Category Archives: Hardware

Hardware

OK, I rolled over and bought the iPhone X. Here’s why…

Me with my new Apple iPhone X at my local Apple Store.

Here I am early on Friday morning at the Apple Store in Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m picking up my brand new Apple iPhone X.

I said I wasn’t getting one (at least one of the first ones), so how come now I am? Well, because I was curious about some of the new technology.

  • The new OLED screen? Beautiful! It looks like the graphics and text are painted on – as close to a perfect screen as possible with 2017 technology. Does the black “slot” at the top center and the “ears” on the top left and right bother me? No, you get used to them very quickly. BTW, how did Apple stuff a 5.8″ screen (larger than my “old” iPhone 7 Plus with a 5.5″ screen) into a shell that is about the same size as a standard 4.7″ screen (like a standard iPhone 6, 6s, 7 or 8)? I don’t know, I don’t care, but am very glad they did. A sweet fit in the front pocket of my pants.
  • The facial recognition system? Amazing! Fast and accurate. The system recognizes my face very quickly and unlocks the phone in an instant. It can only get better as time goes on.
  • The missing home button? No problem once you get used to it. The phone requires different gestures with your fingers, but they are easy to learn and use.
  • All the dozens of other improvements? Animoji’s?, studio lighting? front sided stereo sound? person-to-person payment system? Yup, all are accounted for now or very soon with a simple software update.
  • Overall appearance and look and feel? Pretty much perfect. Slim, lightweight, with the proper dimensions and “touch.” Easy to look at and easy to hold. A little slippery when holding “naked” (withhout a case.) The front and back of the iPhone are glass and really need to be in a case to be more secure and less slippery. As always, I love the Apple iPhone leather case. Lightweight, slim and buttery soft leather. Even smells good. No more slipping and sliding!

Originally, I held off on ordering an Apple iPhone X because with so much new technology I thought there might be early production problems with the hardware and software. I should have known better.

Apple releases no product before its time. Sure, there are a few things that will be improved as they go along. But certainly nothing major that would hinder your enjoyment and use of a great new iPhone.

Bottom line – if you can afford it and want the newest and greatest go get one.

Why I didn’t order a iPhone X

It’s that time of year – November and the iPhone frenzy is well underway.

I have been on AT&T’s new iPhone every year program for several years. But this year I didn’t order an iPhone 8 or X.

Here’s why. I currently have an iPhone 7 Plus. I checked the specifications of the iPhone 8 Plus and did not see enough of a difference to justify starting the financial clock over by upgrading.

I really considered upgrading or buying outright an iPhone X. There are dozens of new features that are truly the future. But the press has been merciless about the potential for problems with all the new and revolutionary technology.

So I decided to finish off buying my iPhone 7 Plus and hopping off the merry go round with a new phone every year, but always with 24 monthly payments (in fairness to AT&T always interest-free.)

Will I eventually buy an iPhone X? Absolutely! Check with me in three to six months after Apple stabilizes manufacturing and IOS 11.x works smoothly with all the features of the iPhone X. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy a lower bill from AT&T for a while.

How did Apple defy physics in the new 10.5″ iPad Pro?

Stuffing clowns into a car
Stuffing clowns into a car

  
Hardware:

Many people are scratching their heads about how Apple managed to cram an iPad Pro with a 10.5 inch screen into a case that is only 9.8 inches tall. This new model replaces the “old” (last year’s model) iPad Pro which featured a 9.7 inch screen stuffed into a 9.4 inch tall case.

The answer is simple: Apple pretty much took out the margins (bezels) on both sides of the screen and raised the top by only .4 inches. The margins are the areas that allowed us to rest our fingers or palms on the screen yet would not activate the screen. It seems that Apple has improved the hardware and software to a point where the screen does not register misplaced fingers and palms. Bottom line: the new screen, in pretty much the old case, gives us 20% more screen “real estate” to enjoy sharper (i.e. higher resolution) images, and 50% brighter than last year’s model.

The new iPad Pro 10.5 retains all the quality of the original with an ingenious four speaker stereo system and side edge connectors for accessories like the super slim Apple Smart Keyboard. Upgrades to the device include a more powerful set of cameras (front and rear), the main CPU goes from an Apple 9x chip to an Apple 10x chip which boosts basic processing, resulting in an increase over 250% faster than the previous model, and graphic processing is over 400% quicker than before. Apple claims that all this new hardware will not affect the strong 10-hour battery life.

