Category Archives: Apple

The Budget iPhone: A Risk for Apple?

The Apple rumor mill is currently working overtime with reports and leaks related to a new low-cost iPhone. In recent weeks, various photos have emerged, including the rear view of a plastic iPhone in a range of colors, as well as a pile of plastic boxes for an “iPhone 5C.”

While there’s nothing to guarantee that there’s any truth to the rumors, when the web-based chatter reaches this volume, there’s usually some level of fact in play. Prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, the bulk of the leaked information proved to be right, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of the reports that we’ve heard about the budget iPhone are correct.

Budget iPhone

Assumptions

Let’s assume that most of the rumors we’ve heard are true. What other assumptions can we hypothetically make about a new budget iPhone? Here’s what we could expect.

  • It will run iOS 7, because Apple’s hardly going to release something new that runs an old operating system, obviously.
  • Storage options will be similar, although there may be a return of the low-capacity 8GB model that’s been dropped since the release of the 4S.
  • It will have the same aspect ratio as the iPhone 5, although it may not be a retina display.

As we’re now playing the assumption game, let’s also assume that the cost of the budget iPhone is roughly half the cost of an iPhone 5. (A SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5 is $649 in the US right now, making our hypothetical budget iPhone cost around $325, which is broadly in line with internet rumor).

What will you get for paying double the price?

  • Potentially a little more storage space
  • A higher-resolution camera
  • A retina display
  • A phone built with higher-quality materials

So what’s my problem with all of this? My main problem is that aside from the points above, consumers still get an iPhone after paying half the price. Most everyday consumers don’t even know how many megapixels their camera has, nor do they probably care. Furthermore, the lack of a retina display will most likely have no bearing on sales, as the lower-quality display has done nothing to stop the iPad Mini selling by the boatload.

We’re then left with the materials. The materials that have made previous iPhones seem luxurious and desirable are the same materials that result in expensive repair bills from disastrous smashed shells and screen incidents. With this in mind, I have to wonder if, when I go to buy my next iPhone, I’ll decide to buy one that costs half as much. More importantly, it will still only cost half as much when I have to replace or repair it.

Conclusion

I welcome the possible release of a low-cost iPhone. I also fully appreciate that there will always be plenty of people who simply have to have Apple’s flagship phone. This is, of course, made easier for consumers in countries where handsets are network-subsidised.

However, I can’t help but wonder whether Apple is underestimating how many people just simply want an iPhone and aren’t that bothered about specs and materials. While a budget iPhone will undoubtedly sell to millions of people who haven’t been able to afford one before, it may also encourage existing iPhone users to “downgrade” the next time they “upgrade.”

Pre-ordering digital content: What’s the point?

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If you are an iTunes Store customer, you have probably seen the sections in the store which allows you to pre-order music, books, or movies. I don’t have data to back this up, but I would assume pre-ordering in iTunes is very popular. If it wasn’t I would expect Apple to stop offering that option.

My question to those that pre-order from iTunes and other digital stores is: “Why?” It is not as if the store is going to run out of the file. The content will be available the day of release and five years after the release (unless it is pulled by the store or seller).

Incentives, freebies and deals

There used to be a time when I wouldn’t be writing this article. In the past, I remember iTunes offering special pricing for pre-orders or extra content for pre-orders. If that was still the case, I would understand why one would pre-order digital content – you pay the same, or maybe even less, and get a deal out of it.

However, these deals seem to have disappeared. I haven’t seen a pre-order deal in iTunes in a long time. In fact, I have found it to be cheaper to wait for the physical media release and buy that at a cheaper price than pre-ordering it. On occasion, a DVD movie with the digital version has been the same price as pre-ordering, or just buying, the digital version by itself.

Actual media pre-orders (ie. DVDs, video games, etc.) still have these special offers. Disney, for example, often offers some deal on pre-ordering an upcoming movie release. Game stores often offer some type of deal to pre-order a game for your console. Why can’t digital content do the same?

