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Apple Special Event September 2015 #apple

Apple’s September event has come and gone. Re-watch the keynote at Apple’s website.

Well, all the common rumours are pretty much on the spot.

Tim Cook is changing the keynote style. Unlike Jobs who likes to talk about statistics before the actual announcements, Tim Cook seems to prefer to just go straight to the announcements.

First, Apple Watch. WatchOS 2, and new models (color) and bands. I thought smartwatch is just an expensive fad. I do own a Motorola 360, and I only bought it due to the price cut when the Apple Watch was released. At $400, I’m still not convinced whether it is worth it to get a first gen product. Time has proven again and again that Apple’s second revision of the product is much better (iPad, iPhone, iPod nano). With Apple pushing apps on the Apple Watch, I am going to wait for the next revision to see if it is finally worth the price.

The more important here to me is the partnership with Hermes. The lay people amy brush this away, but this is the next step of Apple as a business. Apple is making itself into more of a brand company, and it is selecting luxury partners. We will see how Apple progress, and how the other tech companies are confused how Apple is making so much money.

Next up is iPad, and yes, the rumours are correct. We are getting a 12.9″ iPad Pro, with stylus support called Apple Pencil, and a smart keyboard cover. Yes, sounds like the same concept as Microsoft’s Surface.

What’s amazing is the inside. It is sporting an A9X chip, and simply listening to Apple’s claim on what the chip can do is quite mind boggling. Apple claims that it is faster than 80% of the laptops out there. That’s a huge claim, considering intel has been making great improvements on its Atom and Core processors. GPU performance claim is also huge, 2x the 8X, and Apple is claiming it is faster than 90% of laptops out there. Being able to edit 4K movies is a jaw-dropping capability, considering that even my Macbook Pro is still choking on 1080p videos in Final Cut Pro X.I am wondering how Apple does it. Having said that, I am guessing majority of laptops out there are running Atom and low end Celeron and Pentium processors, and thus explain the claim of GPU superiority of the A9X. I mean intel integrated graphics are not the greatest, but I doubt the A9X can match the Iris GPUs, which are in the Macbook Pros.

Other features are 4 speakers, and the new connectors for accessories, including the smart keyboard. However, just like Microsoft, the keyboard cover is sold at a premium, for $170. Oh and there’s the stylus called Apple Pencil, for an extra $100. But it is charging from the lightning connector? It is stupid, having the pencil sticking out on the huge iPad Pro. Maybe Apple Pencil 2 will have a rotatable lightning connector. I harp on Microsoft for note including the keyboard cover with the Surface, but at least Microsoft included the stylus on the Surface Pro.

As usual, Apple made videos starring Johnny Ive to narrate technology into an alluring advertisement. This is the magic of Apple, as it made me interested into getting the iPad Pro. However, I think 12.9″ is too big. I think the iPad Pro is a test bed. When you look at the models available, it has a weird lineup, inconsistent with previous iPads offering. Apple only offers it in 3 models, 32GB, 128GB, and 128GB + cellular. There’s no 32GB + cellular, nor 64GB models. They are expensive too. 32GB model is $800, and the 128GB + cellular is $1080. Yes, finally a $1000 iPad… Sounds like Apple is still determining how the market would react and what kind of demands they would have. Personally, I will be waiting for an updated regular iPad with the Pencil support. That would be a more ideal size for students.

Interestingly, Apple updated the iPad mini into iPad mini 4 without actual announcement. The iPad mini 3 was silly, only adding Touch ID over the iPad mini 2. The mini 4 is a more appropriate update, adding the A8 chip. Interestingly, Apple is keeping the mini 2 for the lower price point instead of the mini 3. iPad mini 2 now starts at $270, which is quite a steal imo (the refurbished 16GB wifi is getting close to the $200 price point, being sold at $230). Imagine an iPad at almost the same price as an iPod Touch. On the other hand, Apple now has a sale of iPad lineup, contrasting their typical simple product line up. Now Apple has iPad mini 2, mini 4, iPad Air, Air 2, and the Pro. That’s a lot of models.

