Monthly Archives: March 2015

iPhone-connected Canary home monitoring system hits retail stores, plans international expansion

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The Canary smart home monitoring system that started with a $100l Indiegogo goal and actually raised almost $2 million, is now available in retail stores for the first time, priced at $259.

Canary is a security camera that learns your living patterns, like when people leave and enter the home, and sends alerts to your iPhone when anything seems out of the ordinary. You can then view and listen remotely to ensure all is well.

Canary is now available in Best Buy, Home Depot and Verizon Wireless, and is also available on Amazon with free shipping. The company plans to make it available in other countries later this year.

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Wired video abuses ultra-protective iPhone cases, two withstand slams, one even survives falling safe

Most cases will protect your iPhone during regular use, and many can handle accidental drops and a little abuse, but very few can withstand deliberate punishment. An amusing new Battle Damage video from Wired uses abusive tests to crown the “toughest iPhone case ever” from four different ultra-protective models: Griffin’s $50 Survivor,* LifeProof’s $80 Fre, Lunatik’s $125 Taktik Extreme, and Otterbox’s $50 Defender. The iPhone 5 units inside the Griffin Survivor and LifeProof Fre don’t make it through the first test, a hard smash of the encased iPhone on a hard floor, but Lunatik’s Extreme and Otterbox’s Defender go onto a second test: attempting to withstand a 50-pound safe while standing in a completely vertical position.

Unless you’re planning to drop a safe on your upright iPhone, the smaller and more affordable Defender seems like a smarter choice. But only Lunatik’s metal-reinforced Extreme survived the safe-dropping test; an iPhone 6 version hasn’t yet been released. Most people will do just fine with regular iPhone cases (or great iPhone battery cases), but if you want something that can protect against Looney Tunes-like antics, check out the video for some nice camera work and screen-shattering fun.

[* Note: Wired claims that the Griffin Survivor case shown in the video is Survivor Slim, but it looks more likely to be Survivor + Catalyst, a now-discontinued $80 model that was marketed as waterproof. Thanks, Nick!]

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10 reasons why Apple is to blame for the decline of iPad sales

KGI

It has been a tough slough for Apple’s iPad since the height of its popularity in 2013. Facing its second straight year of negative growth, there isn’t a consensus on why iPad sales have declined. I believe the slump is attributable to a combination of factors.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called the declining iPad sales a “speed bump” last year before the launch of the 2014 models, but we haven’t seen what Apple plans to do to rejuvenate the product. From my point of view, Apple itself has done more to hurt iPad sales than any external factor, such as Microsoft or Google.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here’s a full explanation of my theory…

1. Apple’s bigger iPhone 6 Plus phablet has made the once popular iPad mini all but pointless. That’s not entirely true – there are significant cost differences and over 2 inches of additional diagonal screen real estate – but having a huge iPhone makes having a small tablet a lot less desirable. Combine that with the fact that most people buy their phones subsidized, and a much faster, sleeker iPhone 6 Plus costs about the same as an iPad mini up front.

Below the cannibalization of the iPad is shown in a chart from Credit Suisse. Characterizing phablets as “4+ inches” seems a little out of date, but the point is clear, phablets like the iPhone 6 are eating into tablet share across the board.
phablet killing ipad

2. This year’s iPad hardware updates weren’t terribly magical. The iPad mini got Touch ID (at a $100 price premium). The Air 2 got both faster and lighter, which is always great. And both became available in gold. But for people like me who are very content with the iPad Air – discussed in point 10 below – adding Touch ID or a golden housing wasn’t a big enough incentive to upgrade. Would sales have taken off if Apple offered more storage on the lower end, more laptop-like features, or lower costs?

3. New tiny 12-inch MacBook sales will impact professional/luxury iPad users. The 2-lb light weight and super portability will bring over folks who can spend a lot to get the latest technology. In fact, lowering the prices on the very popular MacBook Air to near cost parity per GB basis also makes a MacBook Air seem like the better deal (128GB MacBook Air: $899 retail, but often lower, versus 128GB iPad w/cellular: $829).

When I go to bed at night and have my iPad Air for consumption, there is often something important that I can only do well on my Mac (like adding something important to this post). This has happened so many times that the iPad doesn’t get picked up at bedtime much anymore. If I lost my iPad Air this week, I’d probably replace it with a MacBook.

4. Split screen iPad support and other laptop-like functionality is late in coming. If those features come out this year, and I think they will, a lot of professionals will jump on board. Currently functionality that makes an iPad a better solution to a problem than a laptop is often lacking.

5. Microsoft and its ecosystem have been making inroads into the professional ranks. You have to admit some of the hardware the Windows folks are putting out isn’t bad, especially when a hybrid computer can go from a MacBook Air form factor into a tablet form factor with a swinging hinge. Yes, I know Apple’s philosophy is not to marry toasters and refrigerators, but tablets and laptops aren’t that different anymore.

Even if they aren’t right, many folks will choose a convertible laptop-tablet PC over an iPad or a MacBook for that matter.

6imgres. Chromebooks in education. Google Chromebooks have been eating Apple’s lunch in education and ironically the iconic appeal of the iPad is partially responsible. A sysadmin for a large school district tells me that the iPad trials went something like this: 100 iPads were given out to 4th graders. Within a month, over 50% of them went missing, and a few of them broke, while 10% of them were jailbroken or hacked. At the same time, with a similar Chromebook rollout, only 10% went missing, a few of them broke, and none of them were hacked (though it is certainly hackable). Give kids free iPads and they’ll have a tendency to disappear or get subverted for personal gain.

Apple has done some work in getting its iPads in schools with some noted success and other spectacular failures.  A new initiative may really help but the fact that most schools either have Microsoft or Google email/apps on the backend means it is going to be tough.

