Tech Retrospect: Fire Phone reviewed and Apple opens Yosemite
There's a new superphone in town. Is it worth your money? Also, Apple's got a new beta for you. That and more in this week's rundown of all the tech news.
Amazon's Kindle made waves by being the first mass-market e-reader that was cheap enough and had enough books to be a worthwhile purchase. The first Kindle Fire tablet made waves by, well, being really cheap. Now the Fire Phone has landed and, I'm sorry to say, it's hitting with more of a thud than a splash.
Jessica Dolcourt expounds on why in our full review, but suffice it to say there simply isn't enough here to compete with the top-shelf phones from Apple, Samsung, and the rest. At $649 off-contract (no international pricing is available yet), the Fire Phone has no price advantage over the rest, yet its software selection is far more limited and performance lacking.
That's not to say it doesn't have anything going for it. The "3D" interface is fun, and being able to scroll webpages just by tilting is something that all phones should do -- and probably will in the near future. And, addicts of free two-day shipping will certainly enjoy the ease of shopping on Amazon that the phone provides. Still, if you're looking for the best smartphone for your dollar, it's hard to recommend the Fire.
Yosemite beta is yours for the asking
Apple's next version of OS X, version 10.10 Yosemite, is now ready for your perusal -- assuming, of course, you don't mind the whole "beta" thing. Little bugs and glitches are almost guaranteed, but early reports don't indicate anything too serious. If you're feeling daring, go for it -- though I wouldn't exactly recommend porting your one and only computer over just yet.
Sony finally settles over PSN hack
Remember that time in 2011 when Sony's PlayStation Network was hacked and pretty much everyone swore off the service -- only to come back within six months or so as if nothing had happened? Well, a class action lawsuit resulted, and Sony has finally settled. The users have won, and while I'm not inclined to look too closely inside the mouth of a gift horse, don't get too excited about the rewards. While there is cash available to those who can prove, without a doubt, that their personal information was exploited thanks to this hack, everyone else's recompense is a selection of dusty PS3 and PSP games, plus a few token months of PlayStation Plus. Hey, at least Sony feels bad about the whole thing. Probably.
Did Microsoft kill the Surface Mini?
While the unveiling of the Surface 3 last month came without too many surprises, packing the sort of solid updates we expected to see, there was one thing that was a bit of a head-scratcher: the lack of a Surface Mini. Ahead of the event we'd seen plenty of leaks and even product listings indicating that the smaller, and presumably cheaper, tablet was indeed a thing.
Now, we're getting word that the device was in production, that Microsoft had been ordering components for it, but canceled it sometime before the big unveiling. In the company's earnings call this week, CFO Amy Hood seemed to confirm, saying: "During the quarter, we reassessed our product roadmap and decided not to ship a new form factor that was under development."
So it's farewell then, Surface Mini -- at least for now -- though we never really knew you at all.
Uber banned in South Korea
As someone who travels a lot and generally hates dealing with taxis, I've come to really enjoy the simplicity and polish of the Uber service. Want a car? Hit a button and you'll know exactly when your driver will arrive -- a driver who is always polite and usually even has a bottle of water waiting for you. So, it's been frustrating to see the service run into as many legal issues as it has, the latest coming out of Seoul, South Korea.
The government there has banned the service, as laws on the books require that any driver picking up passengers go through a thorough background check. Additionally, there are concerns over insurance, and the South Korean government even states that there's a risk of having your credit card information stolen -- though it's hard to imagine the risk being any greater than physically handing your card to a driver.
Uber is asking the government to update its laws, but the government's wording seems quite strong on the subject. It wasn't all bad news for Uber, though. The company finally released a Windows Phone app this week. At least they've got that going for them.
Ridley Scott's Halo: Nightfall trailer
Finally, a bit of sci-fi awesomesauce from San Diego Comic-Con. The movie trailers have been flowing fast and furious already, and one of the most eagerly anticipated is the Ridley Scott-produced film "Halo: Nightfall," which takes place between Halo 4 and Halo 5. Enjoy, and have yourself a Flood-free weekend.