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Check Your New iPhone 5 For Scratches

I’m getting a number of reports from early adopters who have received new iPhone 5 handsets that the handsets are not as durable as some would like them to be, and appear to scratch easily.

To make matters worse, some claim that their handset was scratched straight out of the box, with the damage having occurred at the assembly plant before the iPhone 5 was put into the box. The damage was underneath the protective film that Apple applies to its devices and couldn’t have been caused in transit.

Scratches and scuffs appear to range from tiny ones of the edge of the handset, to massive Freddy Kruger style scratches on the back. Either way this is not good for customers, and unacceptable for a device that costs as much money as Apple’s flagship handset does.

Another problem that some are complaining of is that the new iPhone scratches too easily. While their handsets were OK coming out of the box, they soon picked up significant damage on the back and sides from light usage. Again, for a device as pricey as the iPhone 5, this is intolerable.

The black model seems more prone to damage, but I’ve heard reports of similar problems with the white model. Perhaps the damage is easier to see on the black version.

This is not the first time that Apple has released a product that appeared to scratch easily. Back in early 2009 the company settled a $22.5 million lawsuit over scratch problems related to the iPod nano.

So, what do you do if you have a scratched iPhone 5? Well, the good news is that you have a couple of options. First, in the U.S., Apple give iPhone customers 30 days to return they handset if they are unhappy with it. If you want a refund, this may be the best option for you. If you want a replacement instead of a refund then I suggest you take a trip over to your nearest Apple and show one of the Apple Genii the problem. If they have a replacements, chances are good that you will walk out with a new iPhone 5 — although there’s still a chance that this one too will have the robustness of sliced cheese.

The problem with buying a product fresh off the production line is that you’re going to encounter these sorts of problems a lot more than if you’d waited a few months. Maybe the easily-scratched iPhones have more been finished properly, or maybe there’s a problem with Apple’s process. Either way, chances are the problems will be fixed soon and you will get an iPhone that meets your expectation.

Kindle Fire HD vs. iPad

How does the new Kindle Fire HD compare with the best tablet on the block?

The Kindle Fire HD includes simple text, a feature that allows it to display articles from magazines in more of a Kindle book format.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET) The iPad and Kindle Fire HD are two different tablets intended for slightly different market segments. The iPad is a "does everything" tablet, while the Fire HD remains focused on media consumption.
However, most people shopping for a tablet don't have the funds to afford both (not that I'm at all encouraging anyone purchase both) and will therefore have to choose. The following is an attempt to make that choice a bit easier. With the iPad being the "everything" tablet in this comparison, I'll focus on comparing the two in categories both tablets are capable of, while also pointing out the strengths of each.
Video streaming
The Kindle Fire HD has three main video-streaming options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, and of course, if you're a Prime member, Amazon Instant Video. The iPad also has access to those same streaming services, so I tested both tablets using Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. When you take into account the vision behind each tablet, it's not too surprising which provides the better video-streaming experience.
I began by streaming the same episode of "Breaking Bad" through Amazon Instant Video on each tablet over CNET's internal Wi-Fi network. I then walked around the building, eventually leaving the building with both tablets, while the episode continued to play. Both tablets played without a hiccup during this time; however, only the Fire HD displayed and maintained an HD signal. The iPad's signal was strong, but decidedly SD.
After leaving the building and traveling about 20 feet from CNET's front door, the iPad lost the streaming signal, giving me only the spinning circle of death. The Fire HD continued to play in HD for another half block or so (about 100 feet) before it too stopped playing the show.
Both tablets have access to the Amazon Instant Video service. I'm about to stream an episode of "Louie." The excitement is overwhelming.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
With Netflix streaming, I saw something very similar. This time, with an episode of "The Walking Dead" and when within five feet of our test router, the iPad delivered a quality, but sub-HD version of the episode, while Fire continued to push out a better-looking HD image. After walking farther away and eventually leaving the building, the iPad stopped streaming at about the same place as before (about 20 feet from CNET's front door) and while the Fire HD didn't get as far with Netflix as it did with Amazon Instant Video, it did make it another 50 feet or so before it lost the signal. Also the Fire HD was more consistent with its quality, rarely dropping to a low-quality mode -- something the iPad did frequently as I moved around.
I also tested the range of each tablet's Wi-Fi antenna by walking a block away from the CNET building and then walking closer and closer until I could connect to our internal network. Each tablet connected at about the same distance from the building (50 to 60 feet away). So my theory, at least in the case of streaming, is that it's not necessarily the range of the Fire HD that leads it to success here, but how quickly its MIMO-powered antenna allows it to buffer video. The Fire HD seems optimized for this. Which makes sense, given Amazon's vision for the device as primarily a media consumption device.
While the iPad proves a worthy competitor in the streaming-video challenge, the Fire HD currently has no equal in this department. If streaming video is at the top of your priority list, the Kindle Fire HD is the tablet for you.
However, 4G versions of the iPad (starting at $629) will obviously allow you to stream much farther, since the 7-inch Fire HD has no cellular component. A 4G LTE 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD will launch on November 20 starting at $499.
Web browsing
Safari, especially with iOS 6, is the best best browser on the iPad. By default, the Fire HD uses Amazon's Silk browser.
Streaming through Amazon's video app, the iPad video never achieved an HD resolution. The Fire HD, on the other hand, was all HD, all the time.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
From a speed perspective, Amazon's browser comes up short. Silk on the Fire HD is sometimes even slower than on the original Fire, and usually a couple of seconds behind the iPad when loading the same page.

