Apple Makes the iPhone 5 Irrelevant Too Soon With the New iPhone Unveilings

design_materials

Remember that old “Animaniacs” segment ‘Good Idea/Bad Idea’ where the narrator would show a similarly themed idea and the good idea and bad idea versions of it? Let’s play that with Apple’s newest iPhone announcement.

Good idea; the iPhone 5S.

The 5S looks to be the most powerful smartphone ever, and everything about it (including the gimmicky, but soon to be standard, fingerprint scanner) fits perfectly in line with the Apple model of releasing a new model that isn’t quite ready to be distinguished as the next build (i.e. the iPhone 6), but represents a nice leap forward when compared to what came before.

Bad idea; the insulting, low down, no good, dirty rotten, laughably greedy idea now known as the iPhone 5C.

You know how Apple usually lowers the price of a previous model of iPhone when the new one comes out? Yeah, well this time they’ve decided to release a “new” and cheaper version of the iPhone 5 called the iPhoneC instead. Though there are some minor differences between the iPhone 5 and the 5C, the biggest ones would have to be the extremely low price point ($99, no contract required), the all plastic body, and the shiny, shiny, colors it is available in.

By itself it wouldn’t be such a bad idea (essentially a really cheap iPhone 5), but what makes its unveiling such a slap in the face is that Apple has also made the decision that they will discontinue the iPhone 5 starting immediately. That means that everyone holding an iPhone 5 right now is essentially dead to Apple, as they are clearly expecting all of their customers who want to retain basic service and be able to purchase accessories to either drop a fresh ton of cash on the 5S, or to purchase the near identical 5C model for an unnecessary $99 fee.

This is simply inexcusable, especially considering that a 64 GB model of the iPhone 5C is not even available like it is for the iPhone 5. While Apple could have released the 5C as a cheaper alternative, they’ve instead chosen to enhance their nefarious image as the absolute greediest company in the tech world, by turning their most loyal (and recent) customers into nothing but suckers who will accept a financial reaming from a major corporation so long as the offending apparatus is in shiny new colors.

In a way I feel bad for iPhone 5 owners, as they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the new releases given the discontinuation announcement. On the other hand, anyone that submits to this billion dollar cash ploy and continues to give their financial and spiritual support to Apple, deserves to receive the sub-human consumer treatment that Apple has started to package along with every iPhone sold.

The iPad Mini – The Worm in Apple’s Core

The iPad mini was recently unveiled to the shock of few, but certainly the delight of many of the Apple faithful who, with outstretched arms and open wallets, welcomed the new 7.9 inch tablet into the world. It is beautiful, it is fast, and it is currently so hot that the surface of the sun is considering releasing a sex tape to stay relevant.

It also represents one of the biggest Apple missteps in years.

Now, let me make this clear. I love the iPhone 5 (though I prefer the Galaxy S3 in many respects), I would trade limbs for the any of the upcoming MacBook line, and I think that the iPad 3 and it’s mind blowing retina display is without competition the best all-around gadget on the market, and possibly the company’s greatest release on a purely technical level. I certainly do not hate Apple, and instead love them for how they force everyone to step up their game.

And that’s why I am tremendously disappointed with the iPad Mini. Since the original Kindle Fire received a great deal of mockery initially for being viewed as a “can’t afford the iPad, might as well settle” device, the small tablet market has become its own niche, no longer defined by the functions of the iPad. This is particularly evident by the quality of the Google Nexus 7, a tablet that’s versatility far outshines any limitations it is supposed to have. It’s also an idea that’s being carried on by the news of the upcoming Kindle Fire HD, which at its full price model is as statistically impressive of a 7 inch model as we’ve seen.

It would have once been impossible to imagine that a small tablet released by Apple wouldn’t storm a market set up to defy it like a bully on a fresh playground. Instead the visual we are left with after its initial unveiling is a timid child approaching with a drooping baseball cap feebly mumbling, “Hey guys…can I play?”

You can view the statistics and figures of the iPad Mini compared to its main competitors, and you’ll find that it is pretty much even, slightly better, or slightly worse in all fields. I like the super slim size and light weight of it to be sure, and of course appreciate its typical Apple beauty, but there is no one spec that jumps out at you as truly jaw dropping, or even noteworthy. Well, besides the price, which runs from $329 for the base model 16 GB with WiFi up to a 64 GB model with LTE capabilities for $659. This is compared to the Fire HD which is $199 for the 16 GB model, and the Nexus 7 which goes for $199 for and 8 GB and $249 for the 16 GB.

