First Full Day of Spring – New Apple Goodies

It’s the first day of Spring, and Apple has sent released new products

Rumors of a March Apple event have been circulating for many, MANY weeks. With the end of March quickly approaching, continuing rumors changed March to April, and the rumors persisted.

I never thought there would be a Spring Apple event, regardless of the month. With Apple announcing WWDC dates in February, I never really thought that there would be any kind of streamed event prior to June. In my mind, all that a pre-June event would accomplish would be to lessen the impact of the introductions Apple had on the books at WWDC.

When Apple instead issued press releases on new products, everyone got what they wanted. The public got new goodies, and Apple didn’t ruin the impact of the June keynote with an event just a few months before they announce the 10th anniversary iPhone. With that, let’s take a quick look at everything that Apple announced yesterday.

Product RED iPhone
Apple released a 128GB and 256GB Product (RED) iPhone 7 and 7 Plus for $749/$849 and $869/$969. The anodized aluminum’s red color with white front bezels joins last year’s new matte black and jet black colors with the same set precautions – the finish could scratch and flake very easily.

Gold, Silver and Rose Gold anodization doesn’t seem to have the same set of issues that “colored” iDevices do. Those finishes don’t seem to have the tendency to flake and scratch like true colored anodized surfaces do. Users will need to take care with those devices. Some kind of clear case (otherwise, why get the (RED)..??) will need to be applied in order to keep the finish scratch and flake free.

PRODUCT(RED) is the brand that has been used for more than 10 years of partnership between Apple and (RED). Products with this special branding and color give customers a way to contribute to the Global AIDS Fund and “bring the world a step closer to an AIDS-free generation.”

PRODUCT (RED) iPhones will be available to order on Apple’s website, at Apple Stores, and at select authorized resellers and wireless carriers. The new model will begin shipping to customers by the end of March in the United States and will be available in more than 40 countries and regions around the world.

5th Generation iPad (iPad Air 3)
Apple today announced it is launching a new 9.7-inch iPad equipped with an A9 chip and a brighter Retina display. The new model is set to replace the discontinued iPad Air 2.

The tablet, which Apple is simply calling “iPad,” is Apple’s new entry-level model at the 9.7-inch size, starting at $329 for 32GB and $429 for 128GB.

The new device is similar in many ways to the iPad Air 2, which had an A8X chip and started at $399; but is slightly thicker and heavier. The new device has a faster A9 chip and a brighter Retina, but non-laminated or antireflective display.

The device’s tech specs also include a2,048‑by‑1,536 resolution and 264 PPI display, 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera, two speakers, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, Touch ID with Apple Pay, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.2. In many ways, this device can be considered the iPad Air 3, though Apple has chosen not to give it that name

iPad mini 4 128GB
Apple today announced that its iPad mini 4 is now available with up to 128GB of internal storage. The Wi-Fi only version starts at $399. The previous, 32GB Wi-Fi only model has been discontinued. A cellular model with 128GB of storage is also available for $529.

The newly priced iPad mini 4 is available now on Apple.com in Silver, Gold, and Space Gray with next-day shipping.

Don’t expect much more out of the iPad mini line, such as a Pro model. The fact that the mini got an EARLY Spring update likely precludes it from getting the Professional treatment with any additional iPad updates that might come to the Pro line in June. Look for this line to be discontinued no later than this time next year.

iPhone SE 32GB & 128GB
iPhone SE is the four inch version of the very popular iPhone 6. It was released to satisfy those folks that just couldn’t use the iPhone 6/ 6s/ 7 or iPhone 6/ 6s/ 7 Plus without painful hand stretching.

Previously, the iPhone SE was available in 16GB and 64GB storage capacities for $399 and $449 respectively. The 64GB model was initially $499, but it received a price cut following the iPhone 7 launch. The new 32GB and 128GB models replace the 16GB and 64GB models and will remain available in Gold, Rose Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

Storage was the only tech spec update this iDevice received. The new iPhone SE models will be available online and in stores starting on Friday, March 24.

