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Budget 2022 earmarks $20 million for NZ software

New Zealand’s 2022 Budget includes $20 million that will be spent over the next four years on supporting our technology sector.

The money will go towards two projects that are part of the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan. The government worked with industry to develop the plan which aims to boost export revenue and create better paid jobs.

In his official statement Minister for Digital Economy and Communications David Clark says:

“We will support the growth of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Community and take ‘New Zealand’s Tech and Innovation Story’, a marketing initiative led by industry in partnership with government, to the world.”

New Zealand tech sector economic contribution

The minister’s statement says the digital technologies sector contributed $7.4 billion to the economy in 2020.

This number puts the $20 million earmarked in the budget into perspective.

You might expect an industry capable of generating $7.4 billion in a year to find its own $5 million to pay for promotion and marketing initiatives.

And you’d be right.

Yet the government wants to push the sector towards its goal of shifting our export industries away from carbon emissions and towards creating many more new high income jobs.

It gets to decide how the budget money is spent.

100% Pure Technology

Part of the money will brand New Zealand as a player in the more dynamic parts of the technology industry.

While there’s no doubt every other rich nation plans to do the same, there are reasons to be optimistic. This country has a solid history when it comes to building New Zealand’s brand.

We’ve done it with food and wine exports, with tourism. Putting New Zealand on the technology map is no different. Overseas technology companies see New Zealand as a place to buy expertise.

Addressing the skills will need a lot more spending over time, but there is money in the budget allocation for this.

The minister’s statement says: “…It will also support the delivery of short courses for digital skills development.

“We know for the digital sector to grow, it needs access to the right people. Historically, there has been a skills mismatch, but the key to future success is training our domestic talent with the right skills, and encouraging New Zealanders to participate, whatever their background.”

The Download Weekly – Vodafone FibreX back in court

Vodafone and the Commerce Commission head back to court over FibreX in a week the TCF issues broadband marketing codes that should avoid similar problems in the future. 

FibreX record fine not enough for Commerce Commission

The Commerce Commission has appealed the $2.25 million fine imposed on Vodafone for its misleading FibreX advertising campaign. It originally called for a $5.8 million fine.

Although the fine is a record for a Fair Trading Act office, the Commission says it is not punishment enough and won’t discourage others from similar conduct.

Anna Rawlings who chairs the Commission also says the fine does not appropriately reflect the seriousness of the offending nor does it reflect Vodafone’s financial resources.

Wilful conduct

The Commission argues Vodafone’s conduct was wilful, not an act of carelessness and it made the company a lot of money.

To support its case, the Commission plans to ask the court to take another look at evidence submitted by the consumers who suffered as a result of Vodafone’s action.

Among other specific offences, Vodafone offered consumers an online tool to let them know what broadband options are available at their home address.

The tool was designed to suggest that Vodafone’s FibreX service was the only broadband option at an address when that was clearly not the case.

Deliberate confusion

Elsewhere Vodafone went to great lengths to confuse customers into thinking its HFC network was the same as the UFB fibre network which was in the process of being rolled out at that time.

Vodafone persisted with its misleading campaign even after being contacted and warned by the Commerce Commission.

Last year Vodafone was found guilty and sentenced for 18 charges under the Fair Trading Act. In 2018 the company pleaded guilty to nine of the charges. Then in 2021 it was found guilty of a further nine charges after a 14 day trial.

Vodafone has released a statement saying it will argue there are errors in the original conviction decision and that there are aspects of the decision that misunderstand the service. It says the decision is not in the best interest of consumers or competition.

Comment: Vodafone’s counter argument is weak.

There’s no question Vodafone’s FibreX promotion is one of the telecommunications sector’s worst Fair Trading Act offences in recent years.

The Commerce Commission is right to appeal the case. Its job is to protect consumers from predators.

Information in markets like telecommunications is asymmetric with consumers at the mercy of aggressive or misleading marketing of technologies they barely understand.

A reasonable fine

Given that, the $5.8 million fine originally sought by the Commerce Commission looks reasonable. The figure is a small fraction of the amount Vodafone made from misleading its customers.

Remember Vodafone was warned. Yet it persisted with its offending long after the branding was shown to be misleading.

