Is Apple getting stagnant?

A couple of years ago, it seemed as if every twelve months, a product refresh, regardless of the product, would come along. Personally, it doesn’t feel that way anymore.

Ignoring the iPhone release cycle getting knocked out of the twelve month loop with the 4S, it appears to be happening. Here are some examples:

  • The iPod Classic – not been changed since 2009, but on the flip-side hasn’t been discontinued
  • The iPod shuffle hasn’t seen a new generation since 2010, although there have been color updates to it
  • The iPod nano hasn’t seen an update since October 2012, other than similar color updates
  • The Apple Remote – also hasn’t been changed since 2009, and desperately needs to be since it isn’t compatible with the current MacBook Airs, Retina MacBook Pros, or iMacs. You’d think releasing a bluetooth version of the remote was a logical step, but after the discontinuation of the Front Row software I suppose Apple don’t see the point. Personally, I’d find a remote for iTunes other than using my iPod a great benefit.
  • What was missing from the list of incompatible Apple hardware? The Mac mini, which hasn’t been updated since October 2012 and is therefore overdue an update – logically you’d think Apple would have announced a Haswell update around the time of the latest MacBook Air update.
  • The Apple TV is sort of overdue an update – the current third generation was initially released in March of last year, but January 2013 saw an ‘update’ – a very slight change in the processor.
  • Speaking of TVs, Apple’s current standalone display, the Thunderbolt compatible and aptly named ‘Thunderbolt Display‘, has been out since mid 2011, and sports the same chunky edges as the iMacs of that era. 2013 however saw an iMac redesign with incredibly tapered edges, so surely a similarly designed (and potentially Thunderbolt 2 capable) standalone display should be in the works, especially considering the impending release of the new Mac Pro. Incidentally, the Mac Pro would also have made this list if it weren’t for Apple updating it – although ‘update’ is an understatement since it’s more of an overhaul.

That’s quite a long list of products that Apple haven’t discontinued nor updated. Of course, one question is “do they need to be updated?” to which my answer is yes and no – I think the Apple Remote needs updating; as the price of flash storage is constantly coming down Apple could potentially release a new iPod Classic with the same amount of storage, although that may make iPhone and iPod touch owners a bit frustrated; the Mac mini ought to be updated solely for the sake of staying current; and the Thunderbolt Display design should be updated solely for the sake of keeping in line with their current design portfolio. But, none of those are as front-line and in need of updating to match competition as their key computers and portable devices.

Talking of matching competition though, there is an argument for an Apple TV update. Home media centers are an ever-increasing trend, and there’s a plethora of options to choose from. If you have a spare PC, then you can simply use Media Browser Classic or Media Browser 3, Plex, Media Portal, or XBMC. If you want a standalone device you could go for the immensely capable Popcorn Hour, or more web-based products such as Roku and Boxee – although I just discovered that Boxee slipped yet further and doesn’t exactly exist in its ‘current’ form anymore. If you’re after a really web-lite experience, then the Google Chromecast may suit your needs. If however, your household is an Apple ecosystem, you probably have iPhones, iPads, and an extensive iTunes media library, and the easiest way to use a media center with that is an Apple TV. But, with the constant flood of Smart TVs, your old Apple TV probably feels inferior to even your neighbor’s new bargain TV they got on a Black Friday deal. Which is why I think that Apple need to update the Apple TV, and not just a specification increase, something that matches competition. I don’t know what, as I don’t know how much ecosystem control Apple would want to relinquish, but AirPlay streaming and mirroring aren’t quite cutting it at the end of 2013.

As a closing thought, I do wonder if the reign of Cook has anything to do with this rut, just looking at how his overall vision is different to how Jobs’ was it’s easy to draw justifiable conclusions.


New MacBook Pro update

As usual, it seems to be time for they frequent and rather unanounced/secretive. This latest lineup includes faster processors and better graphics, along with new hard drive brackets (in the sense of tiers, not affixing). It’s another one of their ‘fairly big improvements, but secretive updates’ that I suppose would annoy those that had recently bought a very expensive and powerful MacBook Pro. But hey, that’s the risk you take with Apple. I guess die-hard fans should be happy they got 16 months of the iPhone 4 being the latest rather than the tyical 12 months and then the next update being rather insignificant. Is it though? I think it does bring several better feautures to the table, the camera alone.

iOS 5 – first impressions

Strangely, the iCloud side of things seem to be my favorite features. I’m sure I would be a huge fan of the previous purchases IF us unfortunate people in the UK could actually access our past TV shows (will we ever be able to??).

So, 5GB of free iCloud space, a free email address and awesome synchronising. It would be nice if all my calendar events now didn’t occur three times for every occurrence, but iCloud seems to have been to keen to merge all my already-linked calendars.

