More signs today the HTC First might also be the last smartphone to ship with Facebook Home pre-installed: UK carrier EE confirmed today that the first Facebook Home phone won’t be launching in the UK soon as planned, as Facebook has decided to concentrate its efforts on making improvements to the Home software before looking to add international markets. EE says it will soon be contacting customers who already used its pre-order system to express interest in the First to let them know about the delay, which is indefinite in length.
Here’s the full statement direct from EE:
Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customisation features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision.
Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.
We’ve also received a near-identical statement from Orange in France, where customers were also able to register their interest, so this isn’t limited to just the UK.
This is not great news for either Facebook or HTC. We’ve seen reports that Facebook Home has been performing poorly as a download, and that the First isn’t selling well in the U.S. Home currently has a 2.5 cumulative average rating in the Google Play store, and AT&T is reportedly in the process of discontinuing the HTC First, though we’ve not heard definitely either way if that’s the final word as of yet.
A so-called “Facebook Phone” under-performing is nothing new; the HTC Status did almost just as poorly, lasting only 36 days before AT&T started considering a swing of the axe.
As of press time, there’s still a button on the Facebook Home splash page that directs you to a page where you can express interest in a pre-order, but presumably that will come down as the carriers move to reflect this change in their own pages and alert customers of the change in the First’s status.
Update: Facebook has povided the following official statement regarding its decision, which mirrors those issued by EE and Orange France:
We’ve listened to feedback from users on their experience using Home. While many people love it, we’ve heard a lot of great feedback about how to make Home substantially better. As a result we’re focusing the next few months on adding customization features that address the feedback we received. While we focus on making Home better, we are going to limit supporting new devices and think it makes a lot of sense for EE and Orange to hold off deploying the HTC First in Europe.
Being behind in a market sucks, and it’s understandable to want to lash out at the top dog, as Microsoft has shown it’s willing to do with Google in search and email, and now with Apple in tablet computers. A brand new Surface ad pits the iPad against Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet, in an attempt to show how much more versatile the Surface is vs. the iOS device.
Microsoft uses Siri’s voice (which isn’t difficult, given that it’s a fairly generic computer-generated female tone) to highlight what the Surface can do that the iPad can’t, including things like live tiles (it took me a couple views to figure out what “I don’t update like that” even meant), Windows Snap multitasking, and… PowerPoint. Then finally we get a price comparison, showing the much cheaper price tag for the Surface RT.
The problem is that not only is the Siri construct weak and her actual lines poorly written, but the abilities Microsoft chooses to highlight show exactly why it doesn’t “get” the tablet market. People aren’t looking for multitasking PowerPoint slide deck-creating machines; they have computers for that.
The closing bit here is maybe the worst part; showing that Apple’s iPad can easily provide a remarkably realistic experience for playing Chopsticks on the screen is not the way to trash your competition, especially if you noticeably can’t offer up an equivalent experience on your own hardware. Apple uses that in its own ads for a reason, and that’s to highlight the magical, delightful experiences users can have on its device. Countering that with a bunch of sober (though admittedly useful) features isn’t the way to turn the tide back in your favor.
One interesting element of Google I/O this year were the sensors laid out everywhere around Moscone tracking environmental data throughout the event. Those types of sensors are now all around us, including in our phones and in various smart home devices, and now a new Kickstarter project from ManyLabs wants to help kids get familiar with them very early on.
The project is called Sensors for Students, and it wants to build a sensor collection kit that includes a plate for an open-source Arduino board and Grove shield combo, along with one of a variety of parts for a number of different types of sensors, including accelerometers, electromagnetic field detectors, a color sensor, a plant watering kit (similar to one component of the Bitponics automated hydroponic garden), and many more.
The team behind ManyLabs consists of Peter Sand and Elliot Dicus, who formed the nonprofit with the ultimate intent of spreading low-cost hands-on tools for teaching science and math to the classroom. Sand has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT, and has focused his work and research on computer vision, robotics and education.
Sand and Dicus wanted to make it possible to get kids learning data literacy and experimenting with open source hardware early on in life. Their goals sound similar to those of Adafruit, the NY-based hardware company that’s also trying to make people more comfortable with concepts around electrical engineering and DIY maker culture, beginning early on in life.
ManyLabs isn’t just supplying hardware, though, it’s also very clearly marketing a curriculum, with lessons and content being offered alongside each type of kit available to backers, along with online resources that will be made available on a yearly subscription basis. There’s no soldering required in the kits that are on offer, so these are suitable for a range of ages and skill levels, and ManyLabs hopes to put them in the hands of backers as soon as August this year, with kits beginning at $40. The most expensive individual kit is $75, and while ManyLabs requires you to supply your own Arduino, it’s still very affordable, a key value add for educational markets.
- Ships with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
- 2560 x 1600 13.3-inch at 227 PPI
- 128GB SSD
- 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 Processor
- MSRP: $1,499
- Portability combined with high-quality display
- Super speedy sleep and resume
- Good battery life
- Just two USB ports
- Non-upgradeable RAM
If I could only have one MacBook (which is usually the case for your average laptop-buyer), this is the one I’d pick without hesitation. Fewer issues than its 15-inch cousin, which pioneered the Retina line, combined with a much lighter design with a smaller desktop footprint for a display that can still give you crazy amounts of screen real estate all add up to a sure-fire winner.
The Most Flexible Mac
I’ve owned a lot of Macs. To find myself so ready to claim any single one a clear “winner” seems crazy, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is it. The smaller Retina notebook has proven itself through trial by fire and continues to be the Mac I pick for nearly every situation.
