The Market Ticker
Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Consumer]

Last night I decided I wanted a beer, and went to one of the local watering holes to get it.

Heh, why not -- it was a cheat day.

The local mall was "open" so-to-speak -- well, maybe half the stores were open.  Maybe.  And while there were people there there were not very many people there.  I had zero trouble with parking and no crowds to speak of.

If this is any indication of what Christmas is going to look like for retailers...... 


View this entry with comments (registration required to post)

So Part 1 was my "first impressions" out of the box, and two was a more in-depth view after a full day of use.

There's a camera review coming, but it's taking longer than I'd like because I refuse to do a half-ass job of it and I'm not happy with the comparable photos -- yet.  There's also a review of RF performance, and I will say this -- it's impressive.

In the meantime, however, there are a few more points to hit on.

First is the DAC in this device.  It's excellent.  If you like your music loud it won't be enough, but that's why God made little outboard headphone amplifiers.  Just buy one if you insist on maximum volume.  FiiO makes some decent ones; they're not great, but they're inexpensive and loud.

If your thing is clarity and clean sound reproduction, however, you're going to be happy.

I have both a pair of decent over-the-ear monitors that I usually use when shooting video and similar (since they block out ambient sound quite nicely) and a set of decently-expensive Shure earbuds.  The Sony monitors could use a bit more volume; the earbuds are fine unless you like damaged hearing.  But the clarity is excellent, and that's far more important than raw volume.  If I want an immersion level experience with the Sony's I have to get out the external amp (and it had better be a good one if you don't want to destroy the nice, quiet Priv soundstage because the noise floor on the Priv is wayyyyyy down there.)

BlackBerry has always tended to put really nice DACs in their phones and this one is no exception.  I don't know who makes it, but the frequently-found "mud and noise show" in phones is blessedly missing.  I can readily identify the difference between a FLAC and MP3 file of the same song; that's usually the province of things beyond the cellphone realm.  They also paid attention to isolation; many cellphones "bleed" RF into the audio channel; it's fairly tricky to not have it happen in such close quarters.  Bravo.

Next up I want to pick on Infoworld and their faux "review" in which they basically said that DTEK is worthless because nobody is going to uninstall Facebook, and since you don't have granular permissions until "M" it doesn't do you any good.


Let's separate out the problem space into two areas: Privacy and your phone's performance --specifically, battery performance.  You should be incensed that apps are grabbing your personal information and spreading to god-knows-where, but you're not.  In fact you should have, long ago, burnt every business doing this to the ground economically (no, not with fire, but with boycotts) but nobody seems to give a damn about this blatant and outrageous invasion being foisted on them.

But what's going on in the App world is far worse than you think it is.  Few people have a problem with an app that grabs your location so it can tell you where the closest store is, for example.  If you want a Starbucks coffee you'd like to know where that coffee is relative to your location, and to do that the app has to grab location data.


But a very material number of apps grab location continually even when they do not have focus -- that is, when you're not using them.  Worse, once you use them they will continue to do so indefinitely, and many of them will do it on very short intervals.  WalMart's app, for example, once used even after being backed out of, will grab location every five minutes.  So does World of Beer's.  So does Starbucks.  MyFitnessPal is an utterly-outrageous offender if you're crazy enough to run it and so is this program called "flok" that does "checkins" for events and groups.

Some of these apps will respect an "X" out of the task manager, but not all.  WalMart's offends in this regard; you have to force-stop it.  And don't run it again, or it's baaaaack like a bad Freddy Kruger movie.

Then there's the grand-daddy of "screw yous" that I've found thus far in this regard, Charity Miles, that has managed to log over 15,000 location requests in under three days (the amount of time I've had my Priv) -- oh, and it proudly claims to be sponsored by Humana.  Gee, what would a health company want with a 24x7 tracking device?  Bluntly, what the everloving **** and oh, by the way, force-stopping this one does not shut it down.  That sort of crap ought to be considered a deceptive practice, spying and a criminal offense.

