October 14, 2012

Applesauce: All Things Apple – October 14, 2012

Where oh where is the iPad Mini? After a steady build up to a supposed press event, nothing.

Elsewhere, iPhone 5 “issues” are starting to become, how do you say, frivolous as they die down. It seems, on the whole, most people genuinely enjoy their new i5s. Put on your collegiate hoodie and let’s head to the orchard, I’m craving homemade applesauce and cider.

Purple Haze

Well, it’s been a little over a week since anyone made a stink over iOS 6’s Maps, what may have been the only real issue with Apple’s iPhone 5. Oh sure, you’re already foaming at the mouth, recalling stories you’ve read about battery issues and Wi-Fi issues and that damn Purple Haze. (An aside: I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have lashed out at you that way…I don’t know why I picture you as being an angry know-it-all neck beard. I know this simply isn’t true. Still love me?) It is my opinion that Maps was a big misstep on Apple’s part and now that they’ve apologized, the World has moved on to other, more pressing issues of the day, like saving Big Bird (a much more worthy cause.) No, the Internets and YouTubes thrive on any whiff of an Apple fail, they feed on it, scouring the support forums at looking for their next feast. And this year, they’ve come up hungry more than once. As a human being living in a developed country, it can be frustrating to find any sort of defect in a product you’ve spent more than a few week’s worth of drinking money on. The people who have experienced any of the aforementioned issues likely believe them to be very real, very important issues because they affect them personally: They had to stay up late after the family went to bed, reading the forums, Googling the Yahoos, trying to find a fix. I, for one, experienced some bad battery juju in my new i5 and had to find a fix for it. A restore to a new device followed by another restore from iCloud backup later, and I’ve had no issues. The point is, while these problems can be frustrating, they are always overblown simply because they involve an Apple product. Save the iOS 6 Maps debacle, there is always a fix available.

(With Maps, there’s simply a workaround…for now)

Even if the fix requires taking the phone back and getting a replacement, there’s always a fix available. Sometimes these issues may or may not even be real issues. Let’s take, for instance, the matter of Apple’s Grooviest “non-issue,” the Purple Haze, wherein an unlikely supporter emerges from a stack of numbers and statistics to defend and old foe. Not long after the first i5s landed on the doorstep of many an anxious fan, a bubble began to rise from depths of the ‘net. “What’s wrong with my camera?!” these early adopters would lament. “There’s a Purple Haze on my crappy picture of the sun!” Not long after, Web sites and forum boards were dotted with bright photos, each already ruined by the sun and yet, also touched with varying degrees of a purplish hue. Immediately, the Sapphire Crystal lens cover meant to offer an extra bit of scratch protection was fingered as the culprit. Then, iPhone 4S owners began to notice the same thing, wondering aloud if the issue was with iOS 6, (Maps ALL OVER AGAIN!) as some said they never noticed the issue before the upgrade. Working quickly and, already in the apologetic mood, Apple issued a statement about this Purple Haze-Gate which essentially read: “This is normal. Every small camera (yes, even every iPhone) is susceptible to this kind of lens flare when a bright light enters the corner of the frame. Just move the camera, you big dummy!” Ok, I may have embellished a little.

Then, others began to water down this whole Apple gang-bang by saying even they’ve noticed the same thing on Android phones.

Android people, am I right? Can’t let Apple fans have ONE little scandal all to ourselves?

This week, Consumer Reports (yes, that’s right, Consumer Reports, creator of a number of -gates: Antenna-gate and heat-gate, most notably) came to Apple’s defense, saying that even though they had their own issues with Apple’s claims of better low-light performance, they found the camera is “no more prone to purple hazing on photos shot into a bright light source than its predecessor or than several Android phones with fine cameras.” In fact, CR went even further, saying the hue also showed up on crappy, sun streaked photos taken with the Motorola Droid Misspelling Extra Exes Phone as well as the Samsung Galaxy S III (cue duh duh DDUUUHHHH sound.) In many ways, it’s the iPhone 4 Antenna debacle all over again, wherein a problem is shown to affect a small amount of users, the same problem is replicated on other phones, and finally everyone kind of moves on. It is odd, however, that the same publication which started the drama in 2010 is trying to quell it now. Perhaps they’ve gone soft? Tired of having to buy Apple products right out to test them and hope to get in Apple’s good graces once more? The world may never know.

Are You Experienced?

And what of these labor disputes? In another i5 non-issue, some have complained that the back of their aluminum smartphone is more easily scratched than their aircraft-grade glass iPhones 4 and 4S. I want to tread lightly here. As I mentioned before, issues become more serious whenever they affect your personal device.

I’m just anal retentive enough to be tempted to bash my iPhone and use up one of my 2 accidental damage trade-ins with AppleCare+ if my i5 were to become scratched. A scratched iPhone, on the other hand, is still a pocketable computer from the future.