For example it’s my constant companion at every travel event I ever go to. The 15-inch is just a hair too heavy and unwieldy, but the 13-inch Retina hits the sweet spot. It slides easily into any bag, takes up an amount of desk space that’s better for your peripherals and for those seated around you, and yet can stil provide you with one of the best screens in the business.
True Retina-quality graphics isn’t the reason to own this notebook. Apple’s “Best for Retina display” radial button in the Displays settings menu is something you can go ahead and forget about right now; instead, select “scaled” and crank that sucker up to the “More Space” maximum. But if that’s not enough, go grab DisplayMode from the Mac App Store and enjoy up to 2560 x 1280 resolution, which is beyond that supported by Apple’s official settings. My eyes suffer after 2048 x 1280, so that’s where I keep it, but even there you get so much screen real estate it feels positively sinful. If you’re used to a Cinema display or two at home, there’s nothing else that compares.
The hardware is up to Apple expectations, and while I’ve experienced case creak on the 15-inch version (a widely reported issue), I’ve never had a problem with the 13 inch’s fit and finish. It feels as sturdy as a laptop can (with the possible exception of Google’s leaden Chromebook Pixel) and it withstands rough treatment with gusto, as a busy blogger can attest.
In terms of Geekbench, the base Core i5 13-inch, which is the version I’m reviewing here, consistently scores between 6,000 and 7,000. That’s not a chart-topping number, but the machine hardly stutters, even under fairly demanding conditions. I thought I’d miss the dedicated graphics card or upgraded RAM from my 15-inch model, but I don’t, at least not for anything short of using Final Cut Pro X.
Another nice win for the 13-inch is battery life. The Pro can stretch itself to around seven and a half hours if I need it to, but even with my incredibly sloppy, multi-app setup with tons of things going on in the background and about a thousand Chrome tabs open, it seems to average around five.
Who is it for?
Yes. The one complaint that designers might have with the Retina MacBook Pro is that its screen is still glossy and that the color rendering and contrast are a little exaggerated to make photos pop. But if you need a device for running Photoshop or Illustrator, the Retina scratches that itch, even with the minimum specs at the $1,499 level.
Plus, you can always power up to three external displays via Thunderbolt and HDMI out, but I’d only recommend doing this if you’re very cold and also enjoy the sound of a fan operating at maximum power. Still, in a pinch the Retina Pro becomes a solid companion for a 27-inch Cinema Display, giving designers even more flexibility.
Yes. John pointed out that entrepreneurs love MacBook Airs in his review of the Dell XPS Developer’s Edition, but that’s actually outmoded. If you’re a modern entrepreneur, and keeping a close watch on your company’s design and suitability for the future of HiDPI devices and displays, you’ll want the 13-inch Retina. It’s still light enough to carry with you everywhere, plus you can pile on the open applications thanks to the screen real estate benefits I mentioned above.
The 13-inch Retina is pretty much exactly like the successful entrepreneur: flexible where it needs to be, rigid when it doesn’t; equally comfortable doing their thing in the boardroom or working out of the small local coffee shop; equipped with enough endurance to keep producing through the day.
Yes. Programmers love Macs, and this is a Mac that’s easy to fall in love with. You want to run Xcode next to the iOS Simulator and still have room to keep a team chat window open? You can do that with the 13-inch Retina Pro, so long as you’re okay with squinting. You can build websites and watch them output and tweak on the fly without squishing anything inordinately. If there’s a development flaw on the Pro, it’s not an apparent one.
MG said this laptop was near perfect back when he reviewed it at launch, and it’s pretty hard to disagree. There are support threads filled with growing pains and other issues experienced by the inaugural 15-inch Retina Pro, but Apple seems to have worked out any kinks with this one, and the added portability is a big benefit besides. It’s still a pricey beast, but the use value to cost ratio is through the roof regardless.
The Xbox One was just unveiled at Microsoft’s Redmond campus and, true to multiple reports that circulated before the official reveal, the new console will indeed come with a Kinect.
And what a Kinect it is! The rumors of a vastly improved Kinect sensor array were right on the money — this next-generation model is capable of tracking motions as minute as wrist rotations, and Microsoft’s Marc Whitten said the new Kinect would even be able to read users’ heartbeats when they’re exercising or when players shift their weight. The new Kinect’s main camera is capable of recording 1080P RGB video at 30 frames per second (for a bit of perspective, the original model could only capture VGA video). Perhaps most importantly, the Xbox One will be capable of chewing on all the data the newfangled Kinect (no one has dropped an official name for the thing yet) captures at a rate of about 2GB of per second, which is probably partially why the onstage demos looked so brisk.
We got a brief glimpse of the new Kinect in action when Microsoft SVP Yusuf Mehdi called out commands and used minute hand gestures to manipulate content on the Xbox One — commands like “Xbox on” and “go to video” allow for near-instantaneous switching between running applications, and the Kinect is apparently also able to differentiate between users based on their voices.
In short, it’s a massive, massive upgrade compared to the venerable original model, which often exhibited issues with basic limb and motion tracking. Granted, demos we saw today were carefully staged, but the Kinect reacted to Mehdi’s commands and inputs without a hint of technical hesitation — if the new Kinect works in the living room as well as it did onstage, Microsoft may really have something here. And frankly, that’s saying something considering Microsoft managed to move 10 million of the original camera/sensor arrays between November 2010 and March 2011.