iPod Touch, 6th Generation: A Teen’s Perspective

Both of my kids are addicted to social media and, by proxy, the devices made of aluminum and glass that provide access to them.

For the past several months, my youngest daughter has complained of a very sluggish third generation iPod touch. It was certainly getting long in the tooth; she couldn’t even install the latest version of iOS. The meager 8 GB of storage meant she had to continually uninstall and reinstall apps in the hopes of freeing up enough space.

Feeling her pain, I agreed to purchase her one of the new sixth generation iPod touch units from Apple. While some question the validity and purpose of a new, uber-fast iPod in 2015 (when so many people have opted for a smartphone), my daughter couldn’t be happier. Apps that previously would crash or exhibit extreme sluggishness now load and execute in record time.

ipod touch 6th gen

I’ll spare you the hardware spec details of the latest touch, but suffice it to say that it has twice the memory (a full 1 GB) of the fifth generation touch and the same processor chip as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Sometimes Faster Than the iPhone 6

However, because the touch features only a 4″ screen, not the 4.7″ and 5.5″ displays of the latest iPhones, it actually loads some apps faster than its phone-based cousin. The math is simple: The touch is simply pushing fewer pixels, meaning it can execute many operations, especially graphically intensive tasks, faster than a similar device sporting a larger display.

My daughter doesn’t care about the processing chips or memory configuration of her new touch. For her, it’s all about performance. When she swipes across the screen, how fluid is the display? How well does it keep up with her multitasking and hyper-fast keyboard entry? Do apps load instantaneously, without hesitation or stutter?

In all cases, the sixth generation touch excels. Those on a budget can get an entry-level 16 GB model for only $200. The latest generation iPod is also available with 64 GB of memory for $300 and tops out at a whopping 128 GB for another $100. Like all Apple devices, the touch supports Apple’s wireless wi-fi-based AirPlay system, allowing audio and video content to be cast to a supporting receiving device (such as Apple TV and many home theater audio/video receivers, like my 2012 Pioneer models).

Cheaper Than The Previous Model

Somewhat uncharacteristically of Apple, not only is the new touch sporting twice the memory and several times the processing power of its predecessor, but it’s also cheaper. The iPod touch fifth generation 32 GB model I purchased for my oldest daughter was $300; the new sixth gen model is only $250 for the same memory configuration.

church of apple for linkedin

The aspect of the sixth generation touch that is most beneficial to my selfiephilia suffering daugher is the vastly improved camera. Sporting a slightly dumbed down version of the iPhone 6 shooter, the latest touch captures beautiful high-resolution images and high-definition (1080 p) video. It even offers a 120 frames per second slow motion mode to further keep kids (and adults) entertained.

Because the unit relies solely on wi-fi for connectivity, it supports the latest home networking standards (for those who own routers that also support the latest protocols and fastest data transfer rates). And, of course, like almost all Apple devices, battery life is stellar.

Sexy Form Factor

All of this technical gadgetry comes in a package that is slimmer than previous generations. The thickness reminds me of the feel I get when holding an iPad Air 2, with the thinness just begging for applause. Like all Apple hardware, the sixth gen iPod touch is a sexy, fast beast that will satisfy even the most hard core user who doesn’t need the cell phone network connectivity delivered by a device like the iPhone 6.

While kids love the iPad and, to a lesser extent, the iPad Mini, they still cling to their most personal of devices, the one that fits in their back pocket. While all use cases vary, it seems that the most mobile of devices are the ones that both kids, teens, and adults most covet and with which they engage for the greatest number of hours.

I realize you might be eyeing a hand-me-down iPhone 4S or 5 for your teenage children, or possibly buying them their own iPhone 6. But for those who don’t need the additional data plan and device charges on their monthly phone bill—or who are typically within wi-fi range and willing to use Skype—the iPod touch sixth generation is a sleek, leading edge solution to the social media and image/video capture needs of today’s millennials.

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Curt Robbins


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtARobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.

Apple vs. Lenovo: Devotion & Deception

The news of the Lenovo malware scare is simply another example of why I won’t use anything other than Apple products for my computers. Said Thomas Fox-Brewster from Forbes: “Lenovo might have made one of the biggest mistakes in its history.”