As just one small insult in the long line this offender perpetrated this is a snapshot during a couple of hour period this evening when the app was not in use, I was indoors enjoying an adult beverage and the app is continually hammering the hell out of location requests (probably because it can't get a GPS lock in a metal building!) while it is supposedly not running.

I'm willing to bet that if you have an Android device you have at least one and probably four or five apps on your phone right now that are running even though you think they're closed and they're sending your exact GPS location to within 30' up to that app's owner every five minutes or so, day and night.

That's right -- you have a piece of equipment in your pocket that is actively tracking and transmitting exactly where you are to third parties without your knowledge on a 24x7 basis, even when you are not using the so-called "service" that said apps are providing.  This data is being taken from you, it is being used, cataloged and sold.

DTEK, found on the BlackBerry Priv, instantly exposes who's doing this to you and on what time schedule.

And yes, you can interdict it.  You can stop it on an instance-by-instance basis right now, and if you get*****ed off enough about it you can uninstall the app, and you should.  The companies that are building these apps and distributing them ought to face a firestorm of*****ed-off consumers, invasion of privacy lawsuits and even worse, but a big part of the reason they don't is that I'll bet not one of you in 100 that is reading this knows it's going on to the degree that it is and you believe -- falsely -- that when you close an app it stops tracking.


Second, this practice has a murderously bad impact on battery life -- the GPS is one of the most power-hungry devices in your phone -- and you're paying for the cell transmissions (in your data bucket) on top of it!

If the fact that the Priv makes it utterly trivial to track this crap down and identify who's doing it doesn't scare those app authors and owners that are guilty of this, it should.  It could easily lead to an all-on consumer revolt, and it should.  WalMart's app managed to pull my location 1200 times in the space of 48 hours.  That's 25 times an hour on average!  No, it's not doing it any more, nor is so-called "Charity Miles" getting that data either.

Nor, for that matter, is my power and data bucket being abused by this crap.

Now you know why, if you're using an Android device, you want a Priv.  Yes, you "can" do this with other Android phones.  But it's a pain in the ass, on purpose, so you won't.  On IOS (Apple) you can't get a count of who's doing this at all.

BlackBerry makes it easy to identify the offenders and once you have what you do about it is up to you.

And that, my friends, is how it should be.

View this entry with comments (registration required to post)

Go read Part 1 if you haven't; I'll try not to walk over already-trodden ground.

Note that this is coming from a guy who has been a BB10 user since launch day on the Z10, and I like that OS a lot.  Not only is it very stable and functional it makes your life easier instead of more-complicated.  Yes, I understand the "app gap" thing, which is what drove BlackBerry to Android in the first place, but if it means losing your productivity enhancements it might be a bad trade for those who aren't all that interested in Netflix on our phones.

So how does the Priv stack up in this regard, and as a daily device?

First bit: The screen is very readable in full sunlight.  This is a surprise, and a pleasant one.  A lot of phones are not reasonably readable or are disgustingly blown-out (on purpose in an attempt to compensate) in that regard, including some very expensive competitors.  You will not see this in the store since the store is inside, but you'll discover it if you spend any material amount of time outdoors with your device.  The Priv strikes a nice balance.  There is only one complaint that I have, and that's that the ambient light sensor is a bit out of calibration and thus under certain lighting conditions if it changes a bit you get a visible intensity "breathe."  That can be corrected in the software and it's a quibble in any event.

When I go for a run in full sunlight and pull the phone out just before starting to turn on my music I don't have to shield the screen to be able to clearly read it.  The Passport also is capable of this; the Priv is at least as good and a perhaps a bit better.  Damn impressive for an OLED display.

Wireless charging is stable but slow.  Will it charge overnight?  Sure, if you sleep 8 hours.  If not and you really drained the battery hard (like into the 10% warning threshold) you're going to wake up less-than-full.  That's just wireless; it's inefficient.  On the other hand the QC2.0 charging is very fast.  I've always been a skeptic of the wireless charging thing but the implementation here is winning me over; not putting wear on that connector is a good thing overall. The wireless charger I have on my nightstand is here; I have one complaint with it and that's the fact that it's a bit light (the base could use more weighting) to keep it from sliding around, and the LED while small is annoyingly bright and blue when charging, which is horrible on your nightstand while sleeping.  The latter is easily fixed with a nicely-placed piece of address label over said LED shaded with a sharpie.

