Friday, October 30, 2015

A new Apple TV is available for purchase, and Apple’s fourth generation set top box is a significant advancement to their television platform, but they’re just now catching up to the rest of industry.  Roku has had channel apps and games on their platform for years, Amazon Fire TV has had Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, and each of these set-top manufacturers offered a device that used a non-infrared remote control. 

The most exciting advancements to Apple TV is third-party apps, Siri, and the Siri Remote.  All accounts I’ve heard of the Siri Remote have been enthusiastic; the granularity of control afforded by the Touch surface is impeccable.  The demonstration of Siri at Apple’s special event is compelling.  With iOS 9, Siri can do so much, so reliably, and this bodes well for Apple TV.  However Apple will need to swallow their pride and allow searching across as many video streaming services as possible, like Amazon Prime, if they intend to revolutionize the movie and television industry.  (So far Amazon has not been on the Apple TV, likely because it is a direct competitor to the iTunes Store.  I do expect to see them in the App Store, just as they are on iOS.)

I am a geek when it comes to movies and television shows, so I’ve ripped my entire Blu-Ray and DVD catalog (more than once) to use with Plex Media Server.  And for the first time, I can entertain the notion of using an Apple TV (Plex is developing an app for Apple TV).  I predict third-party apps are going to allow Apple to dominate this market, but I don’t think games will be the reason why.  Apple’s requirement for tvOS games is restrictive.  I don’t believe games will be a game-changer because developers cannot require a specific controller; the game has to be playable with the remote.  That isn’t to say there won’t be fun, addictive games on the platform, but don’t wait for Call of Duty, Halo, Wolfenstein 3D, or other more complex games.  (Monument Valley might be awesome on a big television.)

  • If you’ve got an Apple TV, and you’re ready for a new Apple TV, go for it.
  • If you don’t have any set-top box, and you’re wanting one, get the fourth generation Apple TV.
  • If you have a 4K TV and you have 4K content, don’t get the new Apple TV, it only supports 1080p.
  • If you use video container formats other than H.264/MPEG-4, don’t get the Apple TV.

Now that you’ve decided whether to get an Apple TV, storage is the next criteria for consideration.  The new Apple TV comes with two different storage capacities: 32 GB for $149 and 64 GB for $199.  The problem here is that Apple hasn't described our outlined why the higher storage capacity may be advantageous.  The best we can tell is for storing more cached data.

Cached data is the information that the Apple TV will download that will periodically be cleared from the device.  For example, an app for the Apple TV can be up to 200 MB (0.2 GB), and an app can have “in use on-demand resources” that can be up to 2 GB.  When it’s time clear some cached data, the 200 MB app isn’t going anywhere, but the in use on-demand resources will be erased as needed.  (A good developer wouldn’t store important information like game progress or user account here, as that information needs to persist.)

If you want to future-proof yourself, go with the 64 GB version for $50 more.

Friday, September 25, 2015

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably an owner and enthusiast of Apple products.  And being an enthusiast of Apple, you may have braved the Apple Store on a product launch day.  I have been at an Apple Store for eleven product launches, but only once as a customer.  This entry is a peak behind the black, velvet curtains.

My first product launch, as a customer, was for Mac OS X Leopard, 26 October 2007.  In those days, Apple Retail Stores closed at 2:00 PM; employees erected black, velvet curtains to cover store windows and had fewer than four hours to get the store ready for launch.  Outside the store, I joined a queue, designated by stanchions, and I remember standing behind a teenage boy, excited to get this new version of Mac OS X.  I was fascinated by his iPhone, as he checked his email.

At 6:00 PM, the curtains came down, and the doors opened.  I entered the store, which was probably beyond capacity, for the entire staff, it was all hands on deck.  The Genius Bar was closed for the rest of the day, so that all employees could assist customers buying Macs, iPods, iPhones, and software, mostly Mac OS X.

When it was my turn, a Mac Specialist greeted me.  He asked me what I wanted and my t-shirt size.  (This was the last product launch with a t-shirt for customers.)  In no time, a request for an iMac and a Mac OS X Leopard Family Pack was placed.  While waiting for my Mac and software to come out, the Mac Specialist got a t-shirt for me.  Then the Mac Specialist made sure I received everything I wanted, transacted my purchase, and bid me a fond farewell.

Almost two years later Mac OS X Snow Leopard launched, and I was a Specialist in the Apple Store.  However, the Snow Leopard release was underwhelming.  By this time strategy for product launch changed to an overnight setup the night before, for the store to open at 8:00 AM.

On this particular Friday, 28th of August 2009, I had been awake for more than twenty-four hours, as I was one of the employees that prepared the store the night before.  I remember feeling particularly silly that morning, due to lack of sleep, and disappointed that a queue did not form in front of the store.  That day was mostly business as usual, atypical for a launch day. The Snow Leopard launch, which didn’t feel like a launch was similar to the launch of the Apple Watch, as all watches were ordered online and delivered to customers.  (Because Apple Watch wasn’t available in the stores, it didn’t feel like a typical product launch.)