Letting Vodafone off with a slapped wrist does nothing to send the message that deception is unacceptable.

Vodafone has a point

Vodafone has a point when it argues in its response that its HFC service is now hitting performance goals that can put it on a par with UFB fibre.

Yet that was not true at the time in question. In 2016 FibreX performance was a long way behind UFB.

Likewise, Vodafone could be on to something when it says HFC is not subject to fibre company price rises and that makes it good value for money. However, there’s no guarantee Vodafone won’t increase HFC prices in line with fibre.

Two arguments in favour of the HFC network do nothing to address the key point of the Commerce Commission case: Vodafone knowingly misled customers and went on misleading customers.

If Vodafone was sincere about its belief in healthy competition, it should accept it failed to meet that standard in the past and renew its focus on providing a quality service.


Broadband marketing codes ease consumer choice

Two new codes from the Telecommunications Forum should help broadband customers make better, more informed buying choices.

The TCF drew up the code at the requisition of the Commerce Commission which issued a series of guidelines on how broadband companies market their services.

The Copper and PSTN Transition Code covers the phasing out of copper lines. It works with the Commerce Commission’s Copper Withdrawal Code which sets out the rules Chorus must follow when removing copper services.

Clear information

Under the TCF’s code, retail telcos must set out clear information on the options available to consumers.

A separate Broadband Marketing Code is also about giving consumers clear information. Companies offering broadband plans must provide accurate and up-to-date information about the performance and technical limits of a service.

Telecommunications Forum CEO, Paul Brislen says: “As an industry, we’ve put in a huge amount of work to create a model for consumers that presents technical information in a clear and accurate way.”

“The new Broadband Marketing Code means customers will be fully informed of the changes to their service, the timeframes involved and exactly what their options are.”

Telcos can sign up to the code and have three months to make the changes to meet the requirements.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says he is encouraged by the industry’s positive response to his earlier call. He says the Commission will watch progress as part of its continuing market monitoring work.


Vodafone owner Infratil reports earnings lift

Infratil says Vodafone, the business it co-owns alongside Brookfield Asset Management, recorded improved earnings on flat revenue in the year to March 2022.

Revenues were much the same as the previous year: $1.97 billion as compared to $1.95 billion. The company saw gains in mobile, but these were offset by retreat in fixed line services. EBITDA for the year was $480 million compared with $437 million a year earlier.


Hawaiki cable acquisition completes

BW Digital says it has formally completed its acquisition of Hawaiki Submarine Cable Limited. The transaction was subject to regulatory filings and approvals, that’s all done.

Hawaiki founder Rémi Galasso is now CEO at BW Digital. He says the businesses next move it to capitalise on the assets and work on further projects in the region. This includes the Hawaiki Nui cable that will link Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand to the US.

In addition BW Digital is a partner with the Chilean Humboldt cable that will link Chile to ANZ.


Budget sets aside $20 million for tech sector growth

The government plans to $20 million over four years on its digital industry transformation plan.

David Clark, the minister for the digital economy and communications, says the money will go towards supporting the growth of the local software as a service sector.

It will also be used to fund a marketing initiative telling New Zealand’s technology story overseas.


West Tech aims to tackle digital divide

West Tech aims to put 1000 computers into the hands of students who don’t have their own hardware. The key lies in teaching primary age students how to recycle devices that are no longer used elsewhere. In many cases they would otherwise end up in landfill.

There is training for whanau who West Tech teaches to provide home support and show students how to make use of the hardware.

The project is run by Auckland Council’s Western Initiative along with Zeal, a youth development charity. Funding is provided by The Trusts, a community owned hospitality group.

West Tech says as many as 150,000 students do not have access to a home internet connection. Many of the are Maori, Pasifika, live in social housing or have disabilities.


Vodafone takes control of 52 retail stores

Vodafone has paid an undisclosed sum to private equity firm Millennium Corp for its 50 percent stake in Vodafone Retail. As part of the deal, more than 400 store workers will become Vodafone employees.

In 2019 Vodafone increased its share in the joint venture from 25 percent to 50 percent.

Jason Paris, Vodafone’s CEO says the 26-year partnership with Millennium was always set up with the potential to move the retail operation back into the main business. He says the acquisition is part of a broader programme to evolve the company’s “customer care” strategy.

