Posts tagged “Apple

Apple March 2018 Education Event Breakdown

On March 27, 2018, Apple let the world know that it aims to take on education.  There are numerous reasons as to why getting into education is a good thing when you’re a large technology conglomerate:

  • Device infiltration from an early age, thus creating Apple users for life
  • Competing in a new area

For some time, Google has been dominating the classrooms with the help of their Chromebook line.  These inexpensive, easy to configure and deploy laptops running only the Chrome browser (Chrome OS) are a mainstay in American schools because they are so affordable and Google services are free (we always pay — even for free services, more on that later).  While Apple has always wanted to be in the space, the company has yet to show how fully committed they are to providing tools that schools and administrators find useful or affordable.


Overview

The highlight of this event is an all new 9.7″ iPad, coming in a just a little over one pound, that supports Apple Pencil, which is a big deal and will likely cause increased adoption of this new iPad by those wanting to use Pencil.  The device starts out at $329 for consumers and $299 for students.  This updated tablet features an A10 Fusion SOC, which is the same as the iPhone 7 and should provide lasting performance for years to come.  In addition to the Apple Pencil, Apple partnered with Logitech to create the “Logitech Crayon”, which will be available for $49, which is half of the price of Apple Pencil at $99 ($89 for students).  Logitech also created a rugged case, featuring a keyboard for $99.  This lower cost iPad does not feature the set of pogo pins, which would allow the attachment of Apple’s keyboard cover used on iPad Pro models.

Child-drawing-on-new-2018-iPad-with-Apple-Pencil

In addition to the smaller hardware announcements came big changes on the software front in iWork featuring updates to Pages, Numbers and KeyNote — all featuring Apple Pencil support.  One feature to note is “Smart annotation” to bring markup to Pages, which has been available for some time in other competing apps such as Google Docs.  Teachers will now have the ability to create digital books in Pages, which could be shared with students.  A feature that we’ve long asked for, Shared iPad, will be available for students featuring an interface where the student taps their picture and they are thrust into an experience designed for them because it will have all of their apps and settings available, regardless of device.  All of the Apple IDs created for students will be done through Apple School Manager, which can create 1500 IDs in under one minute.  Remarkable.  In the future students will be able to get handouts and more from their teachers in the Schoolwork app and be further managed in the Classroom app for Mac, which will debut in June and all work done within these apps will not be accessible by Apple.


Issues

Apple has done a great job playing catch up; however, there are still lingering problems that I see in this approach.  While the 9.7″ iPad will only cost a school $299, there are Chromebooks that cost $150 — while Apple will never say outright that they are competing against Google, the truth is they are.  In addition to the fact that in order to gain a full experience you need a pencil and under certain circumstances, certainly as the children get older and the type of work changes, you need keyboard support.  See a sample cost breakdown:

  • Apple iPad 9.7″ $299, Logitech Crayon $49, Logitech Rugged Case $99, bringing the total to $450
  • Any budget Chromebook $150-200, consumer purchase, note that a school will pay less

So for the experience that Apple is displaying, it will cost over 50% more (in fact, Apple Pencil itself can cost up to 66% the price of a Chromebook) when the end goal is the same, putting technology in the classroom to shape our future generation.

chromebook-or-ipad-for-classroom-debate


Wrap-up

Apple has made headway into education now by fully marketing towards educators; however, I feel like they’ve still missed the mark because the deployment of one iPad alone without any other accessories still costs almost double the price of one Chromebook.  It would’ve been nice to see them hit a $200 or $250 pricepoint here and with services that never seem to fully pan out — I struggle to see this changing Google’s lock on education any time soon. The hard truth is that if Apple wanted to create a true low cost competitor in this market for schools, they could — but as this announcement has shown us, they simply have not.

Additionally, many fans wanted to see a new iPhone SE or MacBook Air — this was an education event, for those of you who wanted those devices they may or may not come at a later time.

You get a notch, you get a notch, everyone gets a notch!!

APPLE!! This is your fault. You’ve started a terrible trend in smartphones and you need to fix it because as of Mobile World Congress it has officially gotten out of control.


