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Original author: 
Andrew Cunningham


The Galaxy S 4's display is a sizable step forward for PenTile AMOLED, according to DisplayMate's Raymond Soneira.

Florence Ion

We've already given you our subjective impressions of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 and its 1080p AMOLED display, but for those of you who hunger for quantitative data, Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate has given the phone an in-depth shakedown. Soneira compares the screen's brightness, contrast, color gamut, and power consumption to both the Galaxy S III (which also uses an AMOLED display) and the IPS panel in the iPhone 5. What he found was that Samsung's AMOLED technology is still fighting against some of its inherent weaknesses, but it has made great strides forward even since the Galaxy S III was released last year.

To recap: both the S III and S 4 use PenTile AMOLED screens, which use a slightly different pixel arrangement than traditional LCD screens. A pixel in a standard LCD panel has one red, one green, and one blue stripe; PenTile uses alternating red-green-blue-green subpixels, taking advantage of the eye's sensitivity to green to display the same image using fewer total subpixels. These screens cost less to manufacture but can have issues with color accuracy and text crispness. The backlight for each type of display is also different—white LEDs behind the iPhone's display shine through the red, green, and blue subpixels to create an image, while the AMOLED subpixels are self-lit. This has implications for brightness, contrast, and power consumption.


A close-up shot of PenTile AMOLED in the Nexus One, when the tech was much less mature. Luke Hutchinson

We'll try to boil Soneira's findings down to their essence. One of the S 4's benefits over its predecessor is (obviously) its pixel density, which at 441 ppi is considerably higher than either its predecessor or the iPhone 5. Soneira says that this helps it to overcome the imbalance between PenTile's green subpixels and its less numerous red and blue ones, which all but banishes PenTile's "fuzzy text" issues:

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Original author: 
Andrew Cunningham

Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

Welcome back to our three-part series on touchscreen technology. Last time, Florence Ion walked you through the technology's past, from the invention of the first touchscreens in the 1960s all the way up through the mid-2000s. During this period, different versions of the technology appeared in everything from PCs to early cell phones to personal digital assistants like Apple's Newton and the Palm Pilot. But all of these gadgets proved to be little more than a tease, a prelude to the main event. In this second part in our series, we'll be talking about touchscreens in the here-and-now.

When you think about touchscreens today, you probably think about smartphones and tablets, and for good reason. The 2007 introduction of the iPhone kicked off a transformation that turned a couple of niche products—smartphones and tablets—into billion-dollar industries. The current fierce competition from software like Android and Windows Phone (as well as hardware makers like Samsung and a host of others) means that new products are being introduced at a frantic pace.

The screens themselves are just one of the driving forces that makes these devices possible (and successful). Ever-smaller, ever-faster chips allow a phone to do things only a heavy-duty desktop could do just a decade or so ago, something we've discussed in detail elsewhere. The software that powers these devices is more important, though. Where older tablets and PDAs required a stylus or interaction with a cramped physical keyboard or trackball to use, mobile software has adapted to be better suited to humans' native pointing device—the larger, clumsier, but much more convenient finger.

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iPhoneDevSDK—the site apparently responsible for the hacks at Facebook, Apple, and Twitter—says it was not aware it was being used to attack visitors until it read press reports this week. In a news post (do not click if you're wary of security breaches) on Wednesday, site admins said they had no knowledge of the breach and were not contacted by any of the affected companies. Though, iPhoneDevSDK is now working with Facebook's security team in order to share information about what happened.

"We were alerted through the press, via an AllThingsD article, which cited Facebook. Prior to this article, we had no knowledge of this breach and hadn't been contacted by Facebook, any other company, or any law enforcement about the potential breach," wrote iPhoneDevSDK admin iseff.

"What we've learned is that it appears a single administrator account was compromised. The hackers used this account to modify our theme and inject JavaScript into our site. That JavaScript appears to have used a sophisticated, previously unknown exploit to hack into certain user's computers," he went on. "We're still trying to determine the exploit's exact timeline and details, but it appears as though it was ended (by the hacker) on January 30, 2013."

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Aurich Lawson

Apple may be planning to add 2D fingerprint sensors to a future version of the iPhone, according to details revealed in a recent Securities & Exchange Commission filing. The PREM14A document (hat tip to TNW) was filed as a result of Apple's buyout of security chip firm AuthenTec, and it reveals more details about the agreement between the two companies, as well as hints about Apple's future engineering plans.

The SEC document reveals that Apple had been after biometric security company AuthenTec's unspecified "new technology" for almost a year ("late 2011") before it decided to go ahead and buy the company in July. At the time, AuthenTec had been approaching a number of consumer electronics companies—Apple included—to try to sell licenses for its unspecified technology. Apple was apparently the only company to try to move forward with an agreement—cost seemingly deterred others—but negotiations ended up falling apart in early 2012. That's when Apple began entertaining the idea of a buyout, offering AuthenTec $7 per share, for a total of $356 million.

According to the document, Apple tried to woo AuthenTec by arguing that its offer would allow the company to develop technology for just one platform instead of many.

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Jobs considers the impact his ouster from Apple had on his feelings in 1985. "I hired the wrong guy. [John Sculley] destroyed everything I spent 10 years working for."