Next up Apple TV. Apple finally is making its long-rumored attempt at gaming console, again. The interesting part is the Siri user interface, using the Siri remote with a trackpad on it. It is powered by the A8 chip. It is interesting how this can be clocked as now it doesn’t have as much physical restrictions as Apple’s portable devices. Apple is selling this new Apple TV at two capacity sizes, 32GB for $150 and 64GB for $200. I think this class of device should be simplified, meaning Apple should just sell the 64GB model for $149. I think this is Apple’s trick in upselling. Why? Apps. The new TV will run sophisticated apps just like other iOS devices, including games. I’m guessing Apple is banking for consumers to pay more for more storage for the apps. It will be interesting to see how Roku and Amazon would react to this. Apple’s huge advantage is its huge movie library.

And lastly, the iPhone 6S/6S+. The rumours are pretty much spot on. It has the same outer appearance as the 6 obviously, and there’s a rose gold color option. It is running the A9 chip, and retaining the same capacities and price points as the previous iPhone 6. It has the force touch called 3D touch. Camera is upgraded, with 12MP on the rear and 5MP at the front. It is 4k capable also. Can’t wait to get my hands on this, although I am concerned about the smaller battery and rumours that it still only has 1GB of RAM.

One interesting feature is Live Photos. Basically the camera will be capturing extra frames for a second before and a second later when you press the shutter button, giving you a quick video clip in addition to the picture itself. It reminds me of HTC Zoe, which I said in the past for Apple to copy it. The problem with HTC Zoe is that it is keeping multitude of pictures, creating confusion when backing up the photos as now you have tons of pictures of the “same” thing (which creates the frames of the quick snippet). Looks like Apple made things more seamless. Will be interesting how services like dropbox would deal with live photos.

Another interesting move is for Apple to do its own iPhone instalment plan, which makes you “subscribe” to Apple starting at $32 a month. Apple will give you an unlocked iPhone with AppleCare+, and you will get the new one every year. This is definitely a jab at the carriers as now people can get an iPhone for just $384 a year, and it’s unlocked to boot. This is Apple’s solution to attack the cheap Android phones. Very bold and interesting move, and I hope it gets adopted outside the US where people prefer unlocked and no-contract.

iCloud storage is also updated, with 50GB for 99cents a month. Sounds pretty sweet to me and I might finally bite (although it has not shown on the iCloud purchase setting page yet on Yosemite).

Online, you will see people claiming that the whole thing is underwhelming, mainly because the rumours pretty much nailed everything down, thus no “new” surprises.  However, I think this is a huge turning point for Apple. I can see the A9X as the starting point for Apple to consider an Ax powered Macbook. The Apple Pencil might create a new feature set for future iPads. The new Apple TV is Apple’s attempt to attack the gaming console market with a full app store ecosystem. And finally the iPhones 6S/6S+, creating a new UI experience with 3D Touch. People judge books by its cover. So people will be more excited when they see a new Android device that look different (but only having minuscule improvements inside), while scoff off Apple’s S-cycle iPhones that carry a lot inside but appear the same externally. I mean seriously, look at the Xperia Z3, Z4 and Z5. The 6S brings a ton more over the 6 than Sony did for its Xperia flagship.

I have posted about how I am considering switching back to iPhone, and the 6S is the obvious candidate. I will be waiting on the side for Apple Watch 2 and iPad Air 3 with Pencil support. I was considering getting the retina Macbook when Apple updates it with Skylake, but the iPad Pro muddles the water. Can’t wait what Apple can do next year with the A10.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2015 in impression, 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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Picking Your Wireless Carrier (USA) part 06: iPhone Tips and Tricks

All right, after exploring the choice of wireless service MVNOs, which one would you want to pick? From my experience, it depends on your phone. So let’s start with the big elephant in the room, the iPhone. My assumption is we are using an officially unlocked iPhone. Don’t ask me about unlocking, ask your carrier or ask yourself why you bought a locked phone to begin with. Right now, Apple is selling unlocked iPhones openly in the US, so the days of having to import expensive iPhones or jailbreaking are gone. All iPhones, the 5, 4S, and 4, are available unlocked straight from Apple. Obviously, you’ll be getting a GSM iPhone. The unlocked iPhone 5 will be the “AT&T” version.

Now, what if you have an iPhone from a carrier. Currently, iPhones are officially offered by AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, plus the 4/4S are offered by certain Sprint MVNOs/regional carriers. iPhones from carriers are provider locked by default, with one exception. AT&T now will unlock your iPhone if you are done with your contract or if you bought the iPhone full price (no contract or pay ETF). Sprint will not unlock their iPhones, other than for international use. Same thing with Verizon (with one exception).

