Tag Archives: iPhone

Looking for a Good Deal on an iPhone? Head to a Retail Store

By now it’s nothing new to see smartphone kiosks throughout Target, Walmart, or any other chain store. To optimize user experience and to make the wait time much shorter, phone companies have teamed up with these moguls to greatly increase the locations in which consumers can purchase their next phone. And considering the shorter lines, the increased customer service (an aspect phone providers are seriously lacking), and cheaper prices, shoppers are seeing the value as well.

For example, Target sells the new iPhone 5C for $50 on-contract, regardless of carrier. The store also offers a trade-in value or store credit for the user’s original phone. The iPhone 4S could net $105 in good condition, leaving more than enough leftover for a case, accessories, or whatever else you need from Target. In comparison, walk into the cell carrier’s store and an iPhone 5C is $99 on top of an $88-ish trade-in value, for the same phone.

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So why would anyone go to a carrier store, especially when they’re likely spending time at retail stores anyway? Users can save money, avoid the lines, and pair it with their regular shopping in the process.

Is There a Catch?

This makes us wonder what the carrier stores are getting out of it (such as Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon). They offer a shamble of a “deal” in comparison, yet they still seem to be thriving, in both corporate status and in company branches. The only real perk is that business phones have to be bought through the carrier no matter what. Are they making enough off these company phones? Or is service so incredibly profitable that it can pay the bills on its own?

Then again, maybe Apple, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, etc. just charges them more, knowing they’ll pay whatever fees they set.

No matter the reality behind these varied prices, it’s safe to say that retail stores offer the better deal for new iPhones and trade-ins. While a traditional contract (and upgrade date) is still needed, it’s a great way to bypass some paperwork while saving a few dollars along the way.

The next time you’re ready to venture into the latest iPhone, remember that a carrier store isn’t the only option. In fact, trying something new just may get you a better deal.

The colorful iPhone 5C is not just for kids

5cOn September 10, Apple introduced the iPhone 5C. This new line of iPhones strays from the metal/glass design of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 and now 5S and brings a colored shell to the iPhone.

Many people keep writing about how this line is made for kids. While I do think these will be popular with the teenage crowd, I disagree that these phones are just for kids.

Price

When my contract is up next fall on my current iPhone 5, I plan on buying a “C” phone (presumable a 6C). Why? The price is right, for one thing. For $100 less, I can get a 32GB iPhone that is very powerful and has a fantastic camera. The original iPhone 5 works great for me. The camera is fantastic and the phone does everything I need it to. Yes, the camera in the 5S is better and the processor is faster. However, I would expect the next “C” model to be faster and have a better camera then the current one, giving it a boost over my current phone. After trading in my iPhone 5 a new “C” phone might even be free!

The price is not only attractive to me, it will be attractive to many. For those, like my wife, who bought a 16GB iPhone 5 because the iPhone 4 was too heavy and boxy, this phone is perfect. She is a very light user, but wants a new-model iPhone with a great camera. She doesn’t need to spend an extra $100 for features that she doesn’t use. For $99, she can get a great phone that is modern and suits her needs. It isn’t just last year’s model in a new case. (Kudos to Apple for making slight improvements so it isn’t just that.)

Fingerprint Scanning

As for the fingerprint sensor: I could care less. I don’t mind typing in my password to purchase content on the phone and I don’t use a passcode. Sure it makes the phone more secure, but my guess is I would turn it off after a few weeks. I suspect there are many people out there who would not use it either.

Colors

I have been saying for years that I am not a fan of the iPhone design. I thought the iPhone 4 was one of the ugliest phones available (not to mention the fact that it was uncomfortable in the hand). I kept hoping for the return of the curved back of the original iPhone and iPod Touch. When the 5 came out the design was improved, but it still had that boxy iPhone 4 look. I bought it because I wanted an iPhone, but I thought there were better looking phones out there.

While the 5C maintains the boxy iPhone look, it has the curved edges that, in my opinion, look nicer. The colors, while a little too much on the pastel side, aren’t bad. I’d probably cover it up with Gelaskin anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone 5S is a great phone. The camera sounds fantastic and the processor sounds very impressive for those that need it (now put that processor in the next iPad and we can talk). However, there is a group of people out there who don’t need those features and the iPhone 5C is going to be perfect for them. It will be a huge hit and is not “just for kids.”

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.”

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.

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.

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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.

Apple is back with exciting new innovations at WWDC 2013

Apple’s giant annual developer conference, WWDC 2013, is currently in progress, but we have reached a point where I think we can officially say that Apple is back. Like keynotes from their glory days, this keynote was chock full of surprises and gasps that get you excited about what is coming in the Apple ecosystem.

