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.
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.
I’ve always loved to read magazines; more than TV, more than radio, even more than books. As a kid I preferred Boy’s Life, Popular Science (or Popular anything: Mechanics, Photography, et. cetera), National Geographic, Mad Magazine, Car & Driver – and many others. It was how I learned about stuff, and it showed me how that stuff worked.
Reading on Mac’s and Windows PC’s:
I’ve tried to read magazines electronically for many years; first on Mac’s and Windows PC’s by using services like Zinio. But this approach was often cumbersome – resulting in slow downloads, big downloads, tedious scrolling, and hard to read type-faces and -sizes. Overall, not a great experience. I thought that there had to be a better way.
Reading on Smartphones and Tablets:
In January of 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone, and it was now possible (but not enjoyable) to read magazines on a high resolution, yet very small (3.5”), screen. In January of 2010 Apple introduced the iPad, allowing us to now be able to read a magazine on an ultra-high resolution, and almost perfectly sized, screen (9.75”). This approach is much better than reading a magazine on traditional desktops and laptops. Magazines designed for mobile devices download faster, have smaller file sizes, are easier to navigate using your fingertips, and have adjustable type sizes. A much better experience. This is the better way.
Is this really a better way than paper to read magazines?
Maybe. Some people prefer paper. It’s easy to carry around. Some like the “look and feel” of paper (similar to how some prefer paper books over digital books). Some people even like the smell of paper and ink. The flip side of the coin is that electronic (digital) magazines may be better for the environment (no trees die in this process). They are also easier to store as collections, have far easier search-capabilities, have additional features like hyperlinks, embedded audio and video, and some even have interactive features built into the magazines, which is not possible on paper.
Are seniors better off with electronic magazines?
I believe so. Most seniors have diminishing vision over time. Improvements in eye glasses and eye surgery have helped. Digital magazine reading software (provided by the magazine publishers as part of the magazine itself) allows seniors to adjust the size of the typeface. With most mobile devices you can pinch and un-pinch your device screen to increase or decrease the size of the magazine article. Some newer magazine software, like the magazine service Magzter, offers a feature called “EZread” where the magazine article is automatically re-sized and re-paginated for easy reading.
Where do I get electronic magazines?
Almost all traditional paper magazines offer electronic versions; some charge for the digital edition, some offer it for free with a paid paper subscription. Check the magazine’s website for more details. You might consider an electronic magazine service like Magzter which offers unlimited access to over 4,000 magazines for $7.99 per month if you use Apple iTunes. If you pay the annual price of $49.99 directly to Magzter, it works out to just $4.17 per month – less than the price of 1 paper magazine. Magzter has a thirty-day free trial – a good way to see if electronic magazines are right for you. Go to: http://www.magzter.com and check it out. Further details about the annual pricing are available on their website. Magzter also lets you share your subscription with up to four family members at no additional charge.
As an adult child of a technology challenged parent, grandparent, senior uncle or aunt this was a question I was asked more times than I can count.
THE “GOOD OLD DAYS”
In the “good old days” (prior to 2010) of personal computing the Senior was asking if they should they buy a new desktop or laptop. The standard answer in those days was to recommend what we used (Windows or Mac) and brand (probably HP, Dell, Gateway or Apple.) After all if you were happy with what you were using then they should be happy – right? Plus you KNEW that you were going to have to provide tech support for whatever you recommended – right?
THE “BETTER NEW DAYS”
Today (2016) we have many more options than ever. Smartphones, e-Readers, tablets, smart watches – and of course old style “iron” like desktops and laptops are still available, but are catching dust at your local Best Buy store. Certainly devices like smartphones and tablets are more portable (mobile) then moving around a desktop computer and monitor or a 4 to 6 pound laptop (yes I know you can buy under 2 pound laptops.)
DISCLAIMER: WHY TRUST MY OPINION?
I’m a little unique as a computer consultant – first I’ll be 70 years “young” in just a few months. Second, I’ve been messing with PC’s and mobile devices since 1978 (perhaps before you were born.) I’ve spend thousands on PC’s, Mac’s – plus Newtons, Palm Pilots, iPods, and dozens of other mobile devices. I’ve taught mobile computing classes during my corporate life, community Ed, consulting, and as a “Nook” trainer at two Barnes & Noble stores.
For the last few years I’ve become an Apple “fanboy.” The deeper I’ve jumped into the Apple “pond” the more sense it’s made to me. Yes, Apple products are probably more expensive but … the quality design, construction, store service and depth of support from the Apple ecosystem is IMHO superior to PC’s and Droid’s.
SO BACK ON POINT: WHAT SHOULD I BUY?