“By pre-installing software called ‘Superfish’ to get ads on screens, it’s peeved the entire privacy community,” continued Fox-Brewster. “Lenovo won’t want anyone to call it that, but Superfish has been described as a piece of malware, or an adware pusher, that the Chinese firm pre-installs on consumer laptops.”

lenovo-superfish-malware

Which is why all the computers in my house come from Apple. No, Apple isn’t perfect. Like cars, display panel TVs, and toasters, there’s no such thing as perfect.

Understanding mass production means comprehending that a certain percentage of units rolling off the assembly line will, for one reason or another, have a defect or problem. This includes everything from #2 pencils to the venerable BMW M5. Defects happen. Period.

Defects vs. Deception

Defects are accidental. Happenstance, if you will. Completely unintentional. Lenovo, however, engaged in deception and malice. After reading these first few lines of a TechCrunch article today, my sentiment regarding my computer choices was cemented:

Earlier this week, word started spreading that Lenovo had been pre-installing a sketchy adware program called “Superfish” onto many of its Windows PCs for months.

Then researchers started finding nasty vulnerabilities—namely, that Superfish was using some pretty ugly hacks to tinker with your computer’s encryption certificates, and doing so in a way that seemingly leaves your otherwise “encrypted” communications (everything that goes over HTTPS) unsecure whenever you’re on a shared WiFi connection (like at a coffee shop).

Preinstalling Sketchy Adware

“Lenovo had been pre-installing a sketchy adware program….” I really didn’t need to read beyond that first line of the article. I hear and read plenty of interesting things in the daily research for my writing. “Apple isn’t worth the extra money.” “Apple is too expensive.” “Apple is a rip-off.” “You’re just making Tim Cook rich; you’re a chump.”

tim-cook

But let’s read a bit more of that TechCrunch article. “Even without the security implications, Superfish was pretty sketchy. Its purpose? Catch Google search results before they hit your screen, then quietly modify them to include more ads.”

Yes, Apple products are certainly more expensive than Levono, HP, and Dell. But why do so many flock to Apple for their computing needs? I’ll admit, some do so only because it’s trendy or fashionable. These aren’t people who necessarily engage in a great deal of critical thought in deciding what computing device to purchase.

Can’t Afford Lenovo Crap

Then there’s people like me and many of my friends and colleagues. People who earn their living from the QWERTY keyboard sitting under their fingers. People who have children who rely on their income. People who can’t afford the bullsh*t coming from companies like Lenovo.

I’ve written in the past about how Apple products are superior. I even wrote about how I tried an Android tablet, only to have it croak on me within just a few months of purchase. I returned to Apple for my daily tablet needs. It’s the best thing I ever did.

macbook air for blog

The case of Lenovo is just another example of why professionals, and many who seek the best quality, reach out to Apple. Yes, there are the posers and dorks who just want to be seen with the “cool stuff.” But professionals don’t care about that. We focus on reliability, dependability, and performance. We can’t afford problems like Superfish and not being able to trust our computer vendor. We have enough vulnerabilities in our daily lives; inviting more just to save a few bucks is foolish.

Don’t Mess With the Work Truck

I call my laptop my “work truck.” Because it is. It’s my Ford F-350 pickup. And it better damn well get me to the job site every day. Lenovo may be the world’s biggest personal computer manufacturer, but it certainly isn’t the best. And, in striking clarity, it just proved it to the world.

“By this morning, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was urging Lenovo laptop owners to remove the tool.” Wow. When I read things like this, I smile, knowing I’ve made the right decision by positioning Apple as the default, trusted source for the computing needs of my family. My daughters will graduate from high school and emerge from my house knowing the value of their computing dollars.

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For those of you boasting about how you saved a few bucks by going with Dell or Lenovo for your new laptop: Have fun with that (and worrying about if something like Superfish has compromised your communications or finances). In the words of Bryan Wakefield, a Lenovo customer who commented on the Forbes article, “Just purchased a Lenovo product for the first time this year. Might have to rethink that decision in the future.”

Rethink indeed. After the Superfish stunt on Lenovo’s part (all to generate a few bucks), more and more consumers are becoming aware of the true cost of “cheaper” when it comes to computers. Pay me now, or pay me later. That’s what my dad used to say. Like it or hate it, it’s reality. Lenovo just provided it.

