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February 07 2018

04:46

Would You Subscribe to Apple Hardware?

A few days ago, Christopher Mims of the Wall Street Journal wrote a very interesting article that poses an even more interesting question- Would you sign up for a yearly subscription for Apple hardware?

His premise is that such a service would be the best move for Apple going forward. Rather than depending on a string of hardware hits scattered throughout the year to keep profits rolling in, thereby slowly feeding Apple’s growing Services business, he proposes that a subscription package would smooth out the peaks and valleys and give Apple a more reliable and predictable revenue stream. It certainly makes sense on the surface. With the smartphone market saturated, the tablet market somewhere between steady and shrinking, and uncertainty as to how the wearables market will ultimately play out, Services certainly looks like the safer horse to back.

In much the same way that Amazon uses the hooks of Prime to get people to buy more stuff from them, an Apple hardware subscription program could potentially light a huge fire under their various Services. You can already see a bit of this with the iPhone Upgrade Program, which has the added bonus of AppleCare+ bundled in at a reduced price and now gives subscribers a tiny bit of a jump on the rest of the preorder line. Add in more hardware and include some base-level versions of Services like iCloud and Apple Music in the deal, and Apple would really have something.

Giving Apple fans direct access to more of their hardware in a way that is easy to budget for would likely be a big hit. In turn, more users who feel like they are a saving some money in the deal will be more likely to spend a little of it to upgrade Services that might be included, or add in others that are optional. You have a feedback loop that works in the opposite direction right now, with hardware sales and ecosystem adoption feeding Apple’s Services. By making Services the priority and hardware the hook, Apple could stand to make just as much, if not more money, and do so in a steady and more predictable way. Apple shareholders and analysts would LOVE this.

So if Apple rolled out a program tomorrow that included a yearly updated iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch for a flat, monthly fee, would you buy it? As for myself, I am already using the iPhone Upgrade Plan, and when the Apple Watch went Cellular last year, I actually suggested that Apple set up a separate Upgrade Plan for it. However, Mims’ suggestion in the article is far more comprehensive, and would really encourage and even reward users for going deeper into Apple’s ecosystem.

I can say that thinking about how this would work and whether I would do it is very interesting. I am pretty sure I would jump at the chance to get all of Apple’s mobile hardware delivered this way. I don’t think I would even hesitate to go that route. However, I could also see a program like this getting me to consider going further. I have never been a Mac user, but the right price just might turn me, at least when it comes to home computing.

Even writing for an Apple site, I have never strongly considered buying a Mac for what they cost before, so the fact that this program got me to consider that as a potential benefit is intriguing. I think there are a LOT of Apple users who aren’t fully invested into the Apple ecosystem who could get hooked in much the same way. Think about that. What is the next step? The more Apple hardware that you have, the more other Apple products outside of the subscription service you would be likely to buy. The more Apple hardware that you have, the more you are encouraged to subscribe to even more of their Services. That could be a powerful feedback loop.

What about you? Would you sign up for such a program if Apple rolled it out? If so, what hardware would you want to see included beyond the iPhone? What Services should be bundled with such a subscription, and at what levels? If you are on the fence, is there something that would tip the scales in favor of you getting on board? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | One comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Apple Watch, iPad, iphone, Mac

03:28

Deals: TAMO Charge-N-Glow MFi-Certified Lightning Cable

Who knew charging can be fun? Well, with the Charge-N-Glow MFi-Certified Lightning Cable from TAMO, it can be. This MFi cable lights up anytime that it is plugged into a wall outlet, and the responsive LEDs blink faster when the cable is plugged into an iOS device.

Our Deals site is offering the TAMO Charge-N-Glow MFi-Certified Lightning Cable for $18.99. This is 29% off the normal retail price of $26.99. Don’t miss out on the most fun you can have charging your phone.


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: deals, Lightning Cable

February 05 2018

19:29

Apple Still Far Out in Front When it Comes to Tablets

According to the latest numbers from IDC, the iPad is maintaining the forward momentum that Apple kicked off with the release of the lower-cost iPad early last year. Apple is at the top of the tablet heap with around 26% market share worldwide.

That may not sound like much, but it is still more than the next two competitors (Samsung at 15.2% and Amazon at 10.2%), combined.

You have to consider that most of Amazon’s tablets that are sold are of the 7″ or 8″ dirt cheap variety, and they they use bargain pricing and aggressive marketing to bring in impulse buyers. The situation isn’t much different with Samsung, even though they do have legitimate high-end models available. The fact that Apple still has such a commanding lead selling hardware that costs 7 to 20 times what their primary competitors are selling is surprising to me.

Despite this, it is definitely worth noting that Amazon overtook Samsung for second place in tablet market share in the 4th Quarter of 2017.

Considering how different Apple and Amazon’s devices and target markets are, I think this is more bad news for Samsung than for Apple. Even if Amazon were to overtake Apple in tablet market share at some point, there is no way they would cut into Apple’s profits unless they changed everything about their current hardware and marketing. As it stands right now, they are chasing different customers and selling very different devices with different purposes. However, this is starting to look like the end of any hope for Samsung, which makes both low and high end tablets, to be competitive in either market.

The other interesting fact that came out of the IDC report is that the tablet market as a whole is struggling pretty badly. Tablet shipments have now declined overall for a whopping 13 straight quarters. Apple is still holding steady and still growing a little (3% year over year), but that’s ok with their high-end hardware and high profit margins. However, other than Amazon and Huawei, no one else is growing. In fact, everyone else, including Samsung, is in decline.

It will be interesting to see if Apple will be able to continue to keep up their recent forward momentum in 2018. This may depend on whether we see new hardware, and if so, when it comes. No matter what, as with the Apple Watch and the Smartwatch market, the tablet market still belongs to Apple for the foreseeable future. The only real race right now is for a distant second place.


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: iPad, iPad market share, tablet

00:46

Apple Slices: Bite-sized Apple News of the Week

It’s been an up and down week for Apple

It’s been a week of highs and lows for Apple with some good news, some not so good, and other stories that seem to go either way depending on who’s doing the reporting. Let’s get into some of the highlights.

8 Years of the iPad!

Technically this was eight days ago, but such a momentous occasion is still worth mentioning and celebrating, especially for a site that was founded to cover Apple’s category-defining tablet. On January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs took the stage and announced something that everyone expected- the iPad. However, it didn’t go exactly how they expected. The tech media consensus that it would be nothing more than an oversized iPod Touch faded as the sales quickly increased and the iPad-specific apps started to roll in.

Jobs also had one big trick up his sleeve that no one expected- the price. Based on the rumored size and included technology, as well as Apple’s reputation for high markups, everyone legitimately expected a starting price tag upward of $750. When Jobs said $499, it made waves. That price ended up being critical to the iPad’s early success.

It’s hard to believe how far the iPad platform has come in just 8 years, especially with the updates we just got last year with iOS 11. It all goes back to Steve Jobs’ last major new product rollout in 2010.

The iPhone X is a bit of a scratch magnet

A growing number of users are reporting fine scratches appearing on their iPhone X screens. This has been building slowly for a bit, but it hit the tech mainstream this week, and there are plenty of Apple bloggers and tech writers confirming that they are also experiencing this problem. One good account to check out comes from Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo.

I haven’t had an issue with this yet, but I have had a tempered glass protector on mine since the day I got it. I do this with all my iPhones, so this isn’t an exception. However, if you don’t want to use a protector, you shouldn’t have to just to keep scratches at bay. Past iPhones have generally been pretty good in terms of scratch resistance, but as we all know, the iPhone X is a completely new design with a new screen and glass.

This is not the first time something like this has happened with a new iPhone design. If you recall, the original Black iPhone 5 finish chipped and scratched badly for most users a few months into ownership. Because of this issues, Apple moved away from Black anodization to good old Space Gray, which worked much better. I am sure they will get this issue sorted out for generation 2 of this iPhone design, as well.

If you are experiencing this issue, I would recommend waiting until the screen has enough scratches visible that it is difficult to deal with beyond just the negative effect on the cosmetics of the device, and then take it back to a local Apple Store (or call Apple if a Store isn’t close at hand). Apple was pretty good about replacing iPhone 5s that were effected by scratches. I am betting that they will do the same for X users who complain about excessive scratching, and they absolutely should.

Some iPhone X users affected by an incoming call bug

Apple is investigating user complaints that they are not able to answer incoming calls with their iPhone Xs. According to a report from the Financial Times, the affected phones do not show the incoming call animation immediately after the phone starts to ring. It can be up to ten seconds before the call does show up, and which point it is usually missed or goes to voicemail.

This bug is not affecting all iPhone Xs, and there is no word yet about specific versions of iOS 11 that may be more susceptible. If you are experiencing this problem, submit a report to Apple Support. The more data they have, the quicker they will get to the bottom of this one.

This iPhone X isn’t the only Apple device with issues this week. Some iPhone 7s and 7 Pluses are struggling with a cell modem bug

Apple is also looking into problems with the cell modems of some iPhone 7s and 7 Pluses. The affected phones do not pick up signal when coming out of Airplane Mode, even though cell signal is available. Right now, Apple recommends that users try restarting the phone, and if that doesn’t work, remove the SIM Card and re-insert it.

If these measures don’t work, time to take it to Apple or give them a call. According to this report from MacRumors, one of their readers got his iPhone swapped out because of the issue. Now they have also reported that Apple has launched an official repair program for this issue, meaning that affected users out of the warranty period will get free replacements devices.

iPhone sales actually dropped during the holidays?

How can that be, right? The iPhone X was supposed to set the world on fire and outsell everything else on Earth combined. Well, the bad news is that Apple did sell 1.3% fewer iPhones this year than last year. This is the first time iPhone sales have declined from one Holiday quarter to another, so that isn’t exactly a good thing.

All that said, this was the only real downside to Apple’s Q1 Earnings Report. The number of sales matters less when you sell phones that cost more. On that note….