Apple Watch Bands-o-Plenty
As widely anticipated, Apple today also debuted its new Spring 2017 lineup of Apple Watch bands. The new line introduces all-new options like Striped Woven Nylon bands, a set of sold-separately Nike Sport bands, and new colors for Hermès leather bands. Every band is available to order now on Apple.com.

Striped Woven Nylon bands now come in Berry, Tahoe Blue, Orange, Red, and Pollen. There’s also an all-new, solid Midnight Blue Woven Nylon band. The new Apple Sport bands are available in Pebble, Azure and Camellia. The Classic Buckle has gotten a small buckle redesign and now comes in Sapphire, Berry, and Taupe colors.

Users can also finally buy the Nike Sport Band separately in Anthracite and Black, Pure Platinum and White, and Volt and Black. The company is introducing new collections of Nike Bands as well, including a 38mm and 42mm Space Grey Aluminum Case with Anthracite and Black Sport Band and 38mm and 42mm Silver Aluminum Case with Pure Platinum and White Sport Band.

Apple Watch Hermès line is gaining new colors as well. Users can now choose from a 38mm Double Tour in Bleu Zephyr Epsom leather, a 38mm Double Buckle Cuff in Fauve Barenia leather, a 42mm Single Tour in Lime Epsom leather, and a 42mm Single Tour in Colvert Swift leather. One new addition to the Hermès collections and it includes the Apple Watch Series 2 with the 38mm Double Buckle Cuff in Fauve Barenia calfskin leather.

Bands are an easy and very affordable way (excluding the Hermes collection) to spice up your Apple Watch and bring it some exciting, new life. All of the new Apple Sport, Nylon and Nike Sport bands are available now for $50 bucks. All of the new Apple leather bands start at $149.99. The Hermes Bands start at $489 for the Double Tour, $339 for the Single Tour, and $680 for the Leather Cuff.

iTunes 12.6
One of the very few software announcements Apple made include the release of iTunes 12.6 for Mac. iTunes 12.6 introduces a “Rent once, watch anywhere” feature that lets iTunes users watch iTunes movie rentals across all devices with iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

Prior to the 12.6 update, an iTunes movie was only available on a single device at a time. When a movie rented on a Mac was transferred to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod using USB, the movie became unavailable from an iTunes library until returned to the Mac. This limitation has been removed with this update, and rented movies can now be watched and transferred on any device running iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2.

This feature begs the release of both iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2, so it’s likely that these new operating system versions will be released in the coming days and weeks. Look for them on a compatible iDevice near you very, very soon.

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FEATURE REVIEW – DBZDRESS Flux Battery Case for iPhone 6/6s/7 Plus

Every now and again, Facebook ads offer some interesting purchases…

Introduction
Back in July of 2012, the New York Times published an article announcing the opening of small business shops on Facebook. Since that time, you’ve probably seen the number of shopping based posts in your feed increase. This is Facebook trying to claim their slice of the ecommerce pie.

I get them – meaning product ads – all the time. Most of them are either gadget or watch related. I’ve purchased a couple things out of these ads. In most cases, these are Shopify powered vendors. They may or may not have a true web presence, and in most cases don’t have any other type of ecommerce platform than the one offered through Shopify. This would include, oddly enough, a number of vendors that either live or drop ship directly from China.

One such vendor is DBZDRESS. They had a HUGE push about six to eight months ago regarding iPhone battery cases. (by the way, a quick look on what battery cases they offer as of this writing, indicates they aren’t offering any…)

While it was available, I purchased the Flux Battery Case from DBZDRESS in mid-November 2016. Here’s my experience with the company and with the case from the time that I ordered the case until I received it, and started using it.

Order, Shipping and Product Receipt
Believe it or not, this is probably 75% of this story; and it’s probably one of the biggest messes I’ve seen in a while.

The timeline here is way more protracted than it needs to be. In fact, it was nearly criminal. I was very close to contacting the Better Business Bureau and reporting and filing complaints against the company I purchased the case from as well as Facebook. It got kinda weird.