Then, there is the model. If you have an iPhone 4, the only one that is unlockable is the GSM AT&T version. Sprint and Verizon iPhone 4 are CDMA only. As for the iPhone 4S, it’s a hybrid GSM/CDMA device. AT&T version is unlockable. Verizon and Sprint version are only unlockable for international carriers, meaning that Verizon and Sprint are blocking US GSM carriers’ SIM. (More reason to hate CDMA carriers). The iPhone 5 is also a hybrid device, with versions supporting GSM and AT&T LTE, and another one supporting CDMA, GSM, and Verizon/Sprint’s LTE. AT&T version is of course, unlockable after meeting the requirement I mentioned above. Sprint’s policy is unlocking only for international use. Verizon iPhone 5, however, is unlocked OUT OF THE BOX! Yes, if you have a Verizon iPhone 5, you can put in an AT&T/T-Mobile SIM and it will work just fine. No need for unlocking. Of course, you won’t get LTE on AT&T as the LTE frequency support differs than the AT&T version, but hey, this is huge. Verizon is forced to do this due to an agreement they had with the US government when they got the 700 LTE band.

In short, if you are on AT&T, you can get your iPhone unlocked by paying ETF or after the end of your contract. If you are on Verizon, only the iPhone 5 is unlocked. If you are on Sprint, you are screwed.

First thing first, you want to decide on which of the two parent carriers you want to go with. The choice is either AT&T or T-Mobile. All GSM iPhones (4/4S/5) support quad-band HSDPA (850/900/1900/2100) bands. So for the longest time, to be able to have 3G speed, you have to use AT&T or their MVNOs. Luckily, T-Mobile started to refarm their 1900 band for 3G on certain areas. You can check their coverage here, a site with a map from users indicating which areas have sightings of 3G access on 1900 band on T-Mobile. I would go and see your area first. If your area has many people indicating 3G access, then good news, your choice of providers expanded considerably as you won’t have to be stuck with EDGE if you pick T-Mobile or its MVNO. Do note that even if T-Mobile has “rolled” out the refarm, coverage may still be iffy. T-Mobile has officially announced my area to be a refarmed area. When I get 3G signal, it’s fast, way faster than AT&T’s 3G, However, it is also often that the connectivity reverted back to EDGE, especially indoors. So caveat emptor.

After you decide on the operator you want, next step is buying the SIM. Apple is not making things easy by using a micro SIM for the iPhone 4/4S and a nano SIM for the iPhone 5. Most MVNOs now do offer micro SIM as they realize the popularity of iPhone 4/4S. However, not many offer the nano SIM. If your desired operator doesn’t offer the SIM size that you need, check Amazon and ebay. There are plenty of resellers that are selling pre-cut SIM to the size you desire for cheap (some even sell them for cheaper than buying the SIM straight from the operator). Of course, there are sellers using this to gouge you, especially if you are looking for a nano SIM. Just be smart and don’t spend more than what you would spend for buying the SIM directly with the operator. You can also buy a SIM cutter and do it yourself, but considering there are some sellers selling SIMs for a few dollars or even less, it’s probably cheaper and easier to just buy a pre-cut one. If you decided to stick with the main carriers, aka AT&T or T-Mobile, and if your existing SIM is not micro/nano, just go to the respective corporate stores and ask them for a new micro/nano SIM. They should be able to give it to you for free.

Okay, you have an unlocked iPhone, and you rather stick with AT&T. Then refer to my second post on the selection of AT&T MVNOs. There is a catch though. Unlike normal phones or Android, Apple put the control of certain carrier settings to the carrier. This setting is usually known as the APN setting, a setting for access point names that will tell your phone how it would connect to the network for data and MMS. Normally, this setting is accessible by the user. It’s been the case on cellphones for ages, even on Android. But not on iPhones. AT&T, being AT&T, chose to lock out this setting from users as they “know better” than the users. Unfortunately, this restriction extends to the AT&T MVNOs as Apple thinks you are on AT&T. Meaning if you put in a SIM from those AT&T MVNOs into your unlocked iPhone, even the one purchased overseas or straight from Apple, options like APN settings and portable hotspot will be unavailable. So right off the gate, your iPhone won’t be able to obtain data connectivity nor MMS.

