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Smartphone Buying Guide 2013

Since many tech blogs are doing a smartphone buying guide thanks to the holiday shopping season, I’m going to do one too with my own bias. 😀 If you read my blog for sometime, you know how I feel about provider locking, so this guide will focus mostly on GSM unlocked phones and GSM carriers/MVNOs. It’s actually pretty easy since unlocked phones is not the norm in the US.

Carrier Choice

In the US, there are only two major GSM carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile. Among those two, T-Mobile offers the best bang for the buck, and also the carrier that has a lot of MVNOs. The catch is coverage. So I would check their coverage first. Another great way to check coverage is to ask friends and family members as it will give you better real-life testimonies. Note that the coverage on T-Mobile’s website is assuming you have a phone with AWS band support. Unfortunately, since the number of carriers that use this band is extremely small, most phone manufactures don’t bother supporting it. Luckily, T-Mobile has also started to refarm the 1900 band for 3G in some areas, which is more widely supported than AWS as AT&T also uses this band. You can check this site to see if your area is a refarmed area. Note that this site is generated from user input, so the data is definitely more limited.

If you are not lucky enough to be covered by T-Mobile, next step is AT&T. In general, AT&T is more expensive, and has less choice in MVNOs. Their 3G speed is also slower than T-Mobile’s HSPA+. The upside is coverage is better in general, although I have been in areas where T-Mobile actually has better coverage than AT&T. This is their site for their coverage. Again, better gauge is to ask your friends or family members as the general map coverage usually assume that you are outside, not indoors. AT&T uses 850 and 1900 bands for 3G, and they are supported by many phones.

LTE

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have started to offer LTE. The main advantage of LTE imo is the much lower latency. Browsing the internet under LTE feels more like a landline broadband than a cellular connection. Speed wise, however, is not much faster, at least in my experience. You see people on the internet bragging how much faster their LTE speed is, but so far in my experience in trying Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile’s LTE, I usually get around ~10-20Mbps down at best, which is not much different than a good HSPA+ connection.

T-Mobile uses LTE band 4, and AT&T uses band 4 and 17. In short, phones that supports AT&T LTE will support T-Mobile LTE by default. LTE coverage is still very limited. I would rather have a good HSPA+ coverage than a paltry LTE coverage.

If you really must have LTE, then your provider selection is more limited. So far, I think there are no T-Mobile MVNOs offering LTE service, so to get T-Mobile LTE, you have to get a T-Mobile plan. AT&T only offers LTE on their own plans and their MVNO Aio wireless (at lower speed of 8Mbps).

Picking Your Plan

I have posted quite a bit of discussions on different MVNOs in this, and this posts. Just to quickly recap and to update things a bit:

T-Mobile and Its MVNOs:
Cheapest with good amount of data: Ultra mobile. $19 a month gives you 250 minutes, unlimited SMS, and 50MB data. You can add 250MB for $5. This is the provider I’ve been using so far.
Best deal for heavy data user: T-Mobile monthly 4G. No need to go to Walmart. Just order the SIM online from T-Mobile themselves. $30 a month gives you 100 minutes, unlimited SMS, and 5GB data at 4G speed (2G speed afterwards). This deal is so good that T-Mobile themselves are not making it easy to find it.
For unlimited talk: Straight Talk offers either AT&T or T-Mobile SIM. $45 a month gives you unlimited voice, unlimited SMS, and 2.5GB high speed data. It’s good that they specify the limit now. Another option is Simple Mobile or Spot Mobile, both are offering $40 a month for unlimited voice, unlimited SMS, and 1GB high speed data.
$50 and up: If you are willing to spend more, Simple Mobile offers $50 plan that gives you 3GB of high speed data (unlimited voice and SMS). If you are a really big spender, T-Mobile will give you unlimited everything for $70 a month.
Longest expiration date: This is a great option for a backup SIM. Spot Mobile offers a pay-as-you-go plan with $5 good for 90days.

AT&T and Its MVNOs:
Cheapest with good amount of data: Airvoice Wireless offers $40 a month, unlimited minutes, unlimited SMS, and 1GB data.
Best deal for more data: Straight Talk. $45 a month, unlimited voice and SMS, 2.5GB high speed data.
$50 and up: Red Pocket offers $60 a month, unlimited voice and SMS, 3GB data. If money is no object, Aio Wireless has a $70 a month plan with unlimited voice, SMS, and 7GB data.
Longest expiration date: Airvoice Wireless pay-as-you-go has $10 credit that is good for 90 days.

As you can see, it is clear that T-Mobile offers more bang for the buck, so pray that you have good T-Mobile coverage. 🙂

Picking a Phone

You have decided on your carrier and your plan. Now’s the fun part, picking your phone. 🙂

Under $100:
The Lumia 520/521 is really a good Windows Phone 8 phone at this price range. Unfortunately, you will be stuck with either AT&T goPhone plans or T-Mobile’s prepaid plans unless you can get them unlocked. Seems like since it’s a popular phone, it is getting harder and harder to find unlocks for these phones. Another catch is the 521 T-Mobile version doesn’t seem to support band I (2100) for 3G based on the spec on T-Mobile website. Something to think about if you travel as band I is the most common band used for 3G in Asia and Europe. Caveat emptor. I would spend more money to get better flexibility of unlocked phones.