Now, you could justify the price of the iPad mini if it was indeed the top of the line, “Rolls-Royce” of  7-inch tablets. However, you just don’t get that vibe from the early word about the mini. The positives so far talk about what a great e-reader it is, its ultra slim design, and of course the benefit of the Apple app market which is far and away deeper than the Android market, and has apps designed more for a tablet in mind which Android is lagging on. That last point has been a the major defense of Apple since the announcement of the mini, as they have been feverishly supporting their price point to many different sources, with the main idea being that what you’re really buying here is the Apple brand and everything that comes with it, more than a product that can be easily defined by numbers.

But the question for consumers must be is that really still worth it? Can you justify using the word investment on what is still essentially a first gen product, that will no doubt be outstripped by a new model next year for the benefits of the tablet specific apps, and the Apple brand? Apple is touting that the mini is not a reduced and instead a condensed form of  the regular iPad, but ironically  in a market once created as a smaller alternative to the iPad comes an actual smaller iPad that finds itself in a field where that is no longer enough. The Google Nexus 7 was a game changer for 7 inch tablets as it proved that you don’t have to compromise for a smaller size, and that a cheaper tablet can perform on a high level for a reasonable price, with features and qualities unique to its model. It’s hard to say the same for the iPad mini which still looks and feels like a smaller iPad, but not a 7 inch iPad of its own.

In times gone by Apple would not have put up with competition in its domain and would have unequivocally released the 7 inch tablets to end all 7 inch tablets. While the iPad mini looks like a more than competent device that will no doubt perform at a high level, for the first time in a long time consumers have viable options to choose from when facing the prospect of going against an Apple device.

The only question is, will they test these new waters in mass, or blindly take the worm like the good little fishes Apple seems to think they are?

Is it Time for a National Stolen Smartphone Registry?

Thefts of smartphones and other high tech mobile devices have become one of the greatest fears of consumers in major metropolitan areas. While sometimes fears like this are the result of media sensationalism, the numbers that keep coming out to support this trend are staggering.

In New York City alone, between January 1st and September 23rd of this year, the NYPD have received reports of 11,447 thefts of just iDevices. That’s a healthy 40 percent jump in cases from that same time the previous year, and also barely takes into account the time of the new iPhone 5’s release. In New York, and other large cities, this has led to a plastering of ads in subway stations, street corners, and televisions that urge citizens to be more aware of their surroundings and their usage of their devices to try to trim down on theft. This has also been coupled with sting operations to catch people selling stolen devices in bulk, as well as a greater police presence in areas like subway stations where theft is most common.

For their part, Apple has long touted a free “Find My Phone” app, that can not only locate a stolen phone using GPS features, but also lock the device remotely with a password. Android users also have a range of  security apps available such as Cerebus, which can take photos of your device’s current location, perform system wipes and locks, locate your phone remotely, and even take an automatic photo if someone enters your password wrong. Even though some of the more clever burglars are becoming aware of these apps and finding ways around them, it is still somewhat reassuring to know that the manufacturers themselves are also aware of this issue and are at least attempting to take all the steps they can to help out, much like the police seem to be doing

However, given the jump in thefts even with such measures in place, there are those who feel that it’s time for phone carriers to step up and do their part.

Specifically, the movement is gaining steam in Canada where an outbreak of violent crimes relating to stolen smart devices has the country in an uproar. The government is insisting that phone companies create a stolen smartphone and tablet registry, before they must force them to do so. The idea of a registry would be to prevent the resale of stolen devices by providing an official record of them. A similar action is also being called for by some in America where the crimes are equally rampant.

While it may not represent a perfect solution to the problem, it instead encourages a measure of corporate responsibility. Why hasn’t this been done yet? The biggest reason is cost, as phone companies are apparently shuddering at the financial implications of such a movement, although exact figures haven’t been provided. Canada’s government is asking for the major carriers to provide that information to them in an effort to get the ball rolling on the initiative once and for all. There is also loose talk that a national registry would hurt the providers in the lucrative second hand markets they encourage, though this is not the official statement.