7.  Pricing. Apple could sell iPads at lower price points if it really wanted to. In fact, we’ve seen major retailers cutting as much as $130 off the price of new iPad Air 2s, and up to $200 on the high-end models. Subsidies are another option. Apple was able to stave off any encroachment from the Amazon Fire Phone because it offers iPhones at low price points (including “free” with plan). Apple, however, has no protection for its iPad line when Amazon comes in at $100 or less for a new Fire tablet. Fire tablets continue to be popular though Amazon won’t let you know any numbers.  Spotting a Fire Phone is harder than finding a Sasquatch.

Also, 16GB is not enough space on the low end. Apple can afford to pop in 32GB of storage on the entry-level iPads and I think they will go up to this amount this year. 16GB isn’t enough for even a base model iPhone in my opinion, and with the bigger display, iPad apps need bigger files.

8. Killer App? You need a smartphone for certain things. You need a computing device for other things. There are very few apps that need an iPad, especially when you have a big iPhone in your pocket and a 2 lb. Mac next to your bed.

9. Marketing and the Apple Watch. iPad hasn’t been getting the marketing spend it got in its first years for a variety of reasons. Last year Apple had the big iPhones to explain to the public. Before that it was iOS 7’s new look and feel. This year it seems Apple is focusing its attention and every extra marketing dollar on the Apple Watch.

But Apple Watch isn’t just hurting the iPad from a marketing standpoint. Those of us who have a yearly Apple discretionary fund of $500 or so bucks aren’t likely going to put it towards the iPad this year. And Apple announced the Watch right before the holiday shopping season. Sure, that was mostly to dissuade people from buying other watches, but some folks also probably held off on Apple purchases.

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On a higher level, it also makes me wonder if Apple’s got a new paradigm. Instead of iPhone|iPad|Mac, is Apple now promoting: Watch+CarPlay+Apple TV+Accessories|iPhone|Mac in its “3 screens” paradigm? Where does iPad fit?

10. Perhaps this is unintuitive, but Apple’s incredible build quality coupled with genuine efforts to update old iPads to the latest version of iOS has made the decision to purchase a new iPad a difficult one. My old iPads still look, feel and work great. My son can still use our original iPad and a lot of the apps he likes. I bought an iPad Air last year, and it is hard to justify the purchase of a new one (even though retailers are discounting the heck out of them). My wife uses an iPad 3, and for what she does on it, there is no reason to update.

The good news here is that much of the iPad’s sales decline can be fixed by Apple, because it’s responsible for most of the issues above. An iPad Pro, price drops, a better iPad iOS version with split-screen support, and better integration with keyboards are all ways Apple could stop the decline in iPad sales and get the platform growing again. More and more engaging marketing wouldn’t hurt, either.

Perhaps Apple can fit iPad in between the Apple Watch launch and the launch of the new Apple TV?

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Purported ‘iPad Pro’ dummy model dredges up age-old rumor of dual Lightning ports

It’s been a while since we heard rumors that a new iPad model would sport dual connectors for hooking it up to a computer or accessories, but a set of photos circulating online is bringing that idea back to the forefront.

The photos claim to depict the back of Apple’s upcoming “iPad Pro,” a larger 12.9-inch model of its existing tablet. Not a whole lot of new details are visible in the photos, but a spare Lightning port can be spied on the side of the device. Typically the Lightning port is located on the bottom edge.

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While the rumor sounds a bit ridiculous and has been brought up routinely since the first iPad was debuted, there have been previous reports which indicated Apple was interested in bringing multiple ports to the iPad Pro. However, those ports weren’t said to be proprietary Lightning connectors, but rather USB 3 plugs for connecting mice and keyboards.

As we noted in the original report, iOS would need to be completely reworked to support input from external devices such as a mouse, which makes this rumor sound a bit dubious.

Even if Apple is planning to bring mouse support to iOS for this new model, it seems very unlikely that the company will add multiple Lightning connectors.

More realistic expectations for the larger tablet include more powerful internal components, stereo speakers, and perhaps even a stylus (which could work nicely with the new Force Touch technology for drawing).

Production of the device has reportedly been pushed back until September. Earlier today a similar photo leak gave us a look at what is said to be the upcoming “iPhone 6C.”

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Apple to expand iPhone trade-in program to China next week, Foxconn to resell devices on secondary markets

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Apple will begin rolling out an iPhone trade-in program in China in the near future. The option may become available in stores as soon as March 31st, allowing Chinese users to take advantage of the program that has helped boost iPhone sales in several countries already, including the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Chinese retail employees will determine the condition of the phone being traded in, and offer Apple Store credit to customers, Bloomberg reports. Devices that are traded in will be sold to Foxconn by Apple. The manufacturing partner will then make any necessary repairs and resell them through its own online outlets:

Under the China program, retail staff at Apple outlets will assess an iPhone’s condition before offering store credit for those originally bought in Greater China, the person said. Foxconn will buy the phone directly without Apple ever taking ownership, according to the person. Foxconn will repair the devices if needed and then sell them through its e-commerce sites eFeihu and FLNet, and through Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Taobao online store, one person said. Foxconn also is in talks to sell the iPhones through physical stores and may take the trade-in program online in the future, the person said.

While Apple is soon launching an Android trade-in program that lets users switching from competing handsets earn money toward their new iPhone by handing over their old device, the China trade-in offer will apply to iPhones only for the time being.

Following China, only a few major markets with Apple Stores,  such as Turkey and Brazil, will be left without in-house iPhone trade-in options. Apple’s new retail chief has been focusing on improving the company’s presence in China, with several new Apple Stores opening within the country in recent months.

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