~$200:
Motorola’s Moto G. There is no contest here unless you start looking at used phones. $180 for 8GB, $200 for 16GB. 720p screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400, near stock Android. It’s not shipping yet, but it’s the best deal on paper right now. It even makes the Nexus looks expensive. 😀 No LTE, but at this price point, who cares. Do note that there are two versions being sold, a global version and a “US” version. The US version supports AWS, which is useful for T-Mobile coverage, at the expense of lacking 2100 band support (the frequency band used for 3G in most Asian and European countries). Both versions do support 850 and 1900 bands, so if your carrier is AT&T, or T-Mobile has refarmed the 1900 band in your area, my vote is for the global version.

If you are a Windows Phone fan, Microsoft is selling the HTC 8X unlocked for $250. 16GB, 720p SLCD gorilla glass screen, dual-core Snapdragon S4, quad-band HSPA (no AWS though), LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile. It’s a much better phone than the Lumia 520, but value wise, imo the Moto G trumps this. Check out my quick impression of the HTC 8X.

~$400:
Google Nexus 5. Penta-band HSPA, LTE support for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, Snapdragon 800, 1080p screen, latest Android KitKat. 16GB is $350 and 32GB is $400. Hard to beat at this price point. The only downside is probably the camera app. Check out my impression here.

Sony Xperia ZR is available around $450. It’s no Snapdragon 800 like the Nexus 5 and no LTE, but it is still a decent phone with penta-band HSPA, quad-core processor, 1080p screen, 2GB RAM, 8GB storage with SD slot, and it’s water proof. Something to check out if you need a phone that can withstand the environment a little bit. If you don’t need the water proofing, the Xperia ZL is bigger, supports LTE, and has 16GB storage instead. It’s hard to beat the Nexus 5 though for your money.

~$600:
The HTC One is available unlocked in regular Sense or stock Android versions. Ironically, HTC used to sell this for cheaper at $580 before the Google Play stock Android version came out. Spec wise, it has been upped by the Nexus 5, but it is still quite a beast with 1080p screen, LTE support (both AT&T and T-Mobile), Snapdragon 600, 2GB RAM, and 32GB storage. It only has tri-band HSPA though, no AWS support. I prefer the Sense version due to HTC Zoe as an added value. The GPE version is just stock Android, and at that price, might as well save the money and get the Nexus 5 instead.

iPhone:
iPhone is unique as it is only made by Apple. I wouldn’t get the iPhone 5c (16GB for $550, 32GB for $650). It’s basically a cheapened iPhone 5. If you are going to spend some $600, might as well get the iPhone 5s. Starts at 16GB for $650 and up to a whooping $850 for 64GB. It’s magical. Of course, the iOS experience is unique on iPhones, so the price premium might be worth it.

Well, there you go, my smartphone buying guide for 2013. 😀 Imo the real winner this year is the Moto G. Motorola was going to delay the Moto G in the US until next year, but looks like they were wise enough to ship it by December 2nd instead, and still catch the holiday buying season. At $200 for its spec, it really does offer great value, even arguably better than the Nexus phones. At this point, you have to really love your carrier to still buy a carrier controlled phone with contract. Nexus 5 is changing the game again, bringing top high end spec at mid-range price. iPhone is as magical as ever, and Apple doesn’t seem to be bothered by the low cost offerings of Android.

Hopefully this can bring some perspective into the plethora buying guides thrown in by tech blogs that are mostly focused on carrier controlled phones. ^_^ What phone do you want from Santa?

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Buying guide

 

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Apple Special Event October 2013 Impression

Well, that was quick. Apple live streamed their keynote, and the stream is already available. As an armchair critic, time for yet more 2 cents from me. 😀

The keynote started with a very deep video that is basically Apple explaining to those bloggers that are shouting that they are no longer innovative because they don’t have huge phones with swimming fish as a wallpaper like Android. Typical Apple, the video is highly produced. It’s simple, yet enjoyable to watch.

As usual, the keynote started with Tim Cook with the stats. 9 million iPhones sold since the 5s/5c launch. Damn, and I thought we are in recession. Tim Cook showed a video, a very highly produced one, showing the launch day with people lining up and getting excited. Plenty of Asians in the video, kinda hinting Apple is serious in targeting China as their market. This is one of the reasons watching Apple keynote a lot more enjoyable than any other companies’. They just produced their stuff extremely well, unlike the other companies that seem to stuck in the 90s style of rigidity. I mean seriously, try watch Samsung or even Microsoft’s presentation for the Surface 2. And they wonder why Apple is garnering the brand awareness and mindset of the public. Genius marketing.

Oh, in the video, there’s a dude buying five of the 5c cases. Scalper alert!