Battery drain on a screen-off, 4g and Wifi on, sitting phone is in the ~25ma range.  That's solid - in the Passport or better range -- and this is before "M"s power-saving deep sleep features.  Be aware that using "active" wallpaper more than quadruples idle power consumption. Don't do it unless you like running short on juice. Like most Android phones you're quite capable of blowing your own brains out if you try when it comes to battery life so you have to be somewhat intelligent about what you do.

The is no evidence of S/MIME email support anywhere.  BlackBerry, you need to add this -- it's important, and IOS is supporting it native.  You've got the Hub and the messaging built into it, so go ahead and do it.  Privacy means private email, and S/MIME is the standard for that.  Yes, I know I can load Ciphermail but that's a kludge and further requires that I expose a certificate beyond the system's store.  No thank you.  Gmail will never support this native; not only is it pointless if you use webmail but Google can't inspect and "market" to you based on your email contents if the message content is encrypted!  While BB10 "supports" S/MIME I put that in quotes because it's demonstrably broken for transmission in BB10, unless your target (other person) is either running BB10 or Outlook.  I've written articles on that in the past and there's no point in rehashing it here since it's specific to BB10.  If there is one glaring omission in the phone from a business and private email perspective it's here.

Performance remains outstanding in the general sense.  The screen is bright, color rendition is reasonably accurate and I find the curved edge to be very nice to the touch, not obtrusive, and it doesn't interfere with selecting things on the screen.  There is no -- and I do mean zero -- application lag; apps open and execute smoothly and consistently.  The CPU/GPU package is nicely-balanced with plenty of "oomph" for whatever you want to do.  Well done BlackBerry.

There are a couple of Android annoyances that really eat at me coming from BB10.  One of them is that there are certain functions, like attaching arbitrary files off the SD card to emails, that appear to be impossible. The issue is in the OS selector (that comes up on the left); it refuses to recognize cloud resources (like Dropbox) but does recognize Google Drive (go figure), and while it has an integrated view of photos (good) arbitrary files on the SD volume are not part of that (bad.)  It's not a general access problem with SD storage; music works fine, pictures store there, etc -- it's specific to the file picker.  This needs attention; it looks like the problem rests in the mount point for the SD card that many apps (like ES file explorer) don't know how to deal with; it's under sdcard1, while the main storage area is under sdcard0.  That's "normal" in the Android world but for an unknown reason ES demands a mountpoint for that card when it's a target of a copy and yet can't find it in the picker.  This looks like an Android bug rather than a BlackBerry one, but it needs fixed.

The Box app refuses to allow me to sign in; it says it cannot access the sign-in screen.  This is not a general cloud problem; Dropbox works fine.  It appears that the app itself is broken in some fashion.  Unlike BB10 where these were apps but more-or-less part of the operating system, there's nowhere really to complain.  That's annoying -- but again, it's Android, not really BlackBerry.

The means to get into the Android emergency screens is there.  VOL-UP + Power with the phone off (release as soon as the logo comes up) gets you the load point (Android on his back with a red triangle) but so far as I know there is no PC reload option as of yet (aka "Link" or an "Autoloader" in the BB10 world.)  Vol-Down + Power gets you into a mode that allows fastboot, but be very, very wary in there -- if you flash an unsigned image you're screwed until and unless there's a reload image available from BlackBerry!  The traditional "recovery" mode, which allows a factory reset (aka "wipe") is missing from that menu.

A bit of poking around with my virtual (hacker) screwdriver shows no obvious paths to obtaining root.  I'm loathe to attempting anything highly aggressive until there's a factory reload capability (e.g. like we have with BB10 via LINK) available because otherwise if you violate the root of trust the phone is a brick.  Until that can be recovered from you're risking having to ship it back for service, and right now there are no firmware loads available.  I'm reasonably certain that will change but until it does I'm not going to poke the Great White Shark in the mouth; I'm well-aware that it can and probably will bite me.

