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Filtering by Tag: iPhone

Apple Event, September 2016

Like many, I had been waiting for Apple's September event with eager anticipation. Dubbed the iPhone event it is primarily a platform for the launch of new mobile hardware. Rumour and speculation leading up to the event meant that there was little ground breaking news or product.

There were large parts of the presentation that didn't interest me, but I understand the need to court big partners like Nike and Nintendo, even Niantic, but they did detract, for me, from the product launches.

I've had an iPhone 6 for two years and am seriously considering an upgrade. The last time I was at this point was when I owned an iPhone 4S and had completely skipped the 5 and 5S models. The 6 was a significant change. Larger screen, completely new physical design, a lot faster, Touch ID, Retina display etc. etc. and felt like a real upgrade.

In the iPhone 7 the changes and improvements are more subtle; ongoing refinement of what is already there. There's no doubt significant innovation and development in manufacturing processes, but the product has become mature.

Apple likes to talk about being "courageous" in it's decisions to move away from old technologies and hardware solutions. This time in the iPhone 7 it was the consignment of the 3.5mm headphone jack socket to history. It makes perfect sense as the format of the plug really is ancient technology which has changed little in form or function since the late 1870s. In reality I suspect the move was more about several other factors, namely creating extra space within the enclosure, eliminating one hole in the device in the pursuit of making it more water resistant and the ability to generate even more revenue through the licensing of Lightning connected wired earphones and headphones in addition to increased sales for Apple and Beats branded products.

The bundling of a converter dongle, which is effectively creating space on the inside of the phone and dangling it out of the Lightning port is the least Apple could do for all those who have money already invested in high end audio jack earphones, though it's an inelegant solution. It also means that you cannot listen to music through earphones whilst charging the device, although third parties are already selling even more cumbersome looking dongles to get around this.

Apple did launch a pair of Bluetooth earphones called AirPods which look pretty much like their EarPods but without the cables. Simply from a practicality point, regardless of sound quality, ease of pairing and charging, they need a lanyard or head band. One or both earpieces will be lost within days of purchase, and at £159, that's not a cost that can be easily justified.

Other improvements to the iPhone are as expected. Camera, display, speed and storage. There are also a couple of new colour finishes available, though Apple is already warning that the gloss 'Jet Black' is likely to scuff and scratch easily.

Apple Watch also got a refresh and is now waterproof, within reason. The addition of GPS is nice but I still don't think it fully meets the necessary requirements to be considered a serious sports watch. It is also thicker and heavier than the first generation Apple Watch, but doesn't come close to the size of some of the competition in the specialist sports watch sector.

I was hoping to see a refresh of some of the iPads, in particular the iPad Mini; assuming that we would see a Mini 5 to replace the twelve month old Mini 4, but this didn't happen.

What did happen was an across the board increase in storage capacities on all iOS devices, replacing the ridiculous 16GB entry point with 32GB, and then skipping 64GB in favour of 128GB, topping out with 256GB on some models.

Customers in the UK are also treated to a price increase across all Apple product, due to international exchange rate fluctuations, with most of the media adding "post Brexit" to that statement. 

As yet I'm undecided about ordering an iPhone 7. I want one, but don't need one.  At the time of posting this, there are about eight hours before the preorder process comes online (08:01 UK time).

I think I'll have to sleep on it

Update: Friday 9th. September 2016.

Thank you for your order.

Elgato Smart Key

About eighteen months ago I saw an ad for Tile, a Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy enabled tag that allows you to keep track of anything you attach the Tile to, with your smartphone. I was very tempted to try one but felt that it was let down by having a non-replaceable battery. It had a claimed battery life of twelve months but it felt like it was intended to maintain continued sales through replacement purchase of further units. I know just under $20 is hardly a fortune, but I decided it wasn’t for me.

Since then I’ve seen a number of similar products hitting the market and, quite liking the concept, I’ve followed developments with interest.

In mid December 2013 I received a newsletter from Elgato. In it was featured their ‘Smart Key’. A Bluetooth LE enabled key fob with a replaceable CR2032 battery, that connects with dedicated app on a smartphone. I downloaded the app for iOS and played around with it in demo mode. I read a variety of mixed reviews. To be honest, most of the negative reports were from people who hadn't grasped the fact that it is not a GPS tracker, but a proximity device, limited by the active range of Bluetooth. Indeed all of the competing products are - whatever the marketing blurb may have you think.

Tile even promotes the fact that your lost item can be traced by using the ‘Tile community’ which I would imagine is a bit hit and miss, as it relies on other Tile users coming within range of your lost Tile, and reporting the approximate location to you.

I ordered the Elgato Smart Key and was initially impressed with it. The build quality is good, and it appears to be very durable. As it spends most of its time rattling around in a pocket, attached to a bunch of keys, it needs to be. The setup process is simple and the iOS app intuitive. It has the facility to be set up in a variety of modes, depending on your needs.

It soon became evident that the device is only as good as Bluetooth LE allows it to be. Connectivity isn't always great, resulting in the device unnecessarily moaning that it is lost, even when sometimes it is within inches of the phone it is paired with.

I found myself simply turning it off, rather than put up with the annoying chirping at random intervals. 

It has the facility to mark a location as safe, so you don't get notifications at home, for instance. Even this is far from reliable.

When I bought the Smart Key, I had an iPhone 4S; I've since upgraded to an iPhone 6 and activated the Smart Key again, only to find exactly the same issues with reliability and inconsistent connectivity.

I really want to like the Smart Key, but something like this really needs to work flawlessly, and it doesn't.

And so, it has hung from my key ring for almost twelve months, silent.

I've not tried any of the competing devices, though I do use other categories of Bluetooth LE connected devices, and find them to be mostly stable and reliable.

The Elgato Smart Key has a RRP of £39.95, and can be found for about £35. As is so often the case, particularly with technology products, the exchange rate between US $ and UK £ is 1:1.

I feel that it is over priced and can only assume that a significant part of the price is contributing towards the development of the smartphone app. Possibly manufacturing runs have been quite small, further adding to the inflated unit price.

The device and app are well designed -  it's just a shame that reliable connectivity lets it down.

I suddenly had the urge to write something.


As I sit here, with my iPad, syncing documents to iCloud; adding to the same documents on my iPhone later in the day, then editing and completing them on my desktop computer in the evening, ready to post to my website, created in the UK and hosted in New York, I have the overwhelming desire to write something.
"But you are", I hear you say.
Well no, I'm not.
I mean actually write, with a pen, on paper. Not a roller ball gel pen either, but a fountain pen. One which requires filling with ink, from a bottle.
Last week, whilst buying stationery for my business, I spotted a small notebook. Bound in soft leather, containing pages of crisp, high quality paper and a cover page, printed with the words "This Journal Belongs To". I couldn't resist it.
Now, as I sit here with my journal and my fountain pen in front of me, I haven't a clue what to write.
So whilst I consider my options, I open a new document in Pages on my iPad and write this piece for my website.

Oh well...

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