Other improvements include the availability of a full-size Apple Smart Keyboard and new cases and covers to accommodate the slightly taller body. The new iPad Pro 10.5 also has the fingerprint scanner home button and supports the Apple Pencil. Internal storage RAM begins at 64GB (up from the previous 32GB), and then proceeds to 128GB and a first-ever capacity of 512GB. The iPad Pro 10.5 is reported to have 4GB of RAM.

The old 9.7″ iPad Pro with 32GB and WiFi was $599, the new 10.5″ iPad Pro with 64GB and WiFi is $649. The old 9.7″ iPad Pro with 256GB and WiFi was $899, the new 10.5″ iPad Pro with 256GB and WiFi is $749. The new 10.5″ WiFi iPad Pro with a whopping 512GB of storage is $949. The “sweet spot” appears to be the 256GB WiFi model which packs a larger screen, faster processor, and a whole lot more for about $150 less than last year’s model. If you need the WiFi + LTE cellular models, add $130 to the WiFi-only pricing.

Software:

The new device initially ships with IOS 10.3.2. The bigger deal is IOS 11, which ships in the Fall with enhancements available only to iPads. These enhancements will primarily be in multitasking, screen splits (allowing two apps to run side by side in adjacent windows), an application launch bar at the bottom of the screen (similar to a Mac), and a “file” app which allows for controlling where files go (local or cloud). Finally, the updated IOS 11 allows for “drag and drop” for web links, photos, text, and more — from one app to another.

The Bottom Line:

Apple is concerned about the decline in tablet device sales. Consumers do not seem to be in a hurry to purchase newer models, unlike smart phones. Apple has given us a new device with a solid update to both the hardware and software of the iPad Pro line (there is also a 12.9 inch screen series). Even the price seems to be sweeter for the 256GB model. Both hardware and software seem to be moving closer and closer to the tablet form,replacing traditional desktops and laptops. Certainly a case can be made that tablets (especially iPads) make more sense for seniors – the focus of this blog. As always, your comments are welcome.

To check out the new 10.5 inch iPad Pro Click/Tap Here!

Oh no! My wife’s Apple Watch fell apart.

My wife's Apple Watch fell apart
My wife’s Apple Watch fell apart

Yikes! Recently, I came down for breakfast and found my wife looking upset . The back cover (which contains the heart beat sensor) on her Apple Watch had popped off when she removed the watch from its magnetic charger.

With a hand-held magnifying glass I carefully checked out the thin band of glue that encircled the sensor. The incredibly thin, flat -ribbon cable was still attached to the sensor and the back of the watch. 

My next step was to search “sensor popped off Apple Watch” using Google and I immediately found that we were not alone with this problem. One of my search links led to the Apple Watch customer support site on the apple.com web site. Over 490 people had reported to Apple that they had had this problem.

Most of the support messages said that we ought to simply take the watch to an Apple Store, and a Genius Bar representative would make things right. Sure.

My wife’s Apple Watch was one of the first groups manufactured and is almost two years old. In other words, it’s definitely out of warranty. Even with an Apple Care warranty, it would be out of the coverage dates. The watch is a stainless steel model and retailed for around $500 when we purchased it. “This can’t be good” I fretted.

For our family the nearest Apple Store is located in East Lansing, Michigan – about an hour away from where we live. Upon arriving the Apple Genius looked at the watch and stated that this was a known problem and that Apple had a program to take care of it. 

It seems that using body lotion or sun tan lotion causes the seal to weaken. Within a few minutes he had collected all the important information from me and said that a replacement watch would arrive within 3-5 business days. Since the watch was out of warranty, the price for the replacement was $249 – half the price of the original watch. But wait! Glancing to the right side of the work order/invoice I read what the customer was expected to pay. Obviously I was expecting to pay $249, but the amount showing what the customer was to pay was $0.00: Fantastic.

Five days later we received the replacement watch via FedEx. It was a “Like new” factory re-manufactured watch that was scratch-free and contained a new battery. I simply “paired” the watch with my wife’s iPhone and restored her data from a previous backup. It took less than a half-hour and all went well.

This experience is yet another reason that I’m a solid Apple customer and shareholder. To use that overworked term, Apple “gets it”. They understand that so-called “early adapters” are important to the long- term success of a product and the company that made it and sold it.

Kudos Apple!