One acceptable reason to pre-order

The only reason I see for pre-ordering digital content is so that you don’t forget to buy something you really want. Maybe there is a movie coming out in four weeks and you want to buy it. By pre-ordering it in iTunes you can set your computer or device to automatically download pre-ordered content when available. The content gets released and you open the “Videos” app on your iPad and “Surprise!” your new movie is there that you forgot you even ordered it.

This reasoning could also backfire. You pre-order a digital item and then forget you ordered it. Let’s say a music album, for example. You see another digital music provider has a special release-day price to download the album. You buy it there and forget you already bought it from another provider. It automatically downloads for you and you have now bought it twice. Unfortunately, you can’t really return digital content.

Conclusion

Until I see a real reason to pre-order digital content, like the deals mentioned above, I will stick to waiting for release dates and finding release day deals. Speaking of release dates, that is one thing the pre-order list is good for – finding out the release date of that movie, book, or music you want!

Will the next iPhone have a fingerprint scanner?

iPhone colorsSince the dawn of the iPhone, users have been creeping, spying, and guessing as to what the latest model will hold. Some hunches were correct, while others were a far cry from reality. However, even the most wrong guesses haven’t kept bloggers and Apple users from scouring for the next big rumor.

This time around, it’s speculation as to whether or not the new iPhone will host a fingerprint scanner.

Likely to be used for security purposes, it’s rumored that the phone will “scan” one’s fingerprint before unlocking the phone. Currently, users can enter a passcode when wanting to lock their iPhones from stranger use. And while the scan would certainly be an improvement from keyed-in numbers, there are concerns as to how well the scanner would work. Is there a possibility of faulty reads? Will it be able to accurately read a swipe/scan the first time around?

Alternate theories toss around the idea of fingerprint scanning for games or identification purposes, similar to software used on crime-based TV shows. Though this is far less likely, more futuristic and less personal is certainly the trend our electronics have been taking on.

Alternative Rumors

Another theory being tossed around is whether or not Apple will release a 5S phone, or jump straight to 6, which would be a plastic, smaller version of the 5. The blogosphere has been predicting a cheaper, smaller iPhone for months, though Apple has yet to confirm whether or not these instances are true. Known as the “iPhone mini” – like its iPad counterpart, this phone would likely be more affordable, much smaller, and host fewer of Apple’s signature features. It’s thought that this move will help iPhones appeal to a larger audience.

Unfortunately, even the scheduled release date is still up for debate (though right now the Internet says September). Until the next iPhone officially hits shelves – or Apple decides to break protocol and give away their secrets – we’re left in the dark, guessing at what new, great features it will hold.

Can $20 apps survive in the iTunes App Store?

xcomRecently, I was looking at the new apps featured in the iTunes App Store and one got my immediate attention. It wasn’t for the name (I had never heard of it before) – it was for the price. The game was $19.99.

My immediate reaction was “Wow! That is never going to sell.” Then I looked at the company making it: 2K games, a reputable gaming company. I was intrigued. I used to buy their sports games for the Xbox. The game is XCOM:Enemy Unknown and the description describes it as a game that has come from the PC and console world. A search at Amazon.com shows the game costs about $30.

The app price brings an interesting situation to the App Store. Most apps are $4.99 and less, and many of those are just $0.99. Consumers are familiar with paying low prices for iOS apps, myself included.

Now there is a $19.99 app which is probably console quality available for the iPad. Will customers be willing to pay that much for an iOS game when other ported games are priced at much less? I bought LEGO Batman for $4.99 and it was just as good as any console game I have played. Would I have paid $19.99? Probably not. If apps start having a higher price tag, I (and probably many others) will start buying a lot fewer apps.

I am not saying every app should be $0.99. I’m just saying that higher prices will mean fewer sales in the long run. Developers should be able to charge what they feel is right for their apps. It is the consumer that will decide if the price is right in the long run.