There is no way at present to turn off permissions, other than one -- wrap the app and re-install it.  That works of course but (1) you lose automatic updates and (2) you're technically pirating the app.  I won't go into how to it here, but it's not very hard if you're so inclined.  "M" will fix this, of course, but for now those are your choices.

But -- DTEK remains extremely useful.  Android typically will leave an app running but it should not normally be executing when it doesn't have focus -- that is, when it's not being displayed.  Yeah, so they say.  There are a lot of apps, however, that do -- and they keep hitting location information and reporting it.  One of the offenders is World of Beer's app, which will hit your location about every 5 minutes or so whenever the app is running, whether it has focus or not!

Needless to say not only is this a huge privacy problem it also burns the hell out of your battery.  DTEK exposes this sort of stupidity immediately, and there's a way to take care of it -- you hit the square and "X" out of the running app.  That won't stop the malicious apps that intentionally detach a service; if you catch an app doing that then your only option is to kill it with fire -- that is "uninstall."

If you think this is uncommon you're wrong.  I'm picking on World of Beer in this case because it's one of the worst offenders, and if you've got it loaded and open it you're asking not only for a privacy problem but a serious battery consumption problem too.  You may not care if WOB has all your location data through the day but I bet you do care that your battery life sucks!  Thank you very much, BlackBerry, for exposing the jackwads that kill your power, say much less the privacy implications.  While you can determine this stuff with other Android handsets BlackBerry's Priv is the only one that sticks a notification up for you if you ask it to and makes it both easy and "in your face".  If short if you care about being able to not only know what apps are doing to you but also why your battery is getting slayed you need the Priv, and you need it now.

Another aggravation is Android's as well, and again BlackBerry ought to address it in the Hub.  That is the lack of customized notification sounds and LED colors on a per-contact basis.  You can set custom ring tones (for phone calls) but not for SMS and other message-style notifications. This is one of those things that BB10 has and Android lacks, and let me tell you it sucks that it's missing.  It's missing on all the other Android phones too, but that's not an excuse; I'm coming from the BB10 world (although I formerly had Android) and this is one of the most-useful features in the BB10 universe.  Please bring it over BlackBerry!

The Hub's triage mode (that allows you to hit the bars on the top right and then just go down the list of messages, filing or deleting as you wish) is missing.  You can hold a date and mark read or delete all earlier, but the individual triage mode is missing.  Please bring that back BlackBerry!

The alarm clock has no function to add music tracks and the obvious one (sticking the file in the "Alarm" folder on the phone) doesn't work.  Again, this is something that BB10 does easily and BlackBerry could (and should) bring over.  Yes, I know there are third-party apps for this, but you shouldn't need one.  Speaking of the alarm clock you can get close to the "Bedside "mode BB10 has.  To do that set up contacts as "starred" you want to have priority (so they come through even when your phone is in night mode), then hit the volume down button before you go to bed and put notifications in priority mode "until the next alarm."  Then from the clock hit the overflow (three dots) and select "night mode"; you'll get the very-dim clock (white though, not red) and notifications will be off until the alarm goes off.  It's not quite as fast or easy as Bedside Mode but it's close, and it'll do.  You can also automate the clock coming up by telling the phone to "daydream" when on charge if you want.

Picture Password is present but it has no backup or override method (e.g. pin or alpha password) and this is a serious problem because you cannot use Picture Password if you load certificates.  As soon as you do that, as a result of the phone storing those certificates in a TCM (which is really good security-wise!) Picture Password is disabled.  Yet Picture Password is much more secure than a 4-digit PIN or conventional Android "pattern"; only a complex alpha numeric password wins over it.  To fix this BlackBerry needs to figure out how to use a Picture Password with a backup so it can be used with stored certificates.  Stored certificates are critical for VPN use.

Incidentally, StrongSwan (the app) works fine for IPSEC/IkeV2, subject to the above.  BB10 supports IPSEC/IKEv2 native; Android does not, but Android does support other, less-secure (but more-available) other forms of VPN in the native code.

