Tag Archives: hardware

What’s an Apple HomePod? Do Seniors NEED one?

Apple HomePod

Apple just introduced the HomePod. Its Apple’s idea of a “better mousetrap” than Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home smart speakers. You can buy an Amazon Alexa Echo Dot for $39.95. An Apple HomePod is $349.00.

All three devices are SmartSpeakers (a new buzzword). They do the same thing – provide music through their speaker systems and are digital assistants – like asking them, “What’s the weather like outside right now?” Or, “What are the Olympic standings right now?”

To “hear” the difference an additional $310 gets you, you need to listen to the HomePod. Apple engineers spent over 7 years developing the HomePod and the result is exceptional sound. Music (and voice) is clear, crisp, not muddled or dampened. It almost seems that you can hear or sense the different layers present in the most well-recorded music. The HomePod has seven tweeters, a 4″ sub-woofer, and 6 microphones – that can pick up a whispered “Hey Siri” command from across a room – even with rock music turned up high.

In the next few months, Apple will release a software update for IOS devices that will enhance AirPlay to AirPlay 2. This software will allow multiple devices to play to multiple speakers with variable volume levels and additionally play your favorite music throughout the house or just in specific rooms. Apple will license AirPlay 2 to other speaker and headphone makers.

Now for the elephant in the room – Siri. The good news is that Siri works well, especially with music commands, questions, and information about the song, album, track, and even “Siri, who is playing drums on this track?” type questions. As mentioned above having 6 microphones and her ability to pick your voice – even softly – or at a distance is really amazing. Of course, she knows the answers to millions of questions and dozens of commands. Home automation electronics like door locks, thermostats, lighting – all work with Siri spoken commands if the device supports Apple HomeKit software.

HomePod works best if you are an Apple “person.” If you have an iPhone, or iPad, or Apple TV you are going to have no problems with setup and day-to-day use. To select and listen to music you need to have a subscription to Apple Music.

As always Apple will provide over-the-air software updates that increase the value of HomePod and add new features that will make us drool.

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.

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

Stuffing clowns into a car
Stuffing clowns into a car


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.


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!

Do we really NEED larger screen smart phones?

As a “geezer” (someone usually described as being 60+ years old) I have vision problems. Yes, I see my optometrist annually and wear progressive lens glasses (modern tri-focal’s).

But I’ve got to admit, that I’d rather read web pages, magazines and books on my iPad than on my iPhone. In this case (and I think all of us geezer’s would probably agree) that bigger is better when it comes to screen real estate.

Android folks have had larger screen phones for a couple of years now. There are – believe it or not – smart phones with screens as large as 7″.

Apple is “rumored” to have a 4.7″ and 5.5″ iPhones waiting for us later this fall (usually September). If Apple had a waiting list I’d be on it for the 5.5″ model.

I’d like to get down to one device, rather than carry both devices with me most places I go. If there is a 5.5″ iPhone and it fits in my pocket – even if it costs an additional $100 – then I’m in the market.

I started out in 2007 with a 3.5″ iPhone, then got an 4.0″ iPhone when Apple introduced it in 2012. The extra 1/2″ helps but…

These tired old geezer eyes can’t wait for something pocketable that is bigger and easier to read – even if it does look funny when held up to my ear for a phone call!


My life with hearing aids – Part 2

Hmmm… Well it is two weeks later and the jury has come back on my new hearing experience. My “Miracle-Ears” are fine. They are easy to put in, take out, change the batteries, et cetra. I can wear them 4-6 hours and then need to take a break.

Certain noises – dog barks, paper crinkleing, auto road noise – bugs me, but hopefully the aids can be fine tuned to diminish that. The crispness (clarity) of voices I hear has significantly improved.

I am impressed, from a technology point of view, how well they work and how reliable they are. They work great with my iPhone 5s in terms of using the iPhone as a phone and also as a speech and music player. It is good way to listen to podcasts and audio books. The audio tracks of movie and TV shows are very understandable. The quality of music is another matter. The hearing aids were designed for speech, not the tonal frequencies of music. Music sounds like you are listening through a Cambell's soup can. If I really want to listen to music – and enjoy it – I still prefer to take my hearing aids out of my ears and use traditional over-the-ear studio style head phones.

I'm still waiting (hopefully this coming week) for a new wireless transmitter that is properly paired with my Miracle-Ear BlueTooth remote so that I can use it with my flat panel television.

Bottom line, for what they were designed for, my Miracle-Ear hearing aids have improved the clarity of the voices I hear. And for that they are wonderful.

In 2014 many quality hearing aid manufacturers will start to offer “Made for Apple iPhone” certified devices. These aids will work directly with the iPhone as a two piece solution. Current offerings require a three piece solution which is the wireless remote as the BlueTooth transceiver that links the iPhone to the hearing aid. You may want to wait a few months to see how this solution works out especially considering the high cost of investing in your hearing.

Drop a reply or a note if you have questions.


Part 1: The iTech Geezer and Hearing Aids

OK. That day has come. And gone. I'll admit it, I've needed hearing “instruments” (aids) for years. I know I have been missing out on conversations, TV and movie dialogs, the soft spoken voices of my grandchildren and much more.

There have been a lot of stumbling blocks that have kept me from getting HA's (as they say in the trade.) Stuff like – ego, price, and of course which brand and model is techie enough for me.

I've been an Apple “fanboy” since the Apple II. I've pretty much owned every Apple device from Mac's to Newton's to IOS devices. I'm used to paying the premium dollar for what I believe to be a technologically superior device. I've also owned and used a variety of Windows and Android devices.

HA's (hearing aids) cost anywhere from $29.95 (junk) to $7,500.00 (better junk). Don't even bother searching Google for “what's the best brand…” or “who gives the best service…” You will find dozens of surveys, reports, and curses from users world-wide. Most are unhappy with their brand choice and service experience.

No use complaining that your latest iPhone 5s costs $699 (and up) un-subsidized and that the HA's you are considering costs over $5,000.00 The HA service provider will tell you that the miniaturization of the device and programming and adjustments require the high dollar expenditure.

I rolled the dice and ended up buying the “best” device that Miracle-Ear currently offers. The device SEEMS to be very similiar to one that is actually made by Siemen's. Am I happy with it? To soon to tell – the jury is still out. I've only had it for a few days (less than one week). I like the local service provider. I've gone to a couple of meetings with it, a movie, to church and around home. My hearing is improved, no doubt about it. I'm about to have my first “adjustment” appointment. I'm looking at switching a couple of accessories.

Tune in a couple of weeks for “Part 2.” Feel free to submit your questions or personal experience with HA's. I'd love to hear them.