I ordered the Flux Battery Case on 2016-11-15. My credit card was charged immediately, and my credit card was charged almost immediately. Shopify sent me an email about the purchase, and I waited.

On 2016-11-22, I got a notice from USPS that the device had shipped. On 2016-12.02 I got a notice that the case had entered customs in China. It was updated again on 2016-12-07 but there was no event detail provided. The last that I knew, the case was stuck in customs.

I contacted DBZDRESS on 2016-12-23. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. It was ignored.
I contacted DBZDRESS on 2017-01-13. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. Again, it was ignored.

I contacted DBZDRESS on 2017-01-27. I requested assistance on the status of the shipment. Again, it was ignored.

I received the battery case on 2017-02-05. I got a reply from DBZDRESS on 2017-02-06 telling me that I had received the case, and that it didn’t look like I needed help any longer. DBZDRESS thanked me for my time and my purchase, and sent me on my way.

This is by far the worst customer service experience I have ever had, with any vendor, EVER. I am not used to being ignored, not once or twice, but three different times, without my emails – which are the only way to reach out to them – even so much as acknowledged… until AFTER the product was received.

Based on this and this alone, I don’t care HOW great the case is, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing anything from these guys ever again. They’ve pretty much ruined any repeat business from me. I did a little looking into DBZDRESS and they have a forum on their website. After readying through the few comments that actually have been posted on their site, it’s clear that my experience is not unusual. In fact, it’s the norm.

Product Review
The Flux Battery Case is slim; and its simple. It contains a 2000mAh battery; and only adds 0.2″ of thickness and 2.5 oz. of weight to your iPhone. It provides little to no protection to your iPhone. So, do not look to it to do that.

The case provides power; and that’s about it. When the battery in the case is activated, it can take your native battery from 0% to 80% before it dies, itself. The case is supposed to support USB pass through according to the product’s website. However, the version that I bought from DBZDRESS doesn’t do this.

The battery in and of itself does a decent job of charging a dead iPhone. The specs for the case say it can take from 0% to 80% and it’s supposed to do it without going to sleep. That hasn’t been my experience.

My Flux Battery Case charges the battery or charges the case. It will charge both at the same time, IF I attach the battery connector to the phone and then plug the case in; but that’s about it.

An angled view of the case notice the open connector leads on the bottom, the stored connector on the bottom corner and the damage to my screen protector The bottom of the case. The connector attaches here, via the Lightning port and the four leads.
The left side of the case. Notice the cut outs for the volume rocker and the sound switch. The top of the case.
The right side of the case. Note the cutout for the wake/ sleep button and the power connector. The power connector removed. A Lightning cable goes into the opening on the side of the case to charge it. The connector, inserts into the bottom of the case.
The power connector and the bottom of the case. Turn the power connector over and firmly insert it into the Lightning port on your iPhone to charge your iPhone. The power connector attached to my iPhone 7 Plus.
The power connector attached to my iPhone. Note the green power light under the case. This notes that the case is charging the iPhone. An elevated view of the power connector attached to my iPhone 7 Plus. You can more clearly see the damage to the screen protector, on both bottom corners, here.

Conclusion
In the end, the case does what its advertised to do, but not without a couple of hiccups.

It doesn’t do USB pass through, as versions now available, do. I’ve tried with different cables and different computers and USB connections. It simply doesn’t work.

The case also seems to sleep, or stop charging my iPhone, 10-15 minutes after the device sleeps. At this point, the case stops charging your iPhone, even though it still has ample charge left in its battery. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I have no idea what is going on here; and it’s very frustrating

Waking the device does not reactivate the charging mechanism in the battery case. In order to get it charging again, you have to pull the connector out of the Lightning port and reinsert it. As long as the case’s battery has power, it will start charging your iPhone again. However, I still wouldn’t consider the charging mechanism to be reliable. If I have to wake my phone in order to insure that its taking a charge, I’m going to waste power that I would much rather just get banked into my iPhone’s battery than burned by the LCD or other component because the phone has to stay awake to get the most benefit from the case’s battery.

