No Early iPhone 5 Upgrade for You … or Me

Like I’m sure many people did yesterday, I checked the upgrade availability for the new iPhone 5 on Apple’s site, but I was surprised to see that unlike previous years, there is no early access.  Instead, what I found was that I am “eligible” for the unsubsidized price until May which is obviously disappointing.

I have no intention of paying $649 for the 64GB phone or even $449 for the 16GB option. I can’t imagine I’m the only one in this situation as I bought the 4S when it was initially released.  Not sure what this might do to those anticipated holiday sales, but it’s likely to slow a large portion of the potential upgraders into next year as a result.

Now would be a great opportunity for another carrier (hello, VZW, Can you Hear me now?) to swoop in and offer a competitive switch opportunity.  It could generate a great deal of good will, brand love and of course a new base of recurring payments on the network.  This is common in car sales where a competing brand might offer a dealer incentive to get you out of another car’s lease early.  I don’t believe there is any precedent in wireless for this, but hey no time like the present!

When the cloud works

I’m just starting a vacation with my family in an area with fairly limited connectivity. This isn’t a bad thing in fact it’s quite nice on many levels. The house we are renting has an incredibly slow but functional Internet connection which is essentially a satellite point to point from across the lake.

We’ve rented the same place a few times and this year found an AppleTV here which I’ve logged into for streaming music to the stereo, (very) slowly browsing Netflix and as I’ve just realized / remembered streaming a good portion of our home music collection via iTunes Match. We’d beamed some Spotify earlier while prepping dinner but it’s quite nice to have access to what’s yours as well. This is the first time I’ve connected my iTunes account on a new / random AppleTV and it’s quite excellent to see it in action.

At this point only Google an Apple offer such tightly knit systems. Amazon has much of this to provide as well but like Google lack the tightly connected hardware like AppleTV – even in its current hobby state – to make things this simple. Now that I’m logged in we can easily (bandwidth limits aside) stream “anything” on our collection purchased or not. The only restriction with Apple’s solution I’ve encountered is they do not sell an advanced package to upload / sync very large collections. Google Music seemed to enable my collection to upload but it’s nowhere near as easy to stream on a stereo here – or at home.

These services and general consumer knowledge of them are still pretty limited in use – compared to the more mainstream use case of an iPod plugged into a stereo though it’s not a hard concept to grasp … I’d love to even see guest access pop up as a feature … I guess that’s part of the Nexus Q when that makes a return. Could be an interesting fall …

After all these years … iPhone goes unlocked

Waking up to see the iPhone finally and officially offered as an unlocked device made me quite happy. It’s somewhat ironically showing up the day Apple also agreed to settle with Nokia over their long debated patent issues which is interesting given my long history using Nokia unlocked devices.

If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone 4 is the best choice. It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. via Apple Store U.S..

In the years since I’ve left Nokia, I’ve also gone back to buying on contract for my personal devices as the Apple / AT&T upgrade plan has worked just fine and I’m fortunate enough to be able to migrate devices for business using a work-provided SIM. I haven’t seen anything but positive reporting about the changes to iPhone availability … some noting of course the “high” pricing though those prices are close if not even more expensive than the historical “expensive” unlocked Nokia devices which used to be counted against them.

As times have continued to evolve courtesy of the pressures Apple has been able to provide in the industry it’s likely the real buyer is the more niche traveler (able to find micro sim cards) but really the grey market. With an unlocked iPhone now available you don’t even have to jailbreak it to resell in a capable GSM country. It’s ready right from the box ….

Apple’s Post-PC BS

Apple’s claim that we are in the post-pc era is a load of garbage. This weekend I had the pleasure of updating our iOS household and it required a lot of tethering a lot of time and thanks to one particular failure quite a bit of frustration.

As anyone who’s purchased an iPad knows to activate even the wifi only device requires a sync with iTunes which of course requires both a computer and a cable. iTunes controls everything. It downloads the updates, confirms your device is authorized and flashes things over … all via the cable. In our house, we sync two iPads and two iPhones on two different computers though we share the same AppleID to ensure we can easly share apps and content.

Things were generally smooth for my devices which sync through my older MacBookPro. The update process on the iPad took a very long time, while the iPhone was processed a bit more quickly. In both cases you have to back-up, acknowledge the update, (though backup first) and the sync and restore … iTunes takes care of this, but it’s quite the process.