Anyway, being able to download one app update at the same time as another app update is installing is an awesome timesaver and the notifications area is fairly cool. It does feel a lot more slick, but guess what? Not a fan of newsstand. I though I would be, but all it seems to be is a homescreen folder that just has bookshelves instead, specifically for magazine/newspaper apps.  Overall, not as impressed as I though I would be, but my first impressions could have been tinted by the nine hours of hell needing to be justified by something that would need to be little short of 100%-awesome, which did not happen. Instead, it was something 100%-meh,-it’s-got-some-cool-features-but-I-could-probably-live-without-this.-Though-iCloud-is-pretty-neat.

iOS 5 updating hell

(UPDATED as of 9:23AM GMT with ‘conclusion’)

yes, it’s that time of year again. I’ll write this from the present perspective.

so, it’s 10:44PM GMT. I, like many others, had been expecting iOS 5 to be released around 6PM GMT. It was released (aprox.) 6:10GMT. I instantly tried to update, first running into a similar issue as I had done late last night with the iTunes 10.5 update, but it quickly sorted itself (unlike iTunes). 200MB into the download, the internet connection died. So, I tried again. Just under an hour ago it had finally finished downloading (it took ages).

The first thing I saw was along the lines of “iTunes failed to backup this iPod, will wipe now”. I thought “fine, I wiped it two or so weeks ago anyway, so I won’t lose anything important”. However, it wanted to ‘restore’ (to be honest Apple, what you class a ‘restoring’ is FAR from the real definition) it. And, just as had happened when I was un-jailbreaking it trying to update to 4.3.5, it failed to ‘restore’ it.

I had actually encountered this “failed to backup” message twice before in the last few days, but thought nothing of it as it worked the next time. Who knows, maybe if it had been a successful backup rather than third time unlucky, there’d be no issue.

So, what am I doing now? Waiting ages for the 32-bit version of the standalone iTunes setup to finish downloading. Why? Well, the tower PC failed to work, so I had to switch to a second rather unused computer. Which a) doesn’t have the latest version of iTunes and b) is unbearable to use. But why the standalone installer? Apple Software Update is only showing quicktime and safari. and despite iTunes saying 10.5 is available, it seems to be a repeat of last night’s non-existent update.

Once that finishes, what will I have to do? I have no idea. I guess I should wiipe the iPod beforehand, as there’s nowhere near enough space on the second computer’s HDD to back it up. Then, I’ll have to wait another 3 1/2 hours for the iOS 5 update to download again. With Apple, the fun never ends…

As a side note, do you know how easy it was to update to Windows Phone 7.5, even when my phone wasn’t yet ‘cleared’ for the update yet? Incredibly simple. No wiping, no restoring, just trick it into thinking my phone can have it right then, download it, wait a bit, done.


So, I waited another three and a half hours for the update to download again. Then, it gets halfway through the restore progress (it really shouldn’t be restoring anyway) and says no more disk space on C: to restore the iPod. Not specifically Apple’s fault (this time), but it would have been nice if it could have told me BEFORE I wasted 3 1/2 hours.

I have never been a ‘fan’ of the shift-click on update or restore to select an ipsw file, solely because it had never worked for me (always said it was invalid, even when downloaded from Apple). So, I faced a few options. Re-partition the hard drive (would take hours as would have to shift 30GB+ to the left) and try again (re-downloading the file a third time in total, so yet more time taken), boot into XP (larger partition size with more free space) (tried this, but internet wouldn’t work in XP) or, shift-click.

I decided to go for shift-click. So, I located the ipsw in the AppData>Roaming etc. folder and copied it to the desktop. Then, I removed all large files from the iPod. eventually, I was ready. I held shift and left clicked on ‘update’, then selected the ipsw. It went smoothly at first, but then came up with an error (I think it was 3002? I definitely saw 3002 last night and I think this was the occasion). I really couldn’t be asked to try again, so I just did shift-click restore (already had a backup of the iPod on the computer that refuses to do iOS updates for some obscure reason). At last. After NINE hours of constant issues, I had finally managed to update to iOS 5. I waited for it to update, and once it came to the ‘Set up new iPod’ screen in iTunes, I unplugged it and plugged it back into the syncing computer, managing to restore the backup onto it. So, thanks a bunch Apple for a ‘fun filled’ evening, night and early morning. Unbelievable.