Apple product updates announced at WWDC 2013

  1. Updated Mac OS called OS X Mavericks
  2. Updated MacBook Pro (with up to 12 hours battery life, that’s right, 12)
  3. Updated Mac Pro (that could probably power a space station)
  4. iWorks refresh (including browser-based versions that are compatible with IE, Chrome, on any computer)
  5. iOS 7 with an incredible new design
  6. iTunes Radio

Six might seem like a small number, but each of those updates (except for maybe the new base station) are huge updates that will completely change the Apple ecosystem going forward. I could write full articles about each of these updates, but in my excitement, I will keep it to posting the main front stage updates made in each case and just a brief sentence about what it is.

Mac OS X Mavericks

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While this update isn’t a huge jump, there are many small things that will make using this operating system better than the last. Skeuomorphism, the act of creating an app that resembles its physical counterpart (like the calendar looks like a physical leather-bound calendar), seems to be dead in the new software released today. This gives an overall smoother and sleeker look.

Here are the new features that were discussed for Mac OS X Mavericks:

  1. Tabs for Finder: Instead of having multiple windows open for Finder, you can have tabs within one window which will make it easier to manage a lot of windows in Finder and dragging and dropping content between tabs. 
  2. Tags: Able to tag documents throughout the whole system, which will then show up in your Finder menu bar. Looks very useful for organizing all sorts of things.
  3. Apple Maps app: Hopefully a better iteration of Apple Maps, but with cool features like send directions to iPhone, the integration is making it much more compelling.
  4. New Calendar app: A bit sleeker than the older version. A few very cool features: when you type something into location (example given was Pizza), the app will search for local pizza areas and will let you choose the one you want. It then displays the information on a map within your appointment, and most impressively will also give you a time estimate for getting there. Much like Google Now, you have the option of being alerted if you have to leave in order to make it to an appointment on time. Unfortunately, I believe Apple Maps weaknesses might make this feature just OK. The app also gives you a weather estimate for your appointment.
  5. Safari: The new Safari design is similar to the iOS 7 redesign, which I’ll talk about later in this article. The overall appearance is sleek and simple. It shows bookmarks/reading lists on the left where you can actually browse the sites within the same window by clicking on a bookmark or reading list item, and also has integrated social networking like Twitter.
  6. iCloud Keychain: Allows iCloud to save your passwords and credit cards and sync them across all of your devices. Very powerful, and even allows you to generate absurd passwords that will be saved. A cool idea, but I see generating a password like “sra-av34-refav-323e” will be a problem when you are anywhere else than an Apple device. I suppose it would work with logging into iCloud first in a browser, but still annoying.
  7. Power saving features: Without going into detail, there are a ton of power saving features that seem to really optimize how your system runs. I think this will have a profound effect on future laptops, and should give better performance for the system as a whole.

I think this is a great incremental update that keeps things fresh in the Mac OS world. I will be happy to get it this Fall, and see how well things work across the new system and the new iOS.

MacBook Air

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Although hardware looks the same, the new MacBook Air has been pushed a bit further while lowering the price. Both the 11 inch and 13 inch models see a significant jump in battery life with the 11 inch going from 5 hours to 9 hours, and the 13 inch going from 7 hours to 12 hours. That type of battery life is just incredible, and will certainly make owning a MacBook Air an even better experience.

In addition to battery life, both models are now based on the new Haswell chip from Intel which will give it more power while at the same time allowing that incredible battery life. The WiFi receiver also sees an update to 802.11ac which according to Apple, can increase WiFi connection speeds by up to 3x.

The price is reduced about $100 dollars per model.

Mac Pro

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The Mac Pro is completely redesigned with a lot of power beneath the hood, in a smaller form. A notable feature is that the Mac Pro will support up to three 4K displays. The design itself is very sleek and small, and completely changes the look of the Mac Pro. I think power users will be very grateful for this update, with many quotes claiming to increase various areas of performance by 2-3x.

iWork

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While we didn’t get to see the actual new iWork (it will be released later this year), we did get to see iWork on the web in iCloud. This worked very well, and looked to be almost desktop apps in the iCloud interface. What is incredible is that it works in Internet Explorer and Chrome, and will work on any system. This really broadens the scope for iWork, and makes sharing and displaying documents much easier.

Hopefully the redesigned apps themselves will also be nice, but for me it is just a huge relief that one is definitely on the way. It is way overdue, and sorely needed.

iOS 7

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This update is to be quite honest, positively gorgeous. The interface is flat, sleek, and beautiful.