Apple’s Q1 Earnings Report shows a record quarter and lots of good news

If you want the specifics, dive into the the details over at MacStories, as Federico Viticci always does an amazing job with such things. The basic rundown is that Apple made $88.3 billion, sold 77.3 million iPhones (combined), sold 13.2 million iPads, and sold $5.1 million Macs in the quarter.

Here are a few other highlights to note

  • Apple now has 1.3 billion iOS devices in service.
  • Apple now has 240 million paid subscribers for their various Services.
  • Apple Watch sales grew by 50% for the fourth consecutive quarter.
  • Wearables revenue is up 70% year over year.
  • Average Sale Price of the iPhone was $796, meaning that there were many iPhone Xs sold, driving up that average.
  • Apple made $8.5 billion from their Services, an area that continues to grow rapidly.

It was a huge quarter. There is no doubt about that. The rub is that Apple has had to revise guidance for revenue downward a bit for the next quarter.

Apple to switch the iPhone to all Intel baseband chips this year

Looks like there is yet another shot in the battle between Apple and Qualcomm. According to a report from 9to5Mac, KGI is reporting that Apple will move completely away from Qualcomm to Intel baseband chips this year.

I and many others were expecting Apple to maybe take over making baseband chips for the iPhone and iPad themselves. They have been bringing more of this work in-house as time goes on, but this report indicates that they may not be ready to make that step yet. Still, this move indicates that things with Qualcomm have soured to the point where Apple won’t wait about making a change.

Apple Music to overtake Spotify in paid subscribers in the US this summer

This one came as a big surprise to me, as Apple has been unable to close the total subscriber gap with Spotify over the last year when looking at worldwide numbers. They have largely kept pace, and they are still solidly in second place among streaming services. However, this report indicates that Apple Music is having a lot more success at home than abroad.

On the one hand, this is great news for Apple in the US. This has always been the company’s strongest market, so it isn’t a surprise that Apple Music is doing better here than elsewhere. However, it may also indicate that Apple faces a tough uphill battle going against Spotify overseas. Time will tell.

Apple hit its highest ever US smartphone market share

Apple’s iPhone now has 44% of the smartphone market share in the United States according to Counterpoint Research. This is up from 37% at last report. The other notable news to come out of this report was that the “super-premium smartphone segment,” a segment that Apple is currently dominating with the iPhone X, now makes up 25% of the US smartphone market.

Apple sold the most smartphones over the holiday season, and passed Samsung worldwide

More good news for Apple, as IDC reports that Apple passed Samsung in worldwide smartphone market share over the last quarter. While the supercycle may not be quite what some people were expecting, the iPhone is still doing just fine. While Apple sold 1.3% fewer phones in the last quarter year over year, they had the luxury of making more money with every iPhone X sale. It seems that Samsung sold even fewer phones, and also made the same or less per device.

I would expect that Apple and Samsung will continue to leapfrog each other in US and worldwide market share and device sales, but it is always encouraging to see that Apple is remaining competitive head to head.

That’s enough roller-coastering for this week. It was an up and down affair for Apple. Here’s hoping that this coming week’s HomePod launch will go FAR smoother. We shall see. Until then, have a great week!


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: apple earnings, Apple Slices. iPhone X, Apple Watch, Intel, iPad, qualcomm, Samsung, wearables

February 03 2018

22:35

My Pixelbook Experiment Was a Bit of a False Start

So I ended up returning the Pixelbook that I picked up to review and wrote about a couple of weeks ago. This was more of a false start than a failure, though. I hit day 14 (BestBuy’s last day to return) without being able to say if it was something I would be willing to part with $1000 for, or if I would even be able to take a small monetary hit to have it for a while and then sell it for less. The fact is, I just wasn’t able to spend as much time with the device as I had hoped, and couldn’t be sure about it. It’s better to safe than sorry in that case, but I can’t say that I won’t go back any try again later on.

Here are a few things that I did glean from my brief time with the device:

Google’s Pen is nice, but it doesn’t justify spending $99 extra dollars

One of the reasons that I went ahead and bought the Pixelbook was because BestBuy had a deal including a free Pen. I had tried it briefly in the store, so this $99 savings was definitely a selling point for me. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it clear that it didn’t come in the box, and the salesperson at the BestBuy I purchased from didn’t follow on-screen instructions to either give me one from stock or order one for me.

I was out of town when I purchased the Pixelbook (working out of town a lot lately is another reason I didn’t have time to spend on this device), so I waited until I got home and went to my local store. They were very helpful, and ordered one for me at no additional charge. Unfortunately, it didn’t come for a week, and by that time, I had very little time to try it out. However, in the little bit of time that I did, I saw that it is extremely limited in what it can do right now.

A perfect example of this is how few Android apps show up as compatible and recommended when you follow the link in the Pen Settings. Basically you have the built-in Google Keep (which is a customized version for the Pen and actually works well), a few different drawing apps, and some compatibility for highlighting and searching throughout the Chrome OS. That’s about it.

I will say that the Pen does work well in practice and feels good in the hand. Lines flow and writing on the screen is easy. I wouldn’t quite put it in the class with the Apple Pencil or Microsoft’s Surface Pen, but it is still very good as a drawing and writing tool. The Pen’s tight integration to Google Assistant also shows promise. However, it just doesn’t do enough besides these basic features. You also have the very familiar problem of nowhere to put the thing, as it isn’t magnetic and has no dedicated storage solution. Of course, Apple isn’t any better in this regard, but Microsoft and Samsung seem to have a good handle on how to do this well.

One other oddity is that Google went with a AAAA battery for power. If that sounds strange, that is because it is a smaller, non-standard battery. I didn’t have any issues in my short time with the stylus, but this is still a problem waiting to happen for users. These batteries are difficult to find outside of Amazon or your local Batteries Plus, so if you find yourself out of juice when trying to use this Pen, you are probably out of luck. I’m really not sure why Google didn’t go the rechargeable route here, but I would bet that the next version will ditch the user replaceable battery.

I imagine that Google will figure this all out in time for the Pixelbook’s follow-up. However, I would definitely pass on the Pen unless you are getting it for free or at a large discount based on how little you can do with it right now.

Still missing on some basics

While Chrome OS has come a long way, there are still enough gaps to remind me that it isn’t as far along as my iPad Pro. For all Google may want to intimate that the two are comparable products, they definitely aren’t. An iPad Pro with a good keyboard case isn’t much bigger and heavier, but is FAR more powerful.

Unless you live in the web (and some people do, primarily), there are going to be things that you cannot do on the Pixelbook without some major workarounds. Access to Android apps helps, and you can go the Remote Desktop route for some things, but I rarely have to do this my iPad at this point, and you likely wouldn’t have to at all with a Microsoft Surface. Once Google gets Android apps integrated to the point where they don’t feel “bolted on,” Chrome OS will feel more complete.

Not all bad by any stretch

The Pixelbook really is very good at the things it was designed to do, and that did make using the device very enjoyable for the most part. It was just when I came up against the gaps in functionality, such as not being able to use about 75% of the services at iCloud.com, which would have bridged some of the Apple gap for me. I’ll be honest- that was a big disappointment.

The fit and finish of the Pixelbook hardware is obviously very alluring. There is no doubt about that. The screen is great. The keyboard is first-class and is backlit. It feels very nice in the hand, no matter the configuration. The Pixelbook feels like a premium piece of kit in every respect.

It really comes down to cost

The problem at the end of the day is simple. The Pixelbook just doesn’t do enough to justify its $999 starting price tag. There just isn’t any getting around this for me, especially when I can go get a pen-enabled Samsung convertible Chromebook for exactly half the price. I’ve played around with that device at my local BestBuy, and it doesn’t come anywhere close to the Pixelbook in terms of hardware feel and design. However, since they are both somewhat limited in terms of the functionality of Chrome OS, it’s a lot easier to stomach parting with $550 than $1000.

Not closing the door

I cannot say that I won’t revisit the Pixelbook at some point down the road. I ended up keeping the Pen, as the BestBuy Customer Service Rep I returned the device to said the Pen was a free gift and didn’t need to be given back. I thought that was strange, but I didn’t argue. Since I still have the Pe , I honestly would be opposed to looking at a used, refurbished, or open box Pixelbook down the road. I would probably be very happy to spend $550 or less if the opportunity presented itself.

In the meantime, I may end up looking at the Samsung to get a better feel for the current version of Chrome OS. My local BestBuy has an open box model for around $350 or so, which is tempting. If I take the plunge again with either device, I will let you know, but for now at least, the Pixelbook experiment is over.


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Chrome OS, Chromebook, Google Pixelbook, iPad Pro, Microsoft Surface, Pixelbook

17:30

Apple Needs to Make Siri Great at Something

With the HomePod showing up on my doorstep next Friday, I’ve been doing some thinking about Siri lately. Why is the overall impression of Apple’s digital assistant so negative? There are recent surveys and tests showing it as being competitive with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana in some areas. There is real evidence that many “normal” users aren’t as dissatisfied with it as we in the tech community and the “Apple bubble” are. So what is the problem? Where is the disconnect?

Consistency is Key

I think the problem with the general perception of Siri is twofold. First, I have been begging for Apple to unify Siri across its platforms and make its feature set consistent from device to device. Unfortunately, not only has that not happened, but now we have yet another unique Siri implementation on the way that will be specific to the HomePod.

Users shouldn’t have to remember that Siri on Apple TV can only handle media requests and HomeKit, or that Siri on the Mac can save a list of previous responses, but can’t talk to HomeKit devices. Why can’t we get the saved Siri results from the Mac at least on the iPad? Now we have an intelligent speaker that won’t work for a lot of common Siri queries that we can perform on the iPhone we will use to set it up. Why Apple? Why? None of this makes any sense at all. All it takes is Siri not coming through or confusing a user a few times for them to give up on it and move on.