Context

The shape of Vodafone as a retail telecommunications provider is changing fast. A year ago customer facing retail outlets were outside the main tent and, presumably, not regarded as a strategic asset.

On the other hand the network of mobile towers was seen as strategic. Today a stake in the mobile towers is for sale. It appears network infrastructure is no longer crucial to Vodafone’s ability to compete.


Thales: One in four Kiwi businesses breached in 2021

A quarter of New Zealand businesses experienced a data breach in 2021 according to the 2022 APAC Data Threat Report from Thales.

This compares favourably with almost one in three (32 percent) of companies in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet we are behind other nations when it comes to knowing where company data is stored. Thales reports one New Zealand IT leader in nine (11 percent) has complete knowledge of where their company’s data is stored. In the region 16 percent of respondents say they know where their data is stored.

Like other recent surveys Thales highlights the danger of ransomware. About half of all New Zealand companies say they have a formal plan to deal with ransomware while 40 percent have an additional budget to deal with the problem.


Government review ticks space activity law

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash released a government review of New Zealand’s space activity laws.

The review found the law has performed well without safety or security issues.

A 2019 report found the sector contributes $1.69 billion to the economy and supports 12,000 jobs.

Nash flagged a separate study on space policy is on its way later this year.


In other news…

At Stuff, Tom Pullar-Streck writes about a bullish NZTE report that says New Zealand can compete in cloud computing infrastructure. Electricity prices could be a problem, but renewable power and lower temperatures are a huge plus.

United Arab Emirates telco Etisalat is now Vodafone Group’s largest shareholder with close to ten percent of the business. Etisalat says it has no intention to make a take-over offer for Vodafone.

The Financial Markets Authority warns New Zealand investors have been in the sights of scammers offering shares in Starlink. The scammers claim to offer shares in an initial public offering.


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Southern Cross Next cable goes live in July

 

Engineers make final splice to Southern Cross Next cable-minJuly will see the Southern Cross Next submarine cable almost double New Zealand’s international data capacity.  

Southern Cross Next cable goes live in July

Telstra announced that the Southern Cross Next submarine cable linking New Zealand and Australia to the US will start operation on July 7.

The new cable expands New Zealand’s international data capacity by 72 Tbps. That means it comes close to doubling our existing capacity to the rest of the world.

Spark is the largest shareholder of Southern Cross Cables Limited, the company operating the existing Southern Cross cable and the next Next cable. Other shareholders include Telstra, which owns 25 percent, Singtel and Verizon.

The 15,900km Southern Cross Next cable runs from Sydney to Los Angeles with branching units connecting to New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati and Tokelau. It will be the first fibre connection linking Kiribati and Tokelau to the rest of the world.

At first the Next cable will act as the third cable in the Southern Cross network. It will give the capacity a huge boost adding 72 Tbps to the 20 Tbps on the existing Southern Cross cable. It will add a further layer of redundancy. Eventually it will form part of the replacement for the original Southern Cross cable. The plan is to retire the older cable by 2030.

Southern Cross says its new cable is the lowest latency connection from Australia to the US. It is a single span express cable and connects via the most direct route.

More submarine connectivity with ANZ-Chile cable

CommsDay reports that a planned submarine cable linking Australia and New Zealand to Chile has passed an important milestone with due diligence now underway. The US$400 million Humboldt cable will run for 14,810km from Valparaiso to Sydney with branches including one to New Zealand.


Vodafone promises better quality, more reliable calls

Vodafone has enabled Enhanced Voice Services (EVS, also known as HD+ calling) on its VoLTE and VoWiFi network. At present the technology only works with a handful of Samsung and Oppo phones.

The carrier says for consumers EVS means better voice quality and better call resilience when network conditions are less than ideal. This would include during extreme weather. Carriers get improved network capacity with the technology.

Vodafone says it has make other upgrades to its VoLTE calling with the average connection time now less than two seconds.


N4L gives Chatham Islands schools network upgrade

Network for Learning (N4L) says all three schools in the Chatham Islands have had a network upgrade. They now connect via the Rural Connectivity Group’s new 4G network which was recently established on the islands. N4L and RCG worked with Wireless Nation on the project.

Before the upgrade schools on the islands struggled with frequent outages due to their remote location and the robust local climate.

