Category Archives: Apple

Amex ruining ApplePay in the UK

Amex and ApplePay

A few days ago, the good folk at American Express kindly sent word of an offer: Spend £3 in Starbucks and get £1 back – up to a maximum of £5. Not the most Earth shattering offer, perhaps, but given how much I spend in SBs each month, it represents free money (well, ignoring the occasional extra muffin to take my purchase over £3, of course). Thank you very much.

If only it was so simple.

I invariably use my Starbucks card on my phone – quick & easy (usually), and I get one in 16 drinks free. This offer therefore forces me to break my habit a little by using Amex. However, that shouldn’t be a problem as their’s was the first card I added to ApplePay the day it launched in the UK. As I tend to double-tap my phone’s home button to launch Wallet rather than the Starbucks app, it is actually one less swipe to use ApplePay. All good.

Except that my experience is that Amex rarely works contactless in the UK. Card or ApplePay. Turns out, it certainly doesn’t in Starbucks.

A quick search of Google and Twitter suggest I am far from alone on this – though to be fair, a lot of the results I saw were from 2015. Even accepting that things may be getting better; American Express’s flawed roll-out of contactless in the UK must have damaged confidence in using what should be a simple way of carrying out a transaction. It is bad enough that the £30 limit virtually cripples ApplePay. Yes, I know that “real” ApplePay merchants aren’t subject to that restriction. However, given that anyone can – and do – display Apple Pay logos, regardless of whether they are formally part of the system, that distinction is moot.

In the case of my recent experience in Starbucks (a “real” ApplePay partner?), the barista apologised and said Amex contactless has never worked for them, so I reverted to my Starbucks card. Yes, I could have used my Amex card in chip & pin mode… but for a £3ish transaction, that seems to be overkill, as well as being a huge metaphorical step backwards.

I honestly look forward to the day when contactless terminals are ubiquitous: Imagine getting served in a pub where they are plentiful and easily accessible at the bar… no messing with change or getting soggy banknotes back from the server whose hands are still wet from the overspill! Beep and they are on the next customer.

Contactless payment using devices rather than cards is obviously still in its infancy and while I have no wish to see Apple dominate the market to the exclusion of all else, I do genuinely hope we reach a stage where we, as consumers, don’t need to worry whether “our” particular system will work at any given venue. At the very least, is it too hard to ask that we be given some sort of clue up front? The official Amex page is woefully unhelpful. Who in the UK knows that the £30 contactless limit doesn’t (shouldn’t) apply to “real” ApplePay merchants?

Thanks to Amex, we are still a long way short of that. Their card hasn’t been the default on my phone for a long time and the way things are going, I may as well remove it all together. While I’m at it, why don’t I go to another card provider … one that works all the time?


With a hat tip to Duncan Stevenson and his Contactless Life blog, who has tried to get a grip of this situation, but has clearly been busy in his real life recently.

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The Loop

When I got to my Macbook Pro this AM, I saw the “Security Update Installed. A new security update was installed on your Mac” message. I understand why Apple did this but, given how much crappy software Apple has released, I’m not happy about the company “reaching into” my computer and installing software without my permission or knowledge.

via iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple opinion and news | The Loop.

I have immeasurable respect for Jim Dalrymple and all he has to say, but frankly, this is simply bonkers. The NTP vulnerability is clearly a big deal. Regardless of any perception of “crappy software” – which from anywhere else I’d take exception to, but from The Loop I have to regard as, er, considered – if Apple perceive a threat as credible, then I’m sorry, just shut the flip up and take the medicine.

Thank you Apple. I appreciate your timely intervention.

What a ****!

“Its nice to see Apple get a little mojo back,” Colin Gillis, senior technology analyst at BGC Partners, told the BBC.Mr Gillis was cheered by higher than expected sales of the iPhone, although he found Mr Cook’s management lacking.”Theres a gaping hole in the product refresh that has happened in 2013,” noted Mr Gills, which he said was “an unprofessional thing to do by management“.