One positive is that I’m certainly not the only one talking about this. I was very happy to hear Rene Ritchie of iMore also discussing making Siri consistent across all Apple platforms during Monday’s Vector podcast. He was also advocating for Apple to make Siri a cloud-based service that works across all devices, which would also be a very welcomed addition. This could still be done while maintaining users’ privacy, so Apple shouldn’t try to hide behind that excuse anymore.

While many of us have been asking about this for a while now, the fact is that Mr Ritchie has eyes and ears inside of Apple and may actually be able to exert some influence on the situation. If he is brining it up, at least it is likely to be heard within the glass walls of Apple Park. I mean, the guy was able to get an Instagram pic with Tim Cook at a hockey game, right? That’s a lot closer than most of us will ever get.

Make Siri Great…For the First Time

Even as an Apple fan, I have no problem admitting that Siri has NEVER been great at anything. I, like most people, gave it a pass at release because it was new and different. However, when Apple didn’t improve it or truly move it forward after several years, most people lost their patience with it. I have still use it often for basic tasks, such as reading messages, creating alarms, and placing phone calls. However, we are a long way down the road from those tasks being impressive.

In my opinion, for all of the things Siri does, the biggest problem is that Apple never focused in and made it great at any of them. Some of its features, such as entering or reading off appointments or reminders, or setting timers, are very good and pretty consistent. The ability to ask Siri to remind me about a phone call, email, voicemail, or web page that is on the screen is also very useful (for those who know the feature exists).

However, I wouldn’t qualify any of the above features as “great,” because there are still times when they break down. For example, Siri will just stop recognizing the “Remind me about this” command on occasion, and ask me what I want to be reminded about. When this happens, I have to reboot my iPhone to get the feature back online. That just makes me shake my head, because this is a really useful feature that I take advantage of often. It is two years old now, so this really shouldn’t be happening anymore.

Unfortunately, these features are still the best that Apple has to offer with Siri, and they still have glaring issues. Then you get into the real problem areas. Dictation still comes and goes and struggles mightily with proper names and context. Asking Siri questions often just results in a web search that will quickly disappear from the screen. Trying to use context between actions will sometimes work and sometimes just break down. Combine the failures with the lack of consistency and shortage of and restrictions on third party integrations and you have too many pitfalls for users to fall into.

What is the difference?

So what’s the real difference between Apple on the one hand, and Google and Amazon on the other? Both of their assistants have legitimate issues and shortcomings, as well. Google doesn’t play much better with third parties than Apple, and in some cases, Assistant is actually harder for them to work with (although this year’s CES shows that Google is addressing this). As for Alexa, just try using it on a smartphone or other non-Amazon hardware. Amazon has the same issues as Apple with sub-par mics that aren’t set up to be used with a voice assistant.

While Amazon has given third party developers an open door, Alexa doesn’t allow for any contextual awareness with its “Skills.” Users have to memorize set commands and queries, and if they forget, their requests don’t work. I have heard Echo users who are otherwise very happy with Alexa curse it over this shortcoming. Even the most favored voice assistant of the moment has its issues if you get past the hype.

So, both of Apple’s primary competitors in voice assistants have legitimate shortcomings that users are very aware of. Why do they get a pass on them while Apple doesn’t? It is because both Assistant and Alexa are legitimately great at one or more things that users find very useful. If you ask Google Assistant questions, it will give you direct correct answers very quickly. It will translate on the fly. It will search, recognize and digitize written text. Oh, and it has a very similar feature set across the board where it is available. Google handles this better than any other assistant by far, and frankly, no one else is even close right now.

As for Amazon, they doubled down on making the basics near perfect. The Echo devices have multiple beam-forming mics that do an impressive job of picking up your voice and accurately parsing your requests, even in the presence of background noise. The Alexa experience may have a steep drop-off on third party hardware, but most people are using it on Amazon’s because of how inexpensive and easily available they have made it. Their system’s combined ease of use has made people comfortable using voice assistants. And again, like Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa feature set is very consistent, no matter what device you are using it on.

Along that same line, another key for Amazon (that Google wisely copied ahead of Apple) is that they made a device that put the voice assistant in a different context. Many people are still self-conscious about using Siri and other assistants in public, especially when using a headset or AirPods. While this has become more commonplace over the last decade, it can still look pretty odd watching someone “talk to themselves” while walking down the street. There are a lot of people who are too self-conscious to do that.

The beauty of the Echo is that it takes the voice assistant and makes it available throughout a room. You don’t have to carry a phone around and be subject to the limitations of its mics. “Hey Siri” works, but it is locked to a device that is meant to be with you, not across the room. The Watch is great if you have one, but it isn’t capable of making all of the same voice responses to your queries yet. The Echo took the genie out of the bottle by making a device that is dedicated to monitoring an entire space, and it is clear that users prefer this experience. Alexa was also set up in such a way as to not make users feel less self-conscious about using it in the open. They are having a conversation with a device that responds aloud, so the experience is natural and more “human.”

Another strength of Amazon’s Alexa is the third party ecosystem that has sprung up around it. While I mentioned the limitations of Alexa Skills as being a drawback, the fact that they exist is still a big strength. HomeKit may have been there first, but people have embraced Alexa because there is convenience in being able to link devices that they want to use together without headaches and restrictions. While the defined commands required to use Alexa Skills may cause some frustration, the amount of third party integrations available is still a strength that Amazon has over both Google and Apple.

Getting a pass

The bottom line is, Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa do get a pass on their shortcomings, but they get it for legitimate reasons. People don’t get as irritated over them because both of these assistants have aspects that are truly great. On the flip-side, Apple doesn’t get a pass for Siri’s shortcomings because there isn’t a similar feature that it has or task it performs that is similarly great. There is no positive bubble or reality distortion field here. Without that, people will pile on the negative aspects and won’t give much credit for the things that are good.

Every time I hear Siri discussed on a tech podcast, even an Apple-centric podcast, this is what it comes down to. There are complaints and the typical, “Siri sucks” comments. Then someone will usually mention a feature or two that is good and works well for them, and people will backpedal a bit and agree. Then there is usually a more reasonable discussion about all the things that don’t work as well. I hear the exact same in reverse with discussion on Assistant and Alexa, with the overall impression being positive. However, you will often hear the same backpedaling and admissions that certain features of those assistants don’t work so well. These overall positive and negative impressions come down to doing a few things very well, and the reactions around the three assistants are remarkably consistent across the tech world because of this.

We just heard a rumor this week that Apple is scaling back the planned features in iOS 12 to focus on software stability. I can only hope that Siri will be one of the items that will be focused on over the course of this year as part of this. The fact that Craig Federighi was supposedly behind this move and that Siri is now under his jurisdiction is cause for some optimism that improvements will be made going forward into 2018. Even if Apple won’t say it, the moves they have made to bolster their AI and machine learning efforts over the last two years, as well their downplaying of Siri as an intelligent assistant in the first HomePod, show me that they see the problems. However, the question remains- do they have the right answers to fix them?

If Apple can create a more consistent user experience for Siri across all of its platforms, it will help cut down on frustration and might actually encourage more Apple device owners to use it. However, to turn around the service’s tarnished reputation and get it seen in a favorable light, Apple needs to double down on one or two core features that they know users want to be improved. They need to taken them, hammer everything out and make them great, whatever that takes. I’m talking bulletproof. Rock solid. The kind of great that no reviewer can deny. That is what it will take to turn heads at this point, so that’s what they have to do.

The current path of incremental upgrades and new feature additions isn’t improving the situation or user’s impressions of Siri. Apple needs something that its competitors already have. They need something great to hang Siri’s hat on going forward. Without this, the negative perception won’t change, even if Siri does improve incrementally over time.


© jhrogersii for iPad Insight, 2018. | Permalink | 2 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: ai, Alexa, Amazon, Assistant, Cortana, Echo, Google Home, Google+, machine learning, siri

16:55

Deals: Rearview Eye Level In-Car Smartphone Mount

If you use your phone for navigation while driving, or tend to take a lot of phone calls and messages (using Siri, of course), then you know that positioning your phone securely where you can see it clearly, but it also won’t get in the way, is essential. If you don’t do this, then any potential safety benefits of going handsfree in the car go out right the window.

There is no shortage of vehicle mounts, from ones that connect to air vents, to those that mount to the dash. I’ve tried them all over the years, and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. However, lately I’ve been using a rearview mirror mount in my work van, and I really like the combo of stability and positioning options.

The Rearview Eye Level In-Car Smartphone Mount from Tate Selection is a solid option, as it is dead easy to install and remove, and can lock your phone into a solid position after. It will hold any device with a 5.5″ screen or smaller, so any current iPhone should fit, even the Plus-sized models.

Our Deals site is offering the Rearview Eye Level In-Car Smartphone Mount for $13.99, which is 53% off the normal retail price of $29.99.


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Post tags: deals, iPhone car mount

January 31 2018

14:06

Deals: iRest Lap Stand

Have you ever gotten tired of holding your tablet while using it? Yeah, that’s going to be everyone who’s ever used one. Well, here’s a versatile stand for users who want the flexibility to hold their tablets on a table, or on their laps.

The iRest from Rain Design may be described as a lap stand, but it is equally at home on any flat surface, and can also hold your iPad in portrait or landscape orientation.

The anodized aluminum frame is durable and light, and it allows angle adjustments up to 60 degrees. This is almost certain to get you the viewing angle that you want.

Our Deals site is offering the iRest Lap Stand for $39.99.


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Post tags: deals, iPad stand

05:44

Analysts Are All Over the Place Leading Up To Apple’s First Quarter Earnings Call

Between the glowing reports of recent massive successes and predictions of impending doom and gloom, it’s hard to get a feel for what is actually going on with Apple, and how their First Quarter Earnings will be perceived. One consensus seems to be that Apple’s past quarter will be the biggest in company thanks to strong iPhone X sales, as well as solid Mac, iPad, and Watch sales and Apple’s growing Services business and sales in China.