Trust Your Vendor?

So choose your poison. Pay more upfront for a quality product that you can trust from Apple, or pay later in loss of privacy, hidden infections, vulnerability to hackers, even more ads, fear and panic, and whatever else has been surreptitiously loaded onto your PC.

Trust is the foundation of most relationships. Be it a marriage, business partners, or product manufacturers, how can you justify paying your computer vendor to lie to you and then hijack your personal computer—all while leaving it unsecured and open to hackers?

With Apple, I pay not only for quality and dependability, but also a seemingly invisible element that you won’t find installed on any hard drive: Trust.

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Curt Robbins

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Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:3d1

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtARobbins, read his auto-related articles on CarNewsCafe, check out his Apple-themed articles on Apple Daily Report, and read his AV-related articles at rAVe Publications. You can also view his photos on Flickr.

Apple Watch: Out of Sync?

John C. Abell, Senior Editor at LinkedIn, recently published a blog post in which he suggested that society has nothing to fear from intelligent robots, a veiled reference to recent statements from Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking about the future potential of artificial intelligence. Rather than robots or AI, Abell wrote: “Batteries will be the death of us.”

flip phoneWhile this brings a gentle chuckle, there’s plenty of truth in it.

Abell described how the first generation of cell phones (“feature phones”) sported replaceable batteries that lasted for days and could be swapped out at a moment’s notice. In other words, battery life wasn’t a concern. These devices, which had a core function of delivering voice calls to their owners, did so with efficiency and long periods between charges.

Core Functionality

This core functionality, however, was replaced when smartphones supplanted feature phones and scrolling through Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and—most significantly—perpetual texting became all the rage. The purpose of the silicon wonders in our pockets shifted dramatically. Yes, at their essence, they remained communications devices. But the functionality of a “phone” changed completely. And with it, battery life became a major concern, almost overnight.

Likewise, the functionality of watches is about to morph dramatically. Wrist-adorning devices that once delivered simply the time and date (and maybe a stopwatch or countdown feature, but still mostly only time-related features) are growing into small computers with elaborate sensors that offer continual connectivity to our other devices, like smartphones and tablets.

Practicality is paramount. I’m currently engaged in a book project involving the electric car market, and Abell made the perfect analogy between modern mobile devices and electric cars: Range anxiety. Back when we had mere feature phones with great battery life, fear of the device running out of juice rarely reared its ugly head. Ample power for our phones—or the lack of said electricity—was a non-issue.

apple watch clock faceIn this respect, the forthcoming Apple Watch may be two steps forward and one step back.

Pre-release reviews are beginning to indicate that only conservative use of the Apple Watch will deliver a full day on a single charge. Granted, despite the name, the Apple Watch is much more than a mere watch. Ironically, those who want to use it as a simple, but elegant and connected timepiece will be SOL. It will deliver very few hours of straight-up clock face display, depriving wearers the ability to simply glance at their wrist and see a ticking second hand.

According to 9to5 Mac, “We’re told that the Watch should be able to display its clock face for approximately three hours, including watch ticking animations, if nothing else is done with the device.” This reminds me of the primitive, yet disruptive, Texas Instruments watches that my father and grandfather began wearing and loved in the mid-1970s, almost exactly forty years ago.

The History

These first-gen digital timepieces featured bright red LED displays that required the wearer to press a button to briefly display the time—unlike their more advanced progeny, which featured continuous LCD readouts requiring no manual intervention to simply view the hour (that’s when Japanese Casio stole the crown from American Texas Instruments).

I recall my 6th grade math teacher, Mr. Musgrave, wearing one of the slightly inconvenient, but very popular, Texas Instruments LED models. My memory of this is distinct, simply because it was readily apparent whenever he took his right hand and pressed the display button on his left wrist to tell him how much time was left in the class period.

TI red digital watchI can imagine proud new Apple Watch owners nervous to show it off, afraid it will die before the end of the business day. The Apple Watch may be like a Nissan LEAF battery electric car restricted to traveling only 80 miles on a charge. Oh-so-nice and delightfully leading edge during that 80 miles, but then you have to plug it in and wait for your next playdate.

Great Gadget; Good Timepiece?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m an Apple fan and in love with (the idea of) the Apple Watch. But already we know that those acclimated to obtaining the time by simply looking down at their wrist will be in for a surprise—and recharging their watch every three hours if they do so.