XCOM already has over one thousand ratings in the App Store, and you cannot rate an app without buying it, so it is definitely selling. How much? I don’t know and probably never will.

This app could be the experiment that other companies have not been willing to take and it might be the app that changes app pricing of the future. If it sells well, other developers might start pricing their console quality apps at similar prices.

Screen Shot 92On a similar note, Knights of the Old Republic by Aspyr was recently released at $9.99. It is not $19.99, but $9.99 is a big jump in price from the $0.99 game. That is another game I have played (on the Xbox) and it is great. Is it worth $9.99 on the iPad? For me, the answer is no. This game was originally published in 2003 on the Xbox. That makes it ten years old. While it is a console quality game, and I game I would love for my iPad, I will not be paying $9.99 for a ten-year old game and a game I have already played. However, there are many people who will buy and have bought this game for the iPad already.

Could this be the end of the $0.99 app in App Store? Only time will tell, but this is an interesting experiment for the iTunes App Store and other mobile platforms too.

Review: Traktor DJ, a professional music mixing app for iPhone and iPad

I would never claim to be a bona fide DJ. At best, I am a hobby DJ who’s been given the occasional opportunity to do his thing at some bars and parties. Even so, I am passionate about playing and mixing music, and over the years I’ve invested in various software packages and items of equipment.

I started, as every DJ should, with vinyl decks, and then progressed via CDs to Virtual DJ software. I then added a cheap mixing console which, it’s fair to say, served me well for a few bar gigs.

Then, a couple of years ago, I found myself with a bit of spare cash and invested in a Traktor Kontrol S4, Native Instruments’ flagship hardware controller. I had a lot of fun with it, but lately I’ve became painfully aware of the expensive piece of equipment’s confinement in the cupboard in our spare room, getting (at best) a quarterly airing at an impromptu house party. I made the vague decision to sell it, especially when Native Instruments dropped the price of the Kontrol S4, which resulted in a corresponding drop in the value of my “asset.”

Meanwhile, things have yet again moved on for the digital DJ, and there’s been no development more exciting than the release of Traktor DJ for the iPad and iPhone. Recently, I decided to finally give the iPhone version a go, and I’ll be up-front from the start: I was extremely impressed.

traktor-ipadmini

Usage

Traktor DJ for iPhoneTraktor DJ’s interface is clear and slick and the beat-matching engine is spot-on. What’s more, all the key features are present and correct, and all reimagined for touch control – which, as it turns out, is actually a really tactile and natural-feeling way to mix.

In terms of the basics, there are EQs, filters, hot cue points, loops, and a basic range of effects including delay, reverb, beatmash and gater.

Then, there are a couple of things unique to the iOS version of Traktor. One is “freeze mode,” which allows you to freeze a section of the track (usually a four beat loop), and manually trigger the beats by tapping the screen, effectively allowing you to remix “on the fly.”

There’s also a track recommendation engine that suggests your next track based on its key as well as its BPM. This kind of harmonic mixing isn’t even available in the Traktor Pro software at the time of writing, so to see it in an app that costs $19.99 on the iPad or just $4.99 on the iPhone is truly impressive.

Conclusion

Features aside, however, could Traktor DJ really replace my existing digital setup? Well, on the iPhone alone, probably not. There’s simply too much functionality to cram onto such a tiny screen. Even though the way that Native Instruments has designed the UI is very clever, with the ability to “slide” between decks, I still keep managing to accidentally stop a track when I’m intending to come out of a loop.

The difference in price between the iPhone and iPad versions (which are essentially identical in terms of functionality) seems to indicate that Native Instruments is aware that the iPhone version will be used more as a “toy.” But this brings us to the most important point: On the iPad, Traktor DJ is more than I could ever need for my occasional DJing. In fact, I am already coming close to hitting the “buy now” button on a new iPad Mini specifically for this purpose.