[my emphasis]

Again: What a complete an utter **** this man is.

via BBC News – Apple profits beat estimates sending shares up 4%.

Live Unboxing

Perfect timing! I pulled into the street, arriving home
from work, as the UPS van pulled up behind. Didn’t notice the brown
socks though!

Freshly delivered for unboxing More to follow when I’ve got changed…
Ten Minutes Later Right, I’m changed.

First layer.jpg

Next layer

Designed by Apple in California


Getting there...

Closer... Wow!
That’s why it arrived so quickly… “Assembled in Ireland”. Is this
a first??

Made in Ireland
It’s out….

Front view

5mm thin side

Accessories The
Magic Trackpad and keyboard come with batteries already inserted.
Time to Power On

We have start up
And, after quite a few screens I won’t bore you with…

Thank You Except
this one… … Apple MacOS X has heard of Derby!!


Just one more…

Start up complete.

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Well, How About That – Steve Jobs Was Right After All

Screen capture of the BBC iPlayer Radio web app

BBC iPlayer Radio

As you may have noticed if you’re a regular listener to BBC Radio, the Beeb have hived-off the radio element of their iPlayer into a standalone entity. Currently it is  available as a web site and an iOS app for iPhone. Notably, there isn’t an Android version yet – for which the on air talent are forced to apologise for in an vague and roundabout sort of way when promoting it. Understandably,  a vocally significant number of Android users are miffed about this but I’m not quite sure why the majority of commenters on this BBC blog post see this a BBC conspiracy to promote Apple over their platform.

The truth is much more mundane and is explained on the BBC News web site  thusly:

The BBC’s Daniel Danker, general manager for programmes and on-demand, blamed complications with Flash for the delay in the Android app, but added that discussions are ongoing to resolve the problems

Oh, wait a cotton pickin’  minute there buckeroo. “Complications with Flash” you say? Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs.  Just one more of Old Jobsy’s prophesies  coming home to roost.

The bigger question here, however, is what the flying-flip the BBC need to use Flash for at all. I know diddly-squat about programming for Android, but are the BBC saying there is no way to use an HTML5 solution – the same one they’ve implemented on the iPhone perhaps.

Meanwhile, even though it fills a need which really didn’t previously exist (another lesson from Apple’!?) I have downloaded and installed the iPhone app. Seems well designed and ‘snappy’. The wake-up-to-a-BBC-radio-station-alarm may come in useful. Might  finally be time to dispense with my bedside Bug in favour of a dock for my iPhone?

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Apple iOS6 map of Ripley

Apple iOS6 map of Ripley – or is it Pentrich?

I’ve kept my own counsel on this matter for a while now, but one of the many negative aspects of working in an open plan office is having no choice in receiving the opinions of anyone and everyone within earshot – and there are many. I doubt my workplace is any different to anywhere else and it constantly surprises me how many of my co-workers have got an iPhone and/or (usually ‘and’!) an iPad. The knowledge level among my co-workers is also quite surprising, with many evidently reading the same ‘rumor’ blogs as I do (though maybe not as many or as frequently!). Nevertheless, it is not unusual and frequently infuriating to hear some of the bollocks which is pontificated. If I had a penny etc. for all the times I’ve heard someone advise an iPhone is “slowed down by having too many apps running and you need to press the no entry signs regularly to kill them all“. Nooooo! The increasing chatter relating to the rumoured iPad Mini (I fancy iPad Air as the name, actually) has not been missed. I was particularly taken by this exchange….

Fred: Why are they doing a smaller iPad, what’s the point? Bill: Well it’s because Amazon has the Kindle and Samsung has the Galaxy, Apple think they’re missing out and want to corner the market. Fred [with feeling]: The Bastards!