“Biggest and fastest software upgrade in history… ever.” Yeah, Cook was talking about iOS7. Sounds great, but can you fix the battery drain and cut back on the animations please? They are getting old after two days. Tim Cook stated how great it is that consumers can experience the latest features. Yes, tell that to iPhone 4 owners.

A mention of iTunes radio with a plug for Justin Timberlake. Meh. Wake me up when all Avex’ catalog are in. Apps. Yes, we heard this before. Mac, with mentions of OS X, iLife, and iWork. Tim Cook seemed to be stumbling, hope he’s okay.

“The competitors are confused. They are making PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs.” LOL. Yes Microsoft, that’s you.

Craig was next with OS X Mavericks. Echo… Somebody is going to get some spanking later.

We heard many of these before in WWDC. Craig is claiming you can get an hour more battery life on the Haswell Macbook Air. That’s quite a feat if it’s true. Variable graphics memory allocation. Tags, which is not new as older OS X already has it, it was just called label. Why tags? I think this is Apple’s way of eliminating the file system from the user. I can see this being expanded on future versions of OS X, and the files and folders that we are used to getting more and more hidden.

Even Craig seemed to be stumbling, rushed. The presentation does not feel as tight as when Jobs was running the show.

Demo on Mavericks feature, showing integration between notification, mail, calendar, maps, etc.

Windows 8 pro for $199. Yep, jab #2 at Microsoft. Mavericks? Free! Even for those running Snow Leopard! Well, not completely unexpected. Many people have said this when Apple dropped its upgrade price to $20. Apple get their money from selling hardware. Still, a nice touch. I can see OS X updates will be just seamless in the future. Since it is free, it will be just an ongoing software updates. People do not have to worry anymore about what OS version they are running.

For me, I am sticking on Lion a bit longer (yeah, I have not even upgraded to Mountain Lion). It is always wise to wait for the first of second point update before upgrading an OS.

Phil was up next. Great reviews on Macbook Air. New retina Macbook Pro. That old Macbook Pro? Yeah, they are step children now that Apple doesn’t even upgrade it to Haswell. New Retina Macbook Pro is lighter and thinner. Gee, what’s new. 😀 Better battery life thanks to Haswell. Oh, and a keynote tip from Apple. See how Phill talked about the increased battery life, then showed a Macbook Pro with a screenshot from Batman movie, and then from behind, showed two more Macs and stated how you can watch the entire trilogy in one charge. Great presentation indeed!

Of course, everything is upgraded. PCI-e SSD, 802.11ac, Thunderbolt 2, Mavericks. Base 13″ model starts at $1299, pretty much set to replace the old Macbook Pro. Oh, best yet, shipping today! Again, this is why Apple is so successful. Many other Windows laptop OEMs have not even shipped their Haswell laptops that they announced earlier this year. The 15″ model is getting Iris Pro, with higher priced option for nVidia GPU, GT 750M. Interestingly enough, the 15″ model has less battery life than the 13″ model (8 hours vs 9 hours). 15″ starts at $1999 with Iris Pro, and shipping today too.

Mac Pro. In short, $2999, shipping in December. Yeah, not cheap. Nice, but too rich for my blood. Typical Apple, to entice you to spend that much money, they make a documentary on the making of the Mac Pro in the assembly line. Unlike Jony Ives’ documentary, the background is black. 😀 Can’t wait for the parodies people will make.

Next up was Eddie, with iLife, new versions for iOS and Mac. Finally, matching icons on the iOS version to match iOS7 style.  Eddie simply blazed through the apps without much demo other than Garage Band. I’m curious on the new iMovie and iPhoto, but alas, no demo. In-app purchase for Garage Band! Yeah, Apple made these apps for free, and they went into the IAP game. I just hope they don’t do that for iMovie effects.

New iWork. More syncing with iCloud and web version, plus collaboration! Take that Google Docs. Fun demo. Seems better rehearsed than Craig’s Mavericks demo. Free. Office 365 for $99 per year. Jab #3 at Microsoft. I guess it’s better to poke fun at Microsoft than Google.

They are all available today, but I cannot install them!! 😦 Why? They require Mavericks! No fun for me and my Lion. Oh, and no free iWork for me too. Have to buy new Macs. 😦

Tim Cook returned with stats for iPads. Yet more jabs at Microsoft in the most indirect manner. Yet another highly produced video showing iPad in a variety of usages, with Asians and Chinese in them. 😀 I wonder how they record the movie of the guy with a tent hanging on a mountain at the end though.

Phil with new iPads, finally! As expected, the new big iPad follows the iPad mini’s design with thinner bezel. The name becomes iPad Air. iPad Air? Doesn’t sound right. But I guess it’s better than what it could’ve been, ie. “The Newer iPad with retina display.” Even thinner than the previous iPad. What’s amazing is the weight, 1 pound. It runs the A7 SoC. Wait, no A7X? Yeah, I guess Apple sees the A7 is fast enough to push the retina iPad on its own. No TouchID though. No 802.11ac either. Same prices as the iPad 4, November 1, with a new breakthrough in LTE. Just one single SKU for LTE support for all carriers in the world, including all four US carriers. That’s amazing.