There is also a new report from Kantar that shows the iPhone X as one of the top three smartphones in all markets that it monitors. This is hugely impressive, and should result in a a big earnings report on Thursday. Kantar even goes as far as saying that these rankings vindicate Apple’s pricing strategy with the device, which is a bold statement.

On the other hand, there have been several outlets predicting a huge dip in sales guidance for the next quarter coming at Thursday’s quarterly call. Most of this seems to point back to reports from Ming-Chi Quo and Nikkei that Apple has cut component orders for the iPhone X due to slowing sales and demand. While many sites have run sensational parrot pieces for clicks, The Wall Street Journal actually weighed in on this today, as well.

The WSJ certainly adds additional credibility to the stories of slowing iPhone X demand. These combined negative stories have resulted in a noticeable dip in Apple’s stock price. This has caused Rene Ritchie of iMore to wonder aloud on a couple of recent podcasts whether some analysts are shorting Apple Stock and using the rumors and reports as a way of spreading bad news and creating a self fulfilling prophesy. It’s certainly an interesting theory, but I have my doubts that the WSJ would allow themselves to be wrapped up in such a thing.

Despite some of the sensational negative headlines floating around, there are a still a few in the media taking a more cautious, wait and see approach. Barrons cited a CNBC interview of Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein urging for calm in the face of potential less than ideal news.

On a segment on CNBC a short while ago, with host Scott Wapner, Sacconaghi said it’s “hard to say” how much of the current quarter is factored into the stock at this point. But in today’s report, he makes the case investors should relax about the erosion of iPhone estimates.

Sacconaghi, who warned last week the quarter will probably come in weaker than expected when Apple offers its forecast this Thursday, after the closing bell, today formally cuts his numbers for iPhone. He now sees 53 million units for the quarter, below what he deems consensus for 62 million units.

And for the full fiscal year ending in September, he slashes his estimate to 220 million units from 247 million units previously estimated. The means almost no growth from last fiscal year — just 1.3% relative to 2017’s 216.76 million units.

Hence, the question of his report: “Can the stock work if iPhone units don’t growth in 2018?”

Sacconaghi thinks the stock can, indeed, work, given the company may have net income in 2019 of “well over $14.”

His estimate for this year is cut to $11.80 from $11.87.

Another interesting article casting some doubt on the use of supply chain rumors to directly extrapolate demand comes from Yoni Heisler of BGR.com. He wisely points put the fact that this exact prediction seems to come up at the same time every year, regardless of the actual demand for the iPhone. While this is certainly no guarantee that demand for the iPhone X will continue to be as high, and that guidance for the next quarter will be remain the same, but there is certainly a trend worth considering here.

My advise on all this is to be patient and wait and see what Apple says on Thursday. Don’t jump to conclusions or read more into the numbers than what they actually say. If you have Apple stock, step back, breathe deeply, and don’t do anything rash. Take a look back and look at the trend chart for Apple’s stock over the last ten years. Despite the small dips that will inevitably come, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Apple’s earnings report will be released around 1:30 PM PST, and will cover from October 1, 2017 to December 30, 2017.


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Post tags: Apple, apple earnings, iphone x

04:41

Deals: Nut Find 3 Smart Tracker

One of the problems with mobile electronics is that they are, well, mobile. Anything that is mobile will inevitably be misplaced or lost. That is a painful thing to think about when you consider how expensive mobile electronics can be. Of course, gadgets aren’t the only small items that are easily lost or misplaced, and while your car keys may not cost as much as a phone, the inconvenience can be just as painful.

The Nut Find 3 from Nut Technologies is an inexpensive way to minimize the pain and inconvenience of losing or misplacing small items of value. You phone can be set to beep any time a Nut that you are tracking gets outside of its safety range. If used to your phone, both the Nut and your phone will sound if you walk away from your phone and don’t realize it. A “beep button” will also allow you to call a Nut that is within range.

If you have managed to get out of range without realizing it, then you can also revert to the device’s location records, which can be accessed and viewed on a map with your phone to help track your items. If that isn’t enough and a device with a Nut is lost, any other Nut that gets close will notify you of your lost gear’s location. The Nut Find 3 is a great all round option for keeping up with your valuable items that are easy to lose.

Out Deals site is offering the Nut Find 3 for $19.99 each, a set of 2 for $32.99, and a set of 4 for $52.99.


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Post tags: deals

January 28 2018

03:52

Review: Ztylus Revolver M6 Series Lens Kit for iPhone X

I’m always intrigued when a company takes a successful existing design and sets it aside in favor of something that they believe is better, rather than continuing to iterate on what they already have. It is often a brave decision that leaves the safety net behind and shows a company’s conviction in their ideas and designs. A notable example of this from the tech world would be Apple and Steve Job’s decision to kill off the wildly successful iPod Mini in favor of the new iPod Nano in 2005.

I was reminded of this example from Apple’s past when I got the new Ztylus Revolver M6 Series Lens Kit for the iPhone X for review. Just to give you a little background, I reviewed both the Revolver RV-3 Lens Kit and the Switch 6 from Ztylus for the iPhone 7 Plus last summer. I came away impressed with both products in different way,s but the overall design of both of them was strong. I’m not the only one who agrees, as the Revolver won a CES Innovation Award back in 2016.

Looking back

If you look back at either of those previous reviews, you can get the full details of either camera lens kit. I was particularly impressed with the overall design of the Revolver, as its innovative lens system protected the glass when not in use, got it into position quickly when you were ready to shoot, and was even removable from the back of the case when you didn’t need it. I also really appreciated the fact that the case was well made. It was hard plastic and felt like it would really protect my iPhone in the case of a drop. In fact, thanks to the insert that Ztylus included to fill the hole in the back of the case when the lens set was removed, I had no issue keeping it on my iPhone for stretches when I wasn’t using them.

However, despite all of the really intelligent design that went into the original Revolver, there were some drawbacks. Primarily, it was heavy and bulky, and could be difficult to get in and out of a pocket. While it was better and more organized than most external lenses and lens kits for the iPhone, you still had to work around the size and weight a bit. It was a worthwhile trade-off for me, but it definitely was a trade-off that couldn’t be ignored.

Also, the Revolver wasn’t designed to work with a dual-lens phone. While it was adapted for use with the iPhone 7 Plus, it was limited to shooting with the phone’s wide-angle lens only. Since it was easy to retract the lenses while using the iPhone’s telephoto lens, there was never a problem of it being stuck in the way. However, when Ztylus released the Switch 6, which included separate super macro and telephoto glass for the iPhone 7 Plus’ telephoto lens, it made the Revolver setup seem a little dated in comparison.

Don’t live in the past

When I saw that Ztylus was releasing a dual-lens Revolver made for the iPhone X, I immediately reached out to see about reviewing the product. I was so impressed with the Revolver RV-3 and the Switch 6 that I knew this could be a huge boost to an already impressive iPhone X camera before getting my hands on it. However, since I knew a lot about the previous version, I didn’t delve too far into the details in the press release. When I got the package containing the Revolver M Series from Ztylus in the mail, it was so different from what I expected that I thought there might have been a mistake.

As you can see, it came in a small and very lightweight pouch. I thought maybe I had only received part of the lens kit for some reason. Then I opened the package, and to my surprise, everything was there. There was a case and a lens section included, but they were definitely not the same. Ztylus had completely changed the award winning design of the Revolver with the new M6. While the original core idea of a removable, retractable lens system is the same, the execution is completely different this time. The result is a lens kit that it far lighter and easier to pocket than anything I’ve ever used. Let’s get into the details.

Overall Design

There us a key difference in the design of the Revolver M6 that changed everything about it and really simplifies the entire experience. Where the original Revolver lens set mounted into an opening in the back of the case and turned via mechanical means, the new Revolver M case uses magnetic force to hold the new lens set securely in a round indention in the back of the case.

The magnets keep the lenses firmly seated and steady at all times, and I have not had any issues with them wiggling, moving around, or falling off. They hold tightly enough that I can pick my iPhone X up by the lens section and shake it. The phone doesn’t budge.

This shift in design changes everything else about the lens kit’s design. The case no longer has to have an opening in the back that needs to be plugged with an insert when the lens set is removed. Even more important, the lens set no longer needs a built-in mechanism to handle rotation so that you can access the different lenses. You rotate the lens kit by hand until a small protrusion on the lens section locks into one of three indentions in the case. This is as simple and easy as it gets.

This change means that the lens section can be thinner and lighter than before. Ztylus also redesigned the spring mechanism from the original, meaning that the user has to retract the lenses manually now. The lens only “springs” into place in front of the iPhone’s lenses after being opened and rotated 3/4 of the way there. The end result of these changes is a lens kit that is so much thinner, lighter, and more pocketable than the original that it feels completely fresh and new.

I really enjoyed using the original Revolver RV-3 and really loved how innovative the overall design was. However, the M Series really does mop the floor with it, and it should come as absolutely no surprise that Ztylus won yet another CES Innovation Award this year as a result. If you haven’t used the original Revolver, it would be hard to understand how different the Revolver M Series is, and how how much the user benefits as a result of the design changes that were made. Kudos to Ztylus for the willingness to make such sweeping changes to an already award-winning product.

Case Design

If anything suffers a bit in the transition from the old Revolver design to the new, it is the case. It certainly isn’t bad, by any means. In fact, if you like softer, more flexible, lighter weight cases, you might actually prefer it to the original design. That version, which had a harder plastic shell that the iPhone had to be slid into, provided more protection. However, this newer version is lighter, easy to put on and take off, and also very easy to hold.

The aforementioned magnetic notch design for holding the lens set is definitely the case’ strongest feature. The fact that the case can be used with no limitations without the lens section attached also warrants an A for versatility. It was awkward having to put the insert in the hole in the back of the older case design every time I removed the lens section, so this is a big improvement. Another good quality of the case is its textured edges, which are easy to grip. This is very important for a camera lens case, as a slip and drop from eye level can spell disaster for an iPhone X.

I also like the way the case looks. Even though the Revolver logo stands out, with white lettering on a glossy black background, it still looks appropriate and isn’t gaudy.

