Tag Archives: Newsstand

What OS X Mountain Lion Needs to be Killer

Yesterday, I posted a glowing review of OS X Mountain Lion. I was able to do so because Mountain Lion is a solid OS, and Apple’s strategy of merging the features of iOS and OS X is creating a solid ecosystem. But there are improvements Apple could make to OS X, and features of iOS that could be brought over to the Mac. I thought I would outline my suggestions to bring OS X to the next level.

One of the oldest apps on OS X is iTunes. iTunes is a great media organization app, but it is outdated. Apple has not updated iTunes since 2010, and it is beginning to show its age. iTunes needs a new layout and an easier way to organize and access all the content it contains. Currently iTunes houses the App Store, iTunes Store iBooks Store, music library, books, audiobooks, ringtones, movies, TV shows, radio stations, Podcasts, and iTunes University.

There is so much in iTunes, that it may be time for Apple to take another one of its iOS strategies to the Mac. Apple has been breaking up iTunes in iOS and has introduced separate apps for Videos, Podcasts, and iTunes University. These apps are not preinstalled on the phone but are are available in the App Store. Perhaps Apple should consider breaking up iTunes on the Mac as well. Individual apps could easily be distributed through the Mac App Store. Apple’s media event in the fall has traditionally included an iTunes refresh, and I am hoping for a major update from Apple.

A few years ago, Apple began ported some of its Mac applications to iOS. One of the first was iLife. iMovie, iPhoto, and Garage Band are all available on iOS and Mac OS X, but the layout of these apps on iOS, specifically the editing features on iMovie and iPhone, is more user friendly than on the Mac. I really expected iLife ’11 to match the iOS apps more closely, but instead Apple only rolled out a minor update.

My issues with iLife also extend to iWork. While iWork on iOS is similar to iWork on OS X, there are some differences in layout that would be beneficial to Mac users. Unlike iLife, Apple has not updated iWork for Mac since 2009. There have been minor updates, but iWork remains largely unchanged. Hopefully in the coming weeks, Apple will announce major changes iWork and iLife to make the OS X apps feel more iOS like in operation and function.

Apple has spent the last five years working to improve iOS and adding innovative and competative features. Some of the features, like iLife and iWork, were Mac apps ported to iOS, but there are two iOS apps that I would like to see developed for the Mac. The first is iBooks. Amazon’s Kindle app for Mac is a great option for those who like to read on the Mac, but it is strange that Apple has not made its own iBooks app and store available to Mac users. The iBooks store is available through iTunes, but purchases are only viewable through iOS. The other iOS app I would like to see brought to the Mac is Newsstand. Reading a newspaper or magazine on my Mac would be great. Like iBooks, it is possible to download Newsstand apps on the Mac, but they must be viewed on iOS. These two apps alone would really make the Mac more competitive and would be beneficial to the developers in both stores. Both apps could take advantage of iCloud and sync bookmarks and downloads between a user’s devices. I think Apple is really missing out on something big with iBooks and Newsstand.

There is one more app that I would love to see ported to the Mac. iOS 6 will feature Apple’s new maps application, and I think it deserves a place on the Mac. Garmin has an app that allows users to plan a trip on their Mac or PC and sync the data to their GPS. Apple could use iCloud here as well. A Mac owner could plan their trip on their computer then have iCloud automatically sync the trip data to their iPhone via iCloud. Of all the suggestions, this is the furthers from happening at this point because Apple’s Maps are still in beta, but this would be a great feature and a great selling point for the OS X – iOS ecosystem.

When Apple began blurring the lines of iOS and OS X, I was skeptical. Having used iOS 5, OS X, and iCloud for the last year, I believe that Apple is heading in the right direction. But Apple needs to stop taking incremental steps. Apple has clearly committed itself to this transition, and they need to step it up the transition. For the last several years, Apple has outgrown the market in the Mac segment. With these simple improvements, Apple could have an unbeatable ecosystem for years to come.

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iPhone 4S Review

It turns out we did not get our fabled iPhone 5, but we did get a new device from Apple last week, the iPhone 4S.  As usual, I received my device on day one and am prepared to review it.

Design

The iPhone 4 had an impressive design with glass and on the front and back and a stainless steel band holding everything in, and the iPhone 4S maintains that design.  The 3.5 inch retina display remains as well.  Again, those hoping for the iPhone 5 might be disappointed, but the 4S looks great, especially in white.

Hardware

What is new with the 4S is the internals.  Apple’s dual core A5 chip (from the iPad 2) is paired with 512MB of RAM.  Apple claims the A5 will improve performance by up to 2X for daily tasks and up to 7X for graphic rich games.  The iPhone 4S is quicker at launch apps, loading apps, and just about everything else.

Another major change internally is the antenna.  There was a lot of controversy surrounding the iPhone 4’s antenna.  So much that Apple provided free cases to iPhone 4 customers experiencing a drop in network connectivity.  Apple has supposedly fixed this issue by allowing the phone to switch seamlessly between two antennas built into the phone.  So far, tests have indicted this system has worked.

Camera 

Apple is very proud of the fact that the iPhone 4 is the most popular camera on Flickr and they have upgraded the camera for the 4S. The sensor is increased from 5MP to 8MP, but the real story is in the CMOS sensor from Sony.  The backlit sensor allows in more light making the images crisper in low-light situations.  In addition, Apple has added an additional lens into the design allowing for more accurate color depiction.  All these features, along with the new  f/2.4 aperture (improved from the old phone’s f/2.8) make for a great camera.