Now students and teachers in Kaingaroa School, Pitt Island School and Te One School have a more reliable internet connection and increased internet speeds.

Philip Graydon, Principal of Kaingaroa School says the internet is three times faster than before.

“Previously, about 30 percent of Zoom calls would fail and drop out. Since the install, no Zoom or Teams calls have failed.”


Spark Sport signs UEFA and motorsports deals

Spark Sport has picked up rights to stream coverage of the 2024 and 2028 UEFA European Football Championship. The tournament which sees nations compete in a tournament over the course of a month is widely known as “the Euros”.

Elsewhere in a busy week Sparks sport streaming business has cut a deal with Discovery as the free-to-air broadcaster for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). This will return to New Zealand from September 29 to October 2 later this year.

Head of Spark Sport, Jeff Latch, says: “It’s no secret the UEFA European Championship is one of the biggest football competitions in the world. Adding the 2024 and 2028 editions to Spark Sport’s existing football line-up, is great news for our subscribers.”

Spark Sport recently lost the rights to the English Premier League, which is the hottest football property, but still has rights to the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Europa Conference League, Manchester United TV (MUTV), Liverpool TV and the FA Women’s Super League.

For motorsport fans Spark Sport will be streaming the series “Pace Notes, the Road to Repco Rally New Zealand 2022”.


Infrastructure Commission sees broadband role tackling challenges

Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy. It says broadband and other tech can play a huge role helping the NZ infrastructure sector deal with rising sea levels and a shift to a low carbon economy. For more on this see Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy.


Adams to head Spark cloud business

Richard Adams is to take over immediately from Heather Graham as CEO of Spark’s CCL IT services business. Adams was previously the consumer channels lead at Spark and has been with the business for over a decade.


Vodafone’s Mooney on international trends

Richard Mooney, Vodafone’s chief strategy officer posted a handy five-minute read summary of his presentation to Tuanz on the international trends his company is watching.

While there is nothing unexpected here, he nearly ties up the loose ends with the big trends and shows us what his telco is thinking.

Continued data demand Data has been increasing at around 46 percent each year for a decade across mobile and fixed line networks. Mooney hints at busting the idea of net neutrality and getting the video companies who are now responsible for 80 percent of traffic to contribute to telco costs.

Hyperscalers It’s out of sight for everyday telecoms users, but in the background the largest cloud players are accounting for an ever increasing slice of the telecommunications cake.

Increased role of 5G Consumers, rightly, point out they see few benefits of 5G mobile networks, but away from handsets there is a lot going on, especially in business to business and machine to machine communications.


In other news…

The Australian Financial Review reports Spark and Vodafone are moving ahead on plans to sell their mobile tower networks. The AFR says Spark will keep a 30 percent stake in the towers and begin auctioning the remainder in June. It says Vodafone is expected to call for bids in the next week or two.

Mobile payments company Pushpay showed a 31 percent increase in customer numbers and a 13 percent rise in operating revenue in its 2022 annual result. The company’s EBITDAF (that’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and foreign currency gains or losses) came in on target at US$62.4 million. Net after tax profit was up seven percent on last year at US$33.4 million.

Strong revenue and customer growth didn’t stop Xero from making a $9 million loss in its 2022 financial year. The cloud accounting company passed the billion dollar a year milestone and increased customer numbers but also saw design and development expenses rise 49 percent.


The Download 2.0 is a free weekly wrap up of New Zealand telecommunications news stories published every Friday.

All it requires is an email address. Your address is only used to send out the newsletter. I won’t sell it to anyone.

I’m not collecting the data for anything other than sending out the newsletter. Your name isn’t going to be sold anywhere.

 

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Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy

Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa.

Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand.

The document pins down the most pressing issues facing the nation and looks at what is needed to fix them.

Risks to infrastructure

Among other items it warns there is existing infrastructure at risk from rising sea levels and a need to increase electricity generation to meet net zero carbon goals.

Te Waihanga notes that technology can do much to improve the nations infrastructure. It says; “We need to accelerate the adoption and diffusion of technological and digital change.”

It helps that most of the technology needed to transform infrastructure is in place. The strategy document says there is little need for high-risk, cutting edge technology. There would be huge benefits from speeding up the adoption of existing technology.