There are workarounds. First one is through a website called unlockit.co.nz. You have to have internet connectivity via wifi on your iPhone first. Simply go to that website via Safari and it will give you options to create a custom APN based on your operator. The site will install the setting on your iPhone and you will have data connectivity. Unfortunately, no MMS.

The second workaround will enable MMS, but it’s much trickier to perform. It’s called a SIM swap method. DISCLAIMER: *Since I’m on Simple Mobile now, I have not tested this method again since Simple Mobile doesn’t lock out the APN setting screen. However, I did try this method on Straight Talk’s AT&T SIM and iOS6, and it worked, both data and MMS.* First, you have to have a T-Mobile SIM (or any of its MVNOs), since T-Mobile, unlike AT&T, doesn’t lock out the APN setting option in iPhone. You will also need to write down the APN information of your provider of choice (most provide it on their website). Basically you will put the T-Mobile SIM first, turn-on your phone, open an app, go back home and then go to Settings and the Cellular sub menu, and Cellular data network setting. These options are locked out when you use AT&T or its MVNO’s SIM. While you are on that screen, use the multitasking feature to switch to the app you first opened. Then open the SIM slot without turning off the phone and put in the AT&T MVNO SIM. Use the multitasking app switcher to go back to Settings and you will find that you are still on that APN setting screen that would normally be inaccessible. Type in the information, and make sure they are correct as this menu will be inaccessible once you go out and you would have to do it all over again. Note that you will be able to enter all information, including settings for MMS. Once you are done, get out of the screen and reboot your phone. The settings will remain even if you turn off your iPhone and remove the SIM as long as the same SIM is inserted again before you turn it on, but it will be reset if you switch to a different SIM or update iOS. So you have to do this everytime Apple updates iOS. Annoying, but blame it on AT&T. Note that you will never get ability to do portable hotspot/tethering unless you jailbreak.

In general, AT&T MVNOs will provide better coverage than T-Mobile’s. However, speed wise, it’s AT&T. Depending on your area, AT&T connectivity is just poor, and easily overwhelmed when there is a lot of people in the area (eg. an event).

Now, let’s move on with T-Mobile. Let’s say you find that T-Mobile has refarmed the 1900 spectrum for 3G in your area. This allows you to safely pick any of its MVNOs as I have stated on my third post. Even better, T-Mobile doesn’t lock out the APN and MMS settings so you can easily enter the necessary information without having to do any workarounds. Even the portable hotspot/tethering menu is available. Of course, the catch is that you are depending on that 1900 spectrum as the iPhone doesn’t support AWS, which is T-Mobile’s main 3G frequency, so you may still get EDGE here and there. Still, I consider the savings in my pocket is worth it as I picked Simple Mobile.

What if you are not sure. You see T-Mobile has refarmed the 1900 spectrum in your area, but you don’t want to commit to switching. Well, this is the beauty of prepaid/MVNOs, no contract required. Don’t cancel your current plan/carrier yet though. Best bet is to buy T-Mobile’s SIM online for 99 cents, sign up online for their $30 plan that gives you 5GB of data. Note that you will not be able to get this plan at T-Mobile physical stores. It’s only available at Walmart and online. Then you have 1 month to test the coverage, data speed and connectivity on your preferred locations. 5GB should give you a ton of room to do many things. After you are convinced, then pick your desired operator at the price/feature you want.

And that’s about it. Enjoy your iPhone without paying an arm and a leg.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in apple, tips

 

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Picking Your Wireless Carrier (USA) part 01

You hear it all the time, how expensive cellphone bills are, especially in the US. Even worse with smartphones and data plans. This is true if you are using any of the major carriers, especially AT&T and Verizon. Yet whenever you try to find more information from the numerous tech “blogs” and tech “journalists,” their recommendations never go far from the big carriers that are ready to rip you off.

How much are we talking about? Well, Apple actually provides a very good tool on their website to compare the monthly post-paid plans between AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. I am going to focus more of individual plans instead of family plans. US wireless carriers have been squeezing more and more money from their customers by simply eliminating choice.