Background

iPhone X was released last year with the promise of a full screen experience, although it’s clearly a pipe dream because the screen is interrupted because of a notch that houses the device’s True Depth camera system. Many Apple apologists claim that this notch disappears, while it mostly does, it’s still unsightly and calling it a feature is just being tone-deaf to the market. No one asked for a display that wraps around a component of the device. We want larger screens, however — why should developers have to pay the cost of having a screen larger than the iPhone Plus devices with LESS usable screen real estate because of the rounded corners and ears to the left and right of the notch?

Needless to say, it’s not pretty, functional or winning any design awards from DexJohn’s PC. In the case of edge to edge screens, while maximizing screen size….Samsung with the Infinity Display did it right, not Apple.


Fast forward

In walks every Android OEM that loves to copy Apple without reason. Some even tout that the notch on their device is smaller! But once again, who asked for it?

No one.

Although the decision to make a notch on the display is ill-advised, Apple at least does it for a reason — facial recognition. Android device makers and Google have not yet “cracked the code” on this tech, so at this point you’re copying to copy and not introducing anything new or better than the original flawed and uninspired design from Apple.

All in all, it needs to stop. These screen notches are a problem for apps, developers and end users (whether they realize it or not) and they are just plain stupid looking.


Wrap-up

Stop it, please.

Apple HomePod Impressions

Easily one of the most aesthetic, beautiful smart speakers on the market.

Enter Apple HomePod.

Let’s start off by saying that Apple is marketing this as a device that is “speaker first”, meaning that they are aiming to provide a device that gives you excellent sound quality with a voice interface, which is controlled by Siri.  That doesn’t necessarily make it a smart speaker right?  Well, it sort of does, especially when you can control HomeKit devices, send iMessages and play music — all tell tale signs of smart speakers. So although Apple doesn’t want the comparisons — there will be and I’d argue that there should be and is, based off of what this device does.

IMG_1669

Apple HomePod (white), pictured in Apple Store.


Background

Apple has noted that HomePod has been in development for 6 years. That being said, this product aims to mesh together the worlds of audio, smart assistants and more in a pint sized package.

Design

As I noted, the design of the Apple HomePod is nothing short of fantastic.  It is a hefty, yet small speaker featuring a soft mesh outer covering housing the many speakers, tweeters and microphones crammed inside.  There are two colors that HomePod comes in, white, which gets dirty quickly and space gray.  When it comes to ports on the device — there are none, with the only thing coming from the HomePod is it’s power cable, which is of exceptionally high quality featuring a woven covering.  Note that are no other ports on the device, no aux in, no USB, which should be fine for most, as we are moving to a predominately wireless world.

Sound

I was able to get in a solid test, standing fairly close and moving my head all around in a local Apple Store and I was thoroughly blown away.  The key thing to remember about how this sounds is “sound separation”, a listener can literally hear all of the sounds coming from the speakers, every instrument, every differentiating aspect of the song is clear and very crisp.  This is one of the biggest differences when comparing to a Google Home, which I currently own, or Amazon Alexa.  Google Home in comparison sounds slightly muffled and sounds mesh together, while HomePod seems to produce the music in a very accurate way. However, when it comes to overall volume, the Google Home Max still takes the cake in this department — that thing is just loud with very good bass.

See a sound test below comparing the HomePod to other smart speakers as well as Sonos Play (which I believe has an edge over HomePod, with Google Home Max being louder but lacking the auidble clarity due to distortion at higher volumes):

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/oImOYg_dSl0

On the other hand, the only sound that you can ask Siri for is for music from Apple Music.  No Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Tidal (laughs) or others unless you choose to AirPlay them, which somewhat takes the intuitiveness out of it.  If I have to grab my phone, go to an audio source and Air Play that source to the HomePod — then what are we doing? It’s simply too much effort when voice is my supposed interface. In fact, to set the device up, you must have an iOS device running iOS 11.2.5.  So all of the Android users that utilize Apple Music — you cannot setup this device.

Note:  Since this review and hands-on was done in store, I was unable to test “Hey Siri” functionality.

Ecosystem

This device is heavily integrated into the Apple ecosystem and it’s thought process on devices and services you should have.  With that being said, the lock-in here is huge with only Apple Music being at the forefront with no other alternatives even being available to control via voice unless you’re noting for it to move to the next track.