Previously, despite all iPads with cellular are unlocked, LTE support is carrier/region specific. You can buy a Verizon LTE iPad 4, for example, and although you can use it on AT&T, you will only get 3G/HSDPA speed. Seems like that’s over now with the iPad Air. It’s quite an amazing feat that we are at this point of universal LTE support this quick. Remember how long it took to even have phones with penta-band HSDPA? Yeah, that Nokia WinRT tablet with carrier branding? Good luck with that. The only downside left is the mess that is the iPhone 5s/5c, with every region having their own SKU with LTE that only works with the carriers in those region.

And, the iPad 2 lives! Yes, still at $399. More like the iPad for suckers, especially when you see the new iPad mini having the same price. I mean really, the iPad 2 was great, but it was released in 2011, running the old A5 SoC that doesn’t even get many of iOS7’s new features. You are better off buying a refurbished iPad 4 or the new iPad mini.

Of course, another documentary starring Jony Ives.

Ah yes, the new iPad mini. It finally received retina display thanks to the A7. And Apple didn’t stop there, they used that as an excuse to increase the price. The new iPad mini now starts at $399, shipping November (but no specific dates). Yeah, you still want to buy that iPad 2? 😀 Space gray is the new word for black. The old iPad mini hangs around at $299 for the 16GB wifi. I guess that’s Apple’s answer to the new Nexus 7.

Seriously, the iPad 2 and old iPad mini are for suckers, considering they are running a two generation behind SoC.

Tim Cook returned to wrap up the show.

So, how was my prediction? I got pretty close, although I got the order wrong. I thought Apple was going to do a 12″ retina Macbook to sneak in between the Macbook Air and the retina Macbook Pro, but looks like Apple managed to push the price of the retina Macbook Pro down, making the old legacy Macbook Pro a step child. Mavericks is free, which is unexpected but not surprising. New iLife and iWork. New iPads as expected, with a price jump on the retina mini, and the old ones linger around for suckers.

Of course, no Apple TV, and no smartwatch. Cue in the tech bloggers bitching on how Apple lacks innovation, ignoring the feat of engineering that brings 1 SKU to support all LTE around the world. As for me, I have been waiting for a retina mini since the original iPad mini was announced, so I’m getting that one. Bye bye Nexus 7, it’s nice knowing ya.

What’s on your shopping list?

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Apple October 2013 Event Prediction

Another month, another Apple event, and another 2 cents from me.

Since the iPhone 5c/5s are out already, the checklist is getting shorter. Kinda obvious that this time, it will be new iPads.

First, redesign of the big iPad into a slimmer model, using the iPad mini’s design language. I think this is pretty much a given considering the leaks. The question is the inside. Will it have the fingerprint sensor that Apple debuted with the iPhone 5s? I think so as I think it will be running off a souped up A7 processor, probably dubbed A7X. Ever since the iPad 3, Apple always pushed their SoCs on the big iPad to take advantage of the bigger room and battery. Everything else will be familiar though, same price points as current iPad 4 with same capacities. I mean I don’t see why Apple would change anything as they are selling these by the boatload at these prices. I wonder how the LTE versions would fare though, considering the mess it is with the iPhone 5c/5s, with their multiple region specific SKUs that pretty much “lock” the LTE support only for that region.

Second, the mini. Last year’s mini was a disappointment due to the lack of retina display. Also, it’s running the old A5 SoC, the one on the iPad 2. I think Apple would finally put retina on the mini this time. The challenge of putting a retina display on the iPad mini is two-folds. One is the smaller battery powering the much higher resolution, while keeping the “legendary” 10-hour battery life. Second is performance/head dissipation, as the retina display requires more GPU power to drive. Apple learned that lesson with the iPad 3, where even the A5X was not good enough to drive the retina display. I think this time though, even the plain A7 would be able to do it. Apple has been pushing the GPU capabilities of their SoCs a lot, and I think now they can finally pair retina display with the mini. Also, I think Touch ID is going to be present, because why not (the A7 supports it). Same price points and capacities.

What else other than iPads? The retina Macbook Pros have not been updated to Haswell yet, which is not too surprising considering the number of Windows laptops with Haswell on the market are still very few. The iMac just got its silent refresh. I have a feeling the retina Macbook Pro update to Haswell might be silent too, unless Apple want to brag about the battery life and iris pro GPU. But other than that, there is not much to say about Haswell. Performance is not a huge jump compared to Ivy bridge, so the marketing point to spin is mainly the power savings.

