In my opinion, one of the best features of any mobile accessory is versatility. I spend a lot of time on the go during the day, and do a fair amount of travelling for work, so earning a place in my gear bag is a badge of honor, and it usually requires a certain measure of versatility. The more bases a device or accessory can cover, the better the chance that it holds a spot there.
In the past, versatility was a given with headphones and earbuds. You plugged them into a jack and they just worked. With Bluetooth headphones, there came more freedom of movement, but with the conditions of only being compatible with certain devices and limited battery life. Now, iOS users are faced with even more complications with the removal of the iPhone’s headphone jack going forward, with several other smartphone manufacturers now making the same move right behind them. If you own both an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and an iPad, complications with earbuds or headphones will ensue.
In Part I of Ten Year In, we talked about Steve Jobs’ iconic original iPhone announcement in January of 2007, and how it looks in the light of history. Ten years is a perfect time to look back at where it all started. Now let’s go from there up to the present. Where are we now, and how did we get here? Let’s take a look.
Like so many smartphone and tablet accessory categories, stands have become exceedingly commoditized. If you don’t know what I mean, I dare you to search for “iPad Stand” on eBay or Amazon and see how long you can stand browsing the never ending list. Half of what you will find there probably comes out of no more than 5 factories in East Asia.
For all the difficulty in finding a good device stand that is versatile and stands out from the crowd, it’s an accessory we all find ourselves in need of at one time or another. I’ve had several over the years, but they all had flaws. They didn’t last. They would only work for certain devices, or in certain use conditions. Frankly, I had never owned one that I was really all that happy with. That changed when I got Lynktec’s 360 Gripstand.
As we close the book on January, the rumors of a March Apple event centered on the iPad are coming fast and furious now. There are multiple reports of a new iPad Pro in a different size, an Apple Pencil refresh, and potentially some other Apple device updates, as well. With the iPad line progressively trending away from the Air and Mini and toward the Pro line over the last year, this next event should give us some clarification as Apple’s intentions for the tablet category going forward. This will be especially interesting given the continuing declines in year over year sales and profits for the iPad line that we recently learned about during Apple’s quarterly sales call.
It snuck up on me. New iOS devices have come and gone, new features have been revealed (and in a few notable cases, removed), and a titan of the electronic age has passed from this world. However, until I got reminder a couple of weeks ago while listening to Leo Laporte’s TWIT podcast, I had forgotten that we have officially reached the ten year anniversary of Steve Jobs’ tour de force announcement of the iPhone. There is something momentous about the passage of a decade, especially in the fast-moving realm of technology, making this a perfect time to both look back at what was, and also forward to the future.
A Personal Note
In a personal sense, what stands out to me is my own hubris at the time of the announcement. I certainly wasn’t alone in this, but it makes me laugh at myself a bit in hindsight. I had heard the rumors. I knew about the impending announcement of a big new piece of Apple hardware. However, even though I had dipped my toe into their ecosystem for the first time with a couple of iPods, I wasn’t interested. Not even a little. I was a longtime Windows Mobile PDA and Smartphone user with all of the accompanying apps and accessories. I was on XDA Forums when the original XDA actually existed, and Android was still just a glimmer in Andy Rubin’s eye. I had modded firmware and hacked and skinned, and anything else possible. I was so disinterested in Apple’s inevitable phone, that I didn’t actually see or hear Steve Jobs’ presentation until a few years later. I read the early reports on the event, and then the pre-release reviews later on as the release approached, but my interest in a new platform with no ability to load applications was lukewarm, at best through the majority of 2007.
File this under disappointing news of the day. According to TechCrunch, EA has purchased the very popular Australian iOS game developer Firemint. The company boasts a workforce of 60 employees, and is best known for their games Real Racing 1 and 2, and Flight Control.
All of these titles had a high degree of polish, and have been updated several times since their respective releases. In fact, Real Racing 2 HD saw a notable update a couple of weeks ago that added 1080p video output using Apple’s new Digital AV Connector and an HDMI cable. It was the first game in the App Store to include this feature.