The strategy says: “New Zealand is well-placed to leverage many of the advances in digital technology that have occurred in the past decade.”

High quality broadband network

“We’ve built a high-quality broadband network and have coverage that, while not universal, is widespread.

“Strong market competition in sectors such as energy and telecommunications has proven important in incentivising pockets of technological excellence.

“New Zealand is small and agile with a rich history of adopting new digital technologies with speed, dating back as far as 1985, when New Zealand was one of the first countries to adopt a national system of electronic fund transfers (known as Eftpos)”

Consultation

Te Waihanga consulted the public and interest groups before publishing its strategy.

The feedback on the role of technology suggests that the infrastructure industry has invested less than it might have done in digital technology because there was little pressure from its customers. The industry’s main customer is government.

Submitters told Te Waihanga there is a need for a national digital strategy and more leadership in this area from central government. The government is working on a strategy.

Incentives

The issue is not the lack of technology, but the speed of technology adoption. Te Waihanga wants to see this move faster and suggests there should be incentives for industry to adopt new technologies.

A key part of this is developing people’s skills and moving to an open system of infrastructure data. Standardisation and common data frameworks can also help.

Te Waihanga wants procurement to move from chasing the lowest cost towards seeking the highest value. It also wants government procurement to motivate more technology take-up.

There are legal and regulatory questions, especially in areas like privacy. And a focus on security is essential.

WiFi Calling lets you phone without a cell signal

Calling from homeIf you suffer from poor mobile reception, carriers have an answer: WiFi Calling.

Our house has never had the best cellular reception. It can be hit and miss. Sometimes calls drop out, other times the audio quality is poor. It’s variable there are days when the back deck is a dead spot on other days there’s no signal in the home office.

It has meant missed calls, misheard calls and dropouts at awkward moments.

That’s all in the past now we have WiFi calling. In effect WiFi Calling turns the home WiFi router into a tiny, local cell site.

What are the benefits of WiFi Calling?

It costs nothing, doesn’t require a new phone number and works seamlessly to the point that you don’t even need to think about using it.

The practical results are fewer missed calls or dropouts and better call quality. Engineers say it can extend your phone’s battery life as they no longer need to crank up the power to track down a weak cell signal.

Calls are safe when using a home or workplace WiFi connection. Mobile calls are encrypted end-to-end which means no-one can listen in although if security is important to you it is worth remembering that public WiFi are potentially risky.

What do I need to get WiFi Calling?

While you don’t need to do much to get WiFi calling, there are a few basic requirements.

First, you need to have a suitable phone. Almost every phone sold in the last two or three years should be able to handle WiFi calling. It even works on an eight year old iPhone 5S.

Your phone software needs to be up-to-date. There shouldn’t be a problem with this although some Android users may find their phone brand has not updated the software recently.

Second, you need to have a phone account with either 2degrees or Vodafone. Spark does not offer WiFi calling at the time of writing although it is on the way.

Third, you need to be near a suitable WiFi router. Not every router supports WiFi Calling, this is especially the case with open access WiFi hotspots.

What does WiFi Calling cost?

There’s no extra charge to use WiFi Calling in New Zealand. It’s almost free.

If you use it on a capped broadband connection, the data will count towards the cap. Mind you, voice calls sip data sparingly. Otherwise the calls you make and the txts you send count as part of your mobile plan. This means if you call overseas, you’ll pay for a toll call.

If you travel overseas you will find a call made using WiFi Calling is charged as a domestic New Zealand call. You may get hit with other charges, but you can turn mobile reception off and leave WiFi on to save money.

Pages 12: Apple’s excellent free word processor

Apple Pages 12 word processor

If you use a Mac or an iPad, Apple’s Pages 12 could be the only word processor you need. It’s free, easy to master and, unless you are a lawyer or an academic it includes everything you are likely to need.

Pages 12 at a glance

For:Free, great for layout, all the features most people need.
Against:Native file format, fewer features than Microsoft Word.
Maybe:Collaboration with other iWorks users, iCloud app.
Verdict:Good looking, easy to use. Pages is great option for Apple users who don’t plan to do complex word processing
Rating:4.5 out of 5 – score is for Apple users.
Price:Free
Web:Apple Pages

You may already have Pages 12. Apple installs the software on new Mac computers. It doesn’t come preinstalled on new iPads or iPhones, but you can download it for free from the App Store.