Will the regular Macbook Pro get a refresh? I don’t know, and I doubt it. I think Apple wants to replace the regular Macbook Pro with the retina Macbook Pro real bad. The regular Macbook Pro didn’t even get a display upgrade last year. They are serve well thanks to their optical drive, and they are great as a stop gap between the Macbook Air and the retina Macbook Pro price points. If Apple can push the price of the retina Macbook Pro down, I think we will see the regular Macbook Pro abandoned/discontinued (or it won’t get any updates and will be just faded out silently). There is a rumor about a 12″ retina Macbook rumor, which I think Apple might do if they cannot push the retina Macbook Pro prices down to replace the regular Macbook Pros. It will bring back the old Macbook lineup as the stop gap between the Air and the Pro, now with retina! And with intel’s iris pro GPU, I don’t think we have to worry too much about intel’s GPU performance anymore. If this is true, then I can see them taking over the previous Macbook Pro price points, keeping the retina Macbook Pro as the higher end for better margins. Apple still want you to buy the Macbook Air if you want something cheaper.

Another mac that has not received the Haswell treatment is the mac mini. I think it will get a silent upgrade. The mini is not too exciting to be presented on keynotes, and since Haswell’s main advantage is power saving, it’s not that big of a deal on a desktop. The mini has received plenty of silent refreshes so it’s not too surprising.

Of course, when we talk about Macs, the question linger about the new Mac Pro. Apple said it’s coming this Fall. Well, it’s Fall already, yet nothing much else coming out from Cupertino. It would clash to do a big presentation for this with the iPads on the spotlight. Maybe a separate smaller event.

Then comes OS X Mavericks. I think it would be time to release Mavericks if Apple would also release the new retina Macs. It just gives you a nice flow in the keynote. And same story, $20 for all Macs. Rumor is that Apple might give it for free. Not outside the realm of possibility as $20 is already very inexpensive when you compare it to the price of a single Windows license. 

Apple TV? I don’t think we will see much of it. I mean the end point for that device is to playback 1080p content properly, and the current Apple TV already achieves that. Updating it won’t give much to talk about unless you are doing 4k, and I doubt we are there yet.

iPods? Nope. We already see a color refresh, so I doubt we will see any new ones until next year.

So let’s see how the keynote would go. First, Tim Cook will start with how great the iPhone sales is, and how great their retail business is. Next is the new iPads, and boom, retina iPad mini. Then it’s Mavericks release info and demo, followed by the refresh retina Macbook Pros. And one more thing, 12″ retina Macbook. Sounds good, right? 😀

Smart watch? Meh. Seriously, the rumors about Apple making a smart watch circulating a lot on tech blogs are because that is a rumor started by the tech blogs themselves, so they are basically using their own rumor as news, and keep regurgitating it. It is just a flame bait they will use later when Apple does not do one (simply because there is no reason why Apple would), to criticize Apple being not “innovative” anymore, and that Apple is “disappointing” for not fulfilling the rumors. Seriously, you have a phone that is smarter than ever. Why would you want a half-baked “smart” watch that can’t do much? Let a watch be a simple watch. I personally have stopped using a watch ever since I have a cellphone.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, 10am PST.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Apple 2013 September Media Event

Apple has the keynote up and streaming.

And as usual, my 2 cents. 😀

Just like any Apple keynotes, it started with Tim Cook talking about stuff. iTunes Festival, more Apple stores, “absolutely stunning.” Then Craig went on stage, rehashing iOS7’s features. “Precise typography.” Yeah yeah. New ringtones, new tones, “remastered”… err… whatever.

Did Craig just say iMail? 😀

iTunes Radio… Yeah, whatever. I’m sure J-Pop and Eurobeat are not in the listed genres. And did they blackout the screen when Craig showed the NBC app? LOL. And I think Craig also showed the new iPad (or maybe it’s the iPad mini). September 18. Meanwhile, my HTC One still has not gotten 4.2 update.

Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto, and iMovie for iOS are made free. Not sure how it would work as it still shows as paid apps on my iDevices. Apple said they are free with new iOS devices, and the offer is shown when you first set up the iDevice. I’ll just wait till iOS7 is out.

iPhone 5, replaced. Yup, instead of just reducing the price, Apple replaced the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 5C. Yes, that supposedly “cheap” iPhone is not cheap, it’s on the middle spot. Sounds like Apple couldn’t justify the manufacturing cost of the iPhone 5 to lower its price while maintaining a healthy margin, so comes the cheaper polycarbonate iPhone 5C. And, only Apple can make a fancy video glorifying polycarbonate plastic and some silicone cases, featuring Jason Statham… I meant Jony Ive..

So, what’s the iPhone 5C? It’s the iPhone 5 with a slightly larger battery inside the cheaper (for Apple) plastic. Phil didn’t say it would have the sapphire lens like the 5 though. LTE bands, but no 802.11ac. Maybe it’s too early to judge until I can touch it, but glossy plastic just don’t go on a device that is going to hand held most of its life. Fingerprint magnets.

What hurts more? The price. It’s $99 with 2 year contract for the 16GB model, and $199 for the 32GB model. The 16GB model is $549 unlocked. Err, yeah. So much for the “cheap” iPhone huh. Meanwhile, 16GB Nexus 4 is $249. You can bash the Nexus 4 however you want, no LTE, Android, but in the end, it’s less than half the price of the iPhone 5C, while retaining its glass built instead of going to plastic. Whoever though that Apple would actually release a “cheap” iPhone is silly to begin with as Apple is all about margins. September 13th, pre-order starts. Shipping on September 20th in major markets, including China.