Safari also has a more streamlined design: bookmarks and history are easily accesible and reading list can be a very useful feature.
On the contrary, Silk feels clunkier and accessing bookmarks and history takes a few more steps than I'd like. However, Silk's full screen mode uses more of the Fire HD's 7-inch screen as it spreads pages to its edges -- a neat little extra.
Silk's reading mode converts web pages into Kindle book format, with the same font and pages color options you'd expect to see when reading a Kindle book. This mode works perfectly on some pages, but even on pages where the mode was available, it pages didn't always format as they should and most of the article could be missing. Reading mode is a neat idea, but needs to be compatible with more pages before it can be truly useful. The iPad has a very similar mode that seems to be compatible with more sites, but offers no color or font customizations.
You can use Amazon's Cloud Player on both tablets, and the iPad obviously has access to iTunes as well. Amazon Cloud Player allows users to stream music from their cloud library without having to actually download songs to their devices. Both tablets have access to streaming-music services like Pandora and Spotify as well.
But what about sound quality? As forcefully as the iPad's single speaker belted out sound, the tablet is ultimately outshone by the Fire HD, which delivered smooth, loud sound with appropriately equalized bass and treble. I don't recommend listening to music through most tablet speakers, but with the Fire HD I make a very clear exception. You've never heard tablet speakers as good as these.
Books and magazines
Both the Fire HD and iPad have access to thousands of books through Amazon's bookstore, while the iPad also has iBooks. If you're a Prime member and own a Fire HD, you also get to borrow one book per month from Amazon's lending library with unlimited return time. iPad users don't have access to this, whether they're Prime members or not.
It's what the Fire HD does with books that really sets it apart, however. X-ray for books, available only on the Fire HD, allows you to get more information about characters, terms, and historical figures mentioned in a Kindle book. It also highlights exactly where (via page number and a graph) in the book those details are mentioned and allows you to jump right to the appropriate page.
X-ray for books is one of the cool Kindle Fire exclusive features not available on the iPad.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Immersion reading lets you read along with your audiobook. In addition, Whispersync for voice allows you to stop reading at any spot in the Kindle version of a book and then continue later at that exact spot in your audiobook and vice versa, even if it's on another device.
The iPad can't match most of these features; however, the Audible app for iOS 6 does support Whispersync.
The Fire HD's Newsstand app has a cool-looking new page-turning animation and the option to tap on an article and read it in simple text. Magazines on the iPad tend to have fairly slick-looking, more customized interfaces, with embedded video; however, simple text is not supported on the iPad.
Magazines on the iPad usually have huge catalogs of back issues. The Kindle Fire HD was just recently released and since each magazine issue on the Fire HD must be configured specifically, there are currently very few back issues available.
While many of the same content is available on each tablet, Amazon's lending library, X-ray for books, and Whispersync take the Kindle Fire HD over the top. Simple text as well for magazines is great for all you "I only ready it for the articles" people.
The iPad has the most games of any mobile platform and definitely the best games of any tablet. The Kindle Fire HD on the other hand has even fewer games than a typical Android tablet like the Nexus 7. Since Amazon heavily curates its store, many gamers must wait for Kindle Fire editions of games to be released before they can play. Of course users can sideload APKs, but that's not something most are comfortable with.