Privacy

Unfortunately, at this time, Siri cannot support multiple users.  An example is that if you ask it to read personal details such as text messages and your notes, it will read those items off to anyone that issues the “Hey Siri” command to it.  This is especially odd, since Apple touts this device as being very private and other Apple-centric analysts on podcasts are quoted as saying, “I’d never have a Google or Amazon speaker in my house due to privacy“.  Siri can differentiate between voices on your iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, but can’t on HomePod.  This is a huge miss and being someone, who is privacy focused and someone who deletes my voice data weekly from Google Home, I understand the need for differentiation of voices on smart devices — yet this goes full circle to Siri not being that smart and the fact that there are multiple versions of Siri spread across Apple’s ecosystem.  You have Siri on iPhone and iPad, which are identical, then you have the gimped versions on Apple Watch, Mac OS, Apple TV and finally HomePod.  So let’s not talk about “privacy” (this is talking to you, Rene Ritchie from Vector) until Siri can stop being so fragmented across devices made by the same company. Additionally, HomePod doesn’t offer a mute switch for the microphone either, which is featured on Google Home and Amazon Echo devices — instead, you must ask Siri to mute the microphone using a command.


Overall

If you are engrossed in the Apple ecosystem and are in the market for a speaker that can deliver excellent sound quality, HomePod may be right for you.  However, no product comes without it’s limitations, as Apple simply isn’t open to many other companies when it comes to HomeKit integrations or third party music platforms and if you’re accepting of that, this could be right for you.  AirPlay 2, stereo pairing with other HomePod devices and other features are slated to be released to the devices later in 2018. Siri capabilities are quite a disappointment as Siri on your iPhone can do more than on the HomePod.

At the end of the day, if an only if you’re committed to everything Apple would I recommend this.

My Apple Lock-in

Everyone goes with an ecosystem for a reason. I don’t consider myself an Apple loyalist by any means. I am a fan of technology, exemplary design and quality. Some continue to use and buy every Apple product because of iMessage and not wanting to see that dreaded green bubble.

For me, the answer is different. For me, I’ve got to have Apple Watch.


Why

Apple Watch is the only relevant smartwatch on the planet aside from devices by companies such as Garmin and Fitbit — yet these are fitness trackers first.

Where is Android Wear? Stagnating because of the fact that Google isn’t doing the best job managing the platform. Samsung wearables are seen from time to time; however, the device that occupies most wrists that are charged daily is the Apple Watch. At this point, it would be difficult to move to a different platform without having a dependable form of wristwear to accompany my smartphone.


Intangibles

There are many things that Apple Watch does that you can’t see. A device that’s so reliable, you never need to worry about it working. Additionally, the safety of having a solid ecosystem behind you is second to none. Watchbands are made by Apple to the established Hermes.


Final Thoughts

Apple Watch, not only the best smartwatch but an excellent ecosystem to be apart of.

What Apple’s HomePod Isn’t

Apple’s HomePod is available for preorder now and will be shipping and available in stores on Friday, February 9th.  Apple Music, home control, smarts and more are what this speaker aim to give customers.


Background

At WWDC 2017 HomePod was announced and touted to be a revolutionary speaker, that aims to use a seven tweeter beam-forming array, 6 microphones, Apple’s own A8 chip and a top loaded woofer to deliver an unmatched musical experience.  Originally, the device was slated to ship at the end of 2017 and got moved, as Apple products other than iPhone, do to a later time.

That time is now.

Source: Apple

Out of the gate, Apple noted that this product is “speaker first”; however, you would interact with it through a voice layer — Siri.  Apple’s digital assistant has gotten a lot of well deserved hate over the years for simply lacking in substance when compared to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.  Instantly, Apple is saying to not compare the HomePod to a Google Home or Amazon Echo product, not because they necessarily believe that their product will instantly be better — but because of what HomePod isn’t.  HomePod isn’t meant to be a smart speaker, it’s meant to be a revolutionary audio device that will fill any room with sound like it’s never been encompassed before.  It is not meant to knock your socks off by what Siri can do and in all honestly we know that at this point, Siri lacking in the “smarts” department is an understatement.

With that being said, “speaker first” continues to ring in my head — so what does that mean?  For the price of $349, I should expect to get a high-quality audio device that can rival the king of consumer home audio, Sonos, who is known for producing high-quality, high-fidelity speakers that you can stream audio to and HomePod is coming for the throne. On the other hand, regardless of how Apple positions this product, the majority of customers will look at this as a smart speaker, rightfully so — meaning that in 2018 it may be speaker first, but at some point, it’s going to need to flex those “smart” muscles.