The only application bug that I've found thus far is that the Camera has asked me several times if I want to store pictures and videos on the SD card.  Yes, I do, and yes, it should remember after being told once; the card has never been out of the phone, so there's no reason for it to ask again.

Thus ends Part 2 -- next up are photo and video analysis.  That will be a few days, as I want to collect representative samples from the Passport, Priv, my Canon 5d3 and Sony 4k video camera and process them all.  Getting coherent samples under identical conditions is not easy -- an attempt yesterday was thwarted by a cloud that changed the lighting between two of the shots, ruining the comparison. I will leave you with this as a preview: The Priv camera is not a 5d3 but it's much better than the Passport and compression artifacts are extremely well-controlled.

Stay tuned.

Ps: If you're wondering about mass, the handset is 190g according to my scale.  The Passport, by comparison, is 196.

Update: "Evolve SMS", in the Play Store, gives you back custom notifications for SMS and MMS.  It's not a whole loaf, but it's a partial one, and while it has in-app purchases it doesn't nag and you don't need to pay to get the essential additions.  It also integrates properly with The Hub.  Much nicer than Google's default messenger app.

View this entry with comments (registration required to post)

What to make of T-Mobile's newest gimmick, now known as "no data caps count on (some) video streaming"?

Two things.

First, video streaming on a phone is kinda silly; sure, there are applications for it, such as sitting in a hotel room or somewhere else that you have headphones and time to burn, and no decent WiFi connectivity.

But will it replace your home streaming?  Of course not.

There are those who will argue the restriction to SD level content is a big deal.  No, it's not -- at least not on a phone itself, where while you have a nice high-resolution display you can't tell the difference between SD and HD on that display.  It one becomes highly relevant if you start doing something like Chromecasting the output to your TV.

Is it a gimmick that will attract customers?  Probably yes, but then again T-Mobile has been doing that quite well of late provided you're a family of some size, with the best "deal" being if you're a family of four.

What about us folks who are not a family of four?  What about us single folks, for example?

You get a boot in the ass -- you wind up paying more than double for less.

Since I don't see a reason to care about streaming video on my phone, the MVNO option still makes more sense.  And while T-Mobile has recently deployed a fair bit of Band 12 (low-frequency) LTE, which has improved their footprint quite-materially if your phone is Band 12 capable (only very new models are), at $70/month for what I can have at $45 it's still a rip-off.

If and when T-Mobile decides that single people deserve a reasonable price -- say, $45, which is still materially higher than the per-line price for a "family plan" -- I'd be interested in coming back to them as a carrier.

But not at $70/month the value proposition is simply not there for individuals.

As for the impact on the company T-Mobile has to figure out how to hit its numbers while attracting a mix of customers that are all family plan signups.  I don't think they can do it, and the market is likely to punish what looks an awful lot like "We'll lose a little on each sale but make it up in volume."

There was a company called Microport that tried that same strategy back in the 80s.  Note the operative word in that sentence: Was.

View this entry with comments (registration required to post)

Main Navigation
MUST-READ Selection:
Really, Let's Cut the Crap Eh?

Full-Text Search & Archives
Archive Access

Legal Disclaimer

The content on this site is provided without any warranty, express or implied. All opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and may contain errors or omissions.


The author may have a position in any company or security mentioned herein. Actions you undertake as a consequence of any analysis, opinion or advertisement on this site are your sole responsibility.

Market charts, when present, used with permission of TD Ameritrade/ThinkOrSwim Inc. Neither TD Ameritrade or ThinkOrSwim have reviewed, approved or disapproved any content herein.

The Market Ticker content may be reproduced or excerpted online for non-commercial purposes provided full attribution is given and the original article source is linked to. Please contact Karl Denninger for reprint permission in other media or for commercial use.

Submissions or tips on matters of economic or political interest may be sent "over the transom" to The Editor at any time. To be considered for publication your submission must include full and correct contact information and be related to an economic or political matter of the day. All submissions become the property of The Market Ticker.