Apple Maps Data Sources

The Apple Maps fiasco on iOS 6 needs no introduction, but it’s of interest to note that the data sources that Apple pulls map data from differ not only based on the location being viewed, but also based on where the user is viewing the data from (I don’t know how widely known this is). For example, when I’m in Hong Kong, I get data from an unknown source, but when I’m in China, I get data for the entire world provided by AutoNavi.

Ironically, the maps I get for Hong Kong are better when viewed from China than when viewed from Hong Kong itself!

Here are a few comparison shots (left side view from China/right side view from Hong Kong):

Official iPhone 2.1.1 OS retains 2G unlock

I just upgraded Zainab’s iPhone 2G (purchased from an Apple Store in the US) today from OS version 2.1 to 2.2.1. Originally this iPhone was unlocked using iJailBreak on 1.1.4 and then was jailbroken/unlocked on 2.0/2.1 using PwnageTool.

The instructions I read were to upgrade to 2.2.1 using iTunes and then run QuickPwn to jailbreak/unlock the iPhone 2G. Interestingly, after I upgraded to 2.2.1 using iTunes (without any custom IPSW – downloaded the release from Apple) the phone upgrade went without a hitch and the iPhone remained unlocked after the upgrade. That was a surprise.

Of course the phone is not jailbroken but I have no interest in that and it seems that once an iPhone 2G is unlocked there are at least some circumstances where it will remain so after a normal upgrade using the official IPSW.

So right now she’s using an iPhone 2.G with 2.2.1 OS without any jailbreaks or custom hacks, but with a non AT&T SIM. That’s from my POV ideal and a pleasant surprise.

Officially Unlocked iPhones in Hong Kong

Is Hong Kong the first market in the world to get an iPhone 3G which is both officially unlocked at the time of purchase and not tied to a carrier plan? According to the Apple HK iPhone store page, quite possibly:

iPhone 3G purchased at the Apple Online Store can be activated with any wireless carrier. Simply insert the SIM from your current phone into iPhone 3G and connect to iTunes 8 to complete activation.

They’re not cheap though. The 8GB phone costs HK$5400 (approx US$700) and the 16GB is HK$6200 (approx US$800).

iPhone 2.0.2 Update and 3G Reception

There are a lot of reports out there that Apple’s 2.0.2 OS update for the iPhone fixes reception issues with 3G. Now I don’t know whether the issues are hardware, firmware, or software related (maybe all?), but I do know that the 2.0.2 update does not do anything to fix them, at least not for me here in Hong Kong.

In a city that has mobile coverage everywhere, including on underground trains, the iPhone sometimes shows 1 bar only for network strength in downtown Hong Kong, where most other phones show full signal strength. In areas where other phones have no problems getting reception, iPhone can show “No Service”.

I hope that iPhone OS 2.1 has a solution for these problems. The iPhone is a great computer, but it is lacking as a reliable mobile phone.

Is Apple Wireless Friendly?

With the great success of the iPhone and iPod Touch, you’d think Apple would be sitting pretty as the king of wireless networking. Plus, Apple has a reputation for making relatively complicated tasks more user friendly by having more streamlined UI than the competition.

However, my experience with Apple’s networking products has been pretty disappointing. Not because they don’t work well (they do), but because they are the most confusing and user-unfriendly wifi products I have used, ever.

My first foray into Apple’s wifi products was the Time Capsule. The idea behind this is excellent, to have NAS built into the router so that backup for Mac users is painless by just having to flip a switch to turn Time Machine on. Whether the user is plugged in or not, this still works behind the scenes, eliminating the biggest barrier to having regular users back up.

The idea is great; the implementation, well, not so smooth. Out of the box, the Time Capsule seemed to work okay, until I tried connecting via wifi. This didn’t work at all, no matter what I did. It would connect, and then drop, and I’d then have to reset the router and then rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. I found others on forums had the same problems, with no solution. In the end, this magically started working a few weeks later with a firmware update to 7.3.1. That’s nice, but you’d think that basic wireless connectivity would have been better tested before release.

Today I picked up an Airport Express so that I could extend the range of the network to cover our entire apartment. This device also shipped with what I would consider broken firmware, and I had to upgrade to 7.3.1 before it would do anything useful. It’s now working okay (I think), but only after about an hour of tinkering.

My main beef with Apple is that the documentation is so simple. When it works, it works great. When it doesn’t work, you just have to scratch your head and go to Google, because God forbid Apple have any useful troubleshooting resources online to scare the non-tech saavy users away.

One point which I find thoroughly confusing is that the Airport Express has an option to either participate in a WDS or to “Extend wireless network”. Both of these options appear to be variations of the same thing, but I can’t figure out what the difference is between the two of them. A lot of people are asking the same question.

After a lot of searching, I still don’t know what the difference is, except that maybe the option to “Extend wireless network” is sort of like WDS on steroids. However, I have no idea and there’s no information on this that I can find. Apple doesn’t explain this anywhere either, even though both the options are obviously different.

The most important question I have which is as yet unanswered is whether either of the two options supports seamless handover of clients between different access points on the same network.

Long story short: Apple wifi products work great once they’re configured. Good luck trying to get them configured correctly.