My probable iOS update dilemma

Well, it’s nearing the sixth, and Apple will most likely be announcing iOS 5 (maybe it’s been confirmed by them, I forget). As you may have gathered from some of my tweets over the past while, I have a third generation 64GB iPod Touch running iOS 4.0 (yes, 4.0, not 4.0.1 or 4.0.2, just 4.0). I updated to it about two hours after it’s release (a day which I had been eagerly anticipating since Apple announced a specific release date. I even made a rudimentary countdown thing out of post-it notes) as soon as I got back home. Overall, I was pretty happy with it. There were several huge flaws, such as all photos that weren’t in ‘saved photos’ were now awful quality. Oh, and the Music app (including the Videos app) crashed each time I tapped on it, meaning my iPod now no longer performed it’s primary function. I managed to sort out the crashing problem within a few days, but it was a pain nonetheless.
I remember it vividly yet I’m not sure what the event was. On the way back from the coast, I kept checking for Apple news updates. Just remembered what the event was (as this is statically displayed this probably looks odd. If it was live text display, such as speech, it would make sense), it was the September Apple music event where they had just announced the new line of iPods. When I got home, I decided to jailbreak my iPod, with some helpful tips and guidance from the two twitter users @wondroushippo and @zabmanic, two very nice and helpful people, so I would like to thank them here properly for their tips rather than in a limited 140 characters. So, thank you 😀
I had attempted to jailbreak my iPod before, using the USB to PC methods many many times, but it had never worked. There isn’t really any method easier than You simply visit the site on your iDevice (you have to be running iOS 4.0 or 4.0.1. Can’t remember if 4.0.2 was the last working one or the one Apple released as a patch) and just slide a lock-screen style slider. Then you wait a few minutes, and it’s done.
Anyway, I always seem to manage to go into deeper detail than is properly necessary. I’ll try to get back to the main point now. So, currently, my iPod is jailbroken. I do benefit from it, whether just using SBSettings (fantastic, especially being able to change the brightness without having to quit an app and go to settings), backgrounder (makes all apps multitask. Sure, it slows the device down if you have too many running, but it’s better than having just about 20% of apps having multitasking and the rest not) and mxtube (hard to locate the videos, but handy nonetheless, YouTube downloader), to name probably my top three most used jailbreaking features. I’ve managed to get by without Game Centre and all the other updates, but will I be able to cope without the new features in iOS 5? As far as I am aware, it isn’t really a good idea to try and update the firmware on a jailbroken iDevice. Also, as I discovered running 4.0, most hackstore (Cydia) stuff works best on older versions of iOS. For example, the version of MobileTerminal on Cydia crashes on startup in 4.0, but their is a newer compatible version available through another source.
If iOS 5 is just a teeny update, then I doubt updating will even cross my mind. However, this is Apple. They work like clockwork (mostly). Chances are, this update is going to provide some pretty groundbreaking stuff (and will probably be compatible with the 3rd generation, considering the past. 4.0 is compatible-ish with 2nd, 3rd and 4th, so 5.0 will probably be compatible-ish with 3rd, 4th and the future 5th. By “compatible-ish, I mean the 2nd generation iDevices couldn’t do multitasking or home screen wallpapers, but they could run the OS).
Would I be able to cope without the jailbreaking advantages? I doubt it. And if I had to, my usage of the device would be a lot more time consuming and less productive. It would also result in me using computers more than it. Is that really what you want happening, Apple?

Just as I thought they had changed…

There are rumours sneaking about that Apple will be charging iPad owners to update to iOS 4 in the autumn. Giving iOS4 away for free to iPhone users and iPod Touch users was amazing of Apple, but if this rumour is true, I shall be disappointed in them. I suppose that if they do charge for it, it will be to recoup some of the money lost on free bumpers and people not buying iPhone 4s because of the signal problem.

Problems, problems

Apparently (as I haven’t been home to check yet, but it looks like this is true) iTunes has been updated to iTunes 9.2.1. This ‘fantastic’ update takes the pitifully small amount of control the users had and gives them none. It now works better with iBooks 1.1.1 and will disable ‘older version of some incompatible third-party plug-ins’ and the issue of upgrading iOS 4 if they had encrypted backups. For most people, this update will seem to do nothing. For others, this will be a tough choice for them, as was upgrading the PS3’s firmware to play new games, but never again be able to run Linux on it.

Updates all over the place

Apple has launched two new iOS updates very recently. One is obviously for the iPhone to fix the signal strength indicator bug (NOT the aerial, that’s a hardware problem) and surprisingly, an update for the iPad. Everybody say a big welcome to iOS 3.2.1 (yes, that’s right, 3…2…1, (hopefully) iOS 4 launch?). This patch brings a fix to the wifi, bing is added to the search engine options and three other smaller bits (PDF fix, dock to VGA fix, video playback more reliable)

Not really Apple-y, but hard to resist posting.

A Windows 8 Machine

Ew. Looks like an awful Mac

Windows 8! Apparently, a PowerPoint presentation has been leaked. It shows a prototype-y design of a computer (Maybe MS will actually build their own computer?). The stuff it mentions looks too good. This would give the impression that it will be like Windows Phone 7, with very few computers being able to support it, and them needing to be very powerful.

Read a lot of the details here:

Windows 8 on Google Trends. Even in 2004?