Here is a look at the notable new features of iOS 7:

  1. Control Center: Get quick access toggles for: brightness, airplane mode, Bluetooth, WiFi, screen lock, music controls, camera, location services, and even a flashlight toggle. This was sorely needed.
  2. Multitasking: True, full multitasking that will allow apps to update in the background, and a multitasking screen that is similar to the Palm Cards system. This allows you to see each screen for each app, and “flick” away apps you aren’t using any longer.
  3. Safari: Gorgeous new tab views, and a beautiful new design
  4. Airdrop to other iOS devices: Transfer data and photos from one device to the other using a network.  It uses a secure connection, and there won’t be any need to physically “bump” devices like Android.
  5. Camera: Live photo filters and a new Photos app to organize pictures. Photos organizes pictures into moments intelligently by a variety of metadata such as location and time. Moments zooms out to collections zooms out to years. Truly impressive view that categorizes your photos. Allows you to scrub through small thumbnails that will enlarge as you put your finger over the photo.
  6. Backgrounds with depth: This is truly a “wow” factor feature that basically gives you a depth of field behind your icons. As you move your device around, the image seems to be 3D and keeps it aligned with your eye sight. Gorgeous.
  7. iCloud photo sharing: Share your photos directly to iCloud, and can share streams where others can add their own photos (and videos) with their comments. Makes it incredibly easy to share and comment among friends and family using iCloud.
  8. Siri: New interface somewhat similar to Google Now. Siri now has a new voice, either male or female that actually sound like humans instead of a robot. Siri has more access to your device, and can do things like turn off Bluetooth, control brightness, and play last voicemail. New integrated services into Siri: Twitter, Wikipedia, Bing search results.
  9. iOS in the Car: New car integration that includes iOS displayed on the actual screen of your car. A complete voice powered system with Siri to completely control your phone and navigation. It looks incredible, but probably will depend on all the car partners they have deals with putting it in.
  10. App store: Automatic updates, you can see apps nearby to see what others are using.
  11. Music app: Artist images, and all purchased music viewable in your library. All movies and TV shows are also accessible through the music app though stored on iCloud. It’s very pretty, but not too revolutionary.
  12. FaceTime Audio: We can finally do audio-only FaceTime calls!
  13. Notification sync: If you clear a notification in one area, it will sync to all your other devices.
  14. Phone, FaceTime, and Message blocking: This feature is pretty self-explanatory.
  15. Activation lock: If a thief takes your phone and attempts to deactivate Find My iPhone or erase the phone, it will not be able to be reactivated without your iCloud name and password.

iOS7 will be available immediately for Developers as a beta version, but not available for consumers until this Fall.

Overall, I think they did an incredible job on this one. It definitely looks like Windows Phone and Android had a baby, but in a good way. It is a huge change from the old iOS, and I think that is just what Apple needed.

iTunes Radio

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This new feature was much-anticipated, and is built right into the new Music app on iOS 7. What will this new feature do for you?

  1. Seems to have categories similar to Pandora (like “Summer Songs”)
  2. Create your own stations from various artists/genres/songs
  3. Can adapt your station by saying “Play more songs like this” or “Never play this song”
  4. Of course, the ability to buy a song directly from the iTunes Radio app

Revolutionary? Not so much. However, it is a cool feature that is built-in and integrated into Desktop/iOS and Apple TV. It is free with ads, and is ad-free with iTunes Match Subscriptions. Basically exactly like Pandora, with some better integration.

Overall impression of the keynote

I have seen lots of mixed comments on various articles and forums, but I think this was an absolute win for Apple. My reasons are this:

  • Apple released a bunch of new updates across a variety of platforms, and they clearly tried to innovate as best they could. Just showing that they are putting this much effort into this, and throwing what they can at it is encouraging, and I think it shows they won’t go down without a fight.
  • They really changed iOS. Sure, it may be a copy cat in a bunch of areas, but the biggest thing is that it is different. Apple haters have been complaining for a long time that iOS was old and not updated enough, and that things needed to change. Well, for better or worse, this is a change. Once we get our hands on it, we can really see how much it changes things.
  • Most everyone on the stage had a great presence, particularly Craig Federighi who is the Senior VP of Software. He was clearly very intelligent, had fun with the crowd, and really commanded attention and inspired confidence. I almost fell asleep when Tim Cook spoke, but other than that, it was great.

I think these updates put Apple back in the game. I don’t know at this point if they are back on top, but they have added some much wanted features, and completely redid their iOS system. At the very least, it shows that they are in for the rat race and they aren’t going to sit on the sides lines resting on their laurels.