If you want to make your mom, dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Betty or Uncle Fred happy; and quite frankly off your back for support? Here are my recommendations:
Device: An Apple iPad Air 2 (click here: Apple iPad Air 2) or later. The iPad mini (the Baby Bear) is too small for most Seniors to use and read comfortably on. The iPad Pro (the Father Bear) is too large to hold comfortably on a couch or in bed (not “huggable”). The “standard” iPad Air 2 (the Mother Bear) is JUST right in terms of size (like holding a book or magazine) and weight (less than one pound.) It’s “very huggable” just the right size to read on the couch, the plane, and in-bed. The ultra-high resolution Retina screen is extremely sharp and clear. Very easy for Senior eyes to read articles, books, magazines on. DON’T be tempted to buy the 16GB model – both of you will be unhappy when your favorite Senior calls you late one evening and states… “My iPad says I don’t have any more room to store my photos?” Buy the 64GB WiFi or WiFi/Cellular model. It is well worth the difference in price. Also pay for the Apple Care Plus warranty program that even covers breakage (stuff happens!)
System Software: There simply is no better mobile operating system available today than Apple’s IOS. It is secure, fast, reliable, mature, robust and very easy-to-use. Annual upgrades and frequent minor upgrades (both FREE) provide a device that is trouble free and also provides a few years of “future proofing.”
App’s: The Apple App Store provides millions of low cost or free software apps. If you look at what most Seniors want to use a “computer” for it is the following: eMail, photos, web surfing, games, Facebook, reading books/magazines, and listening to music or watching a movie – all can be found on included software or on the App Store.
Additional Hardware: Your Senior is going to want a keyboard and a cover/case for that new iPad Air 2. After trying many different brands the one that I would recommend is the Logictech Type+ keyboard case (click here: Logictech Type+). This keyboard is very sturdy, easy-to-type on, and gives good protection to the iPad Air 2. If your Senior needs a new printer then most any HP “e-print” ink-jet printer will work well. This printer will work with Apple’s “Air Print” feature on the iPad Air 2 for truly wireless, no configuration printing. A good place to start is the HP Deskjet 2540 All-In-One which provides printing, scanning, and copying for a street price of around $75-$80 (click here: HP Deskjet 2540 AIO)
Family Sharing: One of the best reasons for buying an Apple device is Family Sharing. This allows your extended family member to legally share movies, books, music and apps with the rest of your Family at little or no additional cost for almost everything. Learn more here: (click here: Apple Family Sharing) Just remember that all charges for media come to your credit card! (They will pay you back I’m sure!).
Combine with an iPhone: Plus, if your Senior is in the market for a new cell phone, then almost everything above also works with a new iPhone. Thanks to Apple’s iCloud service calendars, emails, to-do reminders, photos, music, backups just works and “syncs” to one another. No double entry!
Training: There are dozens of options for Seniors to learn how to use their new iPad Air 2. Apple Stores provide one on one and small group classes. Many community Adult Ed and Senior Centers provides classes. There are MANY 3rd party “How To” books available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Pick paper books (not electronic books) and look for ones with lots of pictures (not lots of text) and may be titled “iPad Air 2 for Seniors” or one of the “Dummies” series books. Check the published date (inside a few pages) and make sure it is less than two years old.
Finally: Who is going to provide support?
The natural and normal response is YOU. I mean they ARE your parents, grandparents and aunt and uncle – correct? Well yes, and you probably should. But the best thing about buying an Apple product is that it comes with Apple Support. USA based, and FREE – two magic words for Seniors. They can go into any Apple Store (regardless of where you bought the iPad Air 2) and get help. They can also call, “chat” or e-mail with Apple hardware and software support. For more information (click here: Apple Support).
Wrapping it up
Save yourself hours of time, effort, grief, anxiety and more! NO they don’t need a new desktop or laptop! They need YOU and a new iPad Air 2 that becomes their new “laptop.” Good luck and happy Senior computing.
Comments, and questions are always welcome. We appreciate you sharing this blog post with others. Print it out and give it to your “Senior” family members.
Apple updates its software and has new product introductions all year round – but the most important ones usually come in the fall.
DO I NEED TO UPDATE MY DEVICE?
No, for the most part. Certainly the old axiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” could apply here, but there are many good reasons to update your IOS software. New features, improved features, better security, bug fixes, new or improved Apple brand apps – and dozens of other things are all valid reasons to update.
I’M AFRAID TO UPDATE – I MIGHT SCREW SOMETHING UP!
Updates are easy – and usually safe – if you follow these steps:
1. Start by closing all open app’s on your device. Do this by double-tapping the home button at the bottom of the screen. You will see minature screens of each open app. Now use your finger tip to slide (swipe up) each open app window to the top of the screen – making it disappear. When you are done you should only have one screen open that can’t be closed.
2. Next restart/reboot your device by holding the power button and the home button down at the same time. In a few seconds your screen will go black – KEEP HOLDING – until you see the white Apple logo – and then let go of both of your fingers on the buttons at the same time.
3. Make sure that your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch are backed up. The best way is to do a full back up useing Apple’s iTunes software (make sure that the iTunes software is the most current version before doing this). The iTunes software is most likely already on your Mac, and can also be downloaded from the Apple support web site if you have a Windows PC. Make sure that the “Encrypt iPhone back up” box is checked before you start the back up. This way all your passwords, user names, PIN’s, health information and other secure stuff gets put in the back up file so that if you need to restore all that information is recovered.