Ztylus also has several different artistic pattern options available, so if basic black doesn’t stand out as much as you would like, there are plenty of other interesting choices.

The only real issue that I had with the case is that the glossy back did scuff in a couple of places after a three weeks of constant use. However, they weren’t substantial enough to be visible without really looking for them, so I don’t think this is unreasonable or any kind of design flaw. Just be aware that it will show a little bit of wear over time.

As long as you are ok with using a lighter weight case, the one that comes with the M6 should do, whether you are using the lens section or not. If this type of case isn’t your cup of tea, then at least it is easy to get the phone in and out of for when you need to use the lenses. It is definitely better than some other case solutions I’ve tried, including Ztylus’ own Switch 6 case.

Lens Section Design

In case you haven’t seen a Ztylus’ Revolver lens kit before, the lens section design is a standout feature that makes easier to transport, protect, and use external camera lenses than any other product that I’ve tried.

As I mentioned at the outset, the lens section attaches to the back of the included case via a strong magnet, so there is nothing mechanical involved in this part of the process. In the case of the M6 model, this circular accessory holds three sets of two lenses. In each set, one lens works with the iPhone’s wide angle lens, and the other pairs up with the telephoto.

The Revolver M6 lens kit includes the following paired lenses:

  • Wide Angle and 2X Telephoto
  • Fisheye and 2X Telephoto
  • Macro and Super Macro

To use a pair of lenses, simply rotate the lens section to the pair that you want until the notch on the bottom pops into place on the back of the case

The lens set can be folded out of the lens section, and when you get around 3/4 of the way open, the arm will snap the Revolver’s lenses into place over the iPhone’s.

When you are finished, simply fold the lens set back to the center, where it stays in place and is protected during travel.

The thing that really stands out about the Revolver M6 lens section is how thin and light it is. Take a look at the picture below to get a feel for how much Ztylus has trimmed down the new revolver series M6 over the original revolver RV-3.

It is really impressive how much power Ztylus has packed into such a small package.

While I can’t overlook the fact that the new lens section design feels a little less solid than the original, especially the lens extension arms, the change was made for a good reason. After my testing, I feel like the new design is still going to be rugged enough for most users, so you aren’t losing anything in this exchange. At the end of the day, customers will be more apt to Buy a product they will get more use out of. They will get more use out of a product that they can keep with them more often and isn’t awkward or difficult to use. By making the Revolver slimmer, lighter, and easier to carry, Ztylus has made it a much better value proposition for buyers.

Performance

The Revolver M6’s design is a key selling point, but when it comes to camera lenses, performance is what really matters. Thankfully, Ztylus packed this lens set with substance, as well as style. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here are some examples from my time using the Revolver M6.

iPhone Wide Angle (for reference)

Revolver Wide Angle

As you can see, this Wide Angle captures a noticeable wider range, which is particularly useful in landscape photography. It is also notable that the M6 Wide Angle lens adds far less barrel distortion to pictures than the RV-3 did. That means more pictures will be usable right from the camera, without additional editing.

Revolver Fisheye Lens

The Fisheye Lens is more of an extreme effect, but it can bring in so much width. As you can see, it reaches even wider than the Wide Angle, creating an almost panoramic single image. It may be less versatile than the Wide Angle, but the Lens definitely has its uses.

iPhone Wide Angle (for reference)

iPhone 2X Telephoto (for reference)

Revolver Telephoto 2X (4X in Total)

If camera phones still have one weakness in comparison to a good point and shoot or mirrorless camera, it is in the area of zoom. The iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, and X have brought us 2X Telephoto thanks to its dual lens setup, but that pales in comparison to what an interchangeable lens system can provide. That said, the M6’s 2X Telephoto Zoom Lens, which works in combination with the iPhone’s 2X lens to bring you a 4X shot, really adds a different dimension. The photo above was taken from the same spot as the iPhone Wide Angle photo at the beginning of this set, which shows you how much closer that 4X can get you. This lens definitely fills an important role and is likely to see a lot of use in the hands of many iPhotographers.

iPhone Wide Angle (for reference)

Revolver Macro

Revolver Super Macro

I’m going to be honest. Macro shots really aren’t my cup of tea. However, if you really want to be able to get close to a subject and still shoot in focus, the M6 has you covered with the Macro and Super Macro. Just note that focus can be a challenge, and it is a good idea to either shoot with a tripod or a camera grip to help steady the shot.

Grab Bag- Here are a few additional shots from my testing.

Conclusion

No external camera lens for the iPhone is perfect. They all have different flaws and trade offs, and some are better values than others. However, thanks to its very innovative and easy to use case and lens set design, Ztylus’ Revolver M6 stands out as one of the best, and most well-rounded options available. It is thin and light enough to carry in a pants pocket, which was much more difficult with the previous Revolver RV-3 lens set. The picture quality from the lenses ranges from very good to great, and a few of the lenses definitely add a lot of versatility to the iPhone X’s dual lens camera.

The Revolver M6 is also a good value, as a quality lens set can cost $99 and up without a case included. Ztylus’ Revolver M Series Lens Kits have a very reasonable standard retail price of $70. However, Ztylus is currently running a sale, and the iPhone X version of the M6 is reduced to $59,95.

If you have a dual-lens iPhone and are looking for a way to take your mobile photography to the next level, give the Revolver M6 plenty of consideration. It brings a lot of strengths to the table, and is definitely worth the price.

The Revolver M6 Lens Set for the iPhone X was provided by Ztylus for review on iPad Insight. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the About page



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Post tags: camera lens, iphone camera lens set, iphone x, ztylus

January 27 2018

21:40

The Reasoning Behind the HomePod’s Design and Marketing is Surprisingly Simple

I’ve seen an interesting combination of concern, complaints, dismissiveness, and derision over the HomePod across Twitter, Apple blogs, and tech sites over the past few days. The preorder and announcement of the final release date for the device, as well as a lack of any other substantive Apple news at the moment seem to have stoked the fires of discussion and opinion.

I can understand many of the reasons, and I even agree with many of you that Siri isn’t on par with other digital assistants in many ways, that the HomePod’s high price could be a limiting factor, and that it is showing up more than fashionably late to a fast-moving party. However, despite the concerns and complaints, the reasons behind the design and focus of the HomePod still make sense if you look at Apple’s recent hardware and software efforts.

No matter what you think about the connected and intelligent speaker competition, it is easy to see that Apple is taking a very different approach with the HomePod. The fact that they are focusing on far better sound quality at a much higher price will likely limit the appeal of the device, and that is obviously a source of many of the complaints and negative predictions. However, while the reasons for concern are legitimate, what I find short-sighted is the common assertion that Apple is somehow oblivious to this. I think they are fully aware that they have limited the mainstream appeal and potential of this first foray into connected speakers. Here’s why:

They have learned from recent missteps with new products

Take a look back at three recent new hardware and software releases. On one hand, you have Apple News and Apple Music, both of which got off to very rocky starts after release. Both apps lacked focus and clear organization and were critically panned. However, within a year, both were completely redesigned from the ground up and the prevailing opinions about them changed. Both apps are now viewed in a largely positive light with continually growing user bases.

The Apple Watch may have been at least modestly successful at release, but that was partly based on how poor the competition was. There were still plenty of complaints over the muddled early interface and the poor performance third party apps early on. Again, Apple moved quickly to improve this new device and interface, with two updates to watchOS within the first year. The result was a completely different user experience that was more closely tied to iOS, and a new focus on what turned out to be the Watch’s biggest strength- health and fitness.

Apple has also learned to use analytics and feedback to make the right improvements

This ties directly into the point above. Apple was able to iterate quickly and revamp three mediocre products into three strong ones within a year was because they have altered their traditional approach of iterating and changing products very slowly over long periods of time. Even more important, it seems that they have learned to use feedback and device and software usage analytics to figure out what their users want and refine and re-focus their products around those elements. This is how Apple was able to not just move fast to improve these three products, but even more importantly, move smart.

What does this mean for the HomePod?

Apple hasn’t always done things this way, so I think the tech press and tech enthusiasts are still catching up with the shift in approach. However, there is a consistent pattern emerging that shouldn’t be ignored. I firmly believe that Apple took these two lessons and applied them to the design and focus of the HomePod. This is why I said that Apple was aware that they were limiting the overall sales appeal of the HomePod.

Similar to the recent AirPods, Apple is releasing a piece of hardware with obvious limitations into a crowded marketplace. If you think back, there were a lot of negative comments about the AirPods before release, as well as several predictions of failure based on looks, cost, and sound quality. However, in the cases of both the AirPods and HomePod, Apple focused the devices around areas where the company is strong, and where the hardware can excel. This isn’t an accident. Music and hardware design are two of Apple biggest current strengths and they are aware that their hardcore fans and users will pay a premium for their devices. While the HomePod’s higher price will limit its mainstream appeal more than the AirPods, it will still sell and the core principle behind the device is sound.

Lack of intelligence?

I was right there with everyone else after the HomePod announcement at WWDC, complaining about the way that Apple consciously de-emphasized Siri’s capabilities as an intelligent assistant on the device. I saw it as an admission that Siri still wasn’t up to the task, and in hindsight, I still believe that to be the case. It is not yet capable of carrying the HomePod. However, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, I think this de-emphasis might be the right way to go for version one of the HomePod. Despite the fact that it is primarily a music device, people are still going to use Siri extensively on the HomePod because it is the primary interface for controlling the device. Despite the lack of emphasis, they will also use its assistant and home automation features, as well.

By emphasizing the sound quality and music playback functions of the HomePod, I think Apple is hoping to sell them to users who will ultimately be satisfied with the first version of the device, despite its inherent shortcomings. However, I think they are also hoping to use it as a Trojan Horse for improving Siri in the long run. Despite the device’s focus on user privacy, Apple is still going to get a completely new and different type of usage data back from this new platform. People use intelligent speakers very differently from their computers, phones, and tablets, so this could ultimately benefit Siri’s usefulness if, and this is a big if considering how long Apple has allowed Siri to flounder, Apple can take this new data stream and follow through making the right improvements.

