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Why the Apple Watch matters — or doesn’t March 8, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Gizmos.
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So, its the eve of Apple Watch sales being formally announced by Apple tomorrow (it goes on sale in April) and as usual with anything Apple, I have to weigh in.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 3.19.09 PM

First — kudos to Apple for the lovely design, and the different versions available right out of the gate: Sporty, more formal, or more fashion-oriented there will be a version for anyone who wants one.

Second — like some other things, Apple is a bit late with this wearable — and what is worrisome is that others, including Pebble and Samsung have had little success with their wearables – be that watches or “glass”. (For the record, Google Glass appears to be DOA – no further sales are planned).

So, the watch promises to give you notifications, calendar events, texts, time, maps, and a few other goodies on your wrist. It sounds great in theory. But outside an initial multi-million users, will it catch on beyond that? It depends, and not on Apple, but on the public demanding more.

As we’ve learned so far with Apple Pay, people like it — but shops are not expanding fast enough to accommodate it. I can name only a handful stores in all of Ann Arbor, for example, that accept it — Walgreens, Office Max, Whole Foods, Meijer, McDonalds, Panera, and Lucky’s Market (where I have yet to get it to work). It did fare better in a recent trip to SF, where it was accepted in other shops as well. Come on, Ann Arbor is a progressive tech-savvy place — and it isn’t catching on. And there doesn’t seem to be any type of public clambering to get it into more stores.

Now comes the Apple Watch — and it sees a bit archaic if you ask me:

1) It does not work if it is not directly paired with your iPhone. Which means for the watch to work (beyond simple timekeeping), you need your iPhone in your pocket or your purse – not more than a few feet away, or it simply won’t do anything.  What then does having something on your wrist add to that experience of using your iPhone? Isn’t it just easier (and have a much larger screen?) to just take your iPhone out of your pocket when it rings? Or vibrates? Or plays your favorite tone?

2) People have stopped wearing watches — its going to be hard for Apple to convince people that wearing a watch is desirable — the entire smartphone experience over the years has conditioned people to stop wearing watches and get their time and alarms from their phone. And you know what? Its nice not to wear anything on your wrist. Its nice not to have watchbands scratching up your laptop. Its nice not to have stuff ripping threads from your pockets every time you put your hand in your pocket to get your keys, wallet, or iPhone. I can’t imagine ever wearing a watch again.

3) There’s a big emphasis on fitness — really? I don’t know a single person that uses any of the fitness apps built into the new iPhone 6/6+…I suppose maybe people healthier than us that live on the west coast might use this stuff? Nobody here that I know of in middle America…maybe Apple will find a way to convince people to use this stuff? Though I doubt it. It seems to me the types of folks who love having that fancy tech in their pockets aren’t the ones who are out there running laps and taking their blood pressure very often.

4) How does Apple expect to succeed where others have failed in the wearable market — well, outside of the initial rush of folks getting on the bandwagon, I can’t imagine it will sustain much excitement — the wow factor is there — like people will look at other people’s watches and say “wow, that’s cool” — but what use will it have for themselves? I can’t imagine thinking “wow, I want one” after seeing one. I just can’t imagine what it would buy me as far as usefulness.

5) Size matters — in a world where even Apple conceded that Android’s larger sized phones are a plus and what people wanted, now they are asking us to look at something so small you can’t see it without your reading glasses on? I don’t think so.

I am certain Apple will have a big splash of an announcement tomorrow — I am sure that it will advertise it had “record sales beyond anything they expected” the night they go on sale — and I am relatively certain that without any “killer apps” that Apple’s wearable, just like others before it, is not going to go much beyond that.

Bottom line: This is going to be a great-looking sleek new launch from Apple — but its usefulness seems limited at best, and will the public clamber for something they already have in their (nicer) phones.

Why the iPhone 6 will be a game changer September 7, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Gizmos.
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iphone6-sizes-800x636

So, this week Apple will announce their new iPhone 6 and iOS 8 software. They’ll also announce an iWatch, and maybe some other odds and ends — but the world’s focus is on the new iPhone 6 — and anticipation is so great that Apple has ordered over 70 million units for shipment this fall (the biggest ever) and FedEx has cancelled other deliveries from China to focus on Apple for the next couple of months (the biggest launch in history).

Its the perfect storm for Apple, and will be a Samsung killer in the United States. There will always be Android fan boys, and Apple fan boys, and very rarely do the two meet. But the statistics don’t lie:

-The large majority of iPhone owners are due an upgrade, and they will…

-The vast majority of iPhone users who switched to Android phones did so for the larger screen, and in poll after poll indicate they will come back to Apple and abandon their Androids once they have larger screens available…

-Apple finally has found a way to capture the over-40 market — with its vision friendly larger screens, you can bet those Android phones will stagnate on the shelf at phone stores…just anecdotally, I haven’t heard a single college kid in Ann Arbor complain that the iPhone 5 is too small…while almost every single one of my over-40 (and many of us over-50) folks have complained about the small size for years. Internationally, 51% of the asian market is anticipating buying the larger 5.5″ screen, while abut 37% of the US market is leaning toward the larger of the two screens.

-iOS 8 will finally incorporate all those things that Samsung has had bragging rights to — widgets, etc — and will do them better, faster, and more reliably…

Current scuttlebutt has it that the iPhone 6 4.7 inch will be released on or about the 19th of September, while the iPhone 6  5.5 inch (plus) model will release a while down the road (though there is some indication it might also release on the 19th in limited quanitites). Expect the vast majority of under-40’s to upgrade to the iPhone 4.7 while the vast majority of over-40’s change to the iPhone 5.5.  Its a sheer vision thing.