Greatest example is Verizon, where your only choice is to go with the data shared plan. The table on Apple’s website shows the cheapest plan to be $80 a month for an individual with one smartphone. 80 freaking dollars a month just to use a smartphone! It’s ridiculous. The carriers are making the excuse that you are getting unlimited talk and text. Well, what if I don’t use that many minutes or text? You are stuck paying more than you need. To make it worse, that $80 a month plan only comes with 300MB of data. Although 300MB might be okay for some people, with the future being in the cloud, 300MB is nothing, considering we used to have unlimited/5GB data as the norm. To bump the data to 1GB, you have to fork out $90 a month. On the bright side, tethering and portable hotspot are included. However, this was a scam to begin with, as the ability to tether and/or do portable hotspot is the capability of your phone, not the carrier’s network. So US carriers have been charging users extra money to use the features of their own phones. Now those charges are “bundled in.” Having said all these, Verizon does have the power to charge that much money as their network coverage is considered to be the better one compared to the rest of the carriers, and people are willing to give them more money.

Next is Sprint. Cheapest plan is also $80 a month, with a tradeoff of getting 450 voice minutes and unlimited data. People that don’t really use minutes might prefer this, but it is still a freaking 80 dollars per month to use a smartphone! Bumping to 900 voice minutes will have you fork $100 a month! Seriously? People are complaining having to pay $10 a month for their prescription drugs, yet wireless carriers can get away with this highway robbery. Also, Sprint’s network is not the greatest. Sprint’s CDMA EVDO network is slower than even Verizon’s (which is already slow to begin with compared to HSDPA 3G). Their LTE network is very sparse as Sprint was doing Wimax instead of LTE as their pick for “4G.” The bright side, you get unlimited data (albeit with restriction on tethering, only up to 300MB per month).

Last but not least, AT&T. Like Verizon, AT&T is also pushing their shared data plan, where the cheapest plan would be $85 a month for unlimited voice and text, and 1GB of data. For $5 more a month, you get 1GB instead of 300MB on Verizon. Still, it’s 85 freaking dollar per month. At this point, you should wonder how people can even afford owning a smartphone. However, unlike Verizon, AT&T still offers their classic individual plan which gives you a bit of granularity (not much though) on your plan. Cheapest plan would be $60 a month, for 450 minutes, no text (pay as you go for 20cents per SMS and 30cents per MMS, another rip-off), and 300MB of data. Unlike the data shared plan, however, this individual plan doesn’t include tethering/portable hotspot. You have to pay an additional $30 a month (so $90 per month) to get those features and 5GB of data. This is a far cry from the old plan where you simply pay $30 for an unlimited data plan. Coverage wise, AT&T is better than Sprint, but not that great compared to Verizon. AT&T’s LTE coverage is more prevalent than Sprint’s. Also, AT&T uses GSM/HSDPA, so your phone selection is not as limited as the other two CDMA carriers.

For my subsequent posts, I am going to focus mostly on GSM/HSDPA carriers as I despise carrier locking, which is inherent to CDMA phones offered by Sprint and Verizon (with a tiny exception on Verizon).

So, to recap, Verizon’s cheapest plan is $80 a month for unlimited minutes and text, and 300MB data. Sprint’s cheapest plan is also $80 a month for 450 minutes, unlimited text and data. AT&T cheapest plan is $60 a month for 450 minutes, pay-as-you-go text, and 300MB data without tethering/portable hotspot. For $85 a month, you can have the shared data plan that gives you unlimited minutes and text, and 1GB data. Knowing this, with services like push email, twitter, Google Voice, Whatsapp, Line, iMessage, Facebook, etc, we are at the point that one can go by without any SMS, as long as one has data plan. This is why the carriers are eagerly “bundling” unlimited minutes and text and charging you an arm and a leg for data, because that’s the money maker with smartphones.

From those three, I say the winner is AT&T in terms of value. The tradeoff with Verizon is coverage. I would only pick Sprint if they offer LTE coverage in your area.

Then there’s the “other” GSM carrier, T-Mobile. T-Mobile is not featured on Apple’s website because T-Mobile does not sell iPhones… yet. It is mainly because T-Mobile uses an odd frequency for their 3G network, AWS, which is not supported by iPhones, nor many other phones worldwide. Thus if you use an iPhone on T-Mobile, you would stuck with 2G EDGE speed. However, this has changed recently. T-Mobile starts to re-farm their PCS 1900 band for 3G. The 1900 band is supported by many phones, including the iPhone. You can check airportal.de to see how the coverage is in your area. Knowing this, expect coverage to still be spotty. T-Mobile also has been promoting their HSPA+ 3G speed as “4G.” Although it’s fast, their coverage is not that great when you start comparing them to AT&T, let alone Verizon.