Modest beginnings

This is a sound approach that certainly worked for the competition. If you look back at Amazon’s first Echo, the sound quality wasn’t good, it was far more limited in scope, and didn’t have any of the third party integrations early on. However, it was good enough at its core functionality as an assistant that people began buying it and talking it up. The fact that Amazon could constantly put the device in potential buyer’s faces obviously helped to spur sales, and Amazon used all of that data pouring in from its customers to quickly morph the device and its Alexa digital assistant into something far more powerful.

So the only things that separate Apple from Amazon’s initial approach to this market is time and the hardware’s area of strength and focus at release. They are taking a similar first step, but I think many don’t see it because it’s not a sales and marketing model they associate with Apple. However, if you look at streaming video content, another new direction for the company, you will see them taking the same approach there, as well. I don’t think you are going to find very many fans of fans of Planet of the Apps, and Carpool Karaoke wasn’t much better in a longer format than the original. While it’s easy to throw stones at these early efforts, if you take a small step back in time, you will find Netflix starting out with Lilyhammer and Amazon with titles such as Alpha House. The success that both hav achieved certainly weren’t evident after such modest starts.

Again, people don’t think of Apple as a company that will iterate quickly, but just look at what they have been doing since these first two mediocre shows. They have hired several new executives with legitimate industry experience to head their video efforts. Now they are signing up and ordering shows from people like Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, Ronald Moore, Resse Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. This is a big and very fast step up, but Apple has the money and the name to pull off big moves if they choose to out their full weight behind them. The quality and delivery method of the finished products remains to be seen, but Apple’s commitment to and focus on this area is beyond doubt at this point.

What will happen?

Will Apple iterate quickly and find success with the HomePod? Will they pour the same kind of focus and resources they are putting into video content into improving Siri? Time will tell. There is no way to know how things will go for Apple with the new HomePod in the future. While I think there is now a track record of Apple moving faster to improve products and looking at user data and listening to their customers to adapt their hardware and software, there is an even longer track record of poor leadership behind and inadequate progress with Siri. Which one is going to win out here? Honestly, there is no way to know that right now.

Apple will have to put more emphasis on Siri, AI, and machine learning than they ever have before to really push their in-home efforts forward. While there is some evidence that they have started down this road, it will take more than they are doing right now to start to close the gap with the competition. What gives me a little hope that they can turn the tide and at least get Siri onto the right path is that there is ample evidence above of changes that Apple has already made in other areas. If they apply those same principles to Siri and the HomePod going forward, then they at least have a chance.

For any of you getting ready to label me as an Apple apologist, I’m not predicting wild success for the HomePod, or that it is a foregone conclusion that Apple can make fast changes as successfully as they did with the Apple Watch. They will try, but there is absolutely no guarantee that this same approach will work to make the HomePod and future home products better as digital assistants. I am just pointing out that there shouldn’t be any mystery as to why Apple designed the HomePod the way they did. This design and focus on Apple’s core strengths is no accident and they should at least set the right expectations for buyers. It will be interesting to see if Apple can parlay that into something more in the future, and build the HomePod into something more than the niche music-focused device that the original is.


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Post tags: Airpods, Alexa, Amazon, apple music, apple news, Apple Watch, Echo, homepod

January 26 2018

09:00

Apple’s HomePod Details Now Clearly in Focus as Preorders Begin at 12AM Pacific [Or Not]

[Update: The HomePod did NOT go on sale at 12 AM PST as most Apple news outlets and I expected, breaking the usual iOS-based device release mold. Apple didn’t shut down the online Apple Store last night and the HomePod still isn’t available for preorder. Apple has not made any official statement, but it has been mentioned by several people on Twitter that Apple does an automatic refresh of their website at 6:01 AM PST every day. It is now expected that the link to preorder the device will show up then, but who knows? It’s also possible that Apple is running a massive social engineering experiment to see how well it has conditioned its fans to get up at odd hours to preorder devices. If so, then based on the number of comments I saw on Twitter early this morning, I say well played, Apple. Well played.]

[Update 2: I was able to order the HomePod with launch day delivery. I’m not sure when exactly it hit the Apple Online Store for preorder, but I know it was before 8 AM CST because I checked while stopped in rush hour traffic on the way to work, and there it was. I completed my order around 8 AM CST, but it was released between 10 to 30 minutes before that  I hope Apple avoids being this random with future preorders, but it is what it is.]

HomePod preorders begin in a little over four hours [nope], so if you live in the Eastern or Central Time Zones and are planning to get up super early, it might be a good idea to turn in early, or at least catch a nap if you can [a nap sounds somewhere between good and necessary today]. With this new hardware finally coming into clearer focus, now is a good time to recap some of the additional information that has come to light since the countdown to release started ticking earlier this week.

First off, a few days ago I mentioned that the HomePod would be arriving somewhat incomplete. While it is true that multi-room and stereo support are delayed because AirPlay 2 isn’t quite ready for release, this situation looks a little more promising than Apple’s vague “Coming later this year” labeling initially made it seem. It turns out that AirPlay 2 is included in the new iOS 11.3 developer beta firmware. This is great news, as it points to these important features arriving sooner, rather than later.

For those of us in the developer beta program, this also means that we may be able to go ahead and try these features out on the HomePod soon after release. This will depend on whether Apple releases a beta firmware for the device to us, and if so, how soon after the hardware release it arrives. It is anyone’s guess whether Apple will make the HomePod part of the public beta process, but considering that it is first-gen hardware without a full physical on-board interface method, I have my doubts.

Speaking of AirPlay, it appears that we will have the original Apple audio streaming standard to fall back on until AirPlay 2 is fully baked. An article from 9to5Mac confirmed that, while streaming services other than Apple Music will not natively work with Siri, the original AirPlay’s presence will allow users to stream any audio content from an iOS device to the connected speaker. This insures that users of Spotify and other services will at least have some way to play content with the HomePod.

The same article also notes that the HomePod can also play purchased iTunes content, stream Beats One Radio, and also stream podcasts without an Apple Music subscription. We don’t have confirmation either way on whether users’ iTunes Match content, which is stored on Apple’s servers, can also be streamed directly. However, as with the Spotify example above, you can always AirPlay this content, if you choose.

Thanks to details that have emerged from a hands-on article from Jullian Chokkattu of Digital Trends, we know a few more details about the finished HomePod in practice. If you are interested in the device, I definitely recommend reading it.

Setup is reportedly very easy, accomplished by holding a compatible iOS device near the speaker. The HomePod’s look and the audio quality and balance drew high marks, with the lack of multi-user support for features like Messages and Notifications raining on the parade just a bit. However, Mr Chokkattu did note that Siri handled the basics without issue in his testing. Hopefully Apple will be aggressive in playing catchup with Amazon and Google on noted omissions like full multi-user support, the ability to place calls (the HomePod can be used as a speaker after a call is placed), and the ability to read step-by-step instructions and recipes.

From my own perspective, it is good to get a little bit of assurance that the HomePod will be a versatile speaker that everyone in the house can take advantage of. I plan on using it as a speaker more than anything else, at least initially. Since we are Apple Music subscribers, that won’t be an issue. Also, three of us in my home have compatible iPhones, and we have two iPad Pros and an Apple TV, so there will be plenty of ways to play other content via AirPlay. The HomePod is going to be used a LOT by my entire household once it arrives.

Is anyone else getting up early to preorder in a few hours? I’m personally very interested in the HomePod, even if not super excited about its release. Frankly, I haven’t been very interested in any intelligent or connected speaker product, so far. Frankly, if I wasn’t covering the HomePod here, I would probably wait and pick one up a few months in and maybe go used or refurbished. However, since I’m reviewing it, that really isn’t an option. But some of the details that have emerged this week at least make me feel like I will get a lot of mileage out of it as a great speaker. So here’s to another hopefully smooth early morning, followed by getting back to sleep quickly so I can survive work tomorrow and the 4 hour drive back home. [Update: Thanks a lot for the heads up about wasting my time getting up at 2 AM instead of staying in bed, Apple. I’m not angry…..I’m actually not, but I am annoyed at how dumb of an omission this was on Apple’s part. I will update this post again when Apple deems us worthy to give them our money.]


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Post tags: Amazon, Google+, homepod, iOS, iOS 11.3, iPad, iphone

January 24 2018

05:28

Deals: Final Draft 10

Final Draft 10 is the gold standard when it comes to screenwriting and script software. It is used by 95% if all film and television producers, as well as the top studios, including Disney, Warner Brothers, NBCUniversal, MGM, Paramount, ABC, the BBC, and more. Final Draft 10 has also gained high praise in reviews from Macworld, PC Mag, 9to5 Mac, and CNET.

Final Draft 10 works with Windows and Mac, and is currently available from our Deals site for $124.99. This is 50% off the normal $249.99 price tag.

The standard software for professional screenwriters and studios the world over, Final Draft 10 is used by 95% of film and television producers and is now better than ever. Final Draft automatically paginates your script to entertainment industry standards and gives you templates and formatting tools to turn your ideas into Oscar, Emmy, or Tony winners. With the newest developments, you can collaborate in real-time with a writing partner, and outline better than ever. Final Draft blows away the competition, and whether you’re an aspiring auteur or already professional, it’s time you found out why.