Next is the iPhone 5S. All the rumors are true. Gold color and fingerprint scanner. The surprise, A7 going 64bit. And now the “black” color becomes “Space Gray.” LOL. I guess Apple couldn’t solve the chipping problems that the black iPhone 5 is suffering from, they are just going less black and call it a gray iPhone now. 😀

The big news is the 64bit part. Yes, remember the transition between 32bit to 64bit in PCs? It’s now happening. Phil implied that this transition is quick, unlike the years involved on PCs. What does this mean? This mean don’t buy that iPhone 5C. Yes, this kinda hints that Apple will transition iOS to 64bit fairly quickly, and Apple is well known to drop support off their older devices whenever. I can see that once all their lineup is 64bit, they will abandon anything with A6 (32bit) or older very quickly. So a fair warning, if you really want to buy an iPhone today, help yourself and get the 5S. If it’s too expensive, save up or wait next year for it to be cheaper.

To demo the A7, Apple showed Infinity Blade 3. I’ll wait for the A7X on the new iPad. 🙂

The A7 apparently has a motion co-processor called the M7, specifically to measure motion data. I sense more things to come with this M7, and also another way to make the A6 and older devices obsolete, a good excuse to stop supporting them. Yes, just a reminder again, do not buy the 5C.

The camera has f2.2 aperture now. Phil said larger sensor and bigger pixel. I don’t know, I think HTC and Nokia have something to say on that. The benefits will be in software, where Phil said the camera app have 15 focus points and will take multiple pictures and automatically select the best one. Also, the dual flash with a warmer flash aside the regular one. Digital image stabilization by selecting a sharper picture form the multiple ones the iPhone took. I don’t see this feature works good on any cameras/phones. Besides, we want optical image stabilization, and Nokia and HTC have delivered that. Burst mode. My HTC One can do that already, so nothing too exciting here and I bet most people won’t even know about it. 720p 120fps, resulting in HD slo-mo video, and the neat part is that you can select certain part of the scenes for the slo-mo. I’m intrigued as most of the time, high fps means much lower resolution. If Apple can put this on the next iPod Touch, I’m tempted as I don’t want to spend $$$ for the 5S just for this feature.

The fingerprint scanner rumor is true, called Touch ID, on the home button. Looks like Apple did integrate it into iOS7, thus improving its usefulness other than just a gimmick. You can use it for iTunes purchases. And of course, Jason Statham had another video just for it, I meant Jony Ive. With the recent “concerns” about privacy, Apple intentionally stated that that the fingerprint won’t be stored on Apple servers nor iCloud. We’ll see if Apple’s implementation is seamless, because if not, nobody will use it, like Android’s face unlock.

16GB at $199 with 2 year contract, $649 unsubsidized. No change than before, no 128GB model. Leather cases for $39, and a red one for $49. Yeah, Apple is not going cheap people. And surprise surprise, the 4S remains, neutered to 8GB for free with contract ($450 unsubsidized). Seriously, $450? Again, 16GB Nexus 4 is $249. Heck, even the 32GB LTE Nexus 7 is cheaper than that.

September 20th shipping, including on NTT docomo in Japan.

Apple is playing a video how people are using the iPhone 5C, as if they all can afford one… 🙄 Seriously, $249 Nexus 4, nuff said.

Oh, no more one more thing, but I do have one more thing. Apple is bragging how these new iPhones have the most LTE bands. Well, in reality, it will be even more segregated. If you think you can buy one iPhone 5C/5S and use LTE all over the world, think again. Apple’s own website shows at least four different models with different LTE carriers support on each. So yeah, no fun.

How’s my prediction? Well, I missed everything. 😀 The 4S remains while I thought Apple would ditch it. The prices are not cheaper, and Apple is not giving extra storage either. The iPhone 5 is discontinued. And no new iPads nor iPods. I guess we have to wait till October.

There you go. So, will you buy one? Are you happy/disappointed? Me, I’m waiting for the new Nexus instead. 😉

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in apple, impression, iPhone, Keynote

 

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Apple September Event 2013 Prediction

It’s September again, and it’s time for new Apple stuff. In less than 24 hours, Apple is holding its September Media event. Although Tim Cook said he would double down on secrecy, plenty of rumors are around lately.

The first rumor is the iPhone 5C, a supposedly cheaper plastic iPhone. In the beginning, I thought it would be unlikely for Apple to go this route. Apple is known for higher margin products. Even if they would introduce a “cheaper” iPhone, it would be cheaper only by Apple’s standard. Right now Apple’s cheapest iPhone is the 3-year-old iPhone 4, 8GB for $450 unlocked. Not really “cheap” considering plenty of Android phones with more up-to-date hardware being sold less than that. And don’t forget the recently discounted, $250 16GB Nexus 4.