For the launch of the iPhone 4, iPad, iPad 2, and (Mac) OS X Lion, I was working in a New York City flagship store.  This store was large and had so many employees, that I was able to stay in-role as a Genius that day.  The managers opened the Genius Bar for technical support just a few hours after the store opened, which was unexpected.  There were so many Specialists and Experts that technicians simply weren’t needed to assist with sales.

The iPad launch was special.  This was a brand new product category, the old strategy of the store closing at 2:00 PM was reinstated one last time.  During the four hours the store was closed, employees not helping with setup of the store or delivering water and coffee to customers in the queue, were learning about iPad.  (In these days, most of our training was last-minute.)

Just before the store reopened, our managers were giving us a pep talk.  It was like preaching to the choir.  We were all so excited to talk to customers about iPad.  The minutes before the doors opened were exhilarating.  We all began to hype each other up.  And while were getting excited, clapping, and shouting, I happened to see Kelsey Grammer standing with the managers.  He came to hang out at the Apple Store for the launch of iPad.

The launches of iPad 2, (Mac) OS X Lion, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 6 were similar to each other, many customers and relatively smooth.  The use of Reservation Pass made queue management easier and a better customer experience.  This is was not the case in 2008 for the launch of iPhone 3G.

On the 11th of July, iPhone 3G was launched with iPhone OS 2 (iOS), the App Store, MobileMe, iTunes 7.7.  And for the first time, iPhone was subsidized by AT&T and was activated in-store.  The overwhelming number of customers crippled the activation process.  This was a rough weekend for customers and both Apple and AT&T employees.

When I arrived for my 11:00 AM shift, my colleagues were letting me know that iPhones could not be activated for about 15 minutes.  They correctly predicted that servers would crash when the West Coast stores opened.  (The activation servers crashed at 9:00 AM, when stores in the Central Time Zone opened, and at 10:00 AM when stores in the Mountain Time Zone opened.)

That Friday some customers walked into the Apple Store with a working mobile phone, and walked out with their account in upgrade limbo.  Their original phone did not receive calls, and their new iPhone did not receive calls.  In many cases the issue would not be resolved in less than 24 hours.  This was likely the worst day in Apple Retail history

Since the launch of iPhone 3G, Apple has taken steps to ensure launch day isn’t plagued with so many technical issues.  Upgrades to iOS are released days prior to the launch of new iPhone models.  The activation process is virtually foolproof, and the activation servers are robust, even to accommodate the substantially higher number of customers.  And the support from the carriers is notably better than it was in 2008.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

#TechAppThursday: Movie of the Day

Movie of the Day App

 Movie of the Day App

Who doesn't love movies? I know I do, especially movies that are on sale. Today, I want to highlight a great app for deals on movies (it's like Christmas everyday). Fox has created an app where they daily highlight one of their movies and best news of all that movie is discounted (each deal lasts 24 hours). Movies that have been discounted range from oldies like the Sound of Music to newer releases like Gone Girl and Fault in our Stars. Here are few examples of past deals:
Movie of the Day Preview
Since downloading this app about two months ago I have used it everyday. Remember, I love movies. Not one to check something everyday, it's ok the app has you covered. Movie of the Day will send a notification making you aware of the discounted movie (you can turn this feature on and off as you desire). 

Let's take a look at the app. When you open the app the first thing you see is the deal of that day.
Movie Deal of the Day

Along the right side of the app you will notice three white and blue circles. You can watch the trailer, share the deal with friends, or get more details about the movie like cast and crew, customer reviews, and the synopsis from iTunes. All the info is linked to iTunes and when you click to buy the movie you will be taken there for purchasing. Here is a glance of the additional screens in the app:
Additional Screens
Yes, this is a simple app and it serves is purpose well. If you love movies and love getting a great deal on good entertainment then this app is for you. The good news is this app is free and you can click here to download it now:

It's also worth noting that iTunes highlights a discounted movie every weekend beginning on Friday and running through the following Monday. You will see a movie with the price tag of $4.99 on the iTunes Home page in the rotating banner at the top of the screen. I've grabbed a few classics like Fight Club and The Goonies for $4.99 thanks to this iTunes promotion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are going to be available in Apple Retail Stores on the 25th of September, or at your door if you pre-ordered one.  If you’re like most iPhone owners, you’re probably planning to purchase a case.  I used to be part of a small percentage of users that did not purchase or want a case, but my opinion of cases has recently changed.

