September 30, 2012

Applesauce: All Things Apple – September 30, 2012


I prefer the iPhone 5. There, I said it, and I’m not alone.

I also prefer choice. For me, I choose the iPhone. As much fun as it is for tech nerds to constantly fiddle with their devices in the never-ending quest to get them just right, I would rather spend my time actually being productive than troubleshooting or fiddling with my smartphone’s home screen. I’d rather know what I’m getting every time, buy into a proven ecosystem, and let the phone work for me, not vice versa.

I’m sure no one is surprised to read this on a blog called “Applesauce,” but I feel it’s important to state at the onset.

However, when complaints grow about a new product, as often happens, I try to keep a level head, to understand what the real hubbub is about.

Which is all a needless preamble to the following thoughts:

Apple is coming under some very real fire this week for a few issues with the iPhone 5. Many are complaining about the battery life being worse than advertised, and some are even grading iOS 6 lower than the previous iOS 5. There’s also the whole stink about the new cord and new Maps, so let’s start there:

I don’t understand some of the fuss about Apple’s Lightening connector and Maps app.

I wrote an overly long piece about Maps last week, which you can read here, but suffice to say, Apple released a pretty terrible product, but it’s not much worse than Google’s.

About that Lightening connector:

I’ve been reading different articles and listening to podcasts in the first full week of iPhone 5 availability, and I have to say, I don’t get what the fuss is about.

For instance, on this week’s episode of MacBreak Weekly, Leo Laporte (President of the Internet) lamented about having to buy all new cords to replace his existing 30-pin cords.

I’ve been listening to Leo for several years now and think his commentary is often spot on, but I think his thoughts on Apple’s new 8-pin connector might be blown a little out of proportion.

Buying new cords sucks, sure. Yet, we’re almost always stuck buying new cords anytime we buy a new device. The died-in-the-wool geeks know where to get cheap cables, of course, so picking up a new HDMI for that new TV in the bedroom isn’t an expensive hassle. It’s just a matter of waiting for the package to arrive. Likewise, any auxiliary cords or adaptors can be easily picked up at a nominal fee, but they often need to be picked up regardless.

It’s a safe bet that most Apple fans and iPhone users have at least three 30-pin cords in their possession. If they didn’t buy them as replacements when the original cord which shipped with the phone, pad or pod went missing or was destroyed by a lovable family pet, they were acquired whenever they purchased a new device.

These cords have either been accumulated overtime or purchased as needed.

Won’t we one day get to the point where we own enough Lightening cords and accessories? Many of these people will no doubt buy a new iPad, giving them another Lightening cord. New iPod Touch? New cord. New iPhone 5S next year? New cord. Want one for your office? $20 and you’ve got a new cord. In a matter of a year, you’ve got at least another 3 lightening cords.

This change is just part of the evolution of the iPhone.

Did these people really expect Apple to short change their experience just so they wouldn’t ever have to spend another $20 on a cord? If Apple had stuck with the 30-pins for another year or two, I’d wager a guess that a number of users would have to buy new cords regardless just to replace their aging 4 to 5 year old accessories.

In truth, I’ve yet to find a hard, fast, specific reason from Cook, Mansfield or Schiller as to why Apple decided to switch to this new standard.

The best explanation we’ve heard so far comes from “Making iPhone 5 thinner and lighter required a pivotal change,” begins the ad copy.

“It features an all-digital, eight-signal design that’s significantly more durable than the 30-pin connector.”

So we know it’s smaller, and Apple says it’s more digital and durable.

Boy, did Apple ever set Samsung up with that “Digital” talk.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Apple can’t be faulted with passing off crap as accessories. For example, reviews have mostly been very positive about the new EarPods which Apple tosses in for free. Replacement EarPods are only $30 and, for the money, they sound great and fit even better.

Earlier this year, Ken Shirriff got all iFixit on the iPhone’s charger and found that, while expensive, Apple didn’t skimp on the components when building this thing, saying, “Apple’s iPhone charger crams a lot of technology into a small space. Apple went to extra effort to provide higher quality and safety than other name-brand chargers, but this quality comes at a high cost.”

Apple even continued to fidget with their 1-year old iPad 2 to make the processor smaller, more efficient and even cheaper to make, even as they were pushing their latest and greatest third-gen iPad.

Point is, based on their track record, this new Lightening thing is likely much better than the 9-year old 30-pin style.

I suspect they haven’t said exactly how this thing is better because they haven’t really had to yet. I suspect they’re waiting until they really need to explain themselves, perhaps during some upcoming product announcement. Maybe Lightening will really come into its own in an upcoming feature on the iPad Mini?

And perhaps, just perhaps, the only reason Apple needs to give us right now is that in order to make the phone smaller and lighter, they just had to change things up. In order to pack in that crazy powerful A6 and zippy LTE, they needed a smaller port.

Isn’t that a sufficient reason for now?

Some people will never be satisfied.

By all the evidence given to us, Apple appears to have worked their butts into the ground to deliver this beautiful smartphone to the masses and yet, people are still complaining.

Leaving alone the fact that we really shouldn’t be complaining about the fact that we have the option to purchase such a sophisticated piece of technology, (my inner-hippie is showing) there’s been some evidence this week that some people on Twitter are complaining about something very peculiar: The lightness of the phone.

Like ice cream, beer or 30 Rock, you can always have too much of a good thing. So, I can see how it might be a little unnerving if Apple ever released a phone as thin as, say, a quarter. Or even a half-dollar.

That might feel a little weird.

After a week of using the iPhone 5, I can say this is the best phone I’ve ever used. For all its changes— the bigger screen, the reduced weight— it just feels comfortable, natural even.