However, we are seeing more and more photos of it. From the colorful plastic backs, the plastic packaging it would come with, to fully assembled ones in their boxes, the manual, and videos of one being used. The rumor is that it would be the same hardware as the current iPhone 5 (ie. running the A6), but with the colorful plastic back instead of the more premium aluminum/glass back.

My previous prediction was that Apple was going to simply repackage the iPhone 4S into something using the lightning connector and 4″ taller screen, thus homogenizing the lineup. In other words, the 5th gen iPod Touch with a phone in it, and Apple would just call it the iPhone. However, the over abundance leaks of the colored iPhone 5C made me think that Apple is really going to do the iPhone 5C, using the same iPhone 5 internals in the cheaper plastic housing. The question remains, how much Apple is going to charge for it. Clearly it would go into the “free with contract” slot. My guess is it would be $399 for 16GB. Some rumors are saying that it would hit the $200 price point, especially with the recent price cut of the Nexus 4. I doubt it would be in the $200 price range. It makes no sense as Apple is selling the iPod Touch for more than that. Apple is not going to just jump into the bottom barrel. $399 might be expensive compared to the Nexus 4, but it is very cheap for Apple’s standard, especially considering the iPhone 5-level hardware, a year old, instead of having a 2-year-old hardware.

The next rumor that doesn’t have as much leaks is the iPhone 5S. The rumors are double LED flash and fingerprint sensor on its home button, while maintaining the same design and form as the current iPhone 5. It is also predicted that it would have an A7 processor. Other than those, not much else. I have doubts on the fingerprint sensor. I mean unless Apple can really pull a foolproof one and integrate it into a lot of things (app store, passbook, etc), it sounds too much of a gimmick.

And, that’s about it. So there will be the iPhone 5C at the low end, free with contract, $399 without. Then the current iPhone 5 will be at the current 4S’ price point, $99 with contract, $499 without. And then the iPhone 5S, $199 with contract, $599 without. I assume we will see a $50 price drop across the board for the unsubsidized pricing, just to make them round. 😀 As for capacity, It’s safe to assume the 5C and middle 5 will be 16GB. There are rumors that the 5S will have 128GB model, which makes some sense. If there’s not much “wow” factor, putting 32GB as the starting model will be a good attractor. Looking at the 32GB GPE HTC One price, it seems in line. So presumably the iPhone 5S will come in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB.

So, to recap my prediction:

  • iPhone 5C, 16GB, in colors, free on contract, $399 unsubsidized.
  • iPhone 5, 16GB, $99 on contract, $499 unsubsidized.
  • iPhone 5S, 32GB starting at $199 on contract, $599 unsubsidized. Add $100 for double the storage up to 128GB.

That’s for the iPhone. Now the iPad. Not much rumors as it is predictable. The regular iPad will carry the design language of the iPad mini, making it slimmer and more compact. Everything else should be predictable too, A7X, and same price points as current lineup. The question is whether Apple would start at 32GB. Currently, Apple does have a 128GB iPad, but it’s $799 for the wifi only model. You can get a laptop for that price, and the LTE model is priced at $929, only a few bucks less than a Macbook Air! I can see Apple pushing the price down just to create a better gap. I do wish the LTE versions would be priced less.

What will happen to the iPad 2? The iPad 2 is in a weird position, being two models behind, yet it’s still on sale, with the iPad 3 being discontinued. It’s definitely on its way out as it still has the old dock connector. I’m going to guess the current iPad filling in that spot, 16GB wifi for $399. Now the regular iPads are all retina and have lightning connector.

The wild card is the iPad mini, and whether Apple can put a retina display on it. This was the big disappointment I had with the original iPad mini, which was basically a smaller iPad 2, carrying the same A5 processor and 1024×768 resolution screen. It has lower ppi than even the original Nexus 7. Now Google already released the new Nexus 7 with an even higher resolution screen, and Google just released the 32GB LTE model for $349. Although Apple still has the huge advantage of the iPad brand, it just won’t look great if the next iPad mini doesn’t have a retina display. There are arguments against it as the retina display will require more battery, and Apple does not usually make the newer product thicker than the older one. But I think Appe might be able to pull it off. I hope we will see a retina iPad mini with the A6X in it, starting at 16GB wifi at $299. The current iPad mini starts at $329, and I think it was intentional so Apple can then put the $299 price and spin it as a great price drop.

Another theory is, considering the retina screen yield, Apple might keep the current iPad mini (just like the iPad 2), drop its price to $249 or something, and then replace the next price up at $349 with the retina mini, thus keeping a good margin on the retina version. This might be a more likelihood scenario. Apple did this also with the iPod Touch.

So, my prediction on the iPad/iPad mini:

  • iPad 5: 32GB wifi, $499. Add $130 for LTE, and $100 for double the storage.
  • Current iPad 4: 16GB wifi, $399. Add $130 for LTE.
  • Current iPad mini, 16GB wifi, $249. Add $130 for LTE
  • Retina iPad mini, 32GB wifi, $349. Add $130 for LTE, and $100 for double the storage.

