Category: Mobility

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Beats Me Why the Price Increased

Around the same day that I ordered iPhone 13 Proone for my wife and another for me—my sister called and the audio quality was crystal clear. For months she struggled to find a satisfactory Bluetooth headset, with little luck. She tried a different approach: Look on Apple Store, from which she bought Beats Flex for $49.99. Sis spends lots of time on the phone, computer, and video chats; she does software support for a non-profit. Outgoing audio quality matters. People need to hear her clearly.

I had already planned to buy something. While I carry my smartphones bareback, calling no longer would be device to ear starting with the 13 Pro. I can’t imagine that holding a 5G radio to my head is healthy behavior. My sister and I typically walk and talk during her hour lunch break; that’s too long 5G proximity to my brain. If the Beats Flex worked so well for her, surely they could for me. So on Sept. 22, 2021, I ordered a set from Apple Store and picked them up the next day from the Fashion Valley location.

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His and Hers

Not so long ago, I swapped smartphones every few months. Various models and underlying platforms from different manufacturers demanded testing and review. But the pace of innovation has slowed, the overall market reached the “good enough” threshold, and I don’t write about tech on a daily basis. Hence, my wife and I have each carried iPhone XS since June 2019. That is until today, when we migrated to the 13 Pro.

The Featured Image is, appropriately, the last photo I will ever shoot with the XS. The 1TB Silver on the left is mine; the 512GB Sierra Blue on the right is Annie’s. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/122 sec, 26mm; 1:02 p.m. PDT.

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The Last Days of Apple Watch

Today I put aside the Apple Watch Series 5 (cellular) purchased in September 2019. I long considered taking such action but hesitated, knowing that if (or when) wearing stopped there would be an unrecoverable break in the activity tracked and logged in the Fitness app. Criminally egotistical as it may be, I relished the consistent achievement of my exercise, calorie, and movement goals. That’s the problem: the smartwatch provided little other meaningful benefits, and I long ago adopted a daily routine that needed no tracking to maintain.

I realized that the wrist computer had come to give me a little dopamine kick—or something like it—that obsessed Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok users get from checking their posts for comments, likes, and other reactions. A glance would reveal my pulse, which typically is in the low fifties when I’m not active; that made me feel good. Then there was Pavlovian-like preoccupation with starting (and ending) activities like walking in the Fitness app. What’s the outside air temperature? Twist the wrist. Who sent that text message? Twist again. “What are my active calories?” Twist and tap.

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The Other N95

As the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 pandemic winds down (hopefully), most people hearing “N95” will think respirator mask. But I remember a time, before Apple had a meaningful App Store or iPhone with capable camera, when N95 referred to Nokia’s smartphone, which competently captured photos as well as, or better than, some digital compact point-and-shooters. I owned two, or was it three, different variants—as well as successors N96 and N97.

My wife, Anne Wilcox, used the Nokia N95 to capture the Featured Image on Oct. 10, 2008, at Oma’s Pumpkin Patch. Vitals: f/2.8, ISO 125, 1/125 sec, 5.6mm; 1:17 p.m. PDT. Wow. These kids, whoever they were, are teenagers now. How many already finished high school, I wonder.

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Thanks, Tidal

Concurrent with the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 kick-off and other Day 0 announcements, music streaming service Tidal updated its Android app (hehe, sorry iOS users) to support Masters. Oh, yeah, baby. Gimme, gimme. Tidal unveiled Masters, in licensing partnership with MQA, two years ago during the same tech gala.

Abandoning Apple for Google products during summer 2018 meant my giving up Tidal Masters, which until today were only available on the macOS and Windows desktop apps. Because Chrome OS supports Android apps, I can now listen to Masters on my laptop, not just smartphone. You can, too (if not an Apple device user).

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My Personal Tech Kit 2019

I start the new year in a very different space, and with turnabout attitude, than 2018. About six months ago, I surrendered my digital lifestyle to Google, abandoning Apple as primary platform provider. Trust brought me to the Apple way. Distrust drove me away. Choosing between priorities privacy and security, in an increasingly dangerous Internet, the latter matters more. The Alphabet subsidiary truly has its ABCs ordered in ways that the bitten-fruit company doesn’t. I can trust that Google, being native to cloud computing and depending on it (mainly by way of search-related advertising), will secure my content and devices better than Apple, which is at best a cloud computing resident alien and more typically behaves like an immigrant who doesn’t speak the language well nor understands local culture.

Sure, I surrender some privacy but that would happen anyway, because privacy is a fiction. If you use the Internet or connected mobile device, you have none. Google is motivated to protect me (and you) because we are the product that generates ad revenue. Between marketers and hackers, it’s easy choice which I’d prefer to have my personal information. Granted anyone can debate which is, hehe, more criminal. But marketers aren’t likely to clean out my bank account or steal my identity. Or yours.