A scratch is purely cosmetic.

Even if the iPhone 5 were more easily scratched than other models, it certainly doesn’t imply that Apple has suddenly begun to let their high standards slip. Quite the contrary, actually.

Consider the following: The iPhone 5 has been breaking records since September 14th. It sold 5 million units in the first 3 days. Apple hasn’t released any more sales figures since (they will soon) but safe to say, they’ve probably sold a few million more since then. As each year passes and Apple sells more iPhones, they’re still able to ship a solidly built phone. It’s nearly always the first comment reviewers and consumers alike have when picking up the latest piece of Apple gear: “This thing just feels solid.” In fact, if anything, Apple continues to improve on their build quality as they tighten down on their tolerances. It’s this stubborn insistence that every iPhone be as close to flawless as it can be which has reportedly started the recent labor disputes over at Foxconn. According to a story from Bloomberg Business Week, the Chinese plant had to halt production for the second time in as many weeks due to protests from workers in the quality assurance department. According to the report, Foxconn lost two shifts on the fifth when workers became so frustrated about trying to prevent scratches on the sides and backs of the iPhone 5, they started fighting with their bosses. some 3 or 4 thousand employees walked away from the plant, but have since returned to work. These employees were likely trying to rectify an issue wherein some users opened up their brand new iPhones to find scratches on the back. It’s not easy to hear that a few scratched iPhones has led to protests in China, and I don’t want to play the guilt card. However, this seems to be where we are. We want our luxury items, we expect Apple to make them perfectly and when they don’t, fights break out. All in all, when it comes to issues such as Purple Haze or scratched backs, it’s important to take a look at the big picture. Apple is known for taking care of their customers and if you feel an issue is too much to handle, then they will try to make it right. If not, you can get your money back band move on to an Android or Windows Phone, easy as pie. The bottom line is, for problems such as these, there’s either a fix or an escape route. Lucky for you, you have a choice.

Love Or Confusion

Speaking of choice, Android fans will soon have a choice of which Galaxy S III they’d rather have…full size or mini. Samsung unveiled their new Galaxy S III Mini on Thursday in an event in Frankfurt marking a significant departure from their recent attempts of distancing themselves from Apple’s designs by creating larger and larger devices, many with styluses. A Samsung marketing rep told the folks at Engadget that the company wanted to release this smaller device in response to those consumers who liked the design of the popular Galaxy S III, but didn’t like walking around with a huge bulge in their pants. The new S III Mini is also a step down, spec wise, from its larger sibling, carrying a 1GHz dual-core instead of the Exynos quad-core (1.5 GHz dual-core for America, mind you) and a 4-inch WVGA AMOLED screen with a max of 32 gigs of memory.

(An aside, if you’ll allow me: How much does it suck for American S III owners to know they aren’t given the same quad-core processing power?)

With these specs, the S III Mini is clearly no real contender for the iPhone 5 and yet, it certainly seems as if they want to compete with the iPhone, at least in terms of size. In fact, it almost seems as if even Samsung was fooled by the rumors of an upcoming Apple iPad Mini event as they quickly announced this new device a week before Apple was expected to hold their own event. While they confirmed that this smaller device was in fact real (it had been rumored for a while) they didn’t announce availability or pricing. It’s rumored, however, that this device is set to compete against the iPhone not in the States, but in other countries where the iPhone mightn’t have such the strong hold it does in America. This phone could even be a nice little entry-level option for those on prepaid plans who want a touch of Samsung without the price or the extreme size. With so little information, it’s left to be seen how this device will be received. Some wonder if this phone could dilute the Galaxy S brand Samsung has worked so hard over the past few years to cultivate. At this point, it looks as if they main reason to buy this phone is its smaller form factor and price point. Apple has always been good at not only convincing users to buy their products, but persuading them to spend a little more than they had planned on. Potential iPhone customers might walk into an Apple store determined to leave with a $99 iPhone 4S, but once they’re there and able to see the larger screen or how the i5 is considerably faster than last year’s model, it becomes hard to pass up the temptation of the new thing for just $100 more. Potential Samsung customers could either pay less for the S III Mini (at least, we assume it will be less, how much less is yet to be seen) and get a smaller phone or pay more and get a larger phone. It’s left to be seen how size will affect sales of these Galaxy devices. After all, the most stubborn of customers may be able to pass up a zippier processor so long as they leave spending as little as they can, but will Samsung customers be wooed by the Exynos quad-core processor, only to be turned off by the giant display? Sure, they may like the option of a much crisper display, but at what cost? In other words, Samsung could be leaving money on the table. They might be able to persuade customers to upgrade, but the screen could be a turn off for them. Then again, I’ve been wrong before. I thought for sure we’d see a Wednesday iPad Mini announcement, and we clearly know how that turned out.

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