T-Mobile has been the choice for most people looking for value. Their post-paid plans offer more granularity and bang for the buck. Their cheapest plan with data will snag you for $70 a month that gives you 500 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data (2GB at 3G speed), but no tethering/portable hotspot. That’s not bad compared to the other carriers, although still expensive in my book.

T-Mobile also offers a “value” plan, in which you bring your own device (or pay the device in full). This plan allows you to go as low as $40 a month for 500 minutes, no text, and 200MB data. For the same features as above (500 minutes, unlimited text, 2GB 3G data), the price is $50 a month. That is much more reasonable, although there’s a catch. Despite you bringing your own device/paying the device in full, you are still signing up for a 2 year contract, complete with an ETF. In my opinion, that’s a total scam. The point of signing a contract is in exchange for a subsidy. If I bring my own phone, or pay for the phone in full, WTF the contract is for? So caveat emptor.

This is the first part of my post. At this point, you have to wonder how one can afford owning a smartphone, and how can these wireless carriers charge so much money, and people are still willing to cough up the dough. Couple reasons. First, most people actually have family plans (usually under their parents). This kinda reduces the per-person monthly cost, especially when you have multiple family members. Second, many big companies offer employee discount for their employees if they sign up with one of the major carriers (usually the big three, ie. AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint). Now, just because you are under a family plan and/or have an employee discount, doesn’t mean your plan is a good deal. Sure, it’s cheaper, but most people are still spending $60, $70, or even $90 and more a month for their cellphone bill, per person. That is a lot of money.

I was in that boat, on AT&T using an employee discount. At that time, I picked the bare minimum individual plan (when AT&T used to offer unlimited data for $30). I still end up with ~$60 a month bill after taxes. Imagine now, with those expensive plans, and the extra taxes you have to pay. I find those prices to be unacceptable. Thus my search for a better deal in the sea of MVNOs, coming up in part 2.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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September 12th Apple Keynote Prediction

Well, the day is getting near, and the rumors from the so-called “analysts” are endless. Time to pitch in mine.

1. New iPhone. Currently, the rummor is that it’s going to be a 4″ iPhone. Before, I was hesitant to assume that as the form factor of the current iPhone 4/4S is perfect imo. However, the increasingly leaks of spy shots on the new form factor kinda makes it a given. Despite the plethora of pictures of the parts, not many rumors about what’s inside. Some assumed it’s going to be the A5X, the chip used on the “new” iPad. Some said it’s going to be a new A6. Who knows. The A5X seems too big for the old form factor, but with the enlarged size, it’s possible. So, my prediction for the new iPhone is that, as rumored, it will be 4″ with the new dock connector, it will have the A5X in it, and it will carry the same price points as the current 4S (eg. 16GB for $199 subsidized up to $399 for 64GB). LTE is also a given, although who knows how it would work with the unlocked version.

The dock connector change is huge though. It will break all existing rich accessories ecosystem, although Apple will gladly sell you an adapter or two. Now, what if Apple approached this ala the Macbook Pro and “new” Macbook Pro with retina display, ie. releasing an iPhone with the updated internals but with the older dock-connector. Unlikely, but don’t want to re-buy all my existing accessories. I do hope Apple cut the unlocked pricing a bit. Currently, the 16GB iPhone 4S is $649. This may sound cool when unlocked iPhones are selling for thousands of dollars, but not anymore when the Galaxy Nexus is $349 unlocked. Apple need to really cut that price down. Even the old 3GS is sold at $375, more expensive than the more advance Galaxy Nexus. Although I think Apple will keep the unlocked pricing structure the same, because they can, I wish they at least bring the 16GB 4S to match the $349 Galaxy Nexus. One can only hope.

Oh, and Apple will call it the “new” iPhone. No iPhone 5 nor 6. Apple could’ve paired it with the iOS version, but they skipped 5 and named it 4S instead. So it will be just a “new” iPhone. Just like Macbooks and iMacs, there will be simply a top of the line iPhone (the latest one), and lesser speced cheaper ones (eg. the 4/4S).