Er, Ok. The biggest story to exercise the minds the office tech commentators of late is of course how bad the new maps are on the iPhone 5. Widely touted examples of ‘Duncaster’ and, locally, ‘Sponden’ are bandied about. To be fair, we are probably in the best (or worst) possible place to judge how bad the maps are (though not quite as bad as the poor folk of Colchester). Satellite coverage in particular is beyond dire for most of Derbyshire. At least our neighbours in Nottingham have decent resolution in their satellite coverage – even if it is monochrome for some bizarre reason. Most of Apple’s woes with its mapping can rightly be pinned to the underlying data rather than the app itself. Indeed the app can be argued as being far better than what went before. I’m still not sure that the formatting of the mapping as beautiful as many think – I rather suspect that the American commentators have never seen true cartographic beauty produced by the Ordnance Survey. There is, however, a major issue with Apple mapping that can be be laid at the door of the app itself rather than just the underlying data. When a map is zoomed out it makes sense that a town’s label is placed close but not quite on top of the detail representing the urban area itself. For example, the label for Uttoxeter lies over three miles north west of the town centre, a sensible design choice at a scale of, say, 1:100,000. With a raster system of mapping, where new tiles are downloaded and drawn when zoomed into a larger scale, the label will be repositioned appropriately. The new maps, however, are vector data. In many respects this is a good thing as they scale smoothly and, so it seems, the data transfer required is reduced by about 80%. The downside is that with the vector data, the name stays resolutely where it is anchored and worse, that’s where the route planner takes the unwary traveller.

Apple iOS6 map of Uttoxeter

Apple iOS6 map of Uttoxeter – isn.

To see Apple Maps at their best, I recommend taking a virtual trip to Manchester. The aerial coverage and three-dimesnional buildings (the so-called “Flyover” feature) is implemented beautifully. And I think that is the point. In admiring what they’ve created in the good bits (i.e. most of their coverage of the US), Apple somehow managed to forget the rest of it which still needs work. They say that they are labouring unceasingly to update things, and I gather some evidence of this has started to appear. However, there is no indication as to when the data being generated by the “report a problem” system or updates to Yelp! to improve the business listings, will start to filter through. Perhaps this is sensible, as there is little doubt that the Trolls will have found this an excellent way to entertain their little minds. There is one thing that Mapgate serves to illustrate very well and that is Apple are increasingly the company that people love to hate.


As of late October 2012, not only has Doncaster had its name restored (still says Sponden though and there are no other repairs of local mapping faux pax), but I note today that the satellite imagery for Derby & South Derbyshire has improved vastly. Note this Before & After as the page refreshes…

iPad screen shot as the old imagery gives way to the new...

Improved, undoubtedly, but it is nevertheless about five years old. Oh well, gift horses and all that.

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I’ve Been A Very Naughty Boy – Updated x2

The Apple MacBook Air

The Apple annual Wordwide Developers Conference was held yesterday in San Francisco at which there were many exciting new products announced. So it was inevitable that within a few days my credit card would get a worrying. The variables were simple; How Long it would take me to make a decision, and How Much.

Completely unexpectedly it turned out to be a two horse race. I have had in mind for some time to swap my 2009 MacBook for a 13″ MacBook Air and had been holding off in the certain knowledge a refresh was coming. The closer we got to WWDC the more certain this would be THE day. Indeed, Phil Schiller came on stage and reeled off a series of improvements to the MacBook Air – including a $100 price drop. I was sold. But then…

With typical Apple flair and showmanship, a new product was revealed from under a black cloth…. The “Next Generation” MacBook Pro.  With its “retina display” (read: the best screen you’ve ever seen on any computer, ever!) kick-ass specs and, it has to be said, quite reasonable entry-level cost. All of a sudden, the decision got very difficult.

In the end, the deciding factor was that the new MacBook Air is immediately available, whereas shipping times for the new MBP have slipped – initially to a couple of days, and now as I type this, to two-to-three weeks. Once I decide I’m spending that sort of money, that’s far too long to wait.

