. Due to App Store restrictions, Flux has been only available on the Mac OS X platform until now. Whilst it isn’t available through the App Store, you can now download and install the Flux beta for iPhone and iPad by sideloading the app through Xcode on the Mac.
It sounds complicated but it’s actually really easy to do. Apple lifted the developer limitations on device app sideloading earlier this year, so it’s completely free. Until Apple relaxes App Store policies, this will be the only way to do this. Read the instructions on how to install Flux after the break …
For whatever reason, accessory companies commonly send out review samples of solar-powered Apple accessories late in the year — rarely if ever in July, when the sun is at its peak pretty much everywhere in the United States. So even though I’m a fan of solar power, my ability to make the most of these accessories is naturally limited by the modest sunshine available for testing. The wisest solar-powered accessories I’ve tested hedge their bets by storing energy in batteries that can be used (and wall-recharged) even when the sun’s not out. Others become worthless when the sun goes away.
Anker’s 21W PowerPort Solar Charger ($55) and RAVPower’s 15W Solar Charger ($50) are portable solar panels connected to USB ports. They’re extremely similar to one another, each hiding two USB ports in a pocket to the right of three solar panels. Unlike Solartab (reviewed here), neither has a built-in battery, so you can only use them when the sun’s out — and optimally, directly overhead. One strikes me as a slightly better pick than the other, but unless you live in a frequently sunny climate and have hours to spare under the sun, or plan to travel somewhere with sunshine and no wall outlets, there are better-priced and more practical ways to keep your devices fueled up…
When I wrote last week’s opinion piece on five hardware lessons Apple could learn from Android manufacturers, a few of you wondered why I hadn’t added wireless charging to the list.
Those who know me might be especially surprised. I hate cables, and indeed went to the trouble of having a bespoke desk made so that cables could be rendered almost invisible. I’ve also been known to favor hi-tech approaches over low-tech ones just because I’m a gadget guy, so why wasn’t I calling on Apple to introduce wireless charging … ? expand full story
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I know, it’s almost a blasphemous headline, and I can feel the comments system bracing itself for impact even before anyone has read a word of my arguments. Especially as Apple has engaged in lengthy lawsuits against Samsung for copying its own features.
But while Apple doesn’t blindly copy, it does learn from other companies, and it does so all the time. Indeed, you could say it’s one of the key things that sets Apple apart in the tech world: it doesn’t scrabble to be first to market with new technology. Apple instead sits back and watches, looks at what other companies do and then figures out how to create a better version.
Touch ID is a classic example. Fingerprint readers have been around forever in laptops, and Motorola put one into a smartphone – the Atrix – way back in 2011. But early fingerprint readers were inconvenient, requiring you to scroll your finger across them, and unreliable. Apple waited until it could do the job properly.
So what are some of the things Android manufacturers have done that I think Apple could usefully learn from … ? expand full story
When Zolt announced the Laptop Charger Plus ($100) at CES this year, I was skeptical that the accessory — a practical, logical power solution — would actually make it to market. Zolt promised that it would work with any laptop, including Macs with MagSafe connectors, and at that point, zero third-party MagSafe accessories were available to purchase. But a week ago, a company called Beaver sent us Quarter, the first MagSafe-based battery pack and car charger. And now Zolt is sending out review samples of the finished Laptop Charger Plus, complete with both MagSafe 1 and MagSafe 2 cables (the $20 “Optional MacBook Accessory Cable”), which will hit stores in less than two weeks. Are MagSafe accessories finally about to become a real thing?
The Laptop Charger Plus continues the concept Twelve South pioneered with the $35 PlugBug, leveraging a MacBook wall adapter to charge both your laptop and a USB-based device, such as an iPhone or iPad. But Zolt’s execution goes several steps further, as it fully replaces any 11″ or 13″ MacBook’s wall adapter with something smaller while adding two extra USB ports. Even if the price is a bit steep, the all-in-one functionality may justify the expenditure for travelers with limited bag space…
Facebook is rolling out a new post format on the latest version of its iPhone app called Music Stories. The new format lets you share songs and albums from popular streaming music services, starting with Apple Music and Spotify, while friends can enjoy 30-second previews of what you share. The Music Stories format also looks rich within the app. Tapping play turns the artwork in a record-like spinning animation, and a button to listen to the whole track or album on the streaming service is presented on the right. expand full story
The USPTO has today published a patent application by Apple to allow a specific fingerprint to activate a ‘panic mode’ on an iPhone, designed for use when the owner feels threatened, is in danger or is being forced to unlock their phone.
In its most basic form, placing a specific finger on the Touch ID button would place the iPhone into a special locked-down mode, blocking access to personal data store on the phone – perhaps simulating a brand new phone. In that way, if a street robber forced you to unlock your phone before handing it over, your data would be safe.
But the patent application goes far beyond this … expand full story