I also have a concern with the new nano SIM. It’s hard enough having to jugle the micro SIM with phones using regular SIM using adapters. Now the even smaller nano SIM is going to make things even more annoying, as Apple will be the only one using it (Nokia just started using micro SIM for their Windows Phone phones, while other companies are still using regular SIM).

2. iOS 6. Kinda obvious. The removal of Google maps will be the big thing, and also adding turn-by-turn navigation. The only thing I’m disappointed is how many of these features won’t make it for the iPhone 4. Other than that, we already know what will be in iOS 6, so I doubt there will be any surprises. Maybe some extra stuff due to the larger screen of the new iPhone.

3. iPods. The iPod lineup didn’t get any updates at all last year. It’s a dying market with Apple standing on top. Not sure what Apple would do, but so far the rumors are new lineup across the board and the final axe for the iPod Classic.
-iPod Shuffle: What else can you do with this? Apple tried to go buttonless, but people didn’t like that. So the current Shuffle is as simple as one can get. Maybe just more colors. Same price point, $49.
-iPod nano: the rumor is that Apple will make a wifi iPod nano to connect to the iTunes store. Make sense as it allows people to buy more stuff from Apple. The current nano is already too restricted to be improved upon, so to me, the new “nano” will be actually a smaller iPod Touch. Apple will still market it as the iPod nano, but it will be an iOS device. I mean why do things half-heartedly? Might as well stick the full iOS in it. It will probably have either an A4 or the A3 (iPhone 3GS internal) in it to keep cost down. Screen will the the old lower-res LCD 3GS’ screen (non-retina). This might also explain why Apple is still supporting the 3GS for iOS 6. It might be old inside, but Apple will make it attractive outside by making it in colors. 8GB and 16GB at $99 and $149. Cheapest entry to the app store!
-iPod Touch: With the nano taking over most of the draws of the iPod Touch, the new iPod Touch will be larger (presumably following the new iPhone size) to compete further as a portable gaming device. Besides, the current Touch is so thin that it’s impossible to put something like the A5X in it. The new larger 4″ iPod Touch will carry the A5X, the iPad 3/iPhone 4 camera, and priced at $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB. This also begs Apple to drop the price of the unlocked iPhones. I mean come on, why is a 16GB “new” iPad with LTE is cheaper than a 16GB iPhone 4S?

The wild card is the iPad mini. The popularity of the Nexus 7 and Kindle fire HD show that people want a smaller tablet. The iPad has ruled the standard sized tablet market, but Apple has nothing for this segment, having only an outdated iPod Touch. Pricing will be tough as the Nexus 7 and newly announced Kindle fire HD pushed that envelope further down at $199. Currently, for $199, you can only get a small-screen old 8GB iPod Touch. Definitely not an iPad experience. However, if Apple was to make an iPad mini, this pricing points will overlap too much with the iPod Touch and iPad. If Apple made an iPad mini, I don’t think Apple would go for the $199 price point. It would be probably at least $249 or $299 for the lowest end, as a bridge between the iPod Touch and iPad. I would guess $299 for 16GB, $399 for 32GB. Cheapest entry for an iPad experience! I do think Apple need to give some incentive to buyers, so I think Apple would make a 4G versions for the iPad mini. Note that for now, the Nexus 7 and 7″ Kindle fire HD are wifi only, so having 4G will be an advantage (and justify a higher price). So maybe $399 for 16GB + 4G and $499 for 32GB + 4G, matching up nicely with the starting price for the regular iPad. Internals will be the same as the “new” iPad (retina-res screen, etc).

I don’t know if Apple would do all of these in one announcement though. It sure will take a lot of attention away from the competitors and keep the news and tech bloggers busy for a while to cash in on the SEO. However, something like the iPad mini will be a huge announcement, so maybe Apple will do an October event (and maybe with an updated “new” iPad having the new dock connector), coupling this with maybe some announcements for the Apple TV or iTunes services. Or maybe this will be done together with the new iMacs.

In any case, September has been a very exciting month, starting with Nokia’s announcement of their new Lumia 920 phone with Windows Phone 8, then Motorola with their new RAZR Android phones lineup, then the bombastic Amazon announcement with their new Kindle and Kindle fire HD lineups. Of course, Apple will top them all as usual, and sell a bajilion more iDevices. For me personally, I find my current iPhone 4 to be satisfactory. If Apple still put ridiculous prices for the unlocked iPhones, I might just snap the iPod Touch instead, or a 4G iPad mini (if it existed). Although I love my iPhone and can’t live without it, sometimes I miss the usage of a basic phone. However, I don’t want to go back having to carry multiple devices again.