Speaking of the Vision Thing…there is another game changer afoot — expect iPad sales to stagnate, especially for the iPad Mini, as the 5.5″ iPhone screen arrives — finally a size comfortable enough to read a book, watch a video comfortably, look at photos at almost real-size (for those of us who grew up with 4×6 photos as “real size”), and enough real estate to take notes reasonably — I expect iPad sales will decrease exponentially as users realize that they no longer need them. But if you are going to cut into the market, you might as well make it your own.

Finally — the other complaint I’ve heard about the larger size is that “they don’t fit in a pocket” — well they sure do — at least for the vast majority of users who don’t wear skinny jeans. The iPhone 5.5 will be small enough to fit easily into a purse or men’s pants pocket. For all intents and purposes, I’ve been carrying around all my phones since the old mid-naughts HTC Tilts and Blackberries in my cargo pants pocket, and its never been an issue. In fact, Blackberries were always larger than their iPhone equivalents.

Apple knows that it currently holds all the cards in its hands. This weeks remarkably clumsy Samsung announcement for a variety of new phones and circumspect tech gear proved that much.  How many people actually remember what they announced last week, and when its being released?…(the Note 4, a new watch, and some odd virtual reality helmet)…but there won’t be a single person in America, and most of the world for that matter, who won’t know what Apple announces this Tuesday afternoon — and much of that will covert to real sales a week later.

Personally, having become acclimated to the Samsung Galaxy 4 and now the Galaxy 5 with its 5.1 inch screen, (and falling firmly into that target market of Apple’s who switched to Android to get the larger screen for our aging eyes), I will be up at the crack of 2 or 3 am whatever morning they announce online sales will begin for the iPhone 5.5″ — and I know many others will be doing the same thing — I can’t imagine switching back to a tinier screen, but I can’t wait to get rid of my quirky and unreliable Samsung phone.

For the record, plenty of websites have already shown size comparisons…the iPhone 4.7″ is marginally larger than the current 4″ iPhone 5/5S, but only marginally so…including its larger bezel and frame it will be about the size of the current Galaxy S5 but with a smaller screen…the iPhone 5.5″ model will be about the size of the current Galaxy Note 3 (though thinner and taller).

No matter what people’s personal thoughts are on the affair, Apple will have the happiest Christmas of any corporation in America, and Samsung will find that despite some of its advances over the past couple years, they are again looking up at Apple as its sales set records internationally.

 

iPhone 5S vs Samsung galaxy S4 September 28, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Gizmos.
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Upfront: I’ve used an iPhone since 2007 when they first came up, upgrading to each subsequent version. About three months ago, I plain old got bored of the iPhone and tried the Samsung Galaxy S4 for a month. This past week, I went back to the iPhone with the new iPhone 5S. This is based on my experience comparing the two.

Screen — Without a doubt the better screen is on the Galaxy S4 — it’s an inch bigger, which for my aging eyes makes all the difference in the world between being able to read a Kindle book on the phone vs squinting at the screen on the iPhone. The colors are super saturated, which I personally like, and everything looks fantastic. GS4 no doubt the winner here.

Battery — this is a tossup. Because the GS4 allows you to swap out batteries (which you can get on eBay for a couple bucks a piece) this would seem to be the no-brainer here — but its not. In real life, the iPhone 5S gets a good 2 hours more out of a charge per day with moderate use and similar brightness settings. That DOES make a difference and means you can make it through a normal day with one charge, which you can not with the GS4 without swapping out a battery in the afternoon, or recharging. In reality, the iPHone 5S wins here.

Memory — both come in 16, 32, and 64 GB models of built in memory. If you are a real music or video freak, you can add upto another 64GB of microSD memory to the GS4. I’ve never used more than 16-18 GB of data on my phones, ever, so if this is a necessity for you look at the biggest memory you can get. For others, the 32GB version of either phone will do you fine. Tie in real life, win for GS4 for the uber-memory hogs.

Software — another tossup as far as apps available — my experience (I am not a gamer so I can not talk there) was that every single App I had on the iPhone has an equal (or similar if not better) App on Android. They download faster on Android. And they are easy to manage within the Play store. BUT — in the years of having an iPhone I have never had a single App crash while using it. Not so on the GS4 — I had apps crash left and right every single day. I can’t remember that since the old days of Blackberry and Pocket PC.  Apps available is a tie. App Quality and stability, iPhone5S wins.

Ease of Use — iPhone5S, not even worth discussing here. Everything works right out of the box. Nothing crashes, and you can do everything one-handed.

Customizability — again, not worth discussing. Galaxy S4 all the way if this is your thing. I loved having widgets on the phone that instantly update MLB scores, or have a sticky note app, or the Google notecards. Apple can take a lesson from Android here, at least as far as widgets are concerned. Also you have complete freedom over volume, sounds, where buttons are placed on the control screens, etc. GS4 wins by a landslide here.

Music and Movies — iPhone5S wins. If you have a mac, an iPad, and iPhone don’t even think about switching to a Galaxy S4 — it won’t play any of your purchased iTunes movies, and it won’t play anything older in your iTunes library that has any DRM attached to it (most albums purchased the last few years are DRM free on iTunes — but almost my entire Broadway record collection dates from the early 2000’s when I replaced all my CD’s with digital versions by either ripping the CD’s or buying new on iTunes. Those won’t play. If you are not tied to the iTunes world, you’ll find Google Play more than an adequate solution with multiple music and video players you can choose from. Transfering music and movies and photos on the GS4 is ludicrous — this is a total win for the iPhone5S and its iTunes integration.

Build Quality — iPhone5S wins again. Its solid, feels good to hold, and you know its not going to break. The GS4 is plastic, and while its a good size and heft, I several times found the back cover coming off and needing snapping back on. It feels cheap. When you hold it and type you can feel the back cover “give” as you squeeze. The hardware is decent on both machines, but lets face it. the iPhone5 is the Rolls Royce of smartphones. I might have a different story to talk about if I owned a HTC One, which are superbly built. But the GS4 is not an HTC One, and its not an iPhone. Apple wins this one.