As cited by Abell, 9to5 Mac also reported that the highly-anticipated Apple Watch will deliver “roughly 19 hours of mixed usage each day, but that the company may not hit that number in the first generation version.” “Mixed use” means that the watch display is mostly off and that it’s sucking only a small trickle of juice from the battery so it can receive notifications from the wearer’s iPhone or iPad.

It’s becoming clear that the Apple Watch, at least in its first iteration, will work well only within particular use case parameters, sometimes limiting its practicality. No continually displayed time. No hours of full-bore app use. No playing Angry Birds: Watch Edition on the trip to Grandma’s house on Sunday.

apple watchIt’s beginning to sound as if this miraculous little device, which in so many respects will be uber-cool, will also be hobbled by today’s relatively primitive battery tech. It’s sad that such a great gadget will be limited by a battery that hasn’t quite evolved to meet the needs of wearables that are extremely small, yet sport bright, high-resolution displays, relatively powerful processors, and juice-draining wireless connectivity.

Slowly Getting There

The energy density of batteries, for both cars and small mobile devices, is increasing rapidly. While I’m convinced that this first-gen Apple Watch will change the industry and perform miraculous feats of silicon syncing, it simply won’t suit all use cases or please all customers.

Remember the Oscar-winning 1967 film The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman? Remember the infamous post-college poolside investment advice from the family friend during the graduation party at the beginning of the movie?

“I just wanna say one word to you. Just one word.”

“Batteries.”

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Curt Robbins


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:home theater book cover for blog footers

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtRobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.

Apple: The Myth of Too Expensive

[Updated July 31, 2015]

I often have friends approach me asking for purchasing advice for consumer tech products like computers, TVs and home theater gear, and home automation gadgets. I try to be as objective as possible. But my advice often involves recommending an Apple product.

Typically, the first response I get is “But Apple stuff is so expensive.” I’m not claiming this is a wholly undeserved reputation on the part of Apple. But one doesn’t get a Porsche for the price of a Prius. Better gear costs more. Period.

Proving It

apple tv for blogHowever, the perception that Apple’s products are vastly more expensive than the competition is, for the most part, a myth. In this short blog post, I’ll prove it.

First, let’s take a look at the increasingly crowded market for streaming media set-top boxes. One can choose from Apple TV, three Roku models, Amazon Fire TV, and others. All of which are priced at $69. I’m not going to argue that Apple TV is the best in this category; that’s for you to decide. But it’s certainly as good as the others. One’s particular lifestyle and the entertainment and hardware ecosystem into which they’re vested really determine the best choice.

I probably receive the most proclamations of Apple being too expensive in terms of personal computers. Yes, you can spend thousands on a MacBook Pro with Retina display (optioned out, one of these little beauties sells for more than $3,200) or a Mac Pro (the 6-Core model with dual GPU starts at $4,000). But these models are at the top of their classes—and are probably the best available in their respective categories. They’re extreme examples from Apple’s catalog.

237844-apple-macbook-air-11-inchMacBook Air

A more reasonable consideration is the MacBook Air. Apple’s svelt and most popular thin-and-light notebook computer (it’s barely thicker than the iPad) starts at $900. Apple quality and reliability for under $1,000 is quite a deal. I realize it doesn’t work if your budget tops out at $500 or $600. But remember the value of your time when that discount Dell or HP model croaks and you’re faced with hours invested in tech support, returns, and maybe exchanges. Not to mention lost productivity and sheer frustration. Time is money.

Mac Mini

For desktop computing, there’s the Mac Mini. Beginning at $500, this dependable little PC is the least expensive way to jump into the OS X universe without breaking the bank. At only 7.7 inches across, this cold aluminum square can deftly handle the computing tasks of the vast majority of consumers. Yes, you still have to add your own keyboard, monitor, and mouse or touchpad. However, this can actually save you money by allowing you to use peripherals you already own or less expensive competing models—although I recommend Apple across the board for these items also. (The exception is the monitor, where a much wider variety of non-Apple models can be had for a fraction of the cost.)

iphone5c-gallery2-2013iPhone 5S & 5C

And then there’s the iconic iPhone. I realize everyone wants the latest and greatest in mobile gadgets. But technolust aside, there are some great deals to be had. You can get an arguably superior Apple phone for less than many Android models. For example, take last year’s models, the iPhone 5S and 5C. On a two-year contract (the way the vast majority of consumers in the United States obtain smartphones), the 5S can be had for only $100. And the 5C can be obtained for…wait for it…free.