In 1995, Steve Jobs gave a rare interview to Robert Cringely for a PBS special called Triumph of the Nerds to talk about the genesis of the personal computer. Most of the hour-long interview had been cut down to a few minutes to use for the three-part special, and the original master tape was thought to have been lost after production. Shortly after Jobs' death in October 2011, however, director Paul Sen found a VHS copy of the entire interview in his garage. Cringely and Sen worked to clean up the footage and presented "The Lost Interview" in a handful of art house theaters across the country. Magnolia Pictures eventually picked up the remastered footage for wider release, and made it available via iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand this week.

During the interview, Jobs was "at his charismatic best—witty, outspoken, visionary," according to Cringely. Jobs certainly wasn't pulling any punches, blaming Apple's poor performance in the mid-'90s on then-CEO John Sculley's mismanagement, the mediocrity of computing on Microsoft's lack of taste, and a glut of poorly designed consumer gadgets on companies overrun by "sales and marketing people."

To place the interview in context, it was taken about a year or so before Apple bought NeXT for its NextStep operating system, which became the basis for Mac OS X and later iOS. The acquisition also brought its estranged co-founder back to lead the company from near-bankruptcy to soaring profits and market share, with Apple becoming a leader in portable music players, notebook computers, smartphones, and tablets.

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The 2012 Modbook Pro

"Finger painting is fun when you're five years old. But when you start getting into it, you're going to pick up a pen." That's the philosophy of Andreas Haas, creator of the Modbook and the newly minted CEO of Modbook Inc, on why users would choose a Modbook over an iPad. Modbook Inc. is technically a new company, but you have probably heard the name before—the Modbook, a MacBook transmogrified into tablet form with a pen and drawing tablet built into the display, was sold through Haas' previous company, Axiotron from 2008 until about 2010. At that time, the company and its Modbook products largely fell off the radar, and most users assumed it was due to the then-new iPad that had made its debut in early 2010. But that was not the case, according to Haas, who has now come out of hiding in order to reintroduce the world to his creation.

"When I started Axiotron, we had a great team and the company was fine. We had a great run until we went public—two weeks later, Lehman Brothers went belly up and took us down along with the financial system. Access to capital was a huge problem," Haas told Ars. "In order for me to continue on my vision of creating a tablet computer for the creative industry, the only way to do it was to create a new company."

Indeed, we had spent nearly two years trying to dig into what was going on at Axiotron. Aside from the "iPad killed the Modbook" theory, we had begun to hear rumors that Axiotron had run into legal issues—possibly even with Apple. But those rumors were completely false, contends Haas. He says that he and Modbook have always had a healthy relationship with Apple, and that there were no legal issues involved in the company's two-year stumbling block. "As soon as the ModBook came out, Apple came to us and asked us to become a proprietary solution provider," he said. "That didn't end up working out, but we were moved to a developer contract. We are now an Apple 'developer' and we have a great working relationship."

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Apple's prized product designer Jonathan ("Jony") Ive is a constant source of fascination among the press—doubly so after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Though Ive appears with relative frequency in news articles and documentaries, interest in his design philosophy has never let up. Perhaps that is because Ive has always spoken in an abstract, philosophical sense about the way he approaches design, which only seems to perpetuate the mystery surrounding one of Apple's core talents. In an extensive two-part interview published in UK newspaper The Telegraph on Wednesday, Ive discussed some of his product approaches as well as his attitudes toward design failures, Apple's performance under newly minted CEO Tim Cook, and more. The interview itself is worth reading, but we took interest in a few highlights from throughout his discussion with The Telegraph. Among them:

  • Contrary to popular belief, Ive says the iPad 2's design was not inspired by the making of a samurai sword. Rumor after the iPad 2's launch in 2011 was that Ive had traveled to Japan to watch the process of creating such a sword, which then translated to the "razor edge" of the iPad 2, but Ive insists this is just lore.
  • Don't like the stitched leather UI on a number of Apple's iOS and Lion applications, like Find My Friends, Maps, and iCal? It seems that Ive doesn't either—The Telegraph claims Ive "winced" when asked about the stitched leather, but gave a diplomatic response: "My focus is very much working with the other teams on the product ideas and then developing the hardware and so that's our focus and that's our responsibility. In terms of those elements you're talking about, I'm not really connected to that."
  • Ive says he thinks the products he's currently working on are the "most important and the best work we've done." This seems to fall along the company line of always hinting at the next big thing, but Ive heavily implies that some of Apple's unreleased products are truly his best work. "[W]hich of course I can't tell you about."
  • Ive acknowledges that not all of his designs are successful, but most of them remain behind closed doors. Still, it's hard for him to part with a product design once the team decides the product just isn't going to work. "[T]here have been times when we've been working on a program and when we are at a very mature stage and we do have solutions and you have that sinking feeling because you're trying to articulate the values to yourself and to others just a little bit too loudly," he said. "And you have that sinking feeling that the fact that you are having to articulate the value and persuade other people is probably indicative of the fact that actually it's not good enough. On a number of occasions we've actually all been honest with ourselves and said 'you know, this isn't good enough, we need to stop'. And that's very difficult."
  • On Tim Cook's potential "failures" as a CEO compared to Steve Jobs, Ive strongly believes that won't happen. "We're developing products in exactly the same way that we were two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. It's not that there are a few of us working in the same way: there is a large group of us working in the same way," he said.

Ive, who has been knighted before the UK for his various achievements, was knighted once again on Wednesday for his services in design and enterprise.

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