Speed — The iPhone5S wins by a landslide. The new iPhone5S is 2 times faster than the GS4 in day-to-day use, and it has a screen that is 3.4 x more responsive than the GS4. That means faster and lighter finger taps will get the job down. That isn’t Apple advertising, by the way — that is research data provided by Android just this week.

Keyboard — both the iPhone5S and the Android have touchscreen keyboards that, as far as I am concerned, SUCK. I hate them. I would trade for a real keyboard anyday for speed and accuracy. That being said, the iPhone’s keyboard sucks less than the Android but for different reasons. The iPhone tends to predict the correct words less often than the Android, but it spells them correctly. Android, on the other hand, can use swipe-to-type which rarely gets the correct words you want in a sentence, and otherwise is just a disaster when typing. If my Blackberry typing speed is 65 wpm (which it is), and my iPhone speed is 25 wpm (which it is – it sucks), then my Android speed was about 15 wpm and of those half were typed incorrectly, spelled wrong, or just gibberish. You can swap out the touch keyboard with many others available through App download — none of them were much better. I did find that Swift keyboard allowed me to at least type faster by their use of almost eerily correct text prediction — but that wasn’t typing — it was touching words as the keyboard would predict them, kinda like the old T9 thing only better. Not satisfying and not for me. iPhone5S wins for speed and accuracy, but not really for speed nor accuracy. Just better than the Android.

Accessories — the iPhone5S wins again. Cases, chargers, screen protectors, speakers, car stereo players are available just about everywhere. Cases look better and are cheaper for the iPhone5S and readily available without special order. Vacation sites sell iPhone 5 cases (i.e. Walt Disney World, etc) and none of them have GS4 cases. I was never able to get my Roadster2 to pair with the GS4 in the car. iPhone connected instantly. iPhone5S wins.

Camera — the iPhone5S has sharper photos hands down. Easy to compare and many websites have. I found it a battle to get a sharp photo with the GS4 even in sunny situations. Close focusing was very difficult with the GS4. While it comes with better bells and whistles software wise built in by Android and Samsung, you can get similar (and generally better) software post processing apps on the iPhone. But for sheer image quality, which is really all I care about, the iPhone5S wins.

Extras — iPhone 5S’s fingerprint ID offsets the many better hardware-based specialties of the GS4, so I’ll call it a tie.

No matter which phone you choose, you will be using either Apple or Samsung’s top of the line model. You’ll be generally happy with either — but I couldn’t help but think during my month of GS4 that I felt a bit like someone using the phone because I couldn’t afford the iPhone (not true). It has little glamor and certainly no “wow” factor other than the better and larger screen.

For your thought before purchasing or upgrading:

Do you own a Mac, iPad, previous iPhone and you use iTunes — stick with Apple, you will be very very very disappointed with the Android system and its sync and backups.

Do you prefer to customize things so they look and work the way you want, even if it takes hours sometimes to get it to do that? I.e. are you a gizmo-whiz and a tinkerer? Then the Galaxy S4 will be more to your liking.

Do you like setting a lot of different ringtones and notification sounds? Do you like customizing them with rings that you want or make yourself? iPhone is the way to go.

Do you want the sharpest photos possible? iPhone.

Do you prefer to use a PC and PC-based software (word, excel) etc? Then the Android will be more to your liking when it comes to smartphone features.

Are you using iCloud to sync your Mac, iPhone, and iPad for contacts, calendars, tasks, and notes? Then iPhone is the way to go. You can get third party software to sync to your iCloud — my experience was that it was spotty and slow, often VERY slow (things showed up in iCloud hours later). There are no guarantees that Apple will not block access to its iCloud ports with subsequent iOS updates. Don’t switch to Android if you are dependent on the Apple systems.

 

 

 

How to watch Downton Abbey Season 4 in the USA before January September 28, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Gizmos, TV.
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As you are probably aware, the hit British series Downton Abbey airs in the US beginning in January, though the new episodes are currently showing in the UK. These are streamed for 28 days following each showing, but you can’t access the players from the US as it is “locked out”.

Until now.

With the program “Tunnelbear”, you can (for a nominal cost, either 5.00  monthly or 49.00 once per year) trick your PC or Mac into presenting itself as whatever country you want. You can get it here: http://tunnelbear.com

You simply download, install, and when you are ready to watch Downton Abbey (or other British shows) you click the “on” button in your menu for the program, and turn to the country you want.

Then go to https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/downton-abbey/ — click on the episode you want, and viola!

Note: This is the program that I use (there are also Apps for the iPhone and the iPad and for Android devices) and your use of this software is subject to your own security precautions. Works fine on the Mac. There are also other streaming video sites that allow you to watch, but this one seems to be the “cleanest” and easiest by far.

NOTE: turn OFF your mail (especially if you are using gmail or have mail push enabled) on your computer and your mobile devices until after you are done viewing — it will send out security alerts to Gmail in particular which will cause you to reset your passwords. JUST TURN IT OFF UNTIL DONE. After you have finished with Tunnelbear and turned it off  you an reconnect to your mail and you are good to go. You’ve been warned.