Well, there you go, my predictions for Apple’s September 12th event. Now if only I got paid like those analysts.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in apple, event, Keynote

 

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WWDC 2012 final prediction

Well, it’s mere hours till the event, so here are my final prediction (since I’m bored due to the delay of Accel World Ep 10).
1. OS X Mountain Lion
Kinda obvious. The beta is already out. Probably just a bunch more iOS-related enhancements like notification, which could be useful. I can’t think of anything significant since the OS is so mature already. Wonder if Apple would just give it away for free through an update via the app store.

2. iOS 6
Announcement and start of the beta. Again, not sure what Apple would add to the maturing OS. The rumors are that Apple ditching Google Maps and using their own mapping technology. And maybe pimped up SIRI. All I want is shuffle-by-album feature on the music app, something that Apple neglected to do.

3. Refresh Mac lineup
This is where the rumors are hot. Every Macs, including the Macbook Pro and Mac Pro are going to be updated. Question is, how? The rumors are redesigned Mac Pro casing and MBA-style Macbook Pros. Also, rumor is the 17″ MBP is going to be axed. I don’t know. The MBP is Apple’s only “pro” laptop with desktop class processing power. I doubt that they would drop the 17″. I can see the 13″ and 15″ getting a redesign, ditching the optical drive in favor of more battery, possibly dual-HDD/dual-SSD/SSD-HDD combo, and retina display. The resolution update is overdue as the MBA now has higher screen res. Everything will be Ivy Bridge, and maybe USB3 (finally?). iMac with retina screen? Not sure as it will jack up the price too much at that size.

4. New iPhone? New iPod Touch?
Nope. Many rumors are hyped for a new iPhone, but there’s a reason why Apple released the 4S fairly late last year. I mean iOS6 is not even announced yet, so I doubt Apple would release a new iPhone without a new OS right off the gate. This WWDC will be dev-centric, the software development. iPhone will be later this year. Same thing with the new iPod Touch, which imo would be the larger screen device that has been floating around.

Well, there you go. My last minute prediction. I think the new Mac hardware would be enough for Apple to garner attention. I’m also predicting that the MBA-styled Macbook Pros will be the “One More Thing,” in addition to a standard MBPs with optical drive.

For the live blogging of the keynote, I’ll be following TheVerge and gdgt as they usually have great commentaries and pictures.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in apple, Keynote, WWDC

 

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What would be on WWDC 2012?

I’m too focused on Accel World that I’m falling behind on the tech rumors. WWDC 2012 is coming, so what are the rumors? Every tech blogs out there seems to be talking about a larger screen iPhone. Personally, I think this year’s WWDC will pretty much be like last year’s.

1. OS X Mountain Lion.
OS X Mountain Lion has been out for testing for some time, but seems to be an even more minor upgrade from Lion. I’m sure Apple is ready to unveil some features that would entice people to upgrade. If not, what if they made it just $20, or even free?

2. iOS 6.
Nothing is much known about this, which leads me to believe that we won’t see a new iPhone till September/October like the iPhone 4S. To be honest, I don’t know what else to add for iOS, although I still have one gripe that has never been fixed. The inability of the iPod/Music app to do shuffle by album. This leaves the iPod Classic as the only iDevice that can do this.

3. iCloud updates.
Photo album sharing, or something like that. .Mac/MobileMe had a gallery where you can upload photos to be shared. This feature is gone on iCloud, which I find baffling for Apple to do so. I also hope Apple would bring back photo-casting.

I guess that would be my predictions. Maybe some new Macbook Pro/Air to excite the crowd and press? I do think we won’t see the new iPhone, and imo the next iPhone won’t be bigger. The bigger one will be the new iPod Touch, to compete with the PS Vita, as a portable gaming device. Plus, Apple has made the Touch so thin that the only sensible way to put in a higher performing chip and more battery without significantly increasing the thickness is to make it bigger.

I dunno. I used to be so excited on Apple events, but not anymore. Maybe because Jobs is gone. Part of the attraction was his keynote presentation. Or maybe because… Accel World! 😛 Burst-link!

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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