According to Gizmodo, however, some people think the iPhone is too light, and it’s putting them off.

I hate to quote tweets in an article. I feel it’s cheap and lazy and akin to calling your mother to ask her opinion about something she probably knows nothing about.

I’ll just mention that the comments range from “It feels cheap,” to “Worst phone I’ve ever held in my life.”

There’s also this little nugget on about the power cord which is shipped with every iPhone: “Day 3 of having the new iPhone and I already lost the power cord #thanksapple,”

It really is a shame that Apple is acting differently from every other phone manufacturer out there by providing their customers with just one cord.

Yes, #thanksapple indeed.

One last thing about that Maps app.

I believe it’s a terrible embarrassment to Apple to have released something so bad. However, just as I believe they’ll one day soon explain even further why they switched to Lightening, Maps will one day soon get much better.

Beloved Tech Pundit Andy Ihnatko made the point on the aforementioned MacBreak Weekly episode that he noticed some improvement within the first weekend in the Boston area.

It’s easy to pick on the top dog, and just as they say, the taller they stand, the bigger they fall.

So poking fun at Apple is fine for now, but I can’t help but find it interesting that everyone’s next choice, the product everyone seems to be clamoring for is Google Maps, a product which has seen its own faults and own missteps.

Furthermore, this Maps thing is starting to get a little out of hand, isn’t it?

For instance, Google’s Motorola has begun poking fun at this entire debacle with the Twitter hashtag #iLost.

It’s funny I guess, but as Apple Insider’s Daniel Eran Dilger points out, the address used to supposedly “trump” Apple’s Map isn’t a real address. A public park in Manhattan sits where 315 E 15th Street is supposed to be, (the address listed in the ad) but as it’s a park, this address will never be valid. What’s more, Dilger points out (and I’ve confirmed on my own phone) that when iOS 6 Maps is used to find this address, it does reveal the park, showing a picture which looks nothing like the one in Motorola’s ad. Dilger also found that, when searching both iOS 5 Google Maps and iOS 6 Apple Maps, using “and” instead of “&” when looking for intersections can throw off either application, and switching to the ampersand yielded the correct result, “Which is exactly what users in New York would do when searching for an incorrect, ambiguous street address that returned something other than the expected result,” concludes Dilger.

But the hits, as they say, just keep coming.

After one full week of fiddling with the iPhone 5, many users are beginning to notice a rather unfortunate side effect to their zippy-fast LTE. Perhaps even Apple isn’t immune to the battery sucking power of next-generation wireless technology. Many i5 users have been complaining about shoddy battery life on their brand new phones on the Apple support forums, with many saying their phones will lose as much as 10% of their battery level in an hour when their phones are locked and in standby mode. There are a few fixes being suggested on these forums, such as restoring and setting up the phone as a new device, then restoring from an iCloud backup. Others are suggesting turning off iCloud syncing for the Passbook app. Some are even suggesting turning off many of the iPhone’s critical features, such as location data and push notifications. It should go without saying that turning off features which make the iPhone a powerful productivity tool is an Android-flavored solution rather than an Apple one.

Talking battery can be a tricky conversation to have. With so many variables at play, it can be difficult to assess battery life and what could be affecting it.

Are you in an area where the radios are constantly switching? Do you have a rogue app which is constantly sending data back and forth? How’s your screen brightness?

The folks over at iLounge have performed some exhaustive testing of the i5 and previous phones, performing a sundry of tasks, such as audio playback, cellular data and voice calling. In the end, iLounge wasn’t impressed with the performance of the i5 battery, calling this issue “one of the two biggest issues with the iPhone 5.” The second issue, of course, is the aforementioned Lightening port. Lightening just can’t get any love, it seems. Maps looks to be a terrible mess in some parts of the world, the backlash from which has even caused Tim Cook to issue his sincerest of apologies and even recommend competitors’ Maps apps. If users aren’t upset about Maps, they’ll likely have something to say about the new Lightening port. In previous years, the iPhone has had at least one minor issue which Apple has had to address. This year, there are 2 main concerns, with a few other, smaller concerns Apple needs to deal with.


So, with these complaints running around, how do Apple users feel about the brand new iOS 6? A new poll by research firm OnDevice suggests that iOS 6 users are less satisfied with their new OS than they were with iOS 5.

It gets worse, I’m afraid.

According to OnDevice’s data, even Android users are more satisfied with versions 4 than iPhone users are of iOS 6. The decline in Apple’s satisfaction scores are, however, very slight. Furthermore, it may be much too early to tell. Apple users have been upgrading their devices at a lightening pace, but in the end, it’s only been available for 10 days or so. These numbers could go any way, up or down, in the future. According to the data, the average iOS 6 user rates their satisfaction level at a 7.65 on a scale from 1 to 10. iOS 5 satisfaction levels were just a hair higher at 7.75. Android 4 users, on the other hand, rated their satisfaction at an 8.07 on the same scale. Yes, it looks like it’s the end of the world as we know it. It will be interesting to see how many of these issues effect sales. There are some credible complaints swelling up from the ground and yet, sales so far appear to be stronger than ever. Do these complaints matter to the every day consumer? Or do consumers and the tech press alike get off on attacking Apple so much that they will continue to buy their products if for no other reason than to make use of clever hashtags on Twitter?

Apple has some real work to do in the future, but I don’t think it’s fair to start calling the game just yet. After all, Apple has shown us more often than not that they know how to do great things. These latest missteps…they’re all new. The scorecard is still unbalanced in Apple’s favor, with more wins than losses. We’ll have to see what happens this next year with a few more devices scheduled to arrive.

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