Opinion: Beats Music is actually so good that I’m worried about Apple ruining it (à la LaLa)

Beats Music for iPhone

My first reaction to yesterday’s news that Apple is nearing the close of a $3.2 billion deal to purchase Beats Electronics was one of worry, but not for the reasons that I saw in much of the commentary from others. I’m less concerned with what Apple could have planned for the headphones business or that the price tag is so high; after all, it’s exciting to think that Apple could make a major acquisition (its largest yet) after somewhat of a quiet period. What worries me is what Apple has planned for the not-so-popular-yet subscription streaming service Beats Music… Read more

Opinion: Can Apple maintain its $100 tier flash storage pricing for iPhones & iPads indefinitely?

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There’s a certain marketing genius to Apple’s tiered pricing for flash storage on its iPhones and iPads. Since customers can’t add storage via a microSD card later, they have to decide in advance how much storage they need, and many of us are going to err on the side of safety, bumping our purchase up to a higher price-band.

Adding $100 or $200 to the price of an iDevice for maybe $5-10 worth of flash storage/controller capacity is an important source of income for Apple, and one of the reasons its margins are so high. Whatever the company makes on a 16GB device, if it can upsell you to a 32GB or 64GB (or even 128GB, in the case of the iPad), almost all of the premium charged on those beefier models is pure profit.

It’s not money Apple would give up lightly, but I do wonder whether it’s sustainable …  Read more

Opinion: Five years from now, will we have given up all control of our technology?

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I know, it seems an odd question. But a few different things over the last couple of days got me thinking …

Years ago, before either Google or Apple ecosystems were really deserving of the term, I managed all my device synchronisation manually: I decided what content got synced on what devices. My music too: iTunes was allowed to play it, but not to manage it – I took care of the folder structures and meta-data myself. And the miscellaneous notes I kept were in a folder full of text files, the format deliberately chosen to be compatible with anything, not sitting inside Apple’s Notes app.

My view was that it should be me, not some piece of software or online service, that made the decisions about how things got done. Fast-forward to today, however, and things are quite different around here …  Read more

Opinion: What might we expect from Apple in 2014?

Image: wallsfeed.com

Image: wallsfeed.com

Tech journalists don’t often have to battle our way across hostile terrain in sub-zero temperatures, fight crocodiles with our bare hands, or abseil from helicopters to rescue hostages (though that remains my cover story for the time I broke my elbow by tripping up in an airport).

We do, however, occasionally do something almost as dangerous: make predictions about the tech future, knowing full well that our words remain forever archived on the web for people to dust off a year from now and gleefully point out just how wrong we were.

This is never more risky than in the case of Apple, a company notoriously secretive about its activities, and where there are way more false rumors than reliable ones. But hey, what’s life without a little adventure? So here are my predictions on what I think we can expect from Apple next year …  Read more

Opinion: What are Apple’s plans for 4K displays?

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There was one notable omission from Apple’s recent flurry of new product announcements: a 4K display. It will launch one in time, of course – and I’ll come to that shortly. But in the meantime, there’s the question of how it demonstrates one of the key capabilities of the new Mac Pro.

Sure, they could hook it up to multiple Thunderbolt Displays, but that’s not the same: Apple made a point when launching the machine of pointing out that it could drive three simultaneous 4K displays. That’s a capability you’d imagine it would want to at least show off in-store, and perhaps even offer for sale …

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Is iPad photography finally gaining social acceptance?

It’s no secret that people love taking pictures with their iPad, but it has always been a somewhat out of the ordinary behavior publicly considering the sheer size of the tablet in general.

It’s also true that Apple has made great improvements to the camera system on the iPad, and its large, vibrant display makes for one heck of a view finder when capturing an image.

Based on anecdotal evidence, various scenes from Apple’s iPad event yesterday, and data collected by photos shared on Flickr, I think it’s finally time we accept iPad photography into our lives with open arms. Responsibly, of course.

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Opinion: What is really driving Apple’s new-found fondness for ‘free’?

Photo: abc.e

Photo: abc.e

Apple surprised many yesterday by making the update to OS X 10.9 Mavericks free, rather than the $20 it cost to upgrade to the previous release, Mountain Lion. The company also surprised some (though not us) by doing the same for its previously chargeable iWork apps.

There’s been a lot of commentary today about this being an attack on Microsoft, and I do indeed think there’s likely to have been a fair amount of sweating in the corner offices at Redmond as they watched yesterday’s keynote. But Microsoft execs aren’t the only ones I’d expect to see wearing worried expressions today: I suspect the same is true across at Mountain View.

