[Op-Ed] A completely unbiased Android users opinion of iOS 7 – it sucks

Image courtesy of Apple.com

So…yeah.  I’m an Android guy.  Have been for a long time, and its still my current phone.  But as many already know, I DO own Apple products.  Yes, even me.  For all my bashing of their not really being a tech company more than a marketing company and not having had an innovation since the iPad first debuted, I do like and purchase (or ask for as gifts) some of their devices.  This puts me in a unique position: to be on the outside looking in.  No “iSheep” fanboiness here…I’m looking solely at how the device works best for me.  And I have to be honest – I wish Apple would have left my iPod touch the way it was before iOS 7.

I really couldn’t live without my iPod.  For all my posturing, I love this piece of tech.  It makes my daily commute more bearable and allows me to listen to my entire library of music in a small, portable package.  And it has done so since they had little trackwheels and clicky buttons.  And when I got my latest iPod touch (see my review here) I was elated.  And recently, when I heard about the upgrade to iOS 7, I figured “why not?”  I was actually a little interesting in getting a chance to play around with it, and I’d seen the early release photos of what it was supposed to look like as well.  But the reality did not match the idea I had of what the experience was going to be like in my mind.

First off, lets get the obvious out of the way – the colors are hideous.  Flat out annoying.  And standardized icons have been changed (along with some of their names) to boot.  Which (for me) means that after downloading and launching it for the first time, my first thought was “did something go wrong with this install?”  Because things sure look and feel off around here.  Folders no longer look like folders, but more like grey blobs in which other, more colorful blobs reside.  Facetime was moved out of the folder blob where I had placed it, and it was now front and center on my home screen.  Really, Apple?

Image courtesy of Apple.com

Okay, okay – maybe I’m being overly critical you might say.  The colors don’t look that bad.  And haven’t you been saying that iOS is tired and could use an update?  Yes – perhaps all of these things are true.  But there’s tweaking and there is radical redesign; this is the latter.  And not all change for the sake of change is good.  Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean others won’t either…but as with most things Apple, you don’t get a choice.  With my Android phone, if I don’t like how the stock look and feel of things is, I can install a custom launcher and then choose from dozens (if not hundreds) of other icon packs, themes, and other such to change it over and over and over again until I find something I like that works for me.  Rather than the “Apple tells me that I will love it” (whether I love it or not) approach.

My annoyance with iOS 7 is more than skin deep however.  There are other relatively minor changes that are puzzling too.  For example, on iOS 6 one of the features I used most was a double button press to wake the screen which, if your last activity was playing music, would wake the iPod to the music player and allow you to play the current or next track with just a single additional tap on the screen.  This is gone in iOS 7, now replaced with the double button press taking me to the lock screen and asking me to swipe to unlock, then pressing again on the music player to start my track playing.  While not important to some, this is one of the main features I used with my iPod, and now it takes longer to get my music to play.  Perhaps this has something to do with more security in this version of iOS, but honestly, its more irritating than anything else about the operating system to me.

Image courtesy of Apple.com

Hey, its not all bad – the Control Center feature (accessing your settings from a single contextual swipe up menu from the bottom of the screen) is useful and actually decently implemented.  Not something radically innovative again, as this “feature” (in various forms) has been in versions of Android for a while now, but at least it was well thought out. The new animations for things opening and closing/launching is neat, but hardly something I would hang my hat on if I was touting the merits of the overall operating system.  The sorting of pictures (excuse me, Photos) into Collections and Moments is long overdue, and a vast improvement over the glut of photos en masse in Camera Roll – but again, this is something that should come as the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.  And all these changes come at a price – even my less than 1 year old iPod touch (5th gen) stutters and lags a bit when performing routine tasks.  I can’t imagine what the new iOS its doing to owners of iPhones from the 3S-4S range.

Most of the changes seem forced, copies of other operating systems innovations (the tabbed multi-tasking or Safari tab switchers come to mind immediately) or fall into the catagory of just plain “why haven’t we had this until now?”  I think that Apple’s leadership realized that they needed to make a big splash with something and they were counting on iOS 7 and the new iPhone 5S/C to do just that.  Well, maybe just the iOS 7 and 5C since the 5S (as usual) is mostly just a spec bump and a new gold color chassis.  For my money, I’ve been thinking more and more often how I wish I had my old drab looking iOS 6 look and feel back.  At least with it, I knew where everything was.


[News] Report indicates tablet demand greater than expected

Who knew?  Analysts with IDC are predicting that sales numbers for popular Android and Apple tablets will be greater than previously thought, with an estimated 122.3 million devices sold worldwide (up from the previously estimated 117.1 million).  These trends are expected to continue though the next few years, with forecast numbers published through 2016.  Market share is expected to be largely dominated by Apple products, with Android devices coming in 2nd place, and Windows devices a (very) distant 3rd.  A whopping 282.7 million devices will be in the hands of consumers by 2016 – a number that is mind boggling to me right now.  But if folks are getting as much enjoyment as I am out of my tablet, perhaps this isn’t such a huge surprise after all.

Mobile computing and web content consumption is on the rise, especially in the global market, and tablets (as well as smartphones) are an alternative to get this content at a much more cost effective price point than a traditional home PC or laptop.  Google’s $249 Chromebook notwithstanding, most people have to have a mobile phone for a host of other reasons, and when it comes to spending discretionary cash, a lot of folks are going to choose what they need first.  And that means that the mobile phone (or smartphone) comes before a laptop or PC.  And it looks like the tablet is quickly growing into the “need” category from the “want” category.