I bought my first iPhone seven years ago, an iPhone 3G, 16 GB White, and with it I bought a Power Support AirJacket.  It made my iPhone thicker, and that’s about it.  I would always appreciate how thin the iPhone was whenever I removed the AirJacket.  So I stopped using the case.

Often friends and customers would remark about my bravery for not using a case with my iPhone.  I didn’t need a case, as found out when I went to Cupertino for my Apple Certified Mac Technician training.  My training class was given an opportunity to experiment with the durability of various iPhones.  The iPhone was more resilient than I expected.  I’ve seen and repaired many broken Apple devices, so I know that the iPhone breaks, but I didn’t for my iPhone. 

With the protruding camera module of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices, it has been proposed that Apple manufactures a naked, robotic core (ATP Ep. 129 60:20) for user’s customize with the case of their choice.  So for the second time, I think I will get a case for my iPhone 6s, and it’s going to be the Apple silicone case.  (I have always used an Apple Smart Case for my iPad, and I like how it has performed.)

Ever since I saw the Otterbox for the first time, I was disturbed by such a big case, and I was not convinced that this type of case adds any more protection to the device inside than any other case.  Why would someone take such a beautiful device to put it into something so hideous.

When I was an Apple Genius, I saw many broken iPhones in the Otterbox and LifeProof cases; it’s size does not compensate for the false sense of protection the user has.  The Otterbox and LifeProof case warranties don’t offer protection either.  And these cases caused functionality issues with the devices inside (with the exception of the LifeProof Nüüd, the cases don’t comply with Apple’s MFi Program.

Practical Advice:

If you want a case for your iPhone, but you don’t want an Apple case, look at the Apple website or for the MFi logo.  Any case in the Apple Store, on the Apple website, or with an MFi logo has been extensively tested by Apple.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

iOS 9 iPhone Faves

By Alan Oliver

If you have been waiting for an iOS update, your wait is over. iOS 9 is available now,  and let me tell you it is worth the wait. Thanks to the Apple Beta program, I've had the privilege of getting to use iOS for a few months and I want to share my excitement and knowledge with you here. 

iOS 9 comes with tons of features and will not look all that different from iOS 8 which means you can keep using your phone the way you always do and have a greater opportunity to explore and enjoy the new features. 

Battery Life
One feature that everyone will love is the promise of better battery life and the ability to switch to a power saving mode (called Low Power Mode) should your battery run low and you not be able to charge it soon. Essentially, lower power mode turns off of the battery draining services that you might turn off individually if you were trying to conserve power now (like push email, background activity like weather and such, etc). But it will turn off all those plus more so you don't have worry about it and in just the tap of a button. Don't want it on, it can be managed through the Settings App or by charging up your device. See pictures below:   

App switching enhanced
One of my favorite new features is called Back to. What this feature does is allow you to return to the last app you were in without double tapping the home button. For example, say you were checking your email and you click a link that opens Safari. You sufficiently read the article or shop the sale and decide you want to go back to Mail. All you have to do is simply tap the Back to Mail (top left hand corner of the screen) and you are taken back to Mail. This saves you time and wear  and tear on your home button. 

Proactive Suggestions
This is one of those features you didn’t know you needed or even wanted until you have it. When at you are the home screen you simply swipe left to pull up Search (which has a voice feature, too) and the screen will also display apps you maybe interested in or  contacts you may want to reach out based off how you use your phone day to day.
For example (not pictured here), everyday when my wife is making her trek home from downtown Atlanta I continually check the Find My Friends app to see how she is getting along and so I can know when to start dinner. So, typically around 4:00pm when I pull my screen left my wife's contact will show up and the Find my Friends app will be ready to access. So, I can quickly call her to get an ETA or just check the app to see where she is at the moment.

These are only three of my favorite new features in iOS 9. There are a ton more that I am sure you will find useful and welcome them into your daily iPhone use, If you would like more information on iOS 9 before downloading follow this link 
Let us know in the comments what your new favorite features are from iOS 9. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Apple Upgrade Program

On Wednesday Apple® unveiled the latest update to their iPhone line up. The 6s and 6s Plus are the most advanced smart phones ever created and the demand will be great. This annual announcement always brings questions about if and how we should go about upgrading. We are going to attempt to answer most of these commonly asked questions.

To start, should you upgrade and if so, which phone should you get? The answer to this is always upgrade when you have the opportunity and always get the latest model available. I know what your thinking, why? Your phone is maybe two years old and the iPhone 6 is a $100 cheeper. Surely it’s good enough, right? The answer is simple…no.

If you are on a contract plan, which most carriers are doing away with, by waiting to upgrade you are leaving money on the table. Every contract renewal, the carrier pays $450 of the purchase price to get the two year agreement from you, leaving you with the other $200 to pay. That $450 they pay is built into your contract pricing and by waiting past your upgrade date, you are continuing to pay the elevated plan price but not getting the value of the upgrade that you are actually still paying for.