 

Blackberry Q10 vs iPhone 5 — Software does-in BB’s otherwise excellent Qwerty smartphone June 24, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Entertainment, Gizmos, Photography.
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UPDATED 7/17/13 —

The following review remains as is. On July 3, ATT rolled-out version 10.1.0.2030 — this was specifically updated to unblock calDav problems and to allow syncing to occur between Blackberry and iOS iCloud and to patch some security woes. It does not work automatically and you will have to add it manually (Google “How to sync your BBQ10 and iCloud” for step by step instructions). Note that once this was manually synced, updates were very slow — calendars would take 5 – 20 minutes to refresh and a good minute or so to repopulate each time you opened the calendar ap on the Q10 — unforgivable on a business smartphone. Similar sync delays occurred in contacts– I returned by BBQ10 to ATT on the 14th day of no-remorse returns. I must say up front that ATT was excellent in working with me, and took care of all upgrades/returns/etc with professionalism and care. I was very very sad to do so, almost tearful in fact, because I love the hardware of the BBQ10 so much, that keyboard is to die for. BBRY posted a tremendous loss in stock last week, and just the other day announced they are cutting their production of the Z10 and Q10 by 50 percent. Bad news for Blackberry and its fans, and for any hope of developers creating apps for them. I can not imagine that anyone but Blackberry die-hards will be happy with the Q10 at this point.

ORIGINAL REVIEW 6/24/13

Since the very first day of the original iPhone, I have been among its staunchest defenders, EXCEPT for the horrendous touch-type keyboard. For three years I carried around my Blackberry Bold along with the iPhone, which I used for everything except phone calls, texts, SMS messages, or e-mails. It was a pain in the ass. Ultimately, the iPhone won out completely as I gave up on carrying around two phones, let alone paying for two data plans.

BlackBerry-Q10-review-sides_original

So it was with VERY excited expectations that I became the proud owner of the newest Blackberry offering, the Q10 — the best of all possible worlds — a blazing fast processor, lots of storage, a removable battery, great photos, a super sharp 720 x 720 screen (even sharper than the iPhone 5’s retina display), and having both a touch screen as well as a full-Qwerty keyboard that is a dream to use.

So after real life use, what can I say?  The BB Q10 is virtually unusable for the day-to-day user because software has not caught up to the tech — so far, the offerings are dismal. All of the built-in BB apps are superb — but for the Mac user: Blackberry 10 has built-in conduits for syncing to your iPhone iCloud account — unfortunately it DOES NOT WORK. Currently there is no way to sync your calendars, contacts (they sync once then never again), notes, or reminders. Don’t even bother — there are hundreds of pages of threads on this all over the web right now, and Blackberry really did in their Mac users.

The typing experience is superb — back to an easy error-free 65 WPM speed in less than 5 minutes of practice. A few new key combinations, and some screen swipes to learn, and off you go — everything else is familiar, and it looks gorgeous. The new message hub is great. And just start typing a few letters of what you are looking for and it instantly pops up that application open and ready to go (Apple could learn something here)….for example, type tex(t) and before you are three letters in, the texting app is open and ready to go. LOVE IT.

What do I not love? Well — the entire experience will be one of failure if applications don’t catch up as soon as possible. BB has been neglected for years by most developers, expecting a quick RIM death once touch phones took over. Well now that BBRY has big hits on its hands with the Z10 and the Q10, the developers have catching up to do — and here, there is a lot to do…any iPhone user has gotten used to the many apps that make life simpler, happier, more fun, or just plain old more organized. No such luck here. Because of the 720×720 square screen, older BB apps don’t work. Even “side-loading” Android apps (not an easy process) doesn’t work for all of them, only those that can run on a smaller square screen.

So what does that mean in the real world? Well, hang onto your hat, here are programs that DO NOT WORK or ARE NOT AVAILABLE for the BB Q10 as of this writing:

Mac Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Contacts, email settings, internet favorites do not sync at present

Evernote with all features (there is an integrated version that works with the new BB Reminders, but does not sync properly nor can any folders we shared, nor shared folders imported)

Facebook with all features (there is a simple flat app that presents timeline only, without any photo posting)

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Camera (there is no way to get photos into your Facebook uploads at present)

Any version of Slingbox Mobile or web-based access to it

Instagram

Pandora

Kindle

Zinio

Shazam

Square Reader (for accepting credit card payments)

Google Maps

Bento or other Database File progran

Passbook, or any format of it (If you have Starbucks cards on your iPhone, they won’t transfer to the BBQ10 — one workaround people have posted is to take a photo of your iPhone’s barcode, and use that photo when checking out at Starbucks)

My Disney Experience (now necessary to book fastpasses online)

Starbucks, Chase, TCF Bank, Paypal, eBay or other credit card program — I contacted Starbucks and was told in no uncertain terms that they “absolutely will NOT be developing a Blackberry app” — hmm.

Delta (There is a downloadable app, which does not open nor run)

Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming-media software

ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO-Go or any other television streaming application

Siri (although a limited Voice Command program does allow you some siri-like command and search functions)

Most games that have you been playing on your iPhone — in my case ALL games that I had been playing on my iPhone

SO – be warned — this is a sleek, superb phone, and it is far more productive than my iPhone (any version including my current 5) has ever been. But the applications SUCK and without them, I can not recommend any iPhone or Android user switch back to the Q10 despite the superior keyboard. Its a deal breaker. No apps, no use.

For current blackberry users, this is not a no-brainer. Before you upgrade,  be sure to check appworld.blackberry.com to see if the applications you currently use will be available on the Q10 — there are a LOT that do not run on the Q10 that you have happily been using on your other older blackberries — surprisingly so. Also many have complained because of the lack of a trackball on the new version – if that is important to you, do not upgrade.

If applications and syncing are of no interest to you, then the Blackberry Q10 is currently THE best offering with a full built-in QWERTY keyboard for all intents and purposes. Go get it now. That keyboard is AMAZING. For me, I am back to my iPhone 5. Other users might similarly want to hold off. For awhile, I was certain that new apps would be appearing relatively quickly — but it appears that is not happening. Existing apps have been getting some upgrades, but my personal contacts with Starbucks, Slingbox, Netflix have all yielded answers from them that they are NOT working on BB10 versions. That’s a shame.