Used by the top studios in the world, including Disney, Warner Brothers, NBCUniversal, MGM, Paramount, ABC, BBC, and many more

‘If you’re a professional screenplay writer, Final Draft is a no-brainer,’ 9to5 Mac

4.5/5 Stars, Macworld

4.5/5 Stars, PC Mag

4/5 Stars, CNET

• Automatically paginates your scripts to Hollywood standards

• Provides over 100 templates for screenplays, teleplays, & stage plays

• Collaborate w/ a writing partner in real-time

• Story Map™ lets you outline acts, scenes, & sequences more efficiently

• Beat Board™ allows you to plan your script beat-by-beat

• Store multiple lines of dialogue in the same script so you can choose what works best

• Import scripts from other word-processing programs directly into Final Draft for proper formatting

• Protect your work w/ automatic file backups

• Maintain the correct paper size no matter where a draft is being opened

• Enhancements for Mac let you dictate scripts, for hands-free writing

• Write using Windows or Mac


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Post tags: deals

January 23 2018

14:25

Apple’s HomePod Arrives on Feb 9, but it’s Still Not Quite Finished

Apple has finally lifted the veil on its newest hardware platform. The company announced today that the HomePod will arrive on February 9, with preorders starting on Friday! However, it’s not all good news, as a couple of features are still delayed until later this year.

So the wait is over and the suspense is done. We already knew that the price will be $349 here in the US. We’ve known most of the details on the hardware since the HomePod was formally unveiled at last year’s WWDC. Over the course of the last week we’ve even gotten some more details on some of the device’s various modes and some of the available settings for setup. In today’s announcement, Apple also gave us a preview of the on-device music and Siri controls.

Unfortunately, Apple delaying the release until 2018 still wasn’t enough for two features. Both multi-room support and stereo support for two HomePods in one room are delayed until later in the year. Apple also hasn’t released AirPlay2 yet, and it is also listed as coming later in the year. Unfortunately, this may be the biggest drawback at release, because without it, users may not have a way to stream content from other devices to the HomePod. Considering that it doesn’t have any other ports or connections, and it’s specialty is as a high-end music playback device, this Unfortunately cant be overlooked.

So now we have a pretty complete picture of at least the basics of the HomePod at release, both good and bad. There may be a surprise or two that we find out about after release, but probably nothing major. My biggest hope is that Apple is furiously working on making sure Siri is absolutely ready for her new starring role.

So it looks like I will be getting up at 2 AM Friday morning in a hotel in Nashville to insure I will be getting a HomePod on launch day. While this device is unlikely to sell out at preorder, you never know. I thought the same about the Apple Watch Series 3, and the LTE models ended up backordered across the board by the end of day one. There’s no way to be sure of how many will be available in this first production run, or what the demand will be, so better to be safe than sorry. If you definitely want one at launch, I recommended that you do the same.

Is anyone else joining me in preordering a HomePod, or do you have no interest in Apple’s latest hardware? Or are some of you maybe hanging out and waiting to see the early reviews and wait for any release bugs to be worked out, or the coming multi-room, stereo, or AirPlay2 features to be added? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.


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Post tags: AirPlay, AirPlay2, Apple Preorder, homepod

04:42

Deals: HomeSpot USB-C Hubs for MacBook Pro

If you own a new MacBook Pro and have no desire to live the dongle life, then HomeSpot has you covered. Their USB-C Hub converts two of the laptop’s four ports into Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, SD, MocroSD, and two USB 3 ports, with a second model that adds HDMI, as well.

This USB-C hub gets rid of all your dongle problems in one small and uncomplicated device. Our Deals site is offering the standard HomeSpot USB-C Hub for $54.99, which is 65% off the retail price of $159.99. The HDMI version of the HomeSpot USB-C Hub is $69.99.


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Post tags: deals, MacBook Pro, usb-c

January 21 2018

20:27

Tips and Tricks: Creating and Marking Up PDFs in iOS 11

As a contractor, I can tell you that PDF documents are the industry standard in my world. You don’t have to fuss with security settings or worry about them being altered the same way that you do with a Word doc, or other editable document style. If I am sending a customer a quote, it’s going to be saved as a PDF. If I’m sending a scan of a hard copy of something- PDF. When I get blueprints and specifications for a job to look at for bidding- PFD. If I am sending out a final copy of a project submittal or owner’s manual- PDF. These documents were all created using something else, such as Word, Excel, AutoCAD, etc, but they all end up as PFDs in the end. As the full file name suggests, PDF is all about portability.

While the original iPhone and its iPhone OS came with a PDF reader that allowed users to view email attachments, that was all we had for a LONG time. There have been plenty of iOS apps that stepped in to fill this gap, and have allowed us to create or annotate PDFs. Many of them are still very good and have features that make them worth holding onto. Thankfully, they aren’t as necessary as they once were, because Apple FINALLY added a comprehensive set of tools to allow users to create and annotate PDF files in iOS 11. If you have never tried this feature out, this a great time to dig in and get familiar with it.

We now have the ability to create PDFs from web pages in Safari and from Notes. In either app, just tap the Share icon at the upper right to open the menu, where “Create PDF” is now an option.

You may have to scroll to the end of the list to find the Create PDF option the first time you look for it. You can change that by selecting “More,” and moving Create PDF closer to the front of the list. It’s handy enough that I now have it set up as one of the first few options in both Safari and Notes.

Choosing Create PDF will immediately take you to an edit interface that is similar to the one you get when you create a Screenshot in iOS 11.

As you can see above, the entire viewable webpage is captured, making this method superior to a screenshot for annotating or marking up multiple items, as a screenshot only grabs the content visible on the screen at that moment. Tapping the pen icon in the top right corner opens the editing options, which are then visible at the bottom of the screen. You can select from Pen, Highlight, Pencil, Eraser (which only works on your annotations, not the document itself), select lasso. You can then choose from six basic colors for your Pen, Highlight, or Pencil work. There are Undo and Redo options at the bottom left, which highlight and are active once you start adding content.

The same options are also available and work the same in the Notes app.

On an iPhone, you will have to add these annotations with your finger or a third party capacitive stylus. With an iPad Pro, you can also use the Apple Pencil, which works great for this purpose. Regardless of what you use, it is very easy to add whatever drawing-based additions that you need with the tools provided.

There is a “+” sign on the bottom right of the screen that also gives you access to several additional features.

These allow you to insert a text box that is fully editable, a box for your signature for forms that need to be signed, or an adjustable magnifier. At the bottom of the list, you get options to insert shapes, which include a rectangle, circle, quote balloon, and arrow/line. All of these shapes have basic adjustments for both color and thickness.

Just as with the drawing options, these are all very easy to use. One thing to note about these items if you are using the Apple Pencil is that you will need to use your finger to move these elements around after adding them. The Pencil only draws lines or highlights. Use two fingers to navigate the page (one finger will still draw a line, even if you are using a Pencil) and use one finger to select a text box or shape move it into place.

Once you are finished marking up your document, tap the “Done” button at the upper left corner of the screen.

As with the Screenshot editor, you have the option to delete the document if you change your mind. If you want to proceed, select Save File To…, and you will be presented with location options.

As you can see, these options are based around the new Files app in iOS 11. Whatever cloud-based file sharing services you have apps installed for that integrate with the Files app (most of the major ones do at this point) will show up as options here, as well as storing locally on your device.

Once the file is saved, any other device that has access to that service can also access it. You can also email the file directly from the Files app, but you will have to go find it. Once the PDF is saved, you are returned to where you were in either Safari or Notes.

Once you locate your PDF in Files, you can either tap and hold on it to get options, and then select “Share,” or tap the file to open it, and tap the Share Icon at the top of the screen.

Either select the iOS Mail app, or your Email app of choice elsewhere in the list, and you can send this document out for review. However, using iOS Mail gives you some extended  editing and collaboration options, as you will see below.

Here is what the person you are sending the PDF will see.

The great thing about using PDFs in iOS 11 is that the document can be marked up further and returned right from within the iOS Mail app. Apple has added the ability to annotate any PDF (assuming that the file doesn’t have certain security settings enabled) that the device has access to, but Mail feature is particularly useful because you don’t have to save the file to your device’s file system to edit. You just tap on the file attachment to download it, tap again to open it, and then you have the exact same editing interface shown above. When you are done, you can just send the edited PDF back in response. It is a good system that is very fast and easy to use once you know its there. While other apps will give you more power and flexibility, this is perfect for fast notes and document signatures.

Bonus Round

Another cool feature that works in much the same way as PDF editing in iOS 11 is the ability to add a drawing directly to an email in the iOS Mail app. This is another one of those handy, but easy to miss features, if you don’t know it’s there. To add a drawing, just tap and hold on any empty space in your email until the pop-up options appear, as seen below.

This is the same way you would add photos or attachments in previous versions of iOS. Now, you can see that there is an “Insert Drawing” option at the end of the list.

You get the exact same editing interface as you do for editing screenshots to annotating PDFs, but in this case, you are just adding an image directly to the body of the email. If you are a big Pencil user and prefer to hand write some messages, this is definitely the easiest way to do it.

So that’s a wrap for creating and editing PDFs using iOS 11’s new built-in features. Have you used this before, or is this the first time you’ve seen this iOS 11 feature? I use the screenshot editing feature all the time, but I just stumbled upon PDF creation again about a month ago. Since they aren’t all right there in your face all the time, it is easy to forget about some of the new additions in each version of iOS after the release coverage fades. That was a big reason why I decided to cover these PDF creation and annotation features as our first tip of 2018.

If you have any additional questions or comments on iOS 11’s new PDF tools, or ideas or questions for future Tips and Tricks consideration, let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.


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Post tags: ios 11, iPad, iphone, Mail, Notes, pdf, Safari, screenshot, tips

03:51

Apple Slices: Bite-sized Apple News of the Week

Time to start up Apple Slices, our series covering some of the wide variety of Apple news of the week, for 2018. We have more on the battery throttling story that just won’t go away, Apple making big commitments here in the US,  the coming HomePod, and more. Time to eat!

Tim Cook simultaneously apologizes, announces a new feature, and deflects blame for their battery throttling woes in a recent interview 

In an interview with ABC News, Tim Cook again apologized to customers who are angry over Apple’s throttling of processors in response to battery wear. He went on to announce that the company would be adding a setting to disable battery throttling in the next iOS 11 update. This new offering is in addition to their discounted $29 battery replacements. However, Cook still held the party line that this isn’t recommended, and he cautioned that users who do disable throttling will be at risk of sudden device shutdowns due to CPU or GPU thermal overload.