UPDATE: Product recall of a device we reviewed

B&N Nook 7 Tablet
B&N Nook 7 Tablet

Last month we reviewed (and recommended as a “good buy”) the new Barnes & Noble Nook 7 Tablet. We recently received an email from Barnes & Noble informing us of a product recall on the Power Adapter included with the device. It seems that the Power Adapter can break and expose metal parts that could lead to an electrical shock hazard when the device is plugged into the wall.

B&N Nook 7 Tablet Power Adapter
B&N Nook 7 Tablet Power Adapter

If you purchased this device on-line or at a Barnes & Noble store you need to return the Power Adapter using the on-line form at the following web site Nook 7 Tablet Recall Information. Upon receipt, Barnes & Noble will send you a replacement Power Adapter and a $5.00 gift card.

I’m fairly confident that at the original selling price of $49.99 B&N was not making any serious money on the Nook 7 Tablet. This is the only current Nook Tablet device (not counting e-readers) that is NOT manufactured and co-branded with Samsung. I’m also pretty confident that the cost for a replacement Power Adapter, two way shipping and handling, plus the value of the $5.00 gift card makes the recall cost total about $40.00 per return. According to published details the company has sold approximately 140,000 of the affected Nook 7 Tablets. If every person returns the defective Power Adapter the cost to Barnes & Noble would exceed $5,000,000 dollars.

Barnes & Noble can’t seem to catch a break on selling digital devices.  For several years B&N invested many millions of dollars on R&D, custom manufacturing, marketing, special store fixtures and dedicated sales, training and support personnel.  B&N competed during those years with Apple, Samsung, Amazon and others for both the consumer, business and education markets. During that period I personally worked for B&N and helped sell and support Nooks at two retail stores. In the last two-three years B&N has co-branded Nooks that are manufactured by Samsung – a better and more successful approach.

If you purchased the new Nook 7 Tablet for $49.99 during the period of November 2016 through January 2017 you can check your devices serial number against the recall list by clicking this link Nook 7 Tablet Recall Information.  We recommend that you do so – and especially if you purchased the device for a child or grand child. 

“Say Hello to a Good Buy!” Barnes & Noble’s new Nook 7 tablet, just $49.99, Simply AMAZING!

B&N Nook 7 Tablet
B&N Nook 7 Tablet

The new Barnes & Noble Nook 7 Tablet is a great device at an astonishingly low price.

Is it the best tablet? No. Is it a good value? Yes!

Here are 21 reasons why it makes a great stocking stuffer this holiday season:

1. The Nook 7 is perfect for kids under 10 (before they get brand envy) and budget-conscious seniors who want to read books, play Solitaire, receive email, and read about their families and friends on Facebook.

2. Why buy the Nook 7 over an Amazon Fire at the same price with similar features? Two answers: (1) You get Barnes & Noble in-store setup, training, and service help, if needed. (2) The Nook 7 uses the Google Play Store for app purchases; the Amazon Fire does not without modification.

3. The Nook 7 has 8GB of storage memory and can be expanded up to 128GB if you use a type UHS-1 MicroSD card (Class 10) and format it for internal use.

4. The spoken voice feature “OK Google” works great for searching and as an everyday assistant.

5. Video: live, streaming, and downloaded videos run smoothly.

6. The device runs a modern version of Android, 6.0 Marshmallow OS. It’s similar to using an Apple IOS device in look and feel.

7. The Nook 7’s screen is a 7″ IPS display and is very sharp and crisp. It is easy to read books, play games, and watch videos.

8. The Quad-core processor is reasonably fast for day-to-day use and may be the secret behind running videos that don’t stutter.

9. 1GB of RAM is not bad for a $50 device and helps in the overall zippy experience.

10. Wi-Fi 802.1 b/g/n dual-bands are quite good, with easy setup, quick connect, and reasonable range.

11. Up-to-date Bluetooth 4.0 hardware allows you to connect wireless headphones, printers, keyboards, and more.

12. It has a standard 3.5mm audio port for wired headphones and speakers.

13. A built-in microphone for use with applications such as “OK Google” searches. With additional apps you could record notes or use wireless phone services such as Skype.

14. Reset button for screen freezes, reboots, et cetera.

15. A Lithium-Ion battery powers the device for about 7 hours. It can be fully recharged in about 4 hours.

16. B&N thoughtfully included a wall power adapter and micro USB cable in the box.

17. You can project videos to your flat panel TV if you own a Google ChromeCast media streaming stick.

18. The B&N Nook reading software is mature, solid, and full of features. You can change fonts, type sizes, highlighting, notes, bookmarks, and dozens of other features.

