Recent Foxconn revelations hint at higher costs than previous estimates that are still staggeringly low by Western standards. An unprecedented peek behind the curtain of Foxconn's factories in China may have revealed new hints to how much it actually costs to make each iPhone. ABC's "Nightline" was recently given access to the factory floor, and the resulting reporting has provided some new insights into exactly how iPhones are built, a part of the gadget's gestation process that's typically been a very closely guarded trade secret. Horace Dediu, blogger, analyst, and former business development manager for Nokia, tried to parse some of the clues and came to some interesting conclusions ...
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All signs point to our heading towards a future in which we will exist surrounded by software-enabled touchscreens. Why this could be a grave mistake, via Slate:
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What touchscreens lack is something called affordance — an object’s built-in ability to tell you how it works. A doorknob affords turning. The button on a car stereo affords pushing. A touchscreen affords nothing. It relies on software for any affordance, which in turn relies on total immersion for the user.
What we want, apparently, is to surround ourselves with touchscreens of varying size—tiny ones in our pockets, medium-size models for our laps and dashboards, and massive versions for our walls. We want tomorrow’s vintage shops to be lined with identical, blank, anonymous slabs. We want things to be vessels for software, and nothing more. Immersion is a fantastic quality while flicking virtual birds at digital pigs in your smartphone. Immersion at 80 mph is less desirable.
Apple’s new iPhone 4S has made waves for its voice-commanded virtual assistant, personified as “Siri”. However, users have noticed that Siri seems to have a blackout concerning certain topics — is Apple pandering to the Christian Right? Via Amadi Talks:
The recent illustrations of Siri, the iPhone 4S voice-recognition based assistant, failing to provide information to users about abortion, birth control, help after rape and help with domestic violence has gotten a lot of notice.
Siri can answer a lot of health related questions perfectly well, why shouldn’t we expect it to be able to answer reproductive health related queries too? Why treat reproductive health as a walled-off garden that the general public can’t or shouldn’t be exposed to?
Microsoft's little Clippy, the uppity paperclip who just wanted to help, never got a lick of respect in the ten years he graced the Office suite. He's long-since gone, but his legacy lives on through a DARPA project called CALO: the Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes. It's intended for use to streamline tedious activities by military personnel, like scheduling meetings and prioritizing e-mails, but there are a few non-com spin-offs intended as well, like an iPhone app called Siri due to hit the App Store sometime this year. Siri will have more of a consumer angle, helping to find product reviews and make reservations, but we're hoping a taste of its military upbringing shines through.
Still available in the good ole USofA … Jessica Ravitz and Saskya Vandoorne report on a bizarre iPhone app for CNN:
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“Jew or not Jew?”: That is just part of the question.
An iPhone app bearing this name has been yanked from Apple’s App Store in France amid threats of a lawsuit and demands for its removal.
The app, still available elsewhere, pulls together a database of thousands of famous Jews – including movie stars, musicians, Nobel Prize winners and more – and offers insights into their backgrounds. Jewish mother? Jewish father? A convert? For $1.99 in the United States, app owners can know.
In an iTunes store description, it says: “Hey, did you know that Bob Dylan is Jewish? Of course I did! But was Marilyn Monroe really Jewish? And what about Harrison Ford? How many times have we had this conversation without being able to know for sure?
Commentators often complain the technology has depersonalized how we communicate with others, reducing our opportunities for rich, face-to-face, tactile interaction. Now there’s an iPhone case that simulates the old days, by turning your phone into a reassuring, fleshy hand firmly gripping yours all day. Preorder now from Japan’s Strapya World:
Some hand may vary in size and shape since each hand is made individually.
If you are feeling really lonely, this case may reach out to you and give you company.
[Site editor's note: Even though, they seemingly have called it quits, an intriguing swan song ... ] Andy Greenberg writes in Forbes:
… I noted a new suite of police-policing apps including OpenWatch and Cop Recorder, which turn your phone into a “reverse surveillance camera” for secretly recording run-ins with authority figures. Now it appears that police are well aware of those programs and others that complicate law enforcement, and at least some cops are none too happy about them.
That’s one of the revelations … by the hacker group LulzSec, which dumped a cache of files that it stole from the Arizona Police Department, calling Arizona a “racial profiling anti-immigrant police state.” A pair of documents among the hundreds leaked show concerns about how smartphones are being used for everything from recording interactions with police to evading speed traps.
One document labelled “Law Enforcement Sensitive” lists the following apps, and warns officers to “take the time to look at an arrestee’s cell phone to see what applications they have.”
CUPERTINO, Calif. — Fans at concerts and sports games may soon be stopped from using their iPhones to film the action —as a result of new technology being considered by Apple, The Times of London reported Thursday. The California company has plans to build a system that will sense when a person is trying to film a live event using a cell phone and automatically switch off their camera. A patent application filed by Apple, and obtained by the Times, reveals how the software would work. If a person were to hold up their iPhone, the device would trigger the attention of infra-red sensors installed at the venue. These sensors would then instruct the iPhone to disable its camera. Apple declined to comment.
Today the United States Department of Justice took an alarming stance on the subject of data collection during a Senate hearing on mobile privacy. Rather than chastise Apple, Google, and other smart phone manufacturers over their data collection practices, the DOJ felt it was a better idea to encourage MORE data collection. Kashmir Hill writes on Forbes:
During a Congressional hearing today about how much privacy you deserve when it comes to your smartphone, senators made clear that they were uncomfortable with the sensitive location and personal data that iPhone and Android phones are collecting and to whom that data gets passed along.
During one panel, the senators grilled Google and Apple. During another, they had representatives from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission give the government perspective on data collection via mobile devices. While Jessica Rich of the FTC hinted that her organization would be investigating Apple soon, and urged companies to minimize the data they collect to protect the privacy of their users, Jason Weinstein a deputy assistant attorney general from the DOJ’s criminal division had a very different message: “MOAR DATA!”
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