As to the last years phone vs this years, always get the newer one. It’s only $100 and the technology inside is worth the extra money. Even if all you do is make phone calls, send texts and take pictures, the newer phone does all of that better. Your carrier is constantly upgrading the technology their towers use and by staying on a newer phone, you ensure that you have the best thing to connect to those towers. Technology changes fast and it is best to stay up with the curve.

Another thing to consider is that the older, less expensive model also has less internal storage. This is a big deal these days with as many photos as we like to take. Everyone needs a minimum of 16 gigs in their phone and most of us should consider the model above that to make sure you don’t run out. Look at it like this, you may not use a lot of the bells and whistles, but if you are going to use the camera at all, consider the fact that you don’t have to buy another camera and devote that investment into your phone.

So now you are ready to get your order in, what is the process? When the iPhone launches there is always a preorder day. That day is tonight, September 12th at 12:00 midnight Pacific or 2:00 am Central. The website for Apple and the various carriers will go live with a preorder upgrade page. These are for deliveries to arrive on September 25th. This is the only way to guarantee you will get your iPhone on that launch day. You can still arrive at the Apple Store or your local carrier store and try your luck (Apple Store will have the most available, but also the longest line). 

For the first time, Apple is also offering their own iPhone upgrade program this year. After reading, please let us know if you have further questions! Our lead technician, John Sahawneh is going to explain that process for us…

In just a few hours, you’ll be able to pre-order the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.  And there is a new way to buy iPhone.  Apple, along with the major carriers, is offering an upgrade program.  The upgrade program allows you to get an iPhone, but instead of paying for the device in full or through subsidy, you pay for the device via installments.

Apple’s upgrade program is great because it offers features the carrier upgrade programs do not offer:

  • An unlocked iPhone, so you can choose your carrier
  • With AppleCare+, you are covered from defects and accidental damage* (coverage is for two years)
  • Upgrade after 12 months

With an unlocked iPhone, you can choose any carrier that supports iPhone.  You’re not tied to a contract, so you can change carriers at any time.  If you’re traveling internationally or moving to a new city, this is brilliant.  You can simply put a new, compatible SIM card into your iPhone when abroad, or change carriers for best coverage.

AppleCare+ is great because you’re covered for defects and flaws as well as accidental damage, and you can contact AppleCare via phone support.  If something happens to your device or accessories, repair or replacement is covered.  (Plus, if you’ve bought an Apple AirPort or Time Capsule, AppleCare+ for your iPhone covers repairs of this accessory.)  If there is accidental damage to your iPhone, repair or replacement is at a reduced price, $99.  Without this AppleCare+, repairs can be as much as $329.

Apple’s upgrade program may seem a little more expensive than the carriers, but the carriers don’t show the cost of insurance in their prices, with the exception of T-Mobile.  A distinction that should be made is that AppleCare+ is not insurance, and it does not cover loss or theft, carrier insurance typically does.  Carrier insurance has a higher deductible than the reduced repair fee of AppleCare+ for accidental damage, so these differences should be considered for each individual or family.

*AppleCare+ Terms and Conditions

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Note from our CEO, Jeff Mann

Since our my last note, I had the chance to attend training at the Apple world headquarters in Cupertino. I was there during what would have been Steve Jobs’s 60th birthday, so naturally it was an exciting time to visit! While I was having lunch at Cafe Macs and looking up at Steve’s old office, I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was that I had the  opportunity to pursue knowledge that would help our customers in the place where all the magic happens.

I thought about how inspired I have been over the years by Steve and by one of his speeches in particular. In 2005, Steve, a college drop out, was invited to deliver the commencement address at Stanford University just up the road from Apple’s headquarters. If you haven’t heard the speech, I highly recommend it. As I sat in the grass listening to the speech for the 100th time, I became inspired all over again. For a man known for being a perfectionist, it is surprising to hear him advocating for failure but the message is to accept failure and then try again. It is acceptable to fail but it is not acceptable to give up.  

Striving to reach perfection in an imperfect world seems crazy but we thrive on it and it is our passion. All this technology is great but it’s not perfect and sometimes the solutions are not perfect either. There is trial and error and steps forward and setbacks–yet we keep working to find the right answer because when we do, it makes life better. If Apple gave up every time something failed, there would be no iPhone and the iPad wouldn’t have changed the world as the iPod did. We have to aim for the stars and keep reaching when we come up short. As Steve said “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith.” 

In closing, Steve tells the class to “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. I think there’s an important lesson for all of us in that. To me it’s never be satisfied with the status quo, always reach further. If we fail, we try again until we get it right. If we think we know everything, realize how little we actually know and study harder. If we are foolish enough to think we can change the world for the better, then maybe we can…as long as we don’t loose faith when we fail and keep trying.