Opinion ▪ August 26

AAPL: 109.69

5.95
Stock Chart

Apple has called the iPhone “the world’s most popular camera,” a title originally earned by aggregating all iPhones together for counting purposes. But while the exact sales numbers for each iPhone model are difficult to quantify, there’s no question that Apple has already sold over 750 million iPhones, and well over 100 million iPhone 6 devices. Those are huge numbers, and well beyond the typical sales of individual point-and-shoot cameras.

Few people appreciate that growing iPhone demand has created an unusual challenge for Apple: reliably sourcing the tens of millions of parts needed to meet first month demand for tens of millions of iPhones. To that end, Apple’s camera maker Sony had to upgrade its manufacturing plants twice this year to produce more of the CMOS image sensors needed for smartphones including the iPhone. Even with a partner as large as Sony, however, iPhone-specific engineering requirements and the risk inherent in brand new technologies have led Apple to hold off on using the latest and greatest camera innovations in its devices. Instead, iPhones go with thin, lower-resolution sensors that offer great overall image quality for their size, and never eclipse rivals on raw specs.

So what can we realistically expect from the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus cameras next month? Here are my educated guesses…

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I love AirPlay. It’s simple and elegant. It also means that my elderly but much-loved B&O Ouverture hifi system (with BeoLab 6000 speakers) – which is actually so old that it has a cassette deck – needed only a low-cost WiFi audio receiver to allow it to wirelessly stream music from my MacBook Pro. One $40 add-on and a 20-year-old hifi became bang up to date in its capabilities.

With my particular setup, AirPlay does exactly what we expect of Apple products: It Just Works. I open iTunes, select ‘B&O’ from the speaker output menu, and anything I play in iTunes – whether from my own music library or streamed from Apple Music – plays through the hifi, while system sounds continue to play through the Mac speakers. My partner can stream her own music from her iPad or iPhone just as readily.

I’d previously tried a Bluetooth audio receiver, and the difference between that and AirPlay is night and day. No pairing. No worries about distance. No interference when someone walks between the Mac and hifi. No system sounds emerging at deafening volumes though my hifi speakers.

But despite my own happy experience of it, AirPlay is not without its problems …  expand full story

Opinion ▪ August 25

AAPL: 103.74

0.62
Stock Chart

As anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter will tell you, I’ve been openly critical of the Apple Watch and the entire concept of smartwatches for a long time now. Most people have responded with an attitude of “don’t knock it until you try it,” which I suppose is a fair attitude to have. The problem was that I had no plans to spend over $300 (or $1,000 for the model I really liked) to try an Apple Watch.

Recently, however, an opportunity arose to try the watch out for a while. I was offered a loaner watch to test out an app that I was covering. I accepted the offer and spent about a week with it, wearing it full-time and using it for everything I could (including, of course, using the app that I was testing whenever I could). Earlier this year my colleague Ben Lovejoy had been convinced to keep his after using it for a week.

Could I be convinced that the watch was, in fact, a convenient and useful gadget to have in the same amount of time? I went into this week with an open mind to find out.

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Opinion ▪ August 24

AAPL: 103.12

-2.64
Stock Chart

Apple releases at least one new iPhone every year, and the coverage has become predictable: reviews (accurately) herald “the best iPhone yet,” typically based on “small but important changes that refine the user experience.” Based on everything we know about the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, you can expect the same narrative again this year — starting with the obligatory sigh of similarity that precedes the review of every S model, and ending with the common recommendation to “go buy one unless you can wait until next year.”

For professional reasons, I’ve owned every iPhone since the original 2007 model, and upgraded every single year regardless of how small or large the differences were between models. This year, for the first time, I sold off my current-generation iPhone to maximize the cash I’d get towards the purchase of a new model, and as an experiment, I went back to using the iPhone 5s (updated to iOS 9) to see whether any of the differences really mattered. After a week with the old iPhone, I can’t wait for a new one: there are a lot of reasons to prefer Apple’s bigger, better 6-series phones. So if you’re on the fence about going from any iPhone 4/4S or 5/5s/5c to a new iPhone 6S, trust me, you’ll want to get ready to upgrade now

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Opinion ▪ August 19

AAPL: 115.01

-1.49
Stock Chart

I’m a daily Apple TV user, and that fact apparently puts me in the minority: even when the Apple TV’s price dropped to nearly iPod shuffle levels, it didn’t take off like Apple’s iPads or iPhones. From what I’ve gathered, many people think the little black box can’t do much. And it’s amazing to me that most people can’t describe what the Apple TV can do, even though it’s been available for years.

Adding an App Store to the Apple TV — a place to download games, new channels, and apps — has seemed for years like a no-brainer for everyone… except Apple. Blame the hardware, the software, or protracted negotiations with potential partners, but after years of waiting, it just hasn’t happened. Calling this a missed opportunity would be an understatement: video games alone generate tens of billions of dollars of revenue annually, and well over half of them are now sold digitally. Thankfully, 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman reports, Apple will finally bring both iOS 9 and an App Store to the Apple TV this year.

The big question on my mind is how Apple plans to monetize the new Apple TV, particularly given its potential as a gaming console. Prior-generation Apple TVs failed to thrive at $99 (or even $69) price points, which is the same range where Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Ouya and others have struggled to match the market share of PlayStations, Wiis, and Xboxes. Moreover, Apple’s customers have shown little interest in paying ridiculous prices for iOS game controllers, so the hardware upside appears to be somewhat limited for Apple. There is, of course, a logical solution: Apple should accept the lessons it has learned about Apple TV and game accessory pricing, compensating for relatively low hardware profits by selling massive quantities of affordable software…

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Opinion ▪ August 18

AAPL: 116.50

-0.66
Stock Chart

It’s been many years since Steve Jobs famously told biographer Walter Isaacson that he’d “cracked TV” – an integrated television set with “the simplest user interface you could possibly imagine.” That idea seemingly went nowhere, with plans for a full TV set reportedly abandoned back in 2014.

So far, then, Apple’s offering in the TV space has been a rather modest one: the venerable ‘black puck’ that is the Apple TV box. The company keeps updating it, of course. Movie rentals were a big deal for some, Photostream for others. But for most, the last really dramatic change was the addition of AirPlay. Since then, improvements have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

All that looked set to change next month, with Apple initially expected to launch the next best thing to a full television set: significantly upgraded hardware coupled to a new streaming TV service. The complete package would undoubtedly have proven a winner. But with the streaming service now delayed until sometime next year, will a revamped box alone be enough to significantly boost sales, or will most be holding out until the Internet TV service is launched … ?  expand full story

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