19. Use the B&N Nook store for on-line book and magazine ordering and downloads.

20. The Nook 7 comes with a one-year warranty. For an additional $9.99 you can purchase an extended one-year (total of two years) warranty that covers accidental damage against drops, spills and other damage with no deductibles – perfect for the kids and grandkids.

21. Even with a 7” screen the Nook 7 tablet will fit in most classic-cut pant pockets, backpacks, and purses.

Here are a couple of things that are disappointing about the Nook 7:

1. Sound: the volume is way too soft out of the rear mono speaker. Although, music and video sounds great out of a Bluetooth or wired set of headphones.

2. Cameras: the device has front and rear cameras, yet they are too soft-focused and lack the contrast needed for crisp pictures and videos.

Overall, the Barnes & Noble Nook 7 is a triumph for consumers. It’s a wonderful pocket-computing device for just under fifty dollars. It may be the world’s first disposable computer; it would certainly cost more than fifty-dollars to have it repaired.

Inside the box you will find an easy-to-use Quick Start Guide booklet to help with the initial setup and configuration. Besides in-store support, you can find on-line email and chat support at nook.com, and by phone at 1-800-The-Book.

A final note: A few years ago there was a movement to bring the price of a personal computer down to $100 so that young students in third world countries could benefit from computer technology (obviously you would still need electricity to recharge the device and Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet). Now we can answer that call with a $50 B&N Nook 7 tablet. This kind of reminds me of the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” TV commercial from the early 1970’s. (Click here:) YouTube: I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke tv spot

Happy holidays from Tom Gordon, the iTechGeezer

    Am I sitting in line at the Apple Store this year? No! Here’s why…

    Waiting in line at the Apple store
    Waiting in line at the Apple store

    No one is a more dedicated Apple Fan Boy than me.  I’ve purchased almost every Apple product offered from 1978 on.  For many years, I’ve arrived several hours early at the Apple store (in either Grand Rapids or Lansing, Michigan) in order to be the “first one on my block” to have the latest Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. I should also mention that I am an Apple, Inc. shareholder.

    The photo above was taken of me waiting in line at the Apple store in Grand Rapids to be the first person in West Michigan to buy an iPad several years ago. I arrived at Woodland Mall at 6 AM along with the mall walkers.  I waited from 6 AM until 5 PM when the store re-opened (Apple had closed all of its stores on 3 PM that day to re-set the displays to feature the iPad.)  I was, obviously, the first in line!

    So why am I not sitting in line this year?  

    First – For the last couple of years Apple has allowed on-line pre-ordering of new devices with home delivery the same day that they are first sold in the Apple Store.  This saves me time and money since my closest Apple store is in Lansing, Michigan – about an hour away.

    Second – Apple reported yesterday that it was happy to announce that the Apple iPhone 7 pre-order was so successful that there would be no (nada, zero, none) availability of iPhone 7 Plus phones in Apple stores and only limited availability of certain colors and configurations of the standard iPhone 7.  The happiness was reflected in Wall Street’s surge in Apple stock from around $97 to over $115.  That happiness was not felt by those in line (see below)…

    It’s already Friday, the first day the iPhone 7 is to be available in certain parts of the world, Australia for example.

    People in line at Apple’s Australia stores were pretty unhappy about the lack of availability of iPhone 7’s on the first day they were offered for purchase and delivery.

    This is unprecedented.  In all of the previous releases of the Apple iPhone (since 2007) there has been limited availability of new product on the first day of sales at every Apple store.

    Watch for an apology from Apples CEO Tim Cook.  I suspect he will apologize but spin the story as to how wonderful -and successful,- it was; that people loved the new iPhone 7 so much that it sold out worldwide before it was even able to appear in Apple Stores.

    Tim, this is called inventory control.  There should have been iPhone 7 inventory in stock and held back for the first day of sales in Apple stores on September 16.

    I’m Glad that I didn’t wait in line to purchase my new iPhone 7 Plus this year.  If you read my earlier post a few days ago then you read that after only 7 seconds past the start time of ordering on-line, my iPhone 7 Plus delivery date slipped from September 16 to September 23 or September 30.

    Oh well, it’s not like I’m sitting here without something to make a phone call on.