4. After you have completed a back up go into the “Settings” App on your IOS device and scroll to find “General” settings. From there find “Software Update.” Now before starting make sure that your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch has a battery charge of at least 50% or more. Then choose “Start or Download” – allow 30-45 minutes for the software to download, verify, install and then reboot a time or two. You will need to know your Apple ID and password to complete the update.
OK – SO YOU UPDATED YOUR IOS SOFTWARE – WHAT’S NEXT?
Sit back, relax and try out the new features of IOS 9. Try the new and improved “Notes” app. Notice the small (but usually noticiable) increase in speed and battery life. There are many reasons to love Apple. Certainly one is frequent updates that are always FREE. Enjoy!
I was involved in marketing, advertising, and public relations during my 33 year career. The variety of projects and the responsibilities they carried, required that I multitask to get everything done – on time and below budget.
The ability to do many things at once, often called multitasking, is easy when you are young. However (IMHO) beyond age fifty multitasking is not so easy; it is tough and often frustrating. You remember one thing, but forget another – actually get less things done. There is definitly stress on your brain, as well as your body.
For me “in-line” (one thing after another or singletasking) is the only thing that works with my retired list of things to do. Make a list, prioritize it, do the tasks one at a time, then check off each item. I’ve been using this method for the past ten to fifteen years and it works for me.
So what’s up with Apple and multitasking?
Apple is about to become the problem. In the newest version of IOS 9 (available this fall) Apple has added the ability on a newer iPad to split the screen into two sections. This gives the user the opportunity to do two things at once – in other words multitask. I’ve tried the beta version and it is a nice feature. But once again is the feature worth the consequences of human memory splitting for seniors? I don’t think so.
There are dozens of new and improved features coming in IOS 9 for iPhones and iPads. Many of them make the digital devices better and easier for seniors. I’ll do a full review of those features later this fall. Mac OS X 11 also makes its debut and it’s better also.
Apple devices work together – that’s good!
Perhaps one of the strongest reasons that I think Apple hardware and software are good for seniors as that all the devices work in a similiar way. Regardless if you use an iPhone, iPod, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch they all work in similar ways – and were designed to work side by side.
As a “senior” who specifically loves technology I have been struggling with this question for the past few months. It has come to the forefront this week when I received my new Apple Watch.
My wife (who is ten years younger than I am) likes technology also, but from a practical “need” basis, rather than a more passionate “want” basis like I do.
First of all let’s cut out all the marketing hype and say that for seniors a smartwatch is really a want more than a need. I “need” a smartphone to make and receive phone calls, text messages, email, check my bank account, and more. If it were not for the phone aspect of a smart phone I could live with a tablet that does all the same things on a larger screen. The tablet also allows me to read books, surf the web, watch videos and read magazines with much more ease because of the additional screen real estate. If I still need a computer device that is more powerful, has more storage space and can do everything a smartphone, smartwatch or tablet does I could buy a lightweight laptop computer. There are dozens of really good choices in mobile computing devices.
If I were still working (I’ve been retired for two years) I could understand and appreciate the “need” for a smartwatch. Imagine sitting in a meeting and getting an important phone call or text message from a client or family member. It might be embarrassing to pick up your cell phone to answer/read/reply to that call or text. With an Apple Watch (or similiar device) you can unobtrusively glance at your wrist, and touch it to simply, and automatically answer with a stock message (pre-programmed) that might say something simple like “I’m in a meeting and will get back to you in the next few minutes.” Very cool, and the right way to handle things.
Other things like checking the ball game scores, your stock portfolio, bank balances, current and upcoming weather, your heart rate, and much much more are all just a touch and glance away on the Apple Watch. Remember that this is a first generation device – and like all Apple devices future versions will be smarter, faster, thinner, lighter and more powerful. Sure, you can wait for the Apple Watch 2 or Apple Watch Air or whatever. But if people didn’t buy the first generation there probably wouldn’t be a second or later generation (duh!)
Let me wrap this up and say – as a senior – you DON’T have to HAVE one. If you love technology and gotta have the latest and greatest digital gadget (and I fall into this classification) than by all means goto The Apple Watch web site find out more, and order one. You may have to wait a few weeks or a month or two to get the one you desire – they are pretty back ordered right now.
In just a few words I’ll say to you that my new “Apple Watch” (that’s one of three different categories) is Stainless Steel, with a black traditional leather band. The fit and finish are perfect. It is extremely comfortable to wear, and the software is 95% smooth and bug free. I can answer and make phone calls from my wrist (it has a speaker and microphone), read notifications from news sources like CNN, USA Today and others on the bright, colorful and easy to read screen, get and reply to text messages, ask Siri just about anything – and she gives me the answer on the screen (she does not, however, speak (audio) to me at least in this version).
Is the Apple Watch a “looker” and conversation starter? Absolutely! Is it interesting, useful and fun? Yup! Is it a “need” or a “want”? Definitely a “want” at this point.
And the last two things… the Apple Watch is not inexpensive $349.00 to $17,500. And you MUST own an Apple iPhone 5 or 6 series. Everything is set up and controlled from the Apple Watch.
If you are a senior or as I am – a senior iTechGeezer, and get an Apple Watch let me know what you think.