However, Cook inexplicably said that Apple had let users know what was going on when the original “feature” was released in iOS 10. However, said mention was in the release notes, which are rarely read by anyone other than developers and tech writers. There is also some controversy as to whether the notes contained a mention of power management changes at release, or if that language was actually added at a different time. I have a feeling this statement will continue to get coverage, despite Apple finally giving unhappy users what they want.

Apple announces plans to open a new US campus

In a press release earlier this week, Apple announced plans to both open a new US campus and to contribute $350 billion to the nation’s economy over the next five years. The new facility will reportedly house technical support operations. As for the large contributions, those will be accomplished through payments to US-based suppliers and manufacturers, the creation of 20,000 US jobs, and $5 billion in investments in their already created Advanced Manufacturing Fund.

Tim Cook and the company have openly supported Donald Trump’s business tax reform policies so that they could bring that money back to the US.. The fact that these announcements come on the heels of its passage and Apple’s repatriation of overseas-based cash reserves and their massive one-time payment of taxes on that money is no accident. Despite the fact that Apple has been one of the biggest tax payers in the US for several years despite their overseas holdings, they have still taken flak from the media over the perception that they were “dodging” paying their fair share. These commitments feel like a promise fulfilled after the tax bill passed, as well as a way for Apple to show their critics a stronger commitment to investing in US.

Apple has received FCC approval for the HomePod

Apple’s HomePod has been approved by the FCC, which is one of the last hurdles to be cleared for any device release. This is yet another indication that the news of a 4 to 6 week release window for the HomePod is accurate, and that we could get a release announcement anytime within the next month.  

Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile will now allow unlocked iPhones  to be ported over to their service

I am a Comcast customer, so I looked into their wireless service when it was announced. Unfortunately, while their data pricing actually looked pretty enticing, they required new, locked phones to be purchased. There was no way I was going to sell my family’s five different phones so that we could switch from AT&T, so I have watched and waited.

This week, Comcast announced that they will allow unlocked iPhones to be used on their network. This means that anyone who has paid off their phone on their current service can get them unlocked by their carriers and bring them over. Anyone who, like me, uses Apple’s iPhone Replacement Plan or buys their iPhones outright from Apple already has an unlocked device, and won’t have to do anything to switch.

Comcast’s cell service isn’t going to be for everyone. However, for any existing Comcast customers, their pricing is attractive enough to be worth a good, hard look. We have one phone that is being paid off on an AT&T Next plan, so we will have to either pay that off, or wait until the payment plan is complete to switch. However, if the pricing is still this good when that happens, we will probably switch.

Apple’s iPhone was the most activated smartphone during the last quarter

According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), the iPhone was the most activated smartphone in the US last quarter. They accounted for 39% of all activations between October and December of last year. Samsung came in second with 32% in this survey of 500 people who activated new or used devices in this time period.

That’s it for this edition of Apple Slices. I’ll be back with more bite-sized Apple news in the coming weeks.


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Post tags: apple slices, Comcast, fcc, homepod, iphone, tim cook

January 20 2018

23:34

Google’s Pixelbook is One FINE Piece of Hardware

I used a Chromebook several years ago and I actually really enjoyed the simplicity of it. It was a super fast, super easy barebones computing experience. Few bugs. No viruses to worry about. No fuss. It shared the same instant on capability of the iPad, but it was even more to the point without the all the apps. That can be both a positive and a negative, but you might surprised by how much you can do in a browser until you actually try it.

While I liked the Chromebook, I eventually moved onto other things like the gadget nerd that I am (Before now, some here might not realize it, but that DOES include non-Apple products). However, my original Chromebook from Samsung that I bought back in 2012 is still going strong for my Dad. He was fed up with Windows and how each laptop he bought would get progressively slower and more trouble to use. He has been using this Chromebook, an iPhone, and an iPad Mini for close to five years now, and is a lot happier as a result. That six year old Chromebook is as fast and easy to use today as it was then. Other than a few cracks or nicks in the plastic case and battery wear, it still works just the same. That’s part of the beauty of an OS based in a browser.

Even though it’s been a while since I have used one regularly, I have always kept up with the platform and devices that come and go. I definitely took notice of the reviews of Google’s new Pixelbook, which is by far and away the most premium Chrome OS device made to date, when it was released last October. While the price tag, which starts at $999, is absolutely insane, the design slowly drew me in.

While the reviews and tech press coverage got my attention, I decided to actually try out and review a Pixelbook after seeing one on display at my local BestBuy. I came away more impressed after putting my hands on one and feeling just how thin and light it is in actual use. I was also impressed with the touchscreen, which I didn’t expect. I had an Acre Chromebook that was one of the first with a touchscreen, and it was virtually useless. This one really works well and actually adds to the Chrome OS experience. Google also has a Pen designed to work with it that demoed well in-store. I was supposed to get one with my purchase, but my salesperson at the BestBuy location I purchased at dropped the ball. I thought it was going to be in the box, so I didn’t notice until it was too late. I was told I can get one from another location, even if they have to order one, so I will report on that when I can.

As for my initial impressions, the Pixelbook is exeptionally thin and light, and this is coming from someone who has been using Lenovo Yogas for almost four years. Those are ultrabooks by definition and aren’t exactly tanks, but the Pixelbook still puts them to shame. It feels as crazy thin and light as a current-gen MacBook, which is impressive in its own right.

The body is part aluminum, part soft-touch plastic and soft padding in just the right proportions. It has the aforementioned responsive touchscreen with a versatile hinge design that allows use as a tablet, if you choose. The touchpad is accurate and consistent. The keyboard has good feel, adequate key spacing, and crisp feedback.

The overall look and feel are simple and professional, which is good to see from Google. I’ve often been critical of them for how lacking and, frankly speaking, lazy their hardware efforts have often been in terms fit, finish and details. Unfortunately, the Pixel 2 phones were yet another example of this. However, this is FAR from the case with the Pixelbook. It is as close to a perfect touchscreen laptop design as I have seen.

There is a reason why several tech writers called Apple out for their constant refusal to release a thin, light touchscreen Mac laptop after the releases of both the Pixelbook and the Surface Laptop. Apple’s Macs are still selling in high, and actually growing numbers, so it isn’t as if they are driving customers away with their designs. However, they have gone from being the darling of the tech media and vocal pro users, thanks to the groundbreaking MacBook Air and the powerful MacBook Pro, to falling behind some others in several respects.

Apple may still be making hardware that most users are fine with, but they aren’t making what a lot of very vocal tech influencers want anymore. Combine that with the higher prices that Apple usually charges, and you have a lot of formerly loyal users who are in the public eye (at least in the tech bubble that people like myself pay attention to) changing desktop platforms and being very open and critical of Apple about why. While using the Pixelbook doesn’t make me question using Apple products (disclaimer- I am a lifetime Windows user, so I have no personally loyalty to Apple in desktop computing), I do understand the sentiments of some, because it shows the kind of design and build chops that we used to associate exclusively with Apple.

So why am I using and writing about the Pixelbook? One reason is to see how close it can come to what I do on my iPad Pro. Both have really good touchscreens with a compatible stylus. Since I keep my iPad Pro in a keyboard case, both have quality attached keyboards that are backlit. Both are instant on devices that are easy to run and keep up to date, and as far as I can tell so far, both have great battery life. This should make for an interesting comparison as I switch back and forth over the coming days. That has already started, as I have written this entire article using the Pixelbook without issue. Normally I would us my iPad Pro for that task.

Another reason  I am doing this is because I think the Pixelbook drives home the point that I really would buy and use the iPad Pro in a MacBook body hybrid device that I proposed earlier this week. Neither my iPad Pro with a keyboard case, which adds extra bulk and weight, or the current MacBook, which lacks a touchscreen, come close enough to that device to give me an idea of what it would be like to use it. Ironically, Google’s Pixelbook is as close as you will get to that on the market right now. That’s why I have one, and that’s why I am going to be logging some thoughts on it over the next few weeks.

Have you ever owed a Chromebook? How about a Chromebook Pixel? If so, what do you (or did you) think of the experience? Love it or hate it, I am interested to know. Also, no matter if you have used one or not, what do you think of Google’s new Pixelbook? How does it stack up to the iPad Pro or MacBook, in your opinion?  Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.


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Post tags: chrome, Chromebook, Google+, iPad Pro, macbook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Pixel, Pixelbook

January 18 2018

02:56

A Deal and a Giveaway: Cresuer Touchwave Bluetooth Earbuds and Tribe of Mentors Giveaway

Apple fans know that the AirPods are the current standard when it comes to fully wireless earbuds. Sure, there are higher priced models from Bose that have better sound quality, but aren’t quite in the same class design-wise. However, not everyone wants to drop $150 on a set of earbuds. Also, the AirPods shape just doesn’t fit all users. My wife is a perfect example of this, as they won’t fit in here ears at all.

For users looking for a set of Bluetooth earbuds at a lower price, or for a range of bud sizes that may fir a little better, the Cresuer Touchwave Bluetooth Earbuds are a solid choice. Like Apple’s AirPods, the Touchwave buds come with a charging case that will recharge the buds up to 4 times. The buds themselves feature 3 hours of continuous music playback.

The Touchwave also feature noice cancellation and are sweat resistant, making them an ideal workout partner. Bluetooth 4.1 insures good battery life and maximum connection range.

Our Deals site is offering the Cresuer Touchwave Bluetooth Earbuds for $39.99. This is a whopping 60% off the retail price of $99.99.

Our Deals site also has a massive giveaway going on, with winners being chosen in 14 days. The Tim Ferris Tribe of Mentors Dream Setup Giveaway Grand Prize Winner will receive a MacBook Pro, an iPhone X, a set of AirPods, an Apple Watch 3, and an Apple TV 4K. This haul is worth over $3,000. Sign up here.


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Post tags: Airpods, Bluetooth Earbuds, deals, giveaways

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