Category: Apple

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Letting Pixel C, and also Chromebook Pixel, Languish is Foolhardy

To celebrate the launch of Apple’s new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, I ordered Pixel C, which arrived three days ago. Worst case, the tablet can be returned for refund during the buyer’s remorse period; there ain’t any regrets so far—just the opposite. To my pleasant surprise, the tab is much more enjoyable than I remember, because Nougat is so pretty, efficient, and buttery smooth than was Marshmallow on the device. The screen scorches any available iPad, Pro or otherwise, and the performance is shockingly nimble. My Pixel C shipped with Android 7.1.1 and quickly updated to 7.1.2. I will soon install Android O; Google released Developer Preview 3 yesterday.

There’s a certain insanity to the purchase. I reviewed Google’s Android slate 15 months ago; that makes the thang ancient as measured in computing years. But Big G still sells the tab, and there must be a reason, right? I got another because a college student took possession of my first Pixel C in early 2016. With keyboard cover, the tablet makes a helluva handy carry-along on campus. 

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Busy Bee

I am in process of completing a review of the Moto Z Force Droid, which is a Verizon Wireless exclusive. This afternoon, I shot some nectaring bee photos with the smartphone and iPhone 7 Plus for comparison. My wife and I went on a walk with both devices, stopping at what we affectionately call the Butterfly House. The residence is a mini-wildlife refuge for Monarchs, hummingbirds, and other flying things; oh, and chickens, too.

The Featured Image comes from the Droid, which packs a 21-megapixel camera. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 50, 1/465 sec, 4.51mm; 3:01 p.m. PDT. However, the image is only 16MP because the default setting, which I neglected to check, is 16:9 rather than 4:3. No matter, focus is spot on, IQ high, bokeh beautiful, and color accurate. I’m pleasantly surprised. 

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Bye Bye Apple Watch

I suffer from phantom smartwatch syndrome—an ailment that hopefully will disappear over time. Nearly four weeks ago, I put aside Apple Watch 2 stainless steel and replaced it with the simple but appealing ManchesterWatchWorks Iconik 3. Problem: Almost any shifting movement of the timepiece causes me to reflexively flip my wrist and look down; there is false perception of hepatic sensation. Apple has trained me well, and I’m tired of being its dog doing tricks. Woof. Woof. Growl.

I feel free! Gone are the nagging alerts—and I had them barreled down to a minimum of approved services: Some for breaking news; emails from a half-dozen people; and text messages. Among this still seeming torrent, the Activity app annoyed with congratulatory badges and prompts that one of the four main exercise goals (Calories, Exercise Time, Stands, and Steps)—Apple’s athletic lifestyle version of the four food groups—would soon be achieved. The badges are about as infantile as gold stars that teachers give kindergarteners and with similar purpose: To make the recipient feel good, whether or not deserved. The achievement badge for Earth Day flipped my goat. Seriously? I ordered the Iconik 3 that evening. 

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Apple Fiscal Q1 2017

The measure of Apple fiscal first quarter 2017 isn’t record revenues ($78.35 billion) but comparison to major competitors: More than three times Google ($26.06 billion) or Microsoft ($24.1 billion). Amazon announces tomorrow, Groundhog Day. Will the retailer’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, see his shadow? The 3x multiplier nearly applies to net income: $17.89 billion, versus $6.64 billion and $5.2 billion, respectively, for the two rivals. Looked at differently, compared to Apple’s same quarter in fiscal 2010, seven years later, profits exceed total revenues ($15.68 billion). That’s an astounding comparison.

The results defy pundits’ prognostications, including my own, about gravity pulling the company back to Earth. iPhone, as major source of revenue, can only stay up for so long, before slowing smartphone sales wreck havoc. That said, credit where it’s due: CEO Tim Cook is, as I’ve asserted before, a logistics and manufacturing genius. He is a strategist, but not an innovation leader like predecessor Steve Jobs. Cook masterfully manages his inheritance, but he, nor Apple observers, should get lost in the quarter’s glow: iPhone remains boon and bane. 

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The iPhone Metaphor

Today we arrive at the first of two 10-year anniversaries regarding iPhone: Steve Jobs unveiling the handset six months before its release—unusual for Apple’s then-CEO to pre-announce something, but necessary, with the federal regulatory rigmarole that cellular devices go through. Jobs and his management team brought the smartphone to market at great risk: Established and entrenched manufacturers, mainly Nokia, had huge distribution channels and massive amounts of research and development invested in their cellulars. iPhone debuted in one market (United States) and on a single carrier (AT&T, which concurrently rebranded). By most measures of business strategies: Insanity. But risk was a defining characteristic of Jobs’ leadership style running the company.

You will read many “state of iPhone” analyses and commentaries this week spotlighting slowing sales, as buying growth plateaus in major markets (China, Europe, and the United States) and observing that Android continues to gobble global market share. The problem with iPhone is something else, and it’s a metaphor for what’s desperately wrong at Apple as 2017 starts: Loss of innovative mindshare; obsession with an outdated design motif; unwillingness to take meaningful risks. The company’s fortunes rose with iPhone, and they will fall with it. 

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Tidal Masters Wow

That didn’t last long. My cancelled Tidal account was set to end January 11th, but late this afternoon, I reactivated, giving the streaming service more time to keep—and even increase—my affections. During Consumer Electronics Show 2017 today, in licensing partnership with MQA, Tidal announced the new audio-fidelity tier “Masters”, which is available for free to existing HiFi subscribers. Early album selection is extremely limited as is access option: macOS or Windows application. Both will expand in time.