*Source:  BGR

[Op-Ed] How the iPad mini dilutes Apple’s brand

iPad mini (front and rear)

I heard a report on the local news Friday morning about how there weren’t the same long lines for the iPad mini (which launched on November 2nd) as there were for the iPhone 5 and iPad 3, and it got me thinking.  With legions of Apple fans around the world, why would the iPad mini go on sale with less fanfare than other devices from months or years past?  Is there a crack in the facade of a company that can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to the launch of a new product?  Let’s dig deeper and see if there is evidence of what I believe to be true:  by making the iPad mini, Apple has diluted their own brand and potentially made a serious business blunder.

Long, long ago in 2010, on an earnings call for Apple, Steve Jobs had some (now very famous) comments on how he felt about the 7 inch tablet market.  An excerpt from this call is below:

“Well, one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference. It is meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size. Apple’s done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick, or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.
Third, every tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone, its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse, its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to fit a tablet in our pockets is clearly the wrong trade-off. The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.
These are among the reasons we think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA, dead on arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphan product. Sounds like lots of fun ahead.”

These comments have been picked apart ad nauseum, but the salient point is this – at the time, Jobs did not envision his company making a smaller iPad product because he felt that they were ahead of the curve, and other OEMs would be forced to compete on Apple’s terms.  Until, lo and behold, Apple has in fact now made a 7 inch product – they now are competing on someone else’s terms.  Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, begs to differ however:

“Let me be clear: we would not make one of the 7-inch tablets,” Cook said in response to a question about why the company seemingly changed its mind. “We don’t think they’re good products, and we would never make one. […] One reason is size—the difference in just the real-estate size in 7.9-inches versus 7-inches is 35 percent. When you look at the usable area, it’s much greater than that: it’s from 50 to 67 percent.”

Right to Left – Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7

Let’s not do as Cook did and split hairs:  Apple made a 7 inch tablet to compete with the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7.  While Asus recently announced that they are selling almost 1 million Nexus 7 devices a month, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is predicting between 1 and 1.5 million iPad mini’s will be sold on launch weekend.  However, this figure is sharply down compared to 3 million iPad 3’s sold during its launch weekend.  Some might say that the iPad mini lines are shorter due to internet pre-sales; long lines for iPhone 5s sold within the last 3 months (which were also available for pre-sale) would beg to differ.  Some consumers might be holding out for the 4G enabled version slated for sale later in November.  Could it instead be as some critics have said that people are better served if they want an iPad mini to wait for the improvements that will likely be coming in an iPad mini 2 next year?

The business world in general was concerned after the iPad mini announcement, and Apple’s stock price has been dropping ever since, now hovering around $580 a share (as of this weekend), down close to 18% from its previous record high of over $700 per share.  Pricing is a factor here, and the iPad mini’s $329 starting point is well above those of Android competitors.  Screen and processor specs are also lower end, compared to current iPad tech, and also lower than those of Android competitors.  In addition, there was a recent announcement of a management shake up at high levels within Apple (see more details here); all of these things paint a clear picture to me:  Apple is becoming aware that they can no longer do business as they have for so many years and expect consumers to continue to support them.

The Apple brand has been as much about innovation and forward thinking as it has been the “cool” factor of their products.  The last truly innovative product released by Apple was the original iPad, more than 2 years ago.  Apple has been all but forced into moving into the 7 inch tablet space by the success of their competitors.  And what they did was release a product that isn’t as good one of their own, similar products released earlier in the same year (iPad 3) and is priced in such a way that it doesn’t really give anyone who’s not already a loyal Apple fanboy a compelling reason to rush out and get one.

By not innovating and moving first to dominate this smaller tablet space, they have allowed Google (and their partners) as well as Amazon to take money out of their pockets.  Without innovation – all you’re left with is cool.  And cool comes with a hefty price tag these days.

[Op-Ed] Which Tablet Should You Buy?

So guess what? Yes, it’s true Apple has announced the iPad mini propelling themselves into the small tablet market. Should you buy it? Well Let’s take a look at the most popular small tablets on the market right now and see if it is in fact a purchase worth making.

Lets start with Apple. It starts out at a pretty steep price for a small tablet beginning at $329 for the 16GB. A lot of speculation was hoping that the price would be lower but you know it’s Apple they don’t follow the rules and do want they want. This does leave a lot of options available for the consumer out there that feels the need for a tablet but just doesn’t have the funds.

Next, the Amazon Kindle Fire 7 HD. I personally don’t have any experience with this or most of these items for that matter but I would say that the Kindle Fire is more of a media application tablet. It starts out at a nice looking price of $199 for the 16GB and is still hugely competitive.

The Nexus 7 which is transitioning from 8G/16GB to 32GB and likely getting cellular is rolling in at $199 for the 8GB. It runs more smartphone apps than tablet apps. Still, if that’s all you need or care about, it’s the best bigger iPod touch on the market right now. As much of an Apple fan that I am, I was considering getting my hands on one of these.

Microsoft’s Surface with Windows RT isn’t really a small tablet but since no small Windows 8 tablets have been announced yet, let’s add it just for fun. Microsoft’s messaging is still confusing and poorly articulated, with that said it will be interesting to see how it holds up and makes sense in the real world. It starts at $499 for a 32 GB.

RIM’s Blackberry Playbook is one of the original 7-inch tablets, is still one of the most interesting. I remember the original release from 2011 and wanting this device. It’s reportedly going to be upgraded to BlackBerry 10 next year, and if you look around you can find them for as little as $149.

Well there you go. Plenty of options for your tablet fix right now. And with Apple’s iPad mini starting price over 50% more than most of the competitors the question is will it be enough to take control of the small tablet market? With those crazy fanboys out there you never know but I’m more than confident saying that it will be successful. 

Source: iMore