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Google Pixel Slate Fast, First Impression

Pixel Slate arrived at the Wilcox household on Nov. 28, 2018, from Google Store, with the order correctly fulfilled. Initial out-of-the-box reaction: “Oh”. Underwhelmed. Five days later: “Wow”. The Chrome OS tablet is understated in all the ways that matter. My brain just needed a wee bit of time to appreciate the many nuances, rather than one obvious thing flipping the “ah-ha” switch.

The Slate will largely complete my transition away from Apple products, started in late July. The Chrome OS slab is set to replace iPad 10.5 and possibly could displace my beloved Pixelbook, as well. We shall see about the latter. The delayed “Wow” response means something. That said, Google’s tablet, like first-generation Chromebook Pixel, feels too much proof of concept: The hardware’s potential awaits future software, and supporting services, refinements. As such, based solely on a few days use, I don’t see the device as being right for everyone, or even most anyone. However, Google geeks will find something truly exotic to get excited about. Android and Chrome OS enthusiasts, rejoice! Linux lovers, too!

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Thank-you, Google Store!

My six-week saga, where Google Store sent the wrong Pixel phones, is nearly over. I would like to thank the Advanced Support Technician team member who worked with me to end the drama and restore my (previous) confidence purchasing gadgets from the retailer. The generous solution minimizes any further complications and leaves me with a usable phone—with “Preferred Care” that I paid for correctly attached. Sometimes satisfaction is a process, rather than immediacy.

To recap: The 128GB Clearly White Pixel 3 ordered on launch day arrived on Oct. 17, 2018 as a 128GB Just Black Pixel 3 XL. Uh-oh. I agreed to keep the larger phone, following the online operation’s difficulty generating a return authorization. Then, on November 2, I dropped the device and shattered the screen. But Assurant couldn’t honor the insurance claim because of the shipping error; the phone covered wasn’t the one possessed. Frustrated, days later, I bought an iPhone Max XS from Apple Store but returned it two-and-a-half hours later. My Pixel preference was so great that on Black Friday I purchased another XL with expectation of taking a loss on the first. But when the new one arrived, November 26, the IMEI on the order didn’t match the phone. Meaning: In the event of defect, or need for repair, once again there would be trouble. Are you confused yet? 

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Resolution of my Google Store Pixel 3 XL Order Problems moves at Snail’s Pace

After Google Store sent me the wrong Pixel phone, I foolishly placed another order, and a similar distribution mishap occurred. Bad is now worse; I confess my stupidity and also write to caution other potential Google Store shoppers: This could happen to you.

To briefly recap the first instance: In October, I ordered Pixel 3 Clearly White 128GB. On the 17th, the Pixel 3 XL Just Black 128GB arrived instead. Google Store couldn’t process a return without conducting an “investigation” because the make, model, and IMEIs didn’t match. I agreed to keep the phone. Then, on November 2, I dropped the XL and shattered the screen. But the insurance provider, Assurant, couldn’t process repair or replacement because the device covered doesn’t match the one I have. The situation is unresolved, weeks later. Current crisis, briefly: I foolishly took advantage of Black Friday discounts and purchased from Google Store another Pixel 3 XL, which arrived on November 26. But the IMEI on the order doesn’t match the phone received. That makes the purchased Preferred Care warranty useless, and a device return can’t be properly processed for the same reason.

Problems resolved! Please see:Thank-you, Google Store” 

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Microsoft Investors Punch Back at Apple

In May 2010, I wrote about Apple’s market cap passing top-valued Microsoft; it’s only fitting to follow up with an analysis about the unbelievable turnabout that, like the first, marks a changing of technological vanguards. Briefly today, the software and services giant nudged past the stock market’s fruit-logo darling. A few minutes after 1 p.m. EST, the pair’s respective market caps hovered in the $812 billion range, with Microsoft cresting Apple by about $300 million. By the stock market close, a rally for Apple put distance from its rival: $828.64 billion to $817.29 billion, respectively (Bloomberg says $822.9 billion, BTW). Consider this: As recently as October, Apple’s valuation touched $1.1 trillion. But since the company announced arguably record fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on November 1st, investors have punished shares, which currently are down about 21 percent.

Apple has long been a perception stock, even when under the tutelage of CEO Tim Cook company fundamentals deserved recognition. But perhaps Wall Street finally realizes the problem of iPhone accounting for too much of total revenues at a time when smartphone saturation saps sales and Apple pushes up selling prices to retain margins. More significantly: Apple has adopted a policy of fiscal corporate secrecy by stepping away from a longstanding accounting metric. I started writing news stories about the fruit-logo company in late 1999. Every earnings report, Apple disclosed number of units shipped for products contributing significantly to the bottom line. No more. Given current market dynamics, everyone should ask: What is Cook and his leadership team trying to hide?