So it came to pass that Apple now have yet more of my money (well, my credit card company’s money at the moment!) and I’ll be staring out the window longingly tomorrow scanning the horizon for a UPS van.

The rest of the WWDC Keynote, by the way, was equally gripping. Jim & I were comparing notes as we went along via iMessage (Jim, I fear, is head-over-heels in love with the new MBP and based on his declared financial plan for owning one, I doubt a small wait will trouble him). Apart from the Look How Much We Love Our Developers schmaltz, the remainder of the presentation dealt with enhancements to the Mac and iOS operating systems… all good stuff to look forward to. Interestingly, there was a very obvious tilt at Google running through most of the presentation.

Clutching at straws to justify the expenditure: As I’ve bought a new Mac, at least I’ll be entitled to a free upgrade to OSX Mountain Lion when it launches next month – a  £13.99 value! Another serious point is that a MacBook Air is going to be much more suited to next week’s Four Corners Tour – I had been considering leaving my MacBook at home and relying entirely on the iPad… not any longer.

UPDATE: Just had a text from Apple. My order has dispatched with delivery expected “On or before 14-06-2012“. Um, ‘before’, I like the sound of that, though I won’t be watching out tonight!

Further Update – Thursday evening:

I don’t want to come across as having no sense of proportion or having lost sight of the realities of the world, but I’m a very unhappy camper this evening. By way of explanation, I’ll share the email I have just sent to Apple. It may not be a zinger, nor do I expect it to mean much to anyone, but it was marginally cathartic to send…

I just wanted to give you some feedback over the above order. Apple’s part in this has been First Class, an exceptionally quick and painless process. Thank you.

Then you passed my purchase onto Syncreon. You had handled your part and passed the package onto them in a matter of a couple of hours and helpfully texted me to that effect. They managed to get it to their central hub in about four hours. That’s the end of the good news.

Syncreon’s tracking service — which is far from intuitive to find, let alone use — records that it went out for delivery this morning at 08:31. It also indicated an expected delivery time of 18:00 – so I was resigned to waiting in all day. Luckily I had no plans or commitments, which is why I ordered it when I did.

I was therefore extremely annoyed to see that at 15:21 the package was scanned back in at Syncreon’s Hinkley Hub. Whilst the Apple order page was later updated to that effect, I had no other notification either to my email or text/phone. That, I’m afraid, is very poor on a number of levels. It means I will be significantly inconvenienced tomorrow in order to receive the delivery. Had I known it would take two days, I would have gone and collected the machine from an Apple Retail store.

I fully understand and accept there were likely good reasons for the non-delivery. Not being notified, however, is poor service. It is also in stark contrast, not only with the communication afforded by other carriers, but also with what I expect of Apple – albeit by association.

Thank you for listening.


Let’s see what tomorrow brings – apart from Kay’s understandable reaction to me not being able to take her for an appointment in the morning.




Not for me, thank you


So, where are we on the New iPad front? I vowed that I would have hands on with one (or two!) before making my mind up. Well, I’ve done that and have reached a decision – and it’s bad news for those who had a bet on me buying one.

Though Gruber mocked it (in a funny way, it has to be said) the Gizmodo review sums my thoughts up very well.

The truth is that while trying the New iPad in the Apple store at Highcross, I simply couldn’t tell the difference. In fact in KRCS I was sure it was old stock they had on display. To me, that speaks higher of the iPad2 than it is negative about the New iPad. Sure, the Retina Display makes photos look good, but so does the 2.

I had the opportunity to test my 2 alongside Jim’s shiny New iPad today. It is only holding one in each hand that the very slight difference in size/weight is just apparent – in isolation it is effectively impossible. As a quick test of speed I simultaneously launched the iPhoto app and the New was noticeably quicker. When I repeated the test to show Jim my findings, however, there was hardly any difference (despite “killing” the app from the task bar first – it was obviously still in RAM).