The cases provides little to no protection to your iPhone. Don’t look to it to do that. I have a $35 Invisible Shield glass screen protector on my iPhone 7 Plus that now needs to be replaced thanks to this case. I’ve used these screen protectors on my last couple of devices (iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and now iPhone 7 Plus), and I’ve never had to replace one of these. There are deep scratches in it near the top, two corners and chips and breaks in both bottom corners.

I’m not pleased with this case, and for the amount that I paid for it ($50USD, shipped direct from China) and with the atrocious customer service experience I had actually getting the case to me, there’s little to no chance I’ll ever purchase a case – or any other product, for that matter – from DBZDRESS. I suggest you steer clear of them as well. Based on how they dealt with me, I’m lucky I received the product I ordered at all.

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Apple’s Wireless Airpods Delayed

If you’re looking for a set of Apple’s newest, wireless tech, you may be waiting a while…

With the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the entire world is losing their mind when it comes to privately listening to music. Apple provides a pair of Lightening Based Earpods, as well as a dongle that connects to your older 3.5mm headphones and allows you to connect to the older jack. However, all of this back and forth doesn’t sit well with a lot of folks, and as such, many are going down the wireless route.

apple-airpods

Unfortunately, there are issues there, too; but all of THAT… is another story.

If you are interested in looking into wireless sound, you’re going to have to wait on Apple’s specific solution, Airpods. Apple says they aren’t ready and that they need a bit more time. As reported to TechCrunch,

“The early response to AirPods has been incredible. We don’t believe in shipping a product before it’s ready, and we need a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers.”

Its not clear exactly what the problem is. It could be a hardware issue. It could be a software issue. While experiences with AirPods up to this time, have been largely positive, every test… every encounter has been with preproduction hardware. That’s a fancy way of saying that everything is up for grabs. Nothing is final at this point. Nearly everything about them can change.

What seems to be universally understood at this point, however is that Apple wants to take their time with their Airpods. Their desire is to get it right; and to get it right the first time. So while many potential users may want them and want them badly, Apple sees the importantce of getting this right, and is taking their time.

Or at least that’s the story that we’re getting out of Cupertino right now. Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t given any indication of when the wireless headset will be made available to the public.

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Buy an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, Lose your Job

Buying an iPhone 7 in certain countries is a shortcut to the unemployment office

I saw this on BGR and thought that it was totally outrageous. However, outrageous is totally from an American point of view – in China, if this report is accurate, this is a huge issue.

Patriotism in China runs deep with their citizens. Nearly everyone there loves their country and they have a huge sense of national pride; and this extends into the corporate world as well as with individual citizens.

So as I mentioned, BGR that some Chinese companies have issued warnings to their employees that purchasing an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus may result in termination of employment. While no specific individual has been singled out as of yet, some companies have issued formal written warnings against the purchase of Apple’s flagship smartphone.

For example, the BBC is reporting that Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site much like Twitter, has issued a stern warning to all of their employees: buy an iPhone and don’t bother coming to work.

iphone7_purchase_warning

There were also a couple of hospitals of note that told their administrative staff,

“Anyone who insists on purchasing one will be removed from candidacy for annual rewards of outstanding performances. And those who could not afford an iPhone 7 cell phone but still bought one will be asked to resign.”

Nearly everyone that I’ve mentioned this to has found this to be completely outrageous. They find it hard to believe that an employer can legally put that kind of consumer purchasing pressure on their employees and get away with it. Apparently, they can in China.

While technically, the sale of the iPhone isn’t banned in China, it is if you want to keep your job. Who knew..?

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Unboxing the iPhone 7 Plus

In the following video, I unbox the all new, 128GB, matte black, iPhone 7 Plus

The iPhone 7 Plus is the hottest smartphone on the planet right now. The device is sold out; and while Apple and their manufacturing partners may be hard at work trying to replenish stock levels, there isn’t an unspoken 7 Plus available on the planet right now.