Final Score Card Blackberry Q10 vs iPhone 5:

Keyboard – BBQ10 hands down

Size – tie

Feel in hand when using/talking/texting – BBQ10 hands down

User Experience – iPhone 5

Camera – iPhone 5

Video capability – iPhone 5

Media viewing – iPhone 5

Listening to Music/ease of use – iPhone 5

Software – iPhone 5 hands down (I have 140 apps on my iPhone 5, only 30 of them (or some version of something like them) are available on the BBQ10

Syncing/iCloud integration/Google integration – iPhone 5

Screen size – iPhone 5

Screen clearness – tie

Swipe/navigate experience – iPhone 5

Mapping – iPhone 5, not better overall, but because of Google Maps availability as well

Bluetooth/Wireless connections – tie, easier to manage on iPhone 5

Signal Strength on ATT network – BBQ10 by far

Telephone sound quality – BBQ10

Battery life – BBQ10 by days

Power management – BBQ10 (removable battery, compatible with all microUSB chargers and accessories)

Cases/accessories – iPhone 5

Durability – tie

Speed – tie

Memory – BBQ10 – more built in and expandable cheaply with microSD cards up to 64 gb

Price – BBQ10

Technical Support: ATT – iPhone far better….APPLE – far better overall…Blackberry – friendly but limited, most common answer from tech support “The Blackberry system doesn’t work like that” and “we are still working on that feature”.

WINNER: iPhone 5

Do I need an iPhone 5 if I have an iPhone 4S? September 12, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Gizmos.
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The answer is – no. Will you want one when you get your hands on one, yes. Is the LTE really that much faster? Well, depending on where you live.

Let’s start with the LTE question: If you have LTE in your neighborhood, its faster. I used LTE on my iPad in Orlando and it was faster than any of the local wireless systems via WiFi. Here in Michigan there IS NO LTE for ATT, and there won’t be for some time — and while there is LTE “sometime coming soon” according to ATT, it will be in Detroit and Grand Rapids only.  So, depending on your wireless service provider and where you live, it may or may not be helpful to you — at least for another year or so.

The form factor is virtually identical to the iPhone 4S — a bit taller, so it has a true 4″ screen for wide-movie viewing (similar to the dimensions on your HD tv, only way way way smaller). If watching movies on your 4″ screen sounds like a must have, then go for it.

The phone does have a new charging cord. I don’t know about you, but I have a cord at home, one in my bag, one at work, and one in my car for charging. That means, with the one new cord included, I would need to buy 3 adapters (29.00 each!) to continue to use my system the way that I have been for years. So that means an additional 90.00. Third party accessories (stereos with built-in 30-pin connectors) will instantly become incompatible. Think about that if you use things like alarm clocks with built in docks.

Also — ATT, for the first time ever, is NOT allowing a lower-priced iPhone for those with current contracts. That means if you have an iPhone 4S with ATT, you will be shelling out the full price for the phone AND extending your contract by two years.

Here’s something that Apple has been VERY quiet about — on September 19th, they are releasing the latest OS software for the iPhone — that will be available to everyone with an iPhone 4 and higher…that means you will get the exact same features as the iPhone 5 for FREE.

How about the speed?…Well, changing from a dual A5 to an A6 chip will no doubt increase your speed a tiny bit. I have not handled the iPhone 5, but all accounts so far of those who have indicate that the increase in speed is not noticeable — until you have been using the unit for about a half hour, at which point you start to see that things open a bit more quickly. But ask yourself: is your current iPhone 4S too slow?…Have you ever thought to yourself, wow, this is slow?  I have never noticed an increase in speed of processing from the iPhone 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 4S…I’m pretty sure that the normal schmoe will not notice any speed increase to the 5…

Finally — there is the form factor: yes, it looks great. Yes, Apple wants to always have the biggest and most beautiful. Yes, it looks gorgeous. But the reality is that only you and you alone would be aware that you have the newer version of the phone…it looks that similar.

So — as usual, my advice? If you want the latest and greatest, by all means update. If you already have the iPhone 4S, don’t waste the money on this current update — download the new iOS software on 9/19 for free and you will be good to go. If you have an iPhone 4 or older, absolutely update — you missed the major update from the 4 to the 4S, so now is the time to upgrade for sure….but if you have the 4S, not so much.

The view from Macworld iWorld 2012 January 29, 2012

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It’s the ultimate Apple/Mac geek fest — the annual Macworld conference in San Francisco’s Moscone Center….this year re-named “Macworld iWorld” to emphasize the role that the internet now has. There was fear a few years back that Apple (who chose to stop attending the conference) would sound the death knell for Macworld — far from. There were more exhibits this year than ever. The emphasis on music, art, and writing increases yearly, and the even has become a “must attend” for Mac geeks like myself.

So, what did things look like this year? Well, there was a much larger emphasis on apps than in the past, for all versions of iOS (iPhone, iPad, and Lion). There was also a significant decrease in hardware presence, and much more on software. Xerox and HP, for example, while maintaining booths really had trouble attracting visitors — most flocked to the nearby scanner displays instead (Scansnap was doing swift business). Let’s face it — when was the last time you actually printed a photo instead of sharing it with friends by email, iPhone, or Facebook?  There was also a heavy emphasis on social events — evening parties, concerts, jam sessions heavily geared toward tech support folks who know what phrases like “the grapefruit is pink” means…

There was also a de-emphasis on the servers/work stations hardware, and much more emphasis on iPad/iPhone accessories (the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad cases, bumpers, and hard shells were omnipresent, ranging from the superb to the deranged).