But wow! I tested skeptically, wiring up my studio cans—Audio-Technica ATH-R70x—to 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to hear the difference. Hehe, if any. I deliberately started with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” from album “Rumors“, which released 40 years ago on February 4th. Tidal claims that Masters recordings deliver “an audio experience exactly as the artist intended”. The band spent nearly a year painstakingly recording and engineering the disc, making any, or all, the songs great test cases. 

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Living with Apple’s Mistakes

I lied, but not deliberately. One year ago today, I wrote: “Apple Lost My Heart to Google in 2015“, explaining that “my mainstays at the start of 2016: Chromebook Pixel LSPixel CNexus 6P, and Huawei Watch. I abandoned Apple and there are no plans to return..I will write more about Google in 2016 than previous years, because of the benefits I see. As for Apple, the company had my heart for the longest time. I challenge CEO Tim Cook to win back my adoration; skeptical I may be”.

By March, however, Apple won back my business with little effort, and I gave up the Google lifestyle. Transition back to the Orchard started with a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro: 3.1GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, purchased from DC Computers. Three reasons: 1) I believed Mr. Cook’s privacy promises, all while my concerns about Big G information collection increased. 2) I found the visual acuity of Apple fonts and user interfaces to be far superior to Google’s, which helped compensate for diminishing reading vision (later recovered through eye surgery). 3) Google’s platforms proved inadequate for easily recording, producing, and publishing the Frak That! podcast, which is available on SoundCloud

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The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Battery Life Dilemma

Consumer Reports played nasty, little Santa’s helper by plopping a piece of chunky coal into Apple’s Christmas stocking, when denying the coveted—and expected—recommendation. Holy Moly. Over the holiday, the InterWebs exploded with stories during an otherwise, slow tech news cycle. CR found widely, or perhaps wildly, inconsistent charge-to-depletion times for MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Uh-oh. At least the lap-hugger isn’t explodin’, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. B-b-b-boom!

Perhaps, like me, you bought or received as present, one of these newfangled Macs. I have some questions about your experience starting with: How’s your battery life? Do you get enough from the laptop to justify the price increase over last year’s model? If you bought, or received, something else, did news about battery life affect the decision? Since we’re all sharing our deepest, innermost MacBook Pro secrets, from here I will reveal my own. I bought not one, but two. Problems with the first, but not the second, and possible remedy will be familiar to long-time Windows users. 

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Apple Store, Bah Humbug

Apple sure knows how to keep its store stocked for the holidays. Ho, ho, ho, bah humbug. The shelves are bare, and you can get your must-have pretty thing some time next year. If you’re lucky. Let’s start with the delayed AirPods, which went on sale online last week. They arrived in stores on Monday, and whoosh were gone before the waiting line ended. My local shop had about 30 pairs. If you want them, first available retail pickup date is—cough, cough—February 8th. That is 2017. I had to confirm not 2018, because you never know with these dumbfounding delays. Straight-to-ship orders move your way in six weeks. Donald Trump will be president sooner!

Perhaps you’re pining for one of those pricey MacBook Pros—you know, the ones with Touch Bar that no sane person knows what to do with. Apple will miss Christmas, but you can still beat Martin Luther King’s birthday, with orders made today delivering sometime between January 4-10 or available for in-store pickup on the tenth. God Bless America and Made in China! 

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iPhone for Education

Many educators won’t agree, but perhaps students will: The PC, whether desktop or notebook, is obsolete in the classroom. This reality, if accepted for what it is, presents Apple opportunity to retake the K-12 market from Alphabet-subsidiary Google’s incursion and sudden success with Chromebook among U.S. schools. If the fruit-logo company doesn’t seize the moment, a competitor will—and almost certainly selling devices running Android.

Chromebook’s educational appeal is three-fold: low cost, manageability, and easy access to Google informational services. For buy-in price, and TCO, no Apple laptop or tablet running macOS or iOS, respectively, can compete. Think differently! Providing students any kind of computer is shortsighted, by narrowly presuming that schools, or their parents, must buy something. I suggest, in this time of budgetary constraints, that educators instead use what the kids already possess (or want to) and what they use easily and quickly: The smartphone. 

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My Cat Wants to Know: Why 15.4-inch MacBook Pro?

Water smacked the windshield—a torrent of heavy droplets—as my wife struggled to feed money into the tollbooth machine. Pelting rain is uncommon during November in San Diego, but we had purpose for driving 36 km through the downpour to Chula Vista and the Otay Ranch Apple Store, where I had never been before. The shop was the only one around that had the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in stock.

Eleven days earlier, Nov. 15, 2016, I received the 13.3-inch model that was ordered on October 27th. While first impressions were wow, the laptop felt slow compared to my previous MBP, and the battery drained in about half the time as specs stated. I worried that Apple produced a defective unit. No store in the area had the smaller laptop in stock, should I want to take advantage of the 14-day return policy. Deadline approached, so I considered as alternative my first 15-incher in more than a decade, tempted in part by quad-core processor and discreet graphics. 

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Windows Phone is Dead

I laughed so hard and so often at IDC’s smartphone forecast, my response took nine days to write—okay, to even start it. The future isn’t my chuckable—that data looks reasonably believable enough—but the past. Because 2016 was supposed to be the year that Microsoft’s mobile OS rose from the ashes of Symbian to surpass iOS and to challenge Android.

In 2011, IDC forecast that Windows Phone global smartphone OS market share would top 20 percent in 2015. The analyst firm reiterated the platform’s No. 2 status for 2016 in 2012 as well. Not that I ever believed the ridiculous forecasts, writing: “If Windows Phone is No. 2 by 2015, I’ll kiss Steve Ballmer’s feet” and “If Windows Phone is No. 2 by 2016, I’ll clean Steve Ballmer’s toilet“. The CEO’s later retirement let me lose from those obligations had I been wrong. I was confident in my analysis being truer.