Thanks to its huge catalog and better performance, I'd much rather game on the iPad.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Also, the iPad's GPU is about a billion times (figure not actually confirmed) more powerful than the Fire HD's. At least the 7-inch version of the Fire HD. And many Kindle Fire-edition apps available on the original Fire don't currently work on the Fire HD. That said, compared to the original Fire, the Fire HD loads faster and delivers higher resolution in games. But so far, not higher frame rates.
Other tidbits
As I said before, the iPad is the "does everything" tablet in this comparison. Not only can the tablet be used as an enterprise machine and an actual content creation device, but it also has more apps than any other mobile platform. Also, the best apps really take advantage of its beautiful screen and high resolution.
It's not that the Kindle Fire HD doesn't have apps. It's just that compared with the huge catalog available on the iPad, well, there's really no comparison here. The iPad also sports a higher-quality aluminum build, a high-quality back camera, a larger screen, GPS, and a clean and simple interface with a helpful and convenient hardware home button.
Make no mistake, the iPad is the best tablet you can buy today; however, the Kindle Fire HD is a great alternative if you don't want to spend iPad levels of money or simply want a smaller screen and form factor. So which do you buy? Simply put, you buy the tablet that's best for you. That's difficult to hear if you're looking for strict, clear buying advice, but it's the reality of the situation.
Aside from a few Amazon-specific features, the $500 iPad can do pretty much anything the Fire HD can, and with its incredible apps support, GPS, back camera, and more freeing OS, it easily earns its place as the best tablet. However, there are three areas in which the Kindle Fire HD excels: streaming video, speakers, and -- thanks to its multitude of features and Amazon's lending library -- books. If you're an Amazon Prime member and you don't want to spend too much on a tablet, there isn't a more apt device available right now than the Kindle Fire HD. It's $200, excels as a media consumption device, and is the best tablet for streaming video and reading books.
Things may get tricky soon, however. If rumors are true, we may see a $300, 7.85-inch iPad before year's end and a $300 8.9-inch version of the Kindle Fire HD with a higher-resolution screen and a faster processor, and the option to upgrade to 4G LTE is coming on November 20. But, for now, if you have the money, buy the iPad. If not, the Kindle Fire HD should satisfy all your media consumption needs.
  Kindle Fire HD 7-inch iPad (2012)
Dimensions  7.6 inches by 5.4 inches by 0.4 inch (HWD) 9.5 inches by 7.31 inches by 0.37 inch (HWD)
Weight 0.86 pounds 1.44 (1.46 for 4G) pounds
OS Custom Android 4.0 iOS 6
Processor Dual-core,1.2GHz OMAP 4460 Dual-core, 1GHz Apple A5X
Storage 16GB or 32GB 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
Front camera Yes, "HD" Yes, VGA
Rear camera No Yes, 5-megapixel
Battery 7-9 hours 13 hours
Charge type Micro-USB Apple proprietary
4G No Yes
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (MIMO) 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth Yes Yes
Screen size 7 inches, antiglare, laminated (IPS) 9.7 inches (IPS)
HDMI out Yes No
Resolution 1,280x800 pixels 2,048x1536 pixels
Book store Amazon iBooks, third-party
App store Amazon Apple App Store
GPS No Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes
microSD No No
Microphone Yes Yes
Price $199 (16GB), $249 (32GB) $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB); 4G: $599 (16GB), $699 (32GB), $799 (64GB)