On September events, Apple usually announce new iPods too. There is literally zero rumors on the iPods as the hot stuff is the iPhone. I doubt Apple would do anything either. They are pretty much the only player left in the portable music player market. All I can see is a price drop on the no-camera iPod Touch to $199, thus Apple spinning it as the most affordable iOS device ever. And maybe also a $50 price drop on the 32GB and 64GB model, allowing a greater distinction in price with the iPhone 5C. On the other hand, if Apple could make the iPhone 5C, maybe they would put the A6 into the new iPod Touch, thus justifying the price as it has the same internals as the iPhone.

My prediction on iPods:

  • Current camera-less 16GB iPod Touch: $199.
  • New iPod Touch with A6 and better camera, starting at 32GB at $299, and 64GB at $399.
  • All other iPods remain the same, and the iPod Classic remains.

Of course, we will see more regurgitation about iOS7, how it is the greatest thing since the original iPhone OS, again. 😀 Apple TV? The rumor is just a software update. I mean what else do people expect from an Apple TV? It can already play 1080p video. We probably won’t see a real update until we have 4K videos. And the recent PS Vita TV by Sony? Well, Apple already have Airplay mirroring so iOS games can already be played on the big screen.

Due to the rumors, seems like it won’t be an exciting event. I hope Apple has something under their sleeve, Tim Cook’s double down on secrecy.

We’ll find out in less than 24 hours. I’ll be following Engadget’s live blogging of the event.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in apple, Keynote

 

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Apple WWDC 2013 Impression

The streaming keynote is up at Apple.

The keynote started with a video about design and feeling, emphasizing that unlike other companies, Apple doesn’t just churn out products after products, that each Apple products involved something more. Pretty cool message, considering how people and the tech “journalists” are whining about Apple not innovating anymore because they don’t ship products every other month like Samsung. Also, looks like each Apple videos now will end with “Designed by Apple in California,” a PR spin, considering that most of Apple products are made in China.

Just with any Apple keynotes, it started with Apple stores’ experience, how great the app store, etc. Tim Cook looked more comfortable, but it’s hard to match the Steve Jobs’ energy on past keynotes.

First is demo of anki drive, a car toy using robotics technology and controlled by iOS. There was an almost demo fail. Neat idea showing what kind of uses iDevices can be, but this is probably going to be just an expensive toy. I want to see more medical devices powered by iOS as promised a while back.

Next, the Mac. As expected, new OS X. Running out of cat names? OS X Sea Lion? Well, Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in apple, impression, Keynote

 

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WWDC 2013 Prediction

Just in case you don’t know, Apple is starting WWDC on Monday. Of course, anytime Apple does a keynote presentation, a ton of rumors are flying around in regards to what Apple is going to unveil. As usual, the analyst are predicting anything they can think of, from new Macs to new iPhone, iPads, etc.

Based on the posters going up at the event, obviously Apple is going to talk about iOS7 and a new OS X. WWDC is a developer conference, so these are expected. It’s just that sometimes Apple announced a product too, and the big one was the iPhone 3G, that people are expecting new products instead.

My prediction would be refreshed Mac lineup, in conjunction with intel releasing their new chips Haswell. I expect a refresh across all Macs, from the Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, retina Macbook Pro, and the iMac. I don’t think we will see a retina Macbook Air, although the 13″ retina Macbook Pro will be very interesting with the upgraded internals to Haswell. The Mac mini, maybe, but it seems that the mini is on a longer cycle than the rest of the Macs, so maybe not right away. The Mac Pro? Well, who knows. Apple has been saying they would do something, but never did. It’s the only Mac that doesn’t even support Thunderbolt. Apple is making their money on iOS devices now, so a low volume and premium priced Mac Pro may not be their priority.

Oh, and all those Macs will come with Mountain Lion. Apple cannot just release a new OS and ship it right off the bat. They have to give developers time to actually look at it. So I’m guessing after the hardware announcements, then we will see a preview of the next OS X.

Same thing with iOS. I don’t think we will see any new iDevices on this upcoming WWDC. Apple usually did another event beforehand to preview a new version of iOS and to let developers use the beta, but so far they have not done that. So this would be the announcement, and then, new iDevices will be out in September/October.

One more thing? Maybe new routers with 802.11AC. Oh, and there’s iRadio. Not sure if Apple would do this on WWDC, as music related stuff are usually announced in September, together with the new iDevices. I think the new version of OS X and iOS7 will be the bulk of the keynote. I think Apple would have quite a bit of new things with these two OSes that they need the time to talk about them. Besides, it is WWDC, for developers.

Okay, that’s my two cents. Not much “leaks” around, meaning that we will see actual new iDevices later this year. The refreshed Macs are expected with Haswell. As usual, it is always exciting to watch Apple’s performance in their keynotes. I’ll be following Engadget’s live blogging. I like gdgt’s but they are part of Engadget now. UPDATE: Also, looks like Apple is going to live stream the keynote.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in apple, Keynote

 

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