What stood out? Well, folio keyboards for the iPad were big — and had huge draws. Zagg had a strong presence, and they were selling their iPad 2 zagg folios at discount….myself, I went directly for the new clamcase for iPad 2 and am waiting for its delivery in a few days — see clamcase.com

Input devices were also big — there were two separate pen/paintbrush-type styli for the iPad and iPhone and both even won best in show 2012 – check out the Jot Touch pen, for example — these were selling like hotcakes right off the floor…  http://adonit.net/product/jot-touch/    But it wasn’t just limited to physical input — microphones for the iPhone and iPad were also hot this year, and several won best in show honors.

Want to see possibly the most jaw-dropping new application ever?….and its free on iTunes — check out TourWrist for iPad….it’s seriously the most amazing photo software you could imagine, creating 360 degree panoramas that look drop dead gorgeous on the iPad.

Also a big breakthrough — Smile software has adapted it’s PDFpen software for Mac to the iPad — PDFpen will allow Mac users to finally say goodbye to Adobe forever — something that didn’t go unnoticed at Macworld/iWorld — there was no Adobe presence at the conference at all.

Finally — and this is always a big part of Macworld — there was the camaraderie — thousands and thousands of Apple Mac fans found a place to share all that tech geek knowledge; nobody thought twice about meeting new friends with a simple “what’s your favorite app?”; and Moscone Center came to life with the world of iPhones and iPads and Lions…and nobody blinked when a Mac geek from Ann Arbor got up on stage on the second floor concourse and helped jam to some Coldplay songs on a iPad-keyboard while others from Iowa, Berkeley, and San Jose jammed on their iPad “guitars”…although ultimately it did remind me of that classic “HIMYM” scene in which Barney eggs on Ted who is dancing a rain dance with a “still funny….still funny….and now it’s just sad.”

 

 

 

iPhone 4S vs iPhone 4 — should you upgrade? (UPDATE: Camera quality) October 10, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Entertainment, Gizmos, Photography, Uncategorized.
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SEE UPDATE at the end of this article.

Many of my clients have asked me about the iPhone 4S, and should they upgrade….here is my take:

First, if you want the latest and greatest, by all means upgrade.

Second, if you have a 3G or older, absolutely upgrade. You will be amazed what the iPhone 4/4S range can do.

Specifically for owners of the current iPhone 4: This is an upgrade that Apple calls a “refresh” — that is, it doesn’t have a lot of major style upgrades, but it does have significant upgrades “under the hood”.  The phone is physically virtually identical to the iPhone4. Here is what you should consider if you are looking to upgrade:

1. The processor is faster. The chip in the iPhone 4 is faster (the same as in the iPad) so that programs, web pages, and other applications will open faster.  Ask yourself, though, is your iPhone 4 too slow?? Not a complaint I have heard from anyone.

2. The antenna is improved. If you live, or travel, to an area that the signals are strong, you won’t need the improvement. If you live in (say NYC, SF, etc) you will find that the antenna is much improved, and your signal will be stronger. Note for you AT&T University of Michigan fans — this will NOT mean you will be able to get a signal now inside Michigan Stadium during game day when 115,000 friends are all trying to use their phones at the same time. It will mean your signal will be stronger in general. (For my non-Ann Arbor friends, AT&T signals are pretty strong here in SE Michigan).

3. The camera has been improved to 8 megapixels. What does this mean? Well, your pictures will be much larger, and they will be much sharper with less pixelation (visible dots). For many users, it will mean being able to ditch your compact digital camera and use only the iPhone. For others, it would be a poor substitute. The zoom is digital, and marginal at best. There are no controls for speed, aperture, etc. Even basic compacts have that ability (not that most people use it). What it WILL do is give you sharp front-to-back in-focus shots. No artsy shots here (i.e. no blurred backgrounds in your portraits). Most casual camera users want everything to be sharp and clear so this is a great new feature in the iPhone 4S. I’ll try out my iPhone 4S camera as my sole camera on an upcoming trip and give you my verdict. Personally, I can already predict that it won’t have the quality and features that I usually want in a camera, but I’ll see what it’s like to use it for a few days and nothing else.

4. Siri, new to the iPhone 4s is ONLY available on the iPhone 4s and will not be available in the OS upgrade to older phones. In essence, it’s a much improved voice command system. If you use the current Voice Command on the iPhone, you will find that this does more (not only dial your contacts by voice control, but also set appointments and put them into your calendar). The jury is out on this one. People I know who have tested Siri state that it generally works fine. It can not spell and it makes many mistakes (i.e. it might get the date and time of your doctor appointment correct, but it sure won’t spell the name of the doctor correctly). I personally do not know a single friend of mine who uses the current Voice Command on the iPhone. I don’t know if this will change with the iPhone 4s and it’s Siri program, but I doubt it. Your mileage may vary.

5. The new OS software — this will be available as a free upgrade to all current iPhone users, so this really shouldn’t be a consideration for an upgrade.

6. Your contract — okay, let me warn you up front, the iPhone 4S is a “refresh” as I mentioned earlier. It will, however, come with a two-year contract. That’s not a big deal, and the carriers have allowed upgrades within the year at additional cost with extension of the contract. BUT, if Apple surprises people with an iPhone 5 next summer, say, you will not be able to upgrade as in the past. For many, this is not a consideration. For others it is.  There will be a non-contractual universal iPhone 4S released in November for the contract-phobes….but it will come at a much higher unsubsidized cost.

In summary: your desire to upgrade might not be in line with the reality of what an upgrade will actually bring. If you are not in one of the categories listed above that would make an upgrade a sure fire “deal maker” I would say that those with a current iPhone 4 have little reason to upgrade at present, and wait for the next iPhone update.

Personally: I am upgrading to the iPhone 4S and should have mine on Friday. Why? Well, you know I want the latest and greatest, but no, seriously — I am interested in the new antenna and the improved signal. I travel a lot and any improvement in the antenna will be an overall improvement for me. Second? My current iPhone 4 is worn out: there are cracks in the back, and it’s seen better days (although it’s only a year old)…I can pay the 150.00 at an Apple Store to have the back replaced, or I can spend a bit more and just get a shiny new model. I opted for the latter. I have my iPhone in my pocket  16 hours a day, so its been well used, to say the least.