With the addition of Native Instruments’ new Kontrol Z1 mixer and soundcard, I can also have physical faders, headphone cueing and professional sound output – all in a setup that would fit in the glove compartment of the car.

While I’ve no doubt that plenty of DJ purists will object to the ease-of-use of Traktor DJ, for people like me who just want to mix some tunes and play the occasional bar set, it is absolutely perfect. My bulky old equipment just got one step closer to the eBay pile.

Why are unlocked smartphones so expensive?

locked iphoneWhen signing a new contract plan, users can walk away with a brand new phone for only a couple hundred dollars. With the right options, rebates, and carrier, users may end up with a free, or nearly free version of their favorite smartphone. But it’s the stipulations that provide a good deal. Factor in contract fees and a lack of flexibility, and there’s very little room for wiggling.

Enter the super expensive “unlocked” phone. Phone service providers saw that their customers needed the option to come and go as they pleased, and they decided to let them. By charging them exorbitant amount. Purchasing a new, unlocked iPhone 5 will cost a hefty $649.99 – $600 if buying from a private party. And that doesn’t even include any service to go with it, phone or Internet. In contrast, signing a two-year contract will bring the same phone to $199.99.

What Gives?

A computer can easily be purchased for the price of an unlocked smartphone. It may not be the best or biggest, but it’s still a computer with all its working functions, software, available updates, and whatever else that makes electronics so expensive. Tablets – the fancy ones – even cost less than an unlocked smartphone. Therefore extra fees can’t be chalked up to hardware, parts, or even display.

So why are such large price tags being slapped on our phones? Many argue that users actually pay more over time with their contract deals, as there is a monthly fee built into service agreements. But unless that charge is named “sales tax” or “4G service,” most users would argue against said claim. Others state that the cell phone companies are subsidizing phone company expenses. True or not, this doesn’t account for why phones cost so much more than tablets and computers. If simple cell phones are given away, it can’t be the calling feature racking up the fees, right?

Is it really just about convenience? Even after one’s contract has been fulfilled, the phone belongs to Verizon, or AT&T, or whatever other service provider has stolen the device’s soul. Users aren’t locked into that phone indefinitely, per say, but without some possibly illegal adjustments, the devices are.

While the public may not understand these serious price hikes, it doesn’t look as though they’re going to reduce anytime soon. Fans of the iPhone simply have to decide whether it’s worth paying a few extra dollars, or sitting heavily under someone’s thumb.

Review: Disk Drill Pro for Mac

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If you have a computer, you should also have a backup plan in place. Some people have a local backup, others have an offsite backup service, and others might have both or more.

If you are on a Mac you might be using Time Machine as part of your backup plan. However, most backup plans, including Time Machine, can only go back so far to recover a file. Some only backup the most recent versions of a file. Plus, these backup plans are for your hard drive only. What if you accidentally erase a file of a USB flash drive or wipe out an SD card full of pictures you haven’t downloaded yet? That is where Disk Drill Pro by CleverFiles comes in.

Disk Drill

Disk Drill is a data recovery application that can help with the situations described above. It’s fast and works great. When you run Disk Drill, you are presented with a window that shows all of the volumes connected to your computer, including hard drives, memory cards, and USB drives.  You pick the device you want to scan and scan it. Disk Drill then scans for deleted files. The results are then presented in a list format showing the original folder and even file name. The great part is you can use Quick Look to see the file in Disk Drill before you even recover it. Scanning small drives like SD cards is really fast. Even scanning my 500GB internal hard drive was fast.

diskdrill1

I was really impressed with the amount of files DiskDrill was able to recover. Even if you have erased a memory card for your camera and taken new pictures, Disk Drill will find your old pictures. Of course, the more that disk or drive has been used since the file was deleted the less likely the file will be recovered. Not only does it find the files fast, it recovers them just as fast.

Recovery Vault and Guaranteed Recovery

Another feature in the application is called Recovery Vault. Recovery Vault stores metadata of files on your computer to make locating and recovering them a lot easier and puts the odds of recovery a lot higher. The company website states that this vault takes up about 60mb of space, so it will not eat up your hard drive at all.