Apple voted coolest brand in UK

The technology company Apple has been voted the coolest brand in the UK.

It beat Aston Martin, which has taken the top spot in six of the previous seven annual CoolBrands surveys.

Online and technology brands performed well, with YouTube pushing Aston Martin into third place. Twitter came fourth, followed by Google and the BBC's iPlayer.

The results are decided by responses from 3,000 consumers and a panel of 39 experts.

Twitter, Skype and Nikon were in the top 20 for the first time in the 11 years of the survey.

Some of the luxury brands have dropped out of the top 20, including Maserati, Ferrari, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, which all featured last year.

A quarter of the top 20 brands are free to consumers.

"It is interesting that in this age of austerity our perception of cool has increasingly shifted from aspirational, luxury brands to free or more affordable brands that provide us with pleasure," said Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the CoolBrands expert council.

YouTube was among the biggest risers, having come in tenth place last year.

Apple wants another $707M in damages in patent case against Samsung

The war between Apple and Samsung on the patent front seems to never end…and it is about to get worse. Cupertino-based Apple filed a motion late Friday afternoon against South Korean-based Samsung, asking for another $707 million in damages on top of the $1.05 billion it was awarded in late August. Apple said it wants “$400 million damage award for design infringement by Samsung; $135 million for willful infringement of its utility patents; $121 million in supplemental damages based on Samsung’s product sales not covered in the jury’s deliberation; and $50 million of prejudgment interest on damages through December 31,” reported Reuters. Not going to give up without a fight, Samsung asked for a separate trial. It could face damages and key devices like the Galaxy S III could be taken off the market per Apple’s request if found guilty. The last U.S. trial focused on older Samsung devices like the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab 10.1, but Samsung’s newer devices look to be in focus this time around. So, it appears we will be doing this all over again

Quick, painless way to buy an iPhone 5: Don't plan

The 32GB iPhone 5 I purchased today. It was a quick, easy get.
The 32GB iPhone 5 I purchased today. It was a quick, easy get.

The 32GB iPhone 5 I purchased today. It was a quick, easy get.
(Credit: Brooke Crothers)

Here's the easy way to buy an iPhone: Don't have a plan.

I didn't intend to get an iPhone today.

But a phone call to a friend -- who I knew was at a local shopping center near a Verizon store -- changed my mind. The upshot: a short line out front.

"Wait, this is the first day of iPhone 5 sales and this is Los Angeles. And you're telling me there isn't a long line?" -- was, more or less, what I said.

By the time I got there the line was down to five or six people (just after 11:00). After 15 minutes I was in the store and they had what I wanted (see photo above).

It seemed too easy. Earlier in the morning, I had confirmed with a rep at the Apple Store in Century City (near Hollywood) that there was a long line (he said it was at least a two-hour wait).

So, I can conclude a couple of things. One, Apple pushed out plenty of inventory to low-profile outlets, like my local Verizon store. Two, high-profile Apple Stores -- like the one in Century City -- are the last place you want to go.

I'm already planning not to plan when the iPhone 6 arrives.

iOS 6 map mess was no big surprise to Apple

Apple demos its new Maps app.
Apple demos its new Maps app.

Apple demos its new Maps app at the iPhone 5 launch event on September 12.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

After users this week discovered glitches in Apple's update to its mobile operating system -- the first to include the company's mapping technology instead of Google's Maps app -- the conventional wisdom had it that Apple acted in a very un-Apple-like manner by pushing live an obviously defective product.

On the surface, the episode also made for an intriguing story line: With Steve Jobs, the micromanager par excellence, no longer around to obsess over the smallest detail, might this constitute a first small weakening of the Apple juggernaut? In the year since Tim Cook became CEO, Apple watchers have peered closely for any signs of slippage under new leadership, and perhaps this was a harbinger of trouble at America's most highly valued company.

No doubt the images popping up on the Internet of misnamed cities and misplaced landmarks don't comport with the usual narrative surrounding Apple, a company that's enjoyed approving media coverage for metronomelike execution as it's redefined standards of excellence in its smartphone and tablet computing platforms.

You might conclude that Apple CEO Tim Cook was willing to upset some customers in order to eliminate Google Maps from iOS 6.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Now we're seeing how this iOS 6 map mess is an embarrassment for the company. Was it a surprise out of the blue, and will somebody's butt wind up in a sling as management performs the necessary postmortem?

Since Apple rarely comments about its internal processes, it's tempting to take creative license and speculate on how Apple managed to tolerate the delivery of such an inferior app in iOS 6. But the story is likely quite straightforward.