There is a web version of Pages on iCloud that anyone can use, you don’t have to be an Apple customer. The web version works fine with Windows, ChromeOS or Android. You will need to sign up for a free iCloud account that comes with 5GB of storage.

Where iWork fits in the bigger picture

Pages 12 is part of iWork, Apple’s office productivity suite. It sits alongside Numbers, a spreadsheet and Keynote, a presentation app. The three are made to be used with each other and share many common ideas and controls. Learn to use one and you have learned them all.

For many Apple users Pages will be the only word processor you ever need. It integrates brilliantly across the various Apple devices and to iCloud. You can move from device to device and get the same user experience, Pages works much the same way everywhere.

The main alternatives to Pages are Microsoft Word, which is part of Microsoft Office and Google Docs which is part of GSuite.

Office and GSuite are not free, although there are free options. You may not find these free options enough for serious work. If you prefer free software there is LibreOffice.

Microsoft Office and LibreOffice offer more features, but many of these are not essential for everyday word-processing.

Is Pages as good as Microsoft Word?

The simple answer to this question is that it depends on what you want to do and who you work with.

Pages, Word and Google Docs each have a different central focus. Pages is all about putting words and pictures onto a printed or online page.

Its strength lies in layout.

You could produce an advertisement, a newsletter or a pamphlet faster with Pages than with, say, Microsoft Word and a layout app.

You might choose Pages as a low cost alternative to a professional design application like Adobe Indesign.

Compare Pages with Word

In comparison, Word has every conceivable word processor feature including many that you may never use. This makes it popular with large companies and professional users, such as lawyers.

It is a sprawling, complex comprehensive application. That makes it versatile, but it takes a long time to learn how to get the best from it. In comparison Pages is lighter and quicker to master.

Apple built Pages to work with its computers, tablets and phones. If you are familiar with these products, Pages will feel familiar. Microsoft developed Word for Windows computers. These days the Mac versions are far better than in the past, but there are times when that Windows heritage can confuse Mac users.

Is Pages better than Google Docs

Again, it depends what you want to do and who you work with.

Google Docs’s strength is in collaboration. Pages is great for collaboration if you only work with colleagues who use Macs. Otherwise it is not as good as Google Docs. Nor is Microsoft Word.

While Google Docs is good on a desktop or on a ChromeOS device, it is far from the best choice on a tablet or a phone. Google’s mobile apps are inferior to Pages or Microsoft Word. Pages works far better on Apple tablets and phones.

Likewise Pages is a long way ahead of Google Docs for layout and complex documents. In terms of features it sits between Google Docs and Word.

Using Pages 12

You can use Pages on multiple levels. Need to knock up a document fast? Pages can do this, it will guide you through adding typography and inserting images. You can power through the tasks in no time.

There are templates to help you get started. Pages has the best range of templates of any popular word processor and there are many more you can download from Apple and third parties.

When you first open Pages you’ll see a main window and a right-hand sidebar. This sidebar shows formatting and layout controls. If you want to focus on words, it is easy to hide the side-bar.

A second, optional left-hand sidebar can show comments and features like a table on contents.

Unlike other word processors, there isn’t a draft view. This can be annoying at first because, as the name suggests, Pages is organised around pages. And like every other word processor, that means it sees the world from a printed document perspective.

No matter what you are working on, there can be headers and footers to navigate, even if you plan to build a single online-only document.

Working with others

Pages can opening and write documents for other word processor formats but has its own native format. Some features, largely to do with layout, don’t necessarily make it when converting to other document formats. And nothing else reads native format Pages documents.

This isn’t much of a problem in practice as long as you remember which features don’t translate. You can’t send a native Pages document to a colleague using Microsoft Windows and expect them to open it. There is a workaround, but it involves them signing up for an iCloud account and opening the document in the online version of Pages.

Life is far easier if you remember to save your Pages document in Word before sending. You can choose to send as PDF, text or RTF. Don’t expect your formatting to stay unchanged if you make a round trip where a colleague edits and returns the document.

The software picks up almost everything from other formats. You could, say, open a Microsoft Word document that has review comments and mark-up, then work through these in Pages.