In addition, the camera now takes 1080p video and, paired with iOS 5, includes many new built in photo editing options.

iOS 5

The latest release of iOS improves greatly on what Apple has already created, and addresses many of the concerns put forth by those in the tech world.  The creation of Notification Center is certainly one of the greatest features in iOS 5.  Notification Center is similar to that on an Android device and makes it easy to keep track of everything you missed.

Other features such as: iMessage, Newsstand, Reminders, Twitter integration, and mail improvement are just a few of the over 200 new features in iOS 5.  Perhaps one of the greatest new features is the fact that Apple has made their devices truly wireless.  It is not longer necessary to sync your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to iTunes for backups and updates.  Syncing can be done over WiFi and the OS is now updated over-the-air via delta updates.

Overall, iOS 5 is a very solid OS.  There were some download issues when it was released last week (my iPhone 4 was bricked for a few hours), but that was largely due to the amount of traffic on Apple’s servers.  It has been reported that 1/3 of all iOS devices are now running iOS 5.  It hasn’t even been out a week yet!

iCloud

A major new feature of iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion is iCloud.  iCloud allows the user to wirelessly sync photos, calendars, contacts, bookmarks, documents, books, mail, and iTunes between all your Apple devices without the need to sync.  It is all done automatically and it works very well.  For example, I downloaded an iBook yesterday to my iPad, it automatically downloaded it to iTunes and to my iPhone.  I also added an appointment to my calendar on my iPhone and it automatically added it to my calendars on my iPad and MacBook Pro.  As Steve Jobs said in June, it just works.

All these features are also accessible from iCloud.com if you are not on an iCloud enabled device.  Users can also signup for a free .me email address if they choose.  Perhaps the most amazing part of iCloud is the price, FREE.  iCloud is free to all iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion users.  I believe this is going to start a trend in the tech world as cloud services become more and more popular.

Siri 

Perhaps the greatest, and most fun, feature of the iPhone 4S is Siri.  I am sure you have seen all the articles about Siri’s attitude and snappy remarks, but she really is helpful.  She can send email and texts, set reminders and appointments, make phone calls, play music, search the web, and just about anything else you might need.  She does so, as she says, humbly.  Siri is remarkably smooth for a beta and there are few times that she misunderstands.

Yes, Siri is fun to ask off the wall questions, but she is very useful and I think will only get better with time. I believe that Apple will eventually share Siri’s APIs with developers and we will see voice integration with 3rd party apps and that will truly make Siri the master of everything.

Impressions 

I have to admit that at first I was a little disappointed by the announcement of the iPhone 4S on October 4, but after using it for a few days, you begin to realize that Apple still has the complete package.  Having used Android phones, most recently the Samsung Galaxy S II, there appears to be an inherent cheapness to the feeling of the chassis of many phones.  The iPhone 4S, like the iPhone 4, feels very strong and durable, despite being made from glass.  The other issue with many phones is the disconnect between the hardware and software, but with Apple, both are made by the same people to ensure they work together seamlessly.  The iPhone 4S is a strong smartphone with great overall features, but other devices, such as the Motorola Droid RAZR, are thinner and have larger displays.  Apple is on par with the current market, after all, Apple did sell 4 million over the weekend, but a major redesign in 2012 will be required if they do not want to fall behind the crowd.

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The Problem with Apple’s Newsstand

Apple’s iOS 5 is full of great new features (features I will review in full detail in my review of the iPhone 4S) and one of my favorite was supposed to be Newsstand.  I say “supposed to be” because there is one major flaw in Newsstand.  It is not the fact that it is nearly impossible to put Newsstand into a folder, but it is the price of subscription to some of the publications.  The idea of selling media digitally is to cut down on the costs of printing and postage.  One would think, therefore, that digital editions of magazines and newspapers would be cheaper than their paper counterparts, and some are.  For example, The New York Times can be delivered to your iPad for $20 per month.  That is a $10 savings per month over home delivery costs.  Autoweek’s digital subscription only costs $4.99 for a year subscription, half off a print subscription.  National Geographic charges $19.99 for the Newsstand subscription, the same as print.  Charing the same amount is fine, but some magazines have really gotten it backwards.  Motor Trend is a great example of a poorly conceived pricing structure.  If I subscribed to Motor Trend by mail, I only pay $10.  However, if I want to get it digitally on my iPad it is $19.99.  WHY???  The iPad edition is more interactive and includes videos, yes, but I can get the same videos from their website for FREE. Why should I pay more for a magazine that it not generating the costs of printing and postage?  Motor Trend is not the only magazine doing this, here are a few other examples:

-Popular Mechanics: $12 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

-Esquire: $8 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

-Golf Magazine: $10 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

-Reader’s Digest: $10 by mail, $14.99 on iPad

-Vanity Fair: $19.99 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

-The New Yorker: $59.99 by mail, $59.99 on iPad

Publishers need to realize that in order for a digital distribution system to work, they are going to need an aggressive pricing strategy.  Charging twice as much for digital over print is ridiculous.  I understand that this is new to many publishers and they are working on pricing, design, etc, but I feel that over time prices will come down.  I do not mind paying for content, but I do mind being screwed.

*I have emailed Motor Trend with my concern and will update this post if they reply, but I doubt they will.

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