I still think non-US users are paying a supplement for the race to adopt LTE. That said, one feature of the New iPad I wish was in the iPad2 is tethering – something I’m sure I would use a lot.

My initial instinct has thus been confirmed: The New iPad is stunningly better than the first model, but at best only a slight advance on the 2. In some respects (perhaps understandable compromises brought about by the Retina Display) it is a very slight step back. I still doubt if the Apple of 12 months ago would have made that step – at any cost.

Bring on the MacBook Air refresh!!

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The New iPad and associated issues


After the dust has settled on last night’s hoopla, it’s time to reflect on what was announced and released. Of course the biggie is “The New iPad”. Perhaps the most surprising part of the whole thing was the name… No iPad3 or iPad HD – one of the few things the rumour sites failed to predict. It is always a bit of a disappointment when Apple’s big show merely confirms what has already been leaked – and this time round there was a lot which wasn’t a shock. The main takeaway from the event for me is that until you see it, pick it up, play with it…. I doubt you’ll fully appreciate how different it is to the iPad2.

Of course the main feature touted at the launch was how wonderful 4G is, something which is entirely useless to UK users – and will remain so for the lifetime of the device. In some respects, and I’m thinking of the slightly increased width and weight, us Brits have been served a bit of a croc.

I have to say, of more interest to me were the relatively minor releases which coincided with the event: iOS5.1 has been waiting in the wings for weeks. Although a maintainance release, it’s biggest feature as far as I am concerned is the ability to delete individual images from Photostream. This was an omission that, for me and many others, rendered a great feature almost unusable.

Also released last night, along with a raft of updates to Apple Apps, was the new iPhoto for iOS. A snip at £2.99, this is a phenomenal piece of software, packed with features. I’m still getting to grips with it, but I really like the Journal feature. My first stab at creating a Journal. Still missing, as far as I can see, is the ability for edited metadata (keywords, faces, etc) to be propagated around the Photostream.

Also updated last night, the second generation Apple TV has been rejuvenated with a new user interface. Netflix are well placed by inclusion on this platform and Lovefilm should be looking over their shoulder. It would be excellent if BBC iPlayer were to be included, but maybe that’s for the future? Given that the new OS for AppleTV has all the features of the new iteration – except 1080P HD of course – I won’t be rushing out for one of them, after all.

So, the burning question, and one that seems to be on the lips of everyone who bumps into me at work: Will I be getting the New iPad? Well…. I certainly haven’t (and won’t) pre-order one. I want to have ‘hands on’ before I decide. In some ways, Apple have double-sixed me by retaining the 16Gb iPad2 at the cut-down price of £329. I suspect this will dilute the market for secondhand iPad2s, a factor which any potential upgrade to the new one relies upon. Interesting and pleasing to note that the launch in the UK will be concurrent with the US.

On balance, I believe I will hold my water until the inevitable update to the MacBook Air.

Then again…..?

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Isn’t it refreshing when the price of something goes DOWN?

MLB At Bat screenshot

MLB At Bat for the iPhone screenshot

In previous years, the pricing model for Major League Baseball’s various electronic products has been somewhat “grabbing”. As well as being expected to cough up $120 for a top-of-the-range package to watch baseball over the internet, they had the temerity to charge £8.99 each for the iPad and iPhone “At Bat” apps. I’m loathe to use the term “rip off” as when-all-is-said-and-done, no-one is pointing a gun at my head to buy. Nevertheless, it didn’t do any good for MLB’s image in my eyes.

This year is a whole different story. As well as getting a returning subscriber discount (a whopping $4.99!) on the package, they have taken the very welcome step of incorporating that subscription into the At Bat app – on both iPad and iPhone. In other words At Bat (which has lost its yearly appellation) is now free, with subscribers able to unlock the additional features. That is certainly the way to do it, and kudos to MLB for saving me twenty quid or so this year.

All we need now is for the new-look Red Sox to win 100 games before October.

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