Some people might think Tim Cook isn’t doing a good job, or that this isn’t the new direction Apple should take, or even that they’re copying other platforms… but who cares? They did what they had to do by changing something, and at the end of the day, they have the money and power to change things as they go along. This was the big first step, and hopefully the next ones will follow confidently.

How to use iOS folders to keep your apps organized

apple folderWhen there are apps, apps, and more apps, keeping all of those programs organized and clutter free becomes increasingly difficult. Angry Birds intermingles next to voice memos, while Sound Hound and Pinterest become next-door neighbors. The rhyme and reason to mobile apps often only make sense to the person who put them there.

For the make-the-bed-every-day types, the thought of a cluttered device may even keep you from holding onto certain apps. If it hasn’t been used in the past month, it just may be ditched for something more cohesive. Others let the apps fall where they may, throwing all caution to any sort of mobile organization.

Why Folders?

No matter your thoughts on clutter, iOS folders can be a great way to clear up a device. Whether on an iPhone or iPad, these folders allow users to group similar items without taking up pages on the home screen. Group games, business apps, rewards systems, or any other category of apps. It’s a task that can be done in only a few seconds, while providing endless amounts of saved time and frustration.

Folders are also great for family devices, using a different section for each person’s apps. Create a folder for the whole family, one for mom, dad, and each respective child. This will cut back on searching time and allow everyone management access to their own apps. The use of folder organization can be more efficient than Users (especially for young children), allowing parents to monitor kids’ mobile steps and cutting out log in/out time.

Added Bonuses

For the organizationally challenged, folders allow apps to be quickly and easily navigated, no matter how many programs are downloaded to a single device. Just tap the folder and gain access to an underground layer of apps. It’s also a great storage space for those icons Apple won’t let you delete, like Passbook or Stocks. Just file them under “Stuff I Never Use,” and hide all the icons you’ve yet to open in a single slot.

To folder or not to folder – it’s a question many Apple enthusiasts ask themselves daily. But whether you’re the proud owner of 5 apps or 50, iOS’s folders are a great way to keep them in easy access form, no matter your location. After all, you never know when Tweets need updated or when an impromptu game of Fruit Ninja may be a necessity. To be ready for anything, with any app, consider the use of folders for your Apple device.

Your iPhone or iPad warranty: check the fine print!

iPhones - Check the warranty small printAt Christmas, I bought my wife an iPhone as a gift.

I live in Portugal, but purchased the device (unlocked and SIM-free) in a London Apple store during a work trip to the UK. There is an Apple store in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, but it is three hours drive from our home, so buying the phone in London made sense. Or so I thought at the time.

Six weeks later, my wife’s iPhone developed a fault. The backlight decided to periodically die, for anything from two minutes to several hours. Despite trying all manner of resets and other things the problem persisted.

We therefore began to look at our options to get the phone fixed or replaced. Had we been in the UK, I would have simply taken it to the store, where I am confident it would have been replaced with no argument. But with no plans to visit the UK in the immediate future, I looked online for details of the warranty, and was quickly dismayed to find out the following “important restriction”:

Apple may restrict warranty service for iPhone and iPad to the country where Apple or its Authorized Distributors originally sold the Apple Product.

Now, this was an unpleasant surprise. If I lived anywhere Lisbon, I would have been happy to visit the Apple store there and argue my case, but as I previously mentioned, we live three hours away. The return cost of petrol, tolls and parking runs to about €150. Add in a day’s loss of earnings, and we reach a sum in excess of the cost of Apple’s flagship phone.

Of course, we could try to phone Apple and resolve this via a “send in” repair, but sadly we’ve been here before when needing to replace the faulty power adaptor for my MacBook Pro (which I, in fact, purchased in Portugal).

A combination of language barrier problems and Apple being incapable of realising that people may sometimes buy their devices in one country and use them in another ended up with us giving in after hours on the phone, and arranging for our replacement to be sent to the UK to be shipped onwards by a friend.

In the case of the iPhone, life just seemed too short to waste more of it on the phone arguing – especially when Apple’s fine print says that they’re basically not interested if your iPhone decides to go wrong in a different country from whence you purchased it.

So, while I know I could waste hours arguing about this and eventually reach a resolution, I’ve instead decided to give in to the fine print and take the phone in when I’m next in the UK. Meanwhile, my wife will tolerate an expensive device that becomes unusable at random intervals.

As ever, I continue to love using Apple products, but I’ll be asking a lot more questions before I hand over any cash for the next one.