The next time you hear someone complain about the absurd prices of Apple’s products—and especially if they use it as an excuse for purchasing or recommending inferior products from competing companies—kindly inform them that they can have their Apple and eat it, too.

And, for goodness sake, stop imagining bloated pricing where it doesn’t exist. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my work done on my Mac Mini so I can binge watch Deadwood on HBO NOW this evening using my Apple TV….

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Curt Robbins

[For more of my Apple rants, check out Back to Apple, Apple vs. Google: Where Focus Meets Buckshot, and Need a Computer? Think Apple.]


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtARobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.

Need a Computer? Think Apple

A friend recently approached me with a request for help in purchasing a new laptop. She knows that I’m a technical writer and said she wanted the best bang for the buck—and that she wasn’t afraid to pay for quality. Knowing her needs as a grad student and being familiar with her overall lifestyle, I immediately recommended Apple’s Macbook Air (it should be noted that she owns a desktop iMac, of which she’s very fond).

She then admitted that she had her eye on a Levono Yoga. Although I’ve never owned a Lenovo product, I cringed. It wasn’t just because I had no experience with the company or its relatively new schizophrenic laptop-cum-tablet. It’s because she wanted something that wasn’t from Apple. But, lest you think I’m simply a bigoted fanboy, let me explain….

macbook air for blogI’ve owned laptops since 1988, when I got my first grayscale Zenith SupersPORT 286 in college. More important, I’ve experienced nightmares with quite a few brands and models. Topping the junk list are Dell, Toshiba, and HP. I’ve owned desktop and laptop computers from all, many of which experienced serious problems. [Because my blog doesn’t accept advertising revenue, I can actually be honest about these products.]

Forget Toshiba

A certified repair tech confided in me that Toshiba had a known design flaw that resulted in overheating in the particular model I owned—which caused the unit to spontaneously shut down (always nice when I’m in the middle of document or video editing). Instead of fixing the design problem, Toshiba chose to simply replace the motherboard. Twice. Each repair resulted in similar headaches; the problem never really abated.

Forget Dell

After purchasing a top-of-the-line Dell XPS laptop in 2011, I had to spend countless hours fighting the Austin-based company to get two—count ’em, two—replacements (very similar to the Toshiba nightmare). The second replacement’s Blu-ray player died after only a week; the tech who replaced the drive couldn’t get it to work and cited a bad motherboard. Even the second replacement (third overall unit) experienced problems.

Can you say quality in the crapper?

If I wanted to consider myself a good person, I wasn’t going to allow my friend to walk into a similar situation. However, to save a few bucks—and because she was intrigued with the Yoga’s design—she went ahead and got it. I cringed a second time. Oh boy, here we go, I thought.

Sure enough, after only a week or so, she experienced problems with the Yoga and decided to return it. Thankfully, she made this decision within the 30-day return window and didn’t experience any hassles from the reseller.

And with what did she replace it? A MacBook Pro. I smiled and breathed a sign of relief, knowing she would have several years of dedicated service and a great user experience.

Proof in the Pudding

When I was consulting for USAA in San Antonio, I produced a ton of training videos for the company’s IT department (we created nearly 700 in just over three years, in fact). I don’t cite that number for bragging rights; I mention it to reveal the intense dependability and reliability of the two computers I used to do most of that video production: A late-model MacBook Pro and a 27″ iMac.

(BTW, video editing is basically the heaviest lifting your computer can do. It’s the true test of the reliability and power of a PC.)

Prior to the instructional designer/video producer gig at USAA, I had never owned a Mac. Many of my friends had, though—all of whom raved about their precious Apple hardware as if they had drunk a gallon of the Cupertino Kool-Aid. Their zealotous enthusiasm for their Mac computers was almost frightening.