Pages collaboration works fine if you work on the same document as a colleague using either Pages or the web app.

Pages for Mac, iPhone, iPad

Pages for Mac works really well. Yet Pages can shine on an iPhone or iPad, especially if you use one of them with a Mac. You’ll see a simplified view of the app, but all the desktop features are there. You may have to dig around to find them.

On the iPhone you can use a screen view designed to make editing easier. It hides the images and fancy features allowing you to focus on the text.

Apple has a feature on its operating systems called Continuity. It means that if you have Bluetooth switched on and both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, you can move seamlessly from editing a Pages document on one device to another.

Another feature called Handoff means you can pick up on another device where you left off.

It feels like magic to work on a desktop document at home and continue to edit the same document on your iPhone while riding on a train or bus to work.

If Pages 12 has a weakness it is dealing with long documents. It’s fine if you are writing anything up to a few thousand words, say a long essay, magazine feature or book chapter. Things break down when documents get bigger than this.

Reviewer’s notes

  • The iPhone and iPad versions of Pages have a useful Presenter Mode which can turn your device into a teleprompter or autocue. Words appear in big text without any images or distractions and you can make it automatically scroll down.
  • A recent update adds support for Apple’s Shortcuts automation tool.
  • Pages has support for language translation on the fly.
  • You can use Apple’s Scribble software with Pages on an iPad. It works with the Apple Pencil to turn handwritten notes into typed text. This feature is powerful if you want to add text to a document while you are standing up.
  • Pages is a good option if you plan to produce Apple Books.

Pages 12 verdict

If you live and work exclusively with Apple devices Pages 12 is potentially the best word processor for your needs. There are simpler alternatives, Markdown editors are a good choice if you crave simplicity and minimalism. And there are more complex alternatives, Word had more features.

Yet for many users Pages 12 is a solid choice and it is free.


Apple Pages 5 review

This is an excerpt from an Apple Pages 5 review that was published July 8, 2014.

Many long-term Pages users were not impressed when Apple updated its iWork word processor from Pages ’09 to Pages 5 in late 2013.

People who invested time and effort learning and mastering the earlier Pages ’09 version of the software found key features were missing. If they had written scripts, many stopped working.

In time the features returned. Apple drip-fed updates restoring much of what was missing in the first version of Pages 5.

Pages: the name tells the story

Pages is not a standard word processor. The name is a giveaway. It is a page design tool first and a word processor second. It was first built to make works look pretty on the printed page. Later the focus shifted to creating good looking online documents.

It does this well. Pages is a low cost alternative to Adobe Indesign for people who need to make words and pictures look good, but who don’t need professional tools and don’t want to pay a lot for them.

It can deliver great looking designs. You don’t need to be an expert to get results.

As a word processor?

Apple talks about Pages as a word-processor. It is part of iWork along with the Numbers spreadsheet and the Keynote presentation manager.

Like it or not that puts it up against Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint or Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

Pages 5 does not feature collaboration tools like Google Docs. Nor does it have the heavy duty tools you’ll find in Microsoft Word. It’s more basic in these departments.

Writing space

You get a clean writing space and easy access to the controls needed for adding styles. It’s productive and trouble free.

You can work with documents that come from Word or Google Docs and you can send Pages documents back to these apps. You’ll even see many of the review marks from the other applications – although not all. There are few, if any, problems converting between document formats.

Tracking changes

It’s not the best tool for jobs where you need to track changes with clients, but it can cope.

Pages 5 is the best tool if you want to share and edit documents across a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad. There are apps for all three devices and they work much the same in each.

The big change in the move from Pages ’09 to Pages 5 is iCloud. You can choose to store documents on your Mac’s hard drive or to iCloud. This means you could start writing a document on an iPad at home. Pick up the document from iCloud on your phone while riding the train to work, then finish it off on your desktop Mac in your office.

Pages 5 verdict

Apple Pages 5 is free for Apple users. You can’t argue with the value. It is more than good enough for everyday writing jobs, can handle many, but not all, more difficult tasks and massively outperforms Word or Google Docs if you need to create a good looking layout.

If you are committed to Microsoft Word or Google Docs you may not want to switch, but the option is there should you need it.