Before we get to Google, let’s start with Microsoft …  Read more

Opinion: Is Thunderbolt doomed to be the new Firewire, or can the new Mac Pro save it?

thunderbolt

I’m a huge fan of Thunderbolt. A single wire carrying both DisplayPort and high-speed PCIe data is an incredibly elegant approach to minimising cable clutter even if you don’t need the blistering speed, especially when you can use an Apple Thunderbolt Display as a hub for your USB devices.

I also admire clever tech. The reason you can daisy-chain up to six separate devices is because Thunderbolt automatically multiplexes and de-multiplexes the signals as needed. Thunderbolt 2 takes this approach one step further, combining two 10Gbit/s channels into a single 20Gbit/s connection, with the the Thunderbolt controller again doing all the work. It’s impressive stuff.

A fast, clever technology developed by Intel and enthusiastically marketed by Apple ought to stand a fighting chance at mass-market adoption. Sadly, there’s so far not much sign of this happening. It’s all looking rather reminiscent of Firewire …  Read more

Opinion: Why I love the iPhone 5s, and why I’ll be sticking with my 4S

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I like my gadgets, and generally consider myself an early adopter. When my friends are looking at buying a new piece of technology, I’m the one they ask as they know I’ll either own it or have tried it.

So you might be surprised to learn that my phone is an iPhone 4S and that after yesterday’s unveiling of the 5s (no, I don’t know why it suddenly became lower-case either), I’m planning to wait for the iPhone 6 before upgrading.

It’s not that the 5s isn’t impressive from a purely technological viewpoint. It is. A 64-bit phone? That’s a pretty incredible achievement. Delegating sensor functions to a separate chip to enable constant use without the usual battery-drain? Brilliant. A truly state-of-the-art fingerprint sensor? Fantastic. A larger phone sensor with lower pixel-density? Exactly the right approach, and I was delighted to see Apple refusing to join in the stupid megapixel race.

But I’m still not going to buy one, and the reason for that is two-fold. Before I get to that, one piece of context. In the U.S., upgrading can be a no-brainer as you end up on the same tariff either way. In the UK, it’s better value long-term to buy the phone outright at full retail (around $1120 for the 64Gb 5s), so you have to balance incremental benefit over other gadgets you could buy with the same money – like a new iPad. So, back to those two reasons … Read more

Roundtable: What we think Apple has planned for its September 10th event

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With the rumored September 10th Apple keynote just weeks away, the rumor mill is in high gear and, as per usual, expectations will be soaring higher than ever as the date nears. For some products, a refresh or introduction is all but confirmed. For others, there only exists speculation or mere wishful thinking for even a mention at the keynote. Below you’ll find the opinions of some 9to5Mac staffers. Read more

2013: The year of the personalized, colorful, mid-tier smartphone

plastic

Choosing a phone is pretty simple if you’re the kind of person who wants the latest & greatest handset and has the budget to pay for it. Even if you’re not sure what platform you want, you’re essentially choosing between a handful of flagship products and are currently likely to walk away with an iPhone 5Samsung S4 or HTC One.

There isn’t too much head-scratching at the bottom end of the market either: buyers there don’t care about the handset, and take whatever freebie their carrier pushes at them.

But the mid-market is where life gets complicated. You care enough about your handset to want something decent, both in specs and design, but you don’t want to take out a mortgage to buy it. It’s this market that is going to get incredibly colorful this fall …  Read more

Does iWork for iCloud mean native iWork Mac and iOS apps will become free services?

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Apple presents itself as a company that ships hardware, software, and services that integrate together elegantly. While Apple makes the majority of its money from its hardware, Apple makes use of its free, popular internet services and software to sell their hardware. For example, the iLife suite of Mac apps that are included for free with new Mac purchases is a common reason that people choose to buy a Mac. On the iOS side, Apple offers free services like iCloud, iBooks, iMessage, Game Center, and later this year, iTunes Radio.

But on both the Mac and iOS Device side, one particular Apple service has stuck out as being a paid offering: Apple’s iWork suite that includes the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet maker, and Keynote presentation creator. For years, Apple has sold iWork for Mac as a bundled suite, but with the Mac App Store, the company split the three programs into separate $19.99 downloads. On the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch side, the three apps are distinct $9.99 downloads. Apple, thus far, has kept iWork as a premium priced suite, but this fall, the company will introduce a free tier: iWork for iCloud…

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