Why Apple should release a less expensive iPhone

iphone-5-topRecently, rumors have been running rampant about Apple releasing a cheaper version of the iPhone. These rumors are not new, but seem to have been picking up a lot of steam in the past month. Maybe it is because there is nothing else to write about in the Apple world right now, or maybe there is truth to the rumor.

True or not, I think it is about time Apple releases a less expensive iPhone. You might argue that they are already selling a cheaper model: They currently sell the iPhone 4S for $99 and the $ is free. This is true, but there is one big problem with this plan. These are older models.

When a person goes into the phone store looking for a new phone for $100 or less they have two options: Get the older iPhone or get a new Android phone. Many people will get the older iPhone because they want an iPhone – they want the Apple product in their pocket or they want the ease of use or they want it to easily sync across their Mac and iPad.

Other people will opt for the newer Android phone. This person might not care about it being an Apple product; they just want a smart phone for checking email, using some apps, and getting on the internet. What they do care about is how the phone looks or how heavy the phone is. The iPhone 4 and 4S are like bricks compared to the iPhone 5 and newer Android phones. Plus, many cheaper Android phones have a much more modern look. (Personally I never liked the look of the iPhone 4/4S. I wish the phone looked more like the iPod Touch.) There are many people who are more concerned with these features than the actual brand or operating system.

I can see selling an older model as the free phone, but why not have a $100 or $129 version of a new iPhone? It could have fewer features with 8GB of storage and a lower quality camera (for examples), and still has the latest iPhone design. It worked and is working with the iPad Mini, I don’t see why it would not work with the phone. It doesn’t have to be a low quality phone, just a phone with fewer features. One could argue Apple did this for years with the MacBook and the MacBook Pro lines.

My wife refused to get an iPhone 4 or 4S because of the weight and design. She originally had a lighter and rounder Android phone. When the 5 came out she did switch, but if it was going to be another bulky iPhone 4-like design she would have purchased something else. This is the person Apple needs to go after.

As an Apple fan and product user I don’t see myself ever buying an Android or Windows phone. I have too much invested in apps and I like the OS better. However, if Apple did design an iPhone Nano type of device they could definitely take a bigger chunk of that end of the market.

Game review: Bastion comes to iOS, and brings style with it

I’m always worried when developers port their games from the original platform to a new one. Console to PC, PC to Mac, console to mobile; whatever the case, the results usually suck (especially Mac ports). The new platform rarely gets the same support or attention as the original, and the ported game usually runs much slower because it’s running through some sort of emulator like Wine or DOSbox.

That being said, I hope other developers are paying attention to Supergiant Games’ release of Bastion on iOS.  This is the rare case where the ported game may be better than the original.

Gameplay

Bastion is an action RPG in which you are put in control of a character named “The Kid”. An apocalyptic event has occurred in the near past and it’s your job to “make things right” by collecting various items throughout the game world. There are several mini-game challenges that help build proficiency with the different weapon types that are introduced, but you’ll spend most of your time running through the levels, killing monsters.

Gameplay is straight-forward and seems to be a mix of equal parts Zelda and Fallout; it’s hack, and slash, and shoot. Weapons, skills, and even the buildings at your home-base can be upgraded as your character levels up.

Variety can be added to combat by mixing up different sets of weapons to match the fighting style you prefer. My preferred kit was the machine gun and a blow torch, whereas one of my friends liked using the pole-arm and a sniper rifle.

Bastion originally debuted on Xbox Live Arcade and was built around the Xbox controller. The crew at Supergiant have done an excellent job in revamping the control scheme for a touch device. The controls are intuitive, frustration-free, and fun.

Fightin' off a giant scumbag.
Fightin’ off a giant scumbag.
Image credit: Supergiant Games

If I were to choose one word to describe the game, it would be “polished”. The art design, music (seriously, this is one of the best game soundtracks… ever.), narration, and controls are all top-notch and draw you into the game. Played on the iPad with a set of good head phones, the gaming experience is more intimate than on a TV screen or computer monitor, more akin to reading a good book. This is where I think the iOS port improves upon the original. It’s a more personal experience.

Pricing & availability

Bastion is available through the App Store for $4.99. It’s also available on Xbox Live Arcade, Chrome Web Store, Steam (for Mac & PC), and on the Ubuntu Software Center. Sorry, Android users!

Final Thoughts

The one area of the game that falls short of the rest is the story, which is oddly something that many critics have praised. Compared to a game like Braid (or literally any decent book), the narrative is a tad generic and falls apart toward the end of game. If you come away from the game thinking “that was profound”, I recommend reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan as a comparison of something that’s truly thought-provoking.

None of this stopped me from pulling out my guitar and learning all the songs from the soundtrack though.