There is also something called Guaranteed Recovery protection through the Recovery Vault. This takes up some additional space as the program keeps an invisible copy of deleted files. You can choose which drives and folders to monitor for this feature and you can also set a space limit. I really don’t see the need for this if you have a backup plan in place, but you might want to use it for those crucial folders as an additional layer of backup.

Pricing and a Coupon

At $89.00, Disk Drill Pro might sound a bit pricey, however most great Mac utility programs are in that range and just recovering on set of files will make that money well spent. Plus, for a limited time CleverFiles is offering 20% off the price to Techerator readers with coupon code : TERETR-DD.

I highly recommend making Disk Drill Pro a part of your utility apps for your Mac. At the very least, download the free “Basic” edition. It will scan and protect your computer but not allow recovery. If you find yourself needing the recovery feature you can always upgrade.

Looking for an iTunes store replacement? Check out Amazon MP3

If you use a Mac, iPod, or iPad did you know that the iTunes Store is not the only place you can buy digital music for your device? In fact, Amazon.com has a great MP3 store which will work with those devices in a couple of ways. Basically, if you can get a DRM free music file compatible with iTunes, you can buy your music almost anywhere. This article, however, will be focusing on Amazon.com.

The old way: Download music to iTunes

Until recently, Amazon only had one way to get music onto your devices, which required you to download the music on your computer, then transfer it to your device. To use this method, you can download songs or albums from Amazon.com and using the Amazon MP3 Downloader, which you install on your computer. After the music has been downloaded, it will be instantly sent to iTunes with the names, artwork, etc.

amazoncloudapp

The new way: Use the Cloud Player App

As I said, this used to be the only way to get these tracks onto your devices. “Used to be” is the key there. Amazon recently released their Cloud Player and a Cloud Player app. The app allows you to have access to all of your purchases for streaming and/or downloading on your device when you log into your Amazon account. The only problem with this is that you can not mix and match tracks from iTunes. If you want to do that you will have to download the tracks to your computer and into iTunes using the downloader tool mentioned above.

Bottom Line: Price

You might be wondering what is the benefit of using Amazon if you have to go through all of this trouble? For me, the benefit is price. There are many time when Amazon will have a cheaper price on an MP3 album than iTunes. In some cases it is a lot cheaper. For me, it is worth the money to buy from Amazon and download the music to iTunes. Once it is in iTunes I don’t notice the difference, or care.

iTunes is great, and I buy most of my music in iTunes. However, it is nice to know there is another option out there for users.

Vine continues to explode after Android release

vineNow that Vine for Android is a few weeks old, users are finding more and more uses for the six-second video app. Owned by Twitter and essentially creating the video form of tweets, Vine is taking the app market by storm. At a year old, Vine even topped Instagram for the most downloaded app among Android users. And the more users that are signing up for the app, the more uses that have been found for this handy little app.

In fact, it’s being used for almost everything. Entertainment, creative resumes, just-for-fun posts, even educational ventures, like sharing recipes or cooking instructions. By using the record feature only when it’s necessary (for instance, to show ingredients or important work history), viewers are able to fill in the gaps between shots. This cuts down on share time while creating unique and creative effects. The hold-when-necessary also provides a unique GIF-like appearance, showing the effect of jerky camerawork without giving viewers motion sickness.

Using the Vine

Because of its unique features – which include sound, stop motion, time restraint, and the ability to share directly to social media sites – Vine has been used for a number of creative video ventures, even more so than its competitors. Reporters are even using the app to share news events as they happen; while video can be recorded, emailed, and posted online, but why not upload a Vine recording directly to Twitter? This feature allows the timeliest of news to be shared while eliminating minimal technology delays.