I was lucky enough to get one and my matte black iPhone 7 Plus arrived on 2016-09-20, two years to the day, after I unboxed the iPhone 6. It was a nostalgic moment for me.

In this almost eight minute unboxing video, I unbox the 128GB matte black iPhone 7 Plus and do a quick physical comparison to the 64GB iPhone 6s Plus.

I’ll be doing a first impressions document as well as a review on this in the next few days, so stick around for more iPhone 7 content.

Also, if you have something you’d like me to cover, or if you have questions about the device, leave them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to get to them in one of these upcoming posts.

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The Road to Seven

It’s always a journey. Sometimes it’s not as easy as it should be…

iPhone 7

Over the past six years, I’ve been an iPhone user. I’ve owned an iPhone 4s, an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 6. On Tuesday 2016-09-20, I will be an iPhone 7 Plus owner. They say that getting there is half the fun. Normally, it is. This time, however, there were some unexpected bumps in the road. Before I get to all the fun that comes with a new phone, you need to hear about the journey.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, is this a big deal..? No. Not even a little bit; and this is definitely a first world problem. However, it was a bit maddening and just a whole not confusing.

I woke at 2am on 2016-09-09 and after a problem accessing my AT&T wireless account, and got in to my account’s upgrade options for the three lines of four lines service that I have. It took a great deal of effort to actually order the upgrades for my three lines. I admit that it was mostly my fault.

The biggest problem that I had was that I couldn’t, for some reason, actually get all three phones into 1 upgrade order. I also was having a very hard time processing even one upgrade order. This was largely due to the amount of traffic on the AT&T site and on the Apple web site as well. Both sets of servers were throwing inventory and order information back and forth between each other.

Though I had gotten myself actually in and functioning at about 2:15am CDT, I quickly found out that delivery dates had quickly been pushed back. Matte black iPhone 7 Pluses were showing a delivery date between 2016-09-23 and 2016-09-30. Jet black was showing delivery dates between 2016-10-14 and 2016-10-21. I found that to be completely amazing. Delivery dates for these had been pushed back by a month in less than 15 minutes.

The rose gold iPhone 7 Plus that I ordered as the last upgrade had a delivery date of 2016-09-16. However as of this writing, it has not arrived. I won’t arrive until sometime on 2016-09-19, three calendar days after it was promised. Getting it, even to this point of “in transit” status was a bit of a nail biter, too. Unfortunately, I can’t get any information out of anyone at AT&T as to WHY the order took the route that it did.

Briefly, the series of events went like this:

  1. Order for the Rose Gold, 128GB, iPhone 7 Plus was placed on 2016-09-19 at 2:22:27am
  2. Order Shipping date was listed as 2016-09-15
  3. Order Delivery date was listed as 2016-09-16
  4. I called AT&T at around 2pm CDT on 2016-09-15, as I had not received a shipping notice yet, to check on the order. The customer service rep I spoke with insured me that the order would ship as noted (on 9/15) and would arrive on 2016-09-16, as AT&T had recently switched their standard shipping method from 2-day to 1-day overnight.
  5. On 2016-09-15, Apple announced that all currently available iPhone 7 Plus devices, in all colors and storage sizes, were sold out; and that all iPhone 7’s in Jet Black, in all storage sizes, were sold out. Availability dates for new stock, as of this writing, still have not been announced.
  6. I awoke on 2016-09-16 to check the status of the order. I still had not received a shipping notice or any kind of text update from AT&T. I found that the device’s order status had been changed to BACKORDERED. The device’s shipping date had been changed from 2016-09-15 to 2016-09-16. The DELIVERY date remained the same – 2016-09-16.
  7. I called AT&T on three (3) different occasions on 2016-09-16 inquiring about the status of the one device that was supposed to be delivered on that day, but had been marked backordered. No one… absolutely NO ONE had any information. When I described the situation to the, and they looked into the order, inventory, allocations, etc. the response from everyone was nearly identical – “huh… well, that’s strange. I can’t find any information on why this is backordered.”