That is what bothers me the most about this news. Firemint was a developer known for pushing the envelope of what iOS devices can do. Real Racing 2 was one of the first games in the App Store to really show off the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, and I have already mentioned their latest innovation on the iPad 2. These innovations are what mobile platforms need, but unfortunately, innovation certainly isn’t one of EA’s hallmarks.
Over the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to check out a few Disney Digital Books. I have always been very impressed with what I have seen. My four year old daughter, Sadie, has absolutely loved them, as well. Of course, none of that is a big surprise, considering Disney’s reputation for high quality content, whether it be film, print, or digital.
As much as Sadie loves the others in the series that we have tried, there are two things that she definitely enjoys even more- princesses and stickers. Well, this week we found the perfect Disney Digital Book for her. In honor of Friday’s Royal Wedding in London, England, Disney has released a 2.0 update to their Princess Dress-Up: My Sticker Book adding several new features. As soon as I saw this announcement, I knew it was time to call my little assistant into action once more.
One of the foundational elements of the Apple experience has always been a sense of community. Being from a Windows background, I only have a few years of personal experience with this phenomenon, but I have always been aware of its existence. If you haven’t been a part of the Apple ecosystem for very long, it can be a little difficult to understand, but it is everywhere you look. From enthusiast sites and blogs, to podcasts, to user groups, to the Apple retail stores themselves, there is something at the core of the Apple experience that seems to inspire a higher lever of loyalty and devotion than your typical computer or electronics manufacturer.
I have often heard it said in the tech press that Apple isn’t competing directly with Android. They are focused on software, experience, and the mass market, while Google has geared Android more toward power users who are looking for a more inclusive and open ecosystem. This would seem to be the case if you looked at the divergent tactics employed by Apple and the bevy of device manufacturers rolling out new Android tablets.
Motorola, Samsung, HTC, LG, and many others emphasized how superior their tablets specs were to the iPad 1, and how the new Honeycomb version of Android would give users the ability to do much more than is possible with Apple’s iOS. Apple, on the other hand, choose to give only a cursory nod to the technical side of the iPad 2, focusing more on software, the experience they have gained from a year with the iPad 1, and their leading position in market share and apps. This was the case, even though the specs of the iPad 2 were largely in line with the competition.
Well, when you have as many rumors floating around as we saw before the iPad 2 official announcement today, there is bound to be a LITTLE disappointment. So let’s look at what we didn’t see or hear about.
- No Retina Display- Not a big shock to me. I don’t see how Apple could ship a screen like this in volume this year. Maybe in the iPad 3.
- No S-IPS Screen- I was a little surprised that there were no screen improvements at all. Production volumes may have been an issue here, however. Apple is going to have to produce a lot of iPad 2’s to meet the initial demand, so I guess this may be a good thing.
- No GPS chip in the WiFi Model- Oh well. Now I have to decide if I want to cough up an extra $120 for one lousy feature.
- No Carbon Fiber Body- Apple stuck with the aluminum back, but it really isn’t a big deal since iPad 2 is still thinner and lighter than the original.
- No additional ports or SD slot- Maybe a secondary port or slot was pulled at the last minute, per some reports. I am personally not surprised at this either, though. Additional ports seems very “un-Apple,” at least on what they are now calling their “Post-PC” consumer devices.
- No immediate availability- Again, not shocked about this. I was hoping for pre-orders today, though. I will be unhappy if the iPad 2 isn’t available to pick up on the 11th. I am leaving town for a few days on the 12th, and will be unhappy if I don’t have my new toy in hand.
- Memory- TBD. Apple doesn’t usually talk much about memory in these announcements, and they didn’t in this case, either. Hopefully there will be some leaks on this critical feature, but we will probably have to wait for the teardown sights to work their magic before we know for sure.
That’s the question I am trying to answer as I wait for Wednesday with my fingers crossed, hoping that the rumors of a quick iPad release are true. Like so many others have done, I put my iPad on eBay in advance of Apple’s impending announcement, hoping to get ahead of the impending price drops. I ended up doing ok, I guess, but the prices on eBay and Craigslist are already starting to fall a bit. After Wednesday, you can expect those prices to take an even bigger dip, so if you are planning on selling to raise a little cash for the iPad 2, you should probably act right now.