Hopefully, this will give you some guidance as you decide if you need the newest model. For the most part, I say no. But there are exceptions.

UPDATE: 10/25/11 CAMERA QUALITY

On a recent trip where I did not take my camera and relied solely on the iPhone 4S, I can unequivocally say that the phone alone, even with 8 Megapixels, is NOT a suitable substitute for a decent digital camera. Photos taken directly out of the camera without any zoom are clear and basically sharp. You can not crop these photos or blow them up or they instantly become pixilated. In general, straight out of the camera, shot is fine — don’t mess with it for size or crop.

Transfer of photos is what it is: I refuse to use iPhoto, being a creature of habit with Bridge and Photoshop. so I transfered the photos through eMail, one by one, to my home desktop. It took half  hour and most of the camera battery to send the 15 shots to my desktop computer. This won’t be a problem if you transfer using iPhoto or through iTunes. I imagine it would be a problem if you turn on Photostream and rely on iCloud.

Other quirks: If you open the camera from the lock-screen and then try to use the + volume control as your camera shutter, it freezes up the iPhone. Don’t do this. Open your camera application as usual from the iPhone itself, not from the lockscreen. Apple is apparently aware that this can be a problem on cameras. Wait for a patch.

To zoom in, you need to pinch the screen (as if you are making the photo bigger) and it will bring up the zoom controls. These are quirky and it takes several attempts to zoom in. In general try NOT to zoom in. Zoom is 100% digital, and while it brings your subject closer, all it is really doing is zooming in digitally and pixilizing your shot.

So, to summarize: straight out of the camera, full size photos = usable and generally sharp, capture detail well. Zoom is worthless. And you can NOT use the iPhone 4S alone as your sole camera if you are in way at all interested in photography and not just simple snapshots of friends.

For comparison purposes:

Straight out of the camera, no zoom, interior, generally well-lit: result – pretty good

50 percent zoom, and then cropped for central 50%: result – unusable

iPad 2 vs iPad 1 – To Pad or Not To Pad, That is the Question March 6, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Gizmos.
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Ron’s expert advise on the iPad 2 vs iPad 1 dilemma….

Apple this week announced that, beginning March 11, their newest version of the iPad, named iPad 2 will be available at the same prices as the current iPads, in the same memory and wi-fi/3G configurations. What’s new? A faster processor; front and back facing cameras, and a thinner design.

What does it mean for most of us? Nothing. This is an incremental update with a redesigned chassis but otherwise the same screen size, same OS (the new iPad 2 OS will also be available for free download for current original iPad owners), and for all intents and purposes the same power.

Faster Processor: Seriously, have you heard any iPad owner complaining that their iPad was TOO SLOW?  Unless you plan on using the new iMovie or some other high-graphics video game, then the increased speed will be meaningless to 99 percent of iPad users. Faster is always better — except for this case, where it’s the same.

Front Facing Camera: this is designed for video and FaceTime. It’s real-life resolution is .93 megapixels…..seriously, good only for FaceTime and other quick shots. If you plan on using FaceTime, then it might be a selling point for you. I have never, even once, used FaceTime on my iPhone 4. I would never use it on an iPad.

Back Facing Camera: this is 5 megapixels. The same as the iPhone 4. Are you going to use an iPad to take photos? Really, point and shoot with a magazine sized slab? I suppose I can think of a few applications: take a quick photo of the materials on the table in front of you when working on a project; take a photo of the Board in a classroom….all of which you can do with your cellphone as well. Camera on iPad does not mean Quality Camera on iPad.

A New Cover: yep – clips on magnetically, and is a thin cover for the front of the iPad 2. Does not protect from falls, only from screen scratches. Chances are great you will be investing in a new cover/sleeve for your iPad2. Some older folios might fit, none of the form-fitting clip-on covers will fit. Most sleeves probably will fit. Add a good cover to your investment, and you’ll find that new iPad 2 looking a bit more expensive again.

New Design: yeah, you got me there — it looks amazing. That’s always been Apple’s highpoint — make it look better, sleeker, thinner, more modern. If there was a single reason I might move to the new iPad 2 it would be the opportunity to hold the coolest, sleekest, most conversation-starting new technology in my hands every day.

So, what do I recommend?

If you are a new buyer: Get the iPad 2 — it’s the same price as the current iPad, and you’ll have the latest and greatest. If you want to save some money, get the older iPad right now this week: it is discounted substantially in Apple retail stores so that they can sell out their stock — this is your chance to get that fancier 3G model at the same prices as the old wi-fi version. But you have to buy now — the prices return to full price on the 11th and only the new iPad 2 will be available.

If you have an iPad — do not upgrade. Wait. There will be another refresh 6 – 12 months from now. In tech, especially in the world of Apple, there will be changes and upgrades galore in that time. Now is not the time to update your investment. If you must have the latest and greatest, then be aware that you will find that re-selling iPad prices will not return your investment as much as an iPhone (for example) on eBay — prices have already dropped — expect to lose about 150.00 – 200.00 on your original investment. It will still sell, but not for what you might expect.

Insider tip: There has been rumor for some years now that Apple is trying to change their update-cycles to occur in late Fall and coincide with holiday purchasing season. This hasn’t happened yet, but it might soon. Keep that in mind — your new iPad2 might already have a refresh in November.