One friend described how her late-model Mac laptop, one of the old white plastic models, had literally not been turned off or rebooted for years. She worked long hours as a nurse and simply closed the lid when she left the house (Apple’s operating systems have always been based on Berkeley UNIX, the most stable, solid OS in the world).

apple logo for blogI now own a Mac Mini. My kids log some serious hours on this machine and give it a strong workout with all the streaming video they watch on YouTube and Netflix. The Mini is rock solid, has been rebooted only a few times in the past two years, and basically never experiences tech glitches. It’s so problem-free, in fact, that my kids pretty much forget it’s even there. The “computer” seems to be the display and mouse. Ah, a computing experience the way it should be: Trouble-free.

Hello MacBook Pro

My laptops, unfortunately, aren’t Apple products. They’re still functional and get the job done, so I can’t justify the purchase of new units yet. But when one of these Dell POS laptops bites the dust (which you know won’t take all that long), I’m headed directly to apple.com or my local Apple Store and picking up a Mac.

While most known for its iconic and ubiquitous iPhone and iPad lines, Apple makes the best computer hardware (and software) in the business. Period. The slight uptick in price is well worth it. (One of the hallmarks of failure in life is the inability to understand the value of one’s time; servicing and replacing defective laptops is no walk in the park.)

The next time you or one of your friends is in the market for a new laptop or desktop computer, seriously consider a Mac and stay away from the HP, Toshiba, and Dell models. If the slight increase in price concerns you, realize that a MacBook Air can be had beginning at $900. Under $1,000 for a brand new MacBook Air that’s barely thicker than a freaking iPad.

Don’t allow uninformed friends and co-workers to talk you out of a Mac because it’s “too expensive.” That’s just culture war crap and haters talking. Sometimes-immature Apple fanboys boast about having superior hardware and software, while Windows users do the same. It becomes a pissing match comprised of 12-year-olds.

Then again, if you’re a masochist, jump on that discounted Dell and smile knowing there’s a good chance you’re in for a bumpy ride. It’s your money. It’s your time.

Spend both wisely.

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Curt Robbins

[For more of my Apple rants, check out Apple: The Myth of Too ExpensiveBack to Apple, and Apple vs. Google: Where Focus Meets Buckshot.]


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtARobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.

Apple vs. Google: Where Focus Meets Buckshot

Apple’s success can be directly attributed to its intense focus on enticing design, superior build quality, and an overall excellent user experience. Yes, there’s the highly manipulated and hyperbole-laden product release press events. But despite all criticisms, few can deny that Apple’s products are either the best or among the very best available.

Unlike Google, Motorola, Samsung, LG, HTC, and many other Android-fueled smartphone manufacturers, Apple puts its considerable R&D and channel partner weight behind only two models—the last generation iPhone 5C and 5S and the current 6 and 6 Plus.

Only Two

Likewise, in tablets, Apple offers only two, the iPad Mini and the full-size Air. Desktop computers? Only three models: Mac Mini, iMac, and the brawny Mac Pro. Laptops? MacBook Air and the venerable MacBook Pro, two of the most popular computers in the world. Regardless of the number of products it its stable, Apple’s intense focus on the user experience and overall quality of its gadgets is an inspiration to the CEOs of both small startups and multinational corporations alike.

One thing Apple doesn’t do, however, is moon shots. That’s the territory of Google and, more specifically, co-founder and 30x billionaire Sergey Brin. Google’s daredevil and left-leaning computer scientist “directs special projects,” according to Google’s official Management Team webpage. He’s also been described as an “enlightenment man” by The Economist.

apple vs google for twitterThe products of Brin’s efforts? Self-driving cars (legal to “drive” in California and Nevada), Google’s Project Loon, an internet delivery mechanism intended to help previously unserved regions of the world via what’s basically a high-altitude weather balloon, and the infamous and celebrity-endorsed Google Glass smart glasses (the owners of which, when wearing them in public, are said to be glassholes by the gadget’s critics).

Lab Experiments

I’d argue that Google Glass and Project Loon are really just lab experiments with an abundance of media exposure and good PR. This is despite the fact that Glass is now available for anyone to purchase. But at $1,500, it’s an expensive experiment in wearables on the part of customers, the pursuit of which defies the practical disposable income of most middle class consumers. The self-driving cars, however, are truly impressive. They do more than provide gee-whiz technology to a burgeoning generation of millennials who are less concerned with driving than the status of their social media lives. They disrupt—and in a big way.