Like Twitter, users cite one of the biggest perks is the time restraint. Users are becoming far more creative with their time without the ability to drag out pictures or instructions. For instance, with cooking-related Vine videos – ingredients are shown in sequence, along with the recipe in progress, until the final project is reached. During a cooking show, a viewer would have watched 30 minutes of program to see the finished product. But with Vine, instantaneous cuts down on all of the in between nonsense, like rambling or commercials.

Whether you sign up for Vine for a creative new way to explore social media or you’re looking for a trendy way to share information, this app seems to have something for everyone. Just click, record, and share.

To find out more about Vine or to start creating your own stop-motion videos, check out the app on Android and iOS.

A non-programmer’s first adventure in iOS app development

1024Ever since the App Store opened, I have had the desire to create an iOS app. I have a bunch of ideas, but I am not a programmer and don’t know an ounce of coding needed to make an app. I can make the artwork for an app, but I don’t know what to do with it.

I have tried a few apps that claim to help you make an app with no success. I have successfully completed the generic “Hello World” tutorial that every book seems to have. Speaking of books, I’ve bought a few to try and learn how to use Apple’s Xcode code development software. Never read them. I even tried the Stanford course in iTunes U for developing apps, but I couldn’t understand it.

So, when I recently came up with an idea for an app for my son and decided to attempt to make it myself I had no idea what I was doing. The app was a very simple concept and I was shocked that there is not one like it in the App Store. I figured it is such a simple app I would try to make it myself. How hard could it be?

Actually, it was not as hard as I expected.

Getting started

I wanted to create a simple typing app. It would have a keyboard and an erase button. A child could type and erase what he/she typed. That was it. No ads, no saving, and no printing. I called it “Junior Typer”.

I started by downloading Xcode from the Mac App Store. I installed it and I could figure out the basics of getting the app started. I set it up and then I was presented with the interface. I knew a little about the interface from completing the “Hello World” tutorial, but not as much as I thought. I searched the internet and found a ton of tutorials that gave me enough information to do what I wanted. I built the app and ran it in the iPad simulator. To my shock, it worked!

A few of the sites that helped me out were:

Of course, Apple’s developer forums were a huge help too.

Visual improvements

Now I needed to improve the appearance of my app. I designed artwork for the splash screen, the icons, and the app itself. As I said earlier, that is the easy part for me (I’m an art teacher and freelance illustrator).

I also wanted to do some customization of fonts in the app. After searching for the answer online, I decide to start exploring Xcode. After a while I finally found what I was looking for. I always tell people if you get stuck just start poking around. You usually find what you need and might surprise yourself.

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Submitting to the App Store

Now I had to decide if I want to spend the $100 to join Apple’s developer program and actually submit my app to the App Store. It would be a small – no, tiny – fish in an enormous pond. However, I figured I am not the only parent looking for this type of app. Plus, there is that old saying, “You have to spend money to make money.”

I decided to go for it. A word of warning here: if you are using an Apple ID to sell books through the iBookstore (which I do) you must use a different Apple ID to join the developer program. Since you need an email address for this, you might need to get a new email address too. I learned this the hard way, although Apple quickly helped straighten it out.

Dealing with rejection, and a second attempt

After a week of waiting, the app was rejected for being too simple. Too simple? That was the main feature. I appealed, but my appeal was denied. After a call from Apple and discussing the app with them I went back to the drawing board. I was already working on some new features in case the appeal was denied so I was ready for a new submission.

I was added features to change font color and size, and the ability to change the background color (again with the help of forums and tutorials, although at this point I was starting to learn the basics and gain some footing). I hoped that would be enough and I resubmitted. I am happy to say it was accepted this time and version 1.1 with some graphic modifications is now awaiting approval! It might be approved by the time you read this.

Conclusion

Developing this app was hard work and actually a lot of fun. Getting it accepted was a rush that I am still excited about. I am already planning on trying a second app with my brother. If it is successful you’ll read about it here. In the meantime please check out Junior Typer. It is just $.99 and something I think any child will love.