    They also could not find any information on when it would ship, nor why the delivery and ship dates hadn’t updated to reflect the new status. Unfortunately for me, my experience with the customer service reps I was connected to got progressively worse as the day wore on. None of them seemed to understand what I wanted or why I was calling, and when I finally was able to help them to understand, they couldn’t answer any of my questions.

  8. In a fit of desperation, I tweeted my case to @AT&T and to @AT&TCares
  9. I got a response about 30 minutes after my initial tweet from @AT&TCares. Literally, as soon as I got that response and notification of it on my iPhone, I got a shipping notification in my inbox for the rose golf iPhone 7 Plus. The shipping status changed from Backordered to Shipped. I had a tracking number.

Unfortunately, I have NO explanation on what happened. The only thing I can come up with, based on my own logistics and manufacturing experience is that someone made a data entry mistake when updating the ERP. It was corrected later via the normal shipping process, which updates the order with the actual shipping date as well as with a tracking number.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about this, is that despite calling three times, no one could get past the customer support script and give me any real information on what was going on with my orders. The biggest concern I had with this over this past weekend was, ‘will what I experienced with orders being placed on backorder without any available to me or to any of the customer service reps I spoke with, going to happen to the other two lines of service I have on my account?’

It’s a good question.

It was one I asked three different customer service reps…AND it was one that none of them could really answer. (though all of them acknowledged that they’d love to know the answer to it too…)

UPDATE
I am pleased to say that the rose gold, 128GB iPhone 7 Plus arrived as promised today 2016-09-19. My daughter is setting it up as I write this. I am also pleased to announce that my order for a matte black, 128GB iPhone 7 Plus has shipped and is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, 2016-09-20.

I will be doing a formal unboxing tomorrow night and will have that passed over to Soft32 ASAP. You can also expect a first impressions article, a few blog posts on the iPhone 7 Plus vs the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus, as well as a review of both the iPhone 7 Plus and iOS 10 this month.

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IPhone 7 Rumor Roundup

Apple intends to announce the next generation iPhone at an event on 2016-09-07…

iphone 7

I’ve been doing this for several years now – Apple prognostication, I mean. I must say… I mostly suck at it.

In fact, most everyone does. Well, except for Ming Chi Kuo. He’s an analyst for KGI Securities and he has the best record for predicting what Apple will actually introduce; and even HE isn’t infallible. So, take everything you read about what Apple will actually introduce – including what I’ve included here – with a grain of salt…

So, as I said, Apple is likely to announce iPhone 7 (or whatever they decide to call it…) on 2016-09-07. For the last two years, we’ve gotten two different size iPhones: the 4.7 inch iPhone 6/6s and the 5.5 inch iPhone 6/ 6s Plus. Everyone, Kuo included, is expecting that to continue with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Given this, the follow are the most commonly rumored and agreed upon new features by anyone that’s attempted even basic iDevice prognostication:

  • Increased screen resolutions
    • 1920×1080 (1080p) for the 4.7-inch and
    • 2560×1440 (2K) for the 5.5-inch.
  • DCI-P3 wide color gamut with True Tone support. (OLED??)
  • 3GB of memory
  • 32GB of entry level storage, 256GB max storage, likely on the 5.5 inch Plus model
  • Apple A10 system-on-a-chip
  • Increased water resistance.
  • Dual-lens camera for better low-light and depth-of-field. (Plus only)
  • Space blue color option
  • Gloss black color option
  • Additional Stereo speaker (and removed 3.5mm headphone jack, despite what Woz wants)

There may also be other iDevice announcements at the September 7th event, but honestly, I – and I think most everyone – is most interested and concerned with what happens with the iPhone. However, you can expect updates on iPhone as well as AppleTV, Apple Watch and iPad.

I’ll likely have something on the event after its concluded, reviewing everything that Apple is planning on doing. Stay tuned…!

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