As impressive as Google’s self-driving cars are, two of Google’s three major moon shots are currently unavailable to even the most well-heeled consumers. Apple’s products, meanwhile, can be purchased anywhere, including Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy. Contrasting the two companies, in many ways, is truly comparing apples and oranges. Another difference between these tech titans is Google’s offering of affordable ultra-high-speed residential internet service in the form of Google Fiber. Unfortunately, this service is in only Austin, Kansas City, and Provo. Thus it, too, is basically unavailable to nearly all consumers.

apple logo for blogBut what about the largest, most important product category: Smartphones? The playing field was recently leveled when Apple released the significantly enlarged 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and it’s big brother, the 5.5-inch Plus variant (the first iPhone to sport a true 1080 display). While it could previously be argued that Apple had great hardware that wasn’t satisfying consumers’ desire for larger screens—driven primarily by our insatiable desire to consume video from YouTube, Netflix, and Facebook—this is no longer a pertinent argument.

Now that Apple has upped the ante by competing on size, it’s hard to knock advising consumers to simply purchase an iPhone and get on with their lives. In reality, Apple is actually offering three smartphone display sizes because it’s still selling the 4-inch iPhone 5 models. For those who prefer a smaller, more pocketable form factor, 2013’s iPhone 5S is an excellent choice, especially for those wanting the photo and video capturing capabilities of the iPhone 6 and the majority of its processing power. Those criticizing Apple’s prices as being prohibitively high need to wake up and smell the coffee; the iPhone 5C, the award-winning smartphone with a reputation for capturing excellent photos and superlative video, is available from nearly all carriers for free (subsidized on a two-year contract). If you can live with the smaller screen, last year’s 5C is the value leader, costing you nothing out-of-pocket.

Goodbye Bloatware

There’s also the fact, in no way insignificant, that Apple’s products completely lack bloatware and, in the interface department, are skin-free. While manufacturers like HTC, LG, and Samsung continue to tweak and augment their respective versions of Google’s Android mobile OS, Apple’s iOS is free of any carrier-loaded software “enhancements.”

In addition, updates to Apple’s mobile operating system are available immediately to its entire installed base of devices (including its tablets), whereas Android updates are provided by Google to phone manufacturers, which must then apply their own modifications, typically releasing them months later—or not at all (carriers are under no obligation to provide Android updates to their subscribers).

tim-cookFinally, one can’t help but analyze the situation from a business perspective. As Apple CEO Tim Cook recently pointed out (and ad-free social network Ello emphasizes), with Google and its free services, you’re the product. You and the data regarding your online preferences and behavior are the product sold by Google to advertisers (just like how Facebook operates). With Apple, including all of its services, you’re the customer. Apple in no way remarkets or sells the data regarding its customers to advertisers or third parties.

In the end, the mature stance is understanding that Apple and Google each possess distinct and contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Google takes a buckshot approach to its products and services, spreading its resources among a weird variety of both practical and, seemingly, impractical projects—which may or may not become available to consumers (there’s a reason Alyce Lomax at The Motley Fool called Google a “Jack of all trades, master of none”).

Apple, thinking different, focuses on the few painstakingly positioned models in each of its product categories, ensuring industry-leading quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction while sweating the details for each new product cycle.

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Curt Robbins


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtRobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.

Back to Apple

Everyone loves to take sides in the religious war between mobile platforms. Like trying to walk away from a Spanish soap opera, it’s a drama from which millions of fanboys on both sides of the fence seemingly can’t disengage. “Mine is great, yours sucks” is the tone we so often hear. Platform preachers and mobile zealots love to tout the superiorities of their particular corporate religion. Like Republican versus Democrat or Christian versus atheist, you’re either one of us or you’re one of them.

My first tablet was an iPad. It was a great experience. But when my daughter began stealing the device to use high-end drawing apps like Procreate with an increasing frequency, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and simply purchase a new tablet for myself, relinquishing the iPad for my artist-in-residence 14-year-old. I was curious about Android and the hype surrounding the then-anticipated Nexus 7 tablet with the Kit Kat operating system, scheduled for release in August 2013. So I watched the product announcement online, got excited, and purchased one on Amazon.