Considering the reliance people put in their smart devices, it’s uncomfortable for many users to think that the age old crime move of snatch and grab is more dangerous (and lucrative) than ever. While awareness movements prompt users to not display their devices in public places, understandably consumers feel like they should be able to use their phones and tablets somewhere besides the safety of their work or homes. It’s also a somewhat insulting idea that victims of theft are somehow “asking for it” even if there are incidents of displaying an item in high profile prior to its taking.

Whether or not it is the ultimate answer then, it seems like the only party not taking a greater leap in prevention are the phone companies, and a national registry of stolen gadgets would at least add another weapon to the fight. Otherwise, we may see more and more violent incidents of robbery, and of people misguidedly taking actions into their own hands to try and protect their prized possessions.

Apple Owners Rejoice! Free Apps Are on the Way

Since spearheading the Android App Market and launching the Kindle Fire, Amazon has seemingly been on a mission to promote themselves as the kinder, gentler Apple alternative. While stopping shy of ever viciously calling out their rival, the message is clear that they believe themselves to be more of a service “of the people” than their counterpart. One of the ways they have done this is by offering a Free App of the Day service that allows its users to snag a free download of an app selected by Amazon. Ranging from games to useful services, it’s a must have feature that, until now, has provided Android owners with another feature to rub in the face of the iMasses.

I say “until now” because it looks like the empire has caught on to the rebel plans.

Yes, its happy days again Apple owners. Apple is now offering its own free app service, only this one will be a free app of the week and not of the day. The good news is that the first app of this service is the brilliant and addictive “Cut The Rope: Experiments“ game, which went from “should be essential” to “no conceivable reason not to download” courtesy of the new promotion. Not content to just borrow from one rival, though, Apple has also introduced an “Editor’s Choice” feature (seemingly a replacement for their staff picks and game of the week features) that highlights the newest and best apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The initial showcases are Facebook Camera, “Extreme Skater,” “Air Mail” and Sketchbook Ink.

Of course, all jokes about theft are actually jokes. Developers have been running their own free app promotions since the start of the market, and independent sites have been offering the same, as well as highlighting the best new apps for the same period of time. In truth it is refreshing to see Apple offer these services on their own, and considering that the Apple app market is richer and fuller than that of its rivals, even an app a week instead of one a day is an astoundingly good deal that should produce something of must have quality each outing.

Although it should be noted that the “App of the Week” feature hasn’t officially been confirmed as a permanent addition. However since they’ve launched a new Twitter tag for it, not to mention those large banners for the service on their site, things look good. It’s going to be interesting to see if Apple looks at the success of this initial offering to judge if it will continue in the future. It’ll be interesting because we can’t know if Apple will look at giving away lots of free merchandise as a positive marketing ploy, or the root of all known evil.

Again, joking.

Picture This: An Instagram Camera

Tech developer ADR Studios has revealed a new concept design, that is sure to make the many Instagram users in the world gather their pitchforks and torches (or just start a cause on Kickstarter) and plead for someone to make this a mass produced reality.

Meet the Instagram camera.

That is a digital handheld camera that can print an instant photo from the model, complete with all of the features the Instagram app allows. What strikes me right away about this project is:

A. That’s a beautiful camera. Not just “hipster cool” but genuinely well designed.

B. This is an incredible marriage of times gone by charm (the polaroid this whole thing is based off of) and new technology (Instagram, obviously), that wouldn’t look out of place in a 50′s sci-fi where a vague idea of what future technology might hold, was paired with a current product to create something that’s just kind of out there.

C. Far from a novelty, this thing could actually make a practical investment considering its’ list of features.

• 16 GB mass storage.
• Wifi and Bluetooth.
• 4:3 touchscreen.
• 2 main lens, first for main capture, second for 3D filters, webcam applications and QR Code capturing.
• Optical zoom.
• LED Flash.
• Internal printer to make your Instagram photos real.
• Paper cartridge with Instagram Paper Sheets.
• Dedicated 4 colors ink tanks.
• InstaOs 1.0, which put together Facebook and Instagram App feature.

Now again, this is still a concept and as of now, no one has plans to make this thing on a retail level. Still though, with the mass popularity of the Instagram app, and the many social networking friendly features this thing has, someone with the ability to make this would be a fool not to considering it’s almost literally a license to print money.