What do I plan to do? I have been an Apple user for 11 years now, and live and breath by their latest-and-greatest.  I have always been very happy to be an early adapter and get their new stuff the day it is available. That being said, I am NOT upgrading. I love my current iPad for what it is. I find I can not use it as a full laptop replacement, but I love it for reading, the internet, travel, maps, eMail, and some productivity. It’s great at work for fast note-taking, calendars, and the like. I also love the cover I found for it that makes it feel great in my hands. This cover will not work with the new iPad 2. And I have never, ever, not even once, thought “wow, this is just too slow, I wish it was faster.”  I WILL upgrade with the next update which will probably bring new features that will be desirable. For now, there is not enough there other than the design factor. Because I always carry my iPad in a folio case, there will be no difference in the “coolness factor” to the outsider, since they can’t see my ipad anyway – it’s tucked inside it’s folio and you only see the screen.

I do continue to advocate that the iPad is a fine PDA for my Brain Injured patients — which model you choose it up to you. How much money you spend is also up to you. For most of my patients, the standard entry-level Original iPad is the way to go, and probably more power than most need. And now is the time to get it for a discounted price.

Blackberry Bold 9000 vs iPhone 3Gs…a Love Hate relationship September 25, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Gizmos.
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In the past month I have switched from my iPhone 3Gs to the Blackberry Bold and back again to the iPhone 3Gs….and frankly, I love them both and hate them both…but the iPhone won out…Here’s why, and what do you think?

apple-iphone-3gsblackberry-bold

My number one gripe about the iPhone has always been the touch keyboard. I just plain old hate it. I more than hate it, I abhor it with every ounce of my being. I’m not new to iPhones — I’ve used them since the first incarnation two years ago — I can get 50 wpm out of my blackberry keyboard — even after years of using the iPhone, I still get only 17 wpm at best, and that filled with typing errors and spelling problems.

During a recent trip to Paris, the iPhone 3GS battery didn’t even last the 8 hour flight — listening to 2 albums and playing Boggle for 15 minutes ran the battery down from 98% to 14%. Unacceptable. The problems started with the 3.1 update, and are driving me insane with how bad the battery life is. Apple is apparently aware of it, so let’s hope for a patch soon : http://www.theiphoneblog.com/2009/09/20/apple-seeking-info-iphone-31-users-reporting-poor-battery-li

I’ve always been a Blackberry lover, and the Bold is just so amazing…it’s like the Cadillac of phones…so after the iPhone problems, I had decided that was enough — it would be my iPod and game machine, and I would go back to a “real phone”…

OOH, that keyboard — instantly in love, and back to 50 wpm typing texts and e-mails…but then the problems just become glaring: limited applications; not enough memory on the Bold to store even a handful of those apps anyway; the lockups long familiar to BB users…

So there I was…back to the iPhone, despite the awful battery and touchscreen typing problems.

Blackberry Bold Pros and Cons:

Pros–

  • Far superior keyboard, real qwerty depress-the-keys, great feel and response
  • Great size and “feel” in the hands — overall the best Blackberry ever made
  • Good trackball and homepage layout
  • Better phone features overall
  • Easier texting and e-mail
  • Built-in office features to read and edit word, excel, powerpoint
  • Ability to store files natively on BB rather than web servers
  • Better graphics/screen (no kidding — really — look at them side by side)
  • Removable microSD card slot means you can have several of them and carry lots of data
  • Removable battery so that you can have a spare
  • Can stream Slingmedia tv from home over 3G or wireless

Cons–

  • Have to remove battery to reset
  • Insufficient built-in memory — four downloads and you are scraping bottom
  • Limited applications, and those are not as elegant as the iPhone’s
  • Terrible sync with mac — there is a leaked version of the blackberry sync for mac if you search for it, but it’s still not up to snuff
  • neither PocketMac nor Missing Sync works correctly for mac syncing
  • crashes occasionally , especially when accessing files or programs on the memory card
  • Unreliable overnight — sometimes freezes up and alarms don’t go off in the morning (this is an ongoing problem with all blackberries, not just the Bold)
  • idiosyncratic menus and many clicks necessary to achieve simple features

iPhone Pros and Cons:

Pros–

  • Sleek build, built like a tank
  • Myriad applications
  • Excellent sync with Mac through iTunes
  • Much better for media – movies, music, games
  • Threaded texting
  • Just added MMS
  • The excellent ability to use Bento II databases and quickly share and edit on desktop or iPhone (no equivalent on BB)
  • Visual voicemail
  • Larger screen for watching movies or playing games

Cons–

  • That terrible touchscreen keyboard — hate it, hate it, hate it
  • Much slower for texting, e-mailing
  • Can not use SlingMedia without WiFi connection making it worthless — this is a huge bone of contention for me, since I want to be able to see the tv broadcast while at football or baseball games
  • Apple/ATT have far too much control over what you can/can not do with the iPhone — lately, this looks to be more of an ATT problem than an Apple problem
  • No ability to natively store word, excel files on the iPhone — although you can now access the to some degree using programs like QuickOffice — but it is a very poor substitute
  • Terrible battery life — and I mean terrible — perhaps an update will fix this down the road, since Apple is aware of the problem following the 3.1 update — does not last the night on an overnight flight
  • Battery can not be consumer replaced; i.e. can’t carry a spare in the messenger bag: add-on external chargers are very expensive ($299 plus)
  • Multiple taps necessary to access texting and e-mail rather than BB’s easier interface for communications features
  • MMS, though now activated, is already overloaded and basically doesn’t work

In general?….If you are looking for the best business/enterprise phone available, go for the Blackberry Bold. If you want any ability to use decent media and applications, get the iPhone….If you need a bit of both, you are really screwed since neither fully meets the needs…

I’m not the only one with the BB/iPhone dilemma — so thought I would post my frustrations and see what others have to say. For now I’m back to the iPhone 3GS, but I’m certainly not wedded to it. I do refuse to try anything but BB or Apple, so don’t comment on windows mobile phones, Android, or the rest….if you comment, keep this to the iPhone vs Blackberry debate only please. I won’t approve the others.