Objectively, of course, the stock version of Google’s Android OS installed on the Nexus 7 was superior to Apple’s iOS in some ways, but couldn’t live up to it in others. We all have different sensitivities, so which is “better” overall is truly a matter of personal opinion. However, because of those subjective sensitivities, there is a right tablet for you. And, as I’ve learned, there’s definitely a right tablet for me.

apple logo for blogThe proof was delivered by a single app: Flipboard. This tremendously popular news aggregator boasts more than 90 million users. As its name implies, Flipboard provides a tiled layout, with each square on your screen representing a different media source of your choice. Because my 2013 Nexus 7 tablet featured the latest generation software and hardware, I anticipated even better graphics performance than I was getting from my older iPad. Or at least equal. This was a logical assumption, right?

Flipboard, delivered via the Android app on the Nexus 7, seemed half-baked. The tile pages stuttered and briefly froze as I swiped through them when checking my media sources. The pages typically never moved smoothly from one side of my tablet to the other. It was as if the GPU (graphics processing unit) had narcolepsy, falling asleep briefly at the times I needed it most. After the smooth Flipboard performance on the iPad, the Nexus 7 delivered a herky jerky user experience that was the mental equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. It was as if the iPad was a graceful ballerina, while the Nexus 7 was a drunken frat boy.

Then, after only 10 months of use, the Nexus 7 died. One morning I awoke to the colored balls of the Google startup logo spinning incessantly. Three attempts later, the unit continued to refuse to boot up. I was forced to call Google’s tech support. After identifying that the problem wasn’t with its operating system, Google forwarded me to Asus tech support. Asus arranged an in-warranty return of the device for repair or replacement. I was now going to be out-of-pocket with a device that was an important part of my daily workflow. Doing business with Google and Asus was becoming a pain.

In the meantime, I began using the iPad again (my daughter won’t be “liking” this blog post, trust me). Despite being older generation hardware, Flipboard’s pages turned smoothly and elegantly. The stutters and moments of micro-hesitation exhibited by the Nexus 7 were nowhere to be found. It took only a couple of days for me to realize that I really wasn’t looking forward to the return of the Nexus 7. I had been spoiled by Apple and it’s buttery smooth graphics processing. It was as if I had driven the fast and silent Tesla Model S and, in migrating to the Nexus 7, was being forced to downgrade to a loud, slow Chevy.

ipadLater, I happened to be in a Verizon store in my community and, while waiting for a customer service rep, was playing with some of the display devices. I approached an iPad Mini. Low and behold, it just happened to have Flipboard installed. I began swiping on the screen, noting the perfectly smooth action of the pages as they turned under my finger. I began swiping faster, trying to force the Mini to stutter or somehow show weakness in its processing and display of the highly graphical, ever-changing tiled pages. But alas, I couldn’t. The Mini running Flipboard was perfect in its graphics prowess. Stuttering Porky Pig had left the building.

Like it or not, Apple’s tight integration of hardware and software—combined with the adoration and efforts of so many of its third-party software developers (like Flipboard)—results in the best user experience available. Period.

I’m sure this stance seems trivial to many. It’s just a few chokes, locks, and stutters, after all. While I fully respect the admiration that Android fanboys and users have toward their devices, I, personally, am returning to Apple for my tablet fix. It’s not only the smooth operation of Flipboard and similar apps that is beckoning to me. It’s also the mere fact that the iPad, having logged many more hours and tons more abuse (under the hands of my teenagers) than my Nexus 7, has never died. My wife has an even older second generation iPad. Again, no headaches, no problems; just a smooth user experience in any app. Yet after a significantly shorter period of use (not even a year)—and being babied and never dropped—the Google/Asus Nexus 7 croaked.

Before lashing out in the comments, realize that I’m not a blatant fanboy of either platform. It’s why I have open-mindedly tried both. But the proof is in the pudding. Yes, Apple is more expensive. But now I have a strong, “been there, done that” understanding of what that extra money delivers in terms of value, reliability, and overall user experience. Regardless of price point or specific features, Apple’s smartphones and tablets are now the assumed standard in my home.

Anybody want to buy a slightly used Nexus 7 tablet?

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Curt Robbins

[Also see my related blog posts Apple vs. Google: Where Focus Meets Buckshot, Need a Computer? Think Apple, and Apple: The Myth of Too Expensive.]


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtRobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.