My wife syncs against her PPC Mac Mini which is older and slower. Her iPhone updated as expected, but the iPad failed. The failure occurred sometime over night. It had already taken hours for the backup and I just left it running when we went to bed. Unfortunately things did not resolve well … Failure in sync for those who have not lived through this means you have to start fresh. Fresh means nothing on your device. You can of course re-download everything or try to restore. Given how long the initial process ran, I opted for the quicker route … this is where the Post-PC BS really comes into play. There is absolutely no direct way to download everything again from the iPad. You have to hunt for everything all over and download them one at a time … You also really get to appreciate Apple’s design of the App Store which closes out on you for each download.

In contrast, on Android when you sign into your Google Account all your apps, settings and preferences come right down. When I upgraded to the Nexus S from the One, I found even my hidden wifi networks auto-reconnected when I was nearby. When I played with the Xoom recently, my apps did not download immediately (presumable to enable preferences between phone and tablet) but did all nicely line up in the Market ready for a single click to download again.

Apple’s reliance on the computer is certainly friendly for the lower end user, but is incredibly limiting for the more advanced consumer. There’s nothing post-pc about connecting to the pc to do the heavy lifting.

itunes home sharing – auto sync?

 

It’s honestly been a while since I’ve actively explored iTunes or tried to solve syncing media in the house so this feature may have existed for a bit.  Tonight however, I was setting up a new machine and activated home sharing and then clicked into the settings (bottom right in iTunes from within home sharing).

 

As you can see there’s a handy option to automatically transfer new purchases between machines … While I wouldn’t want to have my full collection floating around on multiple devices based on the size, it is nice to have the option to capture the updates.  I just purchased the new Alexander album on my main machine and I can see each track is syncing over as the initial download completes.  Very cool.

Print to any printer from your iPad

Printing from the iPad ... #handy

I don’t actually print very often, but it’s nice to have the option and given the amount of time spent with an iPad in my hand it tends to be my primary screen. As you might already know AirPrint is limited to a small handful of the latest HP printers and given I’ve got an Epson at home, I’m SOL for the time being … or so I thought.

Volker Weber published a very simple howto to get printing going with any printer via Macs running 10.6.5. Follow the instructions … it worked great for me and I printed my first test page within a few minutes.

It’s time for socially linked purchase accounts

Apples new approach to social is welcome but also shows just how lightly the social impact was thought to have in the broader ecosystem of iTunes.

In our home, my wife and I share an iTunes account so that our purchases can be easily distributed between systems.  Both of us have an @mac address though mine is the primary for purchases.  With the launch of Ping, the social stream presents itself within the Apple framework, yet is locked to a single user view.  In our personal world, it is impossible for both my wife and I to take advantage of the system without sharing a profile.  With Apple’s current focus on purchase forward activity, this might make some sense for how your actions represent you, but this is ridiculous if you participate within the social system.  We don’t share a facebook account and have different friends, Ping should respect that we well.

Prior to Ping, these issues existed around recommendations and in fairness, are not unique to Apple. We also share an Amazon account primarily for Prime, but also now as we both utilize the Kindle service making it easy to share books.  I’m used to seeing purchase recommendations for things my wife has bought on Amazon and while we don’t read the same things, I can file that info away for potential future gifting opportunities.  I’m certain that the Prime sharing is not unique nor is the sharing of purchase accounts … courtesy of DRM.

In today’s highly social world, we need a way to uniquely identify ourselves, yet also a way to properly (legally) purchase together as a household.  We have three children and already one with an iPod, yet at almost 7yrs old she’s not making purchases herself just yet.  As my kids get older, they’ll want to connect with their own friends and see recommendations based on their tastes – not those of their parents.  Thus far, there is no way to do that without creating individual purchase accounts, which means we can’t easily share the content between ourselves – which of course has always been possible with physical media.

If there was a method to link our accounts to a master purchase record, we should be able to purchase and share uniquely, yet maintain a single household record for DRM.  This would be ideal and frankly doesn’t even seem that hard to do.  I’m sure people would cheat something like this much in the same way people break DRM.  There’s no stopping the hacker types, but for those of us just looking for an easy and fair way to utilize the content we are legally purchasing … there’s got to be a better way.