Apple could have kept Google's more reliable and mature mobile mapping app, but it made a strategic decision about something it needed to own and monetize. Put another way, getting rid of Google Maps was more important than delivering a less-flawed Apple Maps app and dealing with the grumbling.

Make that a lot of grumbling. And ridicule.

But how long is that going to last? Many may remember the heart attacks over "Antennagate," when some owners of the then-new iPhone 4 complained about weak or lost signal strength when they touched an area near the device's antennas. That also was supposed to be the end of the world as we know it. Nowadays it's just a footnote and Apple's shares are hovering near an all-time high.

And just as with Antennagate, Apple knows that it can commit resources to fixing the problems and count on the goodwill of its loyalists. The latest evidence: Across the nation people queued up outside Apple stores on Friday as the iPhone 5 went on sale. Why does anybody really need to do that? They don't, but this is like Woodstock.
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Meanwhile, customers frequenting Apple stores were asked by Piper Jaffray about their purchase plans, and the map mess doesn't appear to have made an impact: 83 percent of iPhone 5 buyers said they were upgrading from another version of the iPhone compared with 73 percent for the 4S and 77 percent for the iPhone 4 -- and this even after two days of news coverage about glitches in the iOS 6 map app.

Judging by Apple's only comment so far, the company is comfortable with the idea that it can gradually fine-tune the rough spots in the near future.

    Customers around the world are upgrading to iOS 6 with over 200 new features including Apple Maps, our first map service. We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover and Siri integration, and free turn-by-turn navigation. We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it. We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get. We're also working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the App Store into iOS Maps. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.

You can make the case that the maps controversy violates Jobs' determination to deliver the best user experience, but it's evident that getting into the market with a map app rival to Google -- even if it wasn't yet perfect -- trumped everything else.

As Mike Dobson, president of map consulting firm TeleMapics, said in a blog post, "There is no really quick fix for Apple's problems in this area, but this should not be news to anyone who is familiar with mapping and the large-scale integration of data that has a spatial component. Of course there appears nowhere to go but up for Apple in mapping."

Reports of Slow and Inconsistent Wi-Fi Connections on Some iPhone 5 Devices

Now that the iPhone 5 has reached the hands of possibly millions of new customers, there are reports that some customers are having a problem with the iPhone 5's Wi-Fi connectivity.

A thread titled Painfully Slow WiFi on new iPhone 5 on our own forums details some of the problems that have been seen by some customers. Byran85 writes:

I just got done setting up my iPhone 5 (as new, not restore). I was trying to download my music from iTunes when it seemed to be taking forever. I cancelled the downloads and then kept testing the WiFi in various other ways. Just loading the app store, my iPhone 4 will load anything faster than my iPhone 5 right now. I've rebooted the router and tried multiple devices and have narrowed the problem down to the WiFi in the iPhone 5. I've also tried using different bands, 2.4 and 5 both produce the same outcome. I launched app about 2 minutes ago and hit begin test. Its still "finding the closest server". I have also tried the reset network settings. Still the same issue.
The rest of the thread shows others with the same type of problem (slow to no connectivity), while others report simply slower-than-normal connectivity. The image on the right was posted by @I_Am_Lucas showing ~2.5Mbps (~300K/s) on his Wi-Fi network. Others have even reported speeds down to 0.5Mbps (~62K/s).

Some users have been able to isolate their problem to when connecting to WPA2 encrypted Wi-Fi routers, and found that moving to (the much less secure) WEP encryption or being unprotected can resolve the issue. Since Apple Retail Stores have unprotected Wi-Fi, the issue may not show up at all in-store. Some have reported success with iPhone 5 hardware replacements from Apple, but several users have reported no success after getting a replacement unit. It should be noted that there may be multiple Wi-Fi related issues that could be affecting users. A lengthy thread in Apple's own discussion forum also reflects the same issues amongst many customers.

One Apple forum poster received confirmation from AppleCare that Apple seems to be aware of the issue, but a resolution is not yet available:

Just spoke with iPhone AppleCare and they are definitely aware of the problem and Apple engineers are working on it. I asked if it was hardware or software related and she said the WPA2 issue seems to be software based and the non-connecting issue may be hardware based, but that they are still trying to identify the cause.
According to the AppleCare representative, they are still working on the issue. The issue seems to affect a small minority of iPhone 5 owners.