Apple

iPhone SE Was Available But No More

I came home from working over at our old house (trying to get it ready to go on the market) and I saw the news come across my feed...Apple was selling the iPhone SE on their clearance page online. I immediately told my wife who then dropped what she was doing and ran upstairs to get on the computer so she could purchase an iPhone SE. Her iPhone SE recently went out of warranty and it had been acting squirrelly for weeks. So she ordered her a new iPhone SE from Apple since this is the ONLY iPhone that actually fit in women’s pants pockets.

It was pretty late last night when we got home and after eating dinner I just didn’t have the energy to write up a blog post about the iPhone SE availability. So I get up this morning only to find out that Apple has already sold out of the iPhone SE in their clearance section online. Literally hours after making them available and they are already sold out. Now we don’t know how many iPhone SEs Apple made available and actually sold, but this should be a clear message to Apple that there is still a strong demand for smart phones that are smaller than a tablet. Hopefully this was an experiment to test the waters and Apple will release an updated version of the iPhone SE soon...

Apple’s iPhone Battery Replacement Program

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I’m sure all of you have heard by know that Apple is offering reduced iPhone battery replacements for iPhones that are an iPhone 6 or newer:

  • iPhone 6/6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 6s/6s Plus
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus
  • Even the iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X (but only if the battery is truly degraded)

It is normally $79 to have an iPhone battery replaced out of warranty and now Apple is doing it for only $29. If you are someone that holds on to iPhone for 2 or more years before upgrading then I highly suggest you take advantage of this limited time program. Apple is offering these $29 iPhone battery replacements through the end of calendar year 2018. Right now there is a pretty large rush on these batteries, which means there is a wait. So don’t expect to just walk into an Apple Store and have them be able to replace your battery. In fact, I have some personal experience with this...

My Dad, sister and I were in Vegas this past week (I was there for CES). My Dad was passing down his iPhone 6 to my sister (since he recently got the iPhone X). Let’s just say he uses his iPhone a lot, so his iPhone 6 battery was pretty much shot. So he wanted to get the battery replaced before handing it down. My Dad doesn’t have any Apple Store anywhere near where he lives (the closest one is over 3 hours away) so he figured he would take advantage of being near an Apple Store while in Vegas and get the battery replaced. He made an appointment with Apple specifically for a battery replacement a couple of weeks in advance. But when we got to the Apple Store we got a couple of surprises. First, Apple did a diagnostics on the iPhone. Maybe I missed it, but everything I read early on about this battery replacement program was that Apple was replacing the battery irregardless of whether the battery was showing a degradation in performance. Turns out that is not the case. Not a problem, the diagnostics showed his battery was shot. The problem was that Apple didn’t have any batteries in stock and it would take a few weeks before they could get one in. Well, we weren’t going to be in Vegas for several weeks and my Dad doesn’t live close to another Apple Store so that wasn’t going to work. But then Apple did what they normally do...they went above and beyond. They went ahead and replaced the entire phone for the cost of the $29 battery replacement.

I am sharing this experience because I’m sure there a lot of you out there that are also thinking of taking advantage of this battery replacement deal. If so, just be aware that making an appointment is just step 1. You have to go in and have a diagnostics run on your iPhone and then once it is determined that your battery is in need of a replacement you will need to wait for a battery to become available. This is also the case if you take your iPhone in to a Apple Authorized repair center. One of my co-workers had the same experience at a local place here in Melbourne, Florida (their online appointment made it sound like the appointment was for the battery replacement instead of it being just the diagnostic test). So be prepared to wait in line for a battery. Although, some smaller repair centers actually have batteries in stock so you might just get lucky.

Also, if you aren’t having battery issues right now I suggest you wait until later this year. Get the most time out of your new battery and avoid the current rush on these cheap battery replacements. Make yourself a calendar reminder for Oct or Nov of this year to get your iPhone in for a battery replacement. iPhone batteries will last about 2-3 years on average, so waiting until later this year means your iPhone battery life will be extended out 3-4 years from today.

Review: AirPods

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It only took me 8 months but I finally decided that I might actually have a use for AirPods, so last month and went ahead and bought a pair. For those of you that don't know what AirPods are, they are the funny little wireless/Bluetooth headphones that look like somebody just clipped the white wires off of Apple's stock wired headphones (which are called EarPods...confusing right). Apple released the AirPods in December of 2016 and they have been in high demand and limited stock ever since. When I ordered my online last month I still had a 6-week wait but I was able to find a pair within a few weeks at a local Apple Store so I cancelled my online order.

Pairing

So what's the big deal about the AirPods? Initially I didn't think all that much, which is why I didn't get them right away. Up until Apple released the AirPods all Bluetooth headphones paired the same way with devices, and by that I mean manually. As long as you never use the headphone with more than one device then they might re-connect the next time you wanted to use them, but then again more often than not they wouldn't. The AirPods are different in that they pair instantly with all of your Apple devices that you are signed into with your iCloud account. So if you listen to some music on your iPad and then you pickup your iPhone to make a phone call all you need to do is select the AirPods as the audio source on your iPhone and they are connected (you don't have to go into the Bluetooth section of the settings app to re-pair them). As someone that is always switching from one device to antoher this is a huge conveinence. But it is even more of a selling point if you have an Apple Watch. Pairing a set pf Bluetooth headphones to my Apple Watch every time I wanted to go out for a walk or a run was a huge pain. Now with the AirPods it is two taps on my Apple Watch screen and I am off and running. Apple is able to do this becasue they built thier own custom chip (called the W1) into the AirPods that manages the connections with all of your devices. Apple has also started integrating this chip into some of thier Beats headphones too. The W1 chip is a new way to pair a device like the AirPods to a device like an iPhone over Bluetooth. The W1 chip does a couple of things for you as the end user. For one thing it makes pairing and then switching audio between devices seamless like I described above. In addition the W1 chip extends the range in which the Bluetooth connection is effective from about 30 feet now up to 150 feet (device dependent) all while reducing the amount of power required to maintain that connection.

Basic Peformance

As far as wireless headphones goes the AirPods stack up pretty well when compared to all the others on the market. Sound quality is what you expect from a very small set of headphones but you do get a surprising amount of bass given the size. The overall quality of the sound is also quite good, much better (at least in my opinion) than the wired EarPods (Apple's standard wired headphones). I think some of that better sound quality is due to the better overall fit of the AirPods in my ears than the wired ear buds (EarPods).

Battery Life

This one is a bit of a catch-22. The AirPods are quite small and therfore they have a very small battery capacity built into them. So while with larger headphones you may be able to get 6-8 hours or more of battery life, with the AirPods you will only get about 5 hours. The only reason I bring this up is because I have actually run into that 5 hour limitation within a single continious use where with other headphones I have not. But here is why this is not really such a bad thing. For one it means I was actually using my AirPods because they were so convienent and comfortable. Also, when I got the audible alert in my right ear (I was only wearing one AirPod at the time) all I had to due was pop the left AirPod in my left ear and put the nearly depleted right AirPod in the case to charge. The AirPods case also provides an additional 24 hours of charge and charging an AirPod from 0 to 100% only takes about 20 minutes.

Random Thoughts

I could go into great detail on many different aspect of the AirPods but instead I will share with you a list of random thoughts and features that make the AirPods unique:

  1. Having headphones that are compeltely wireless (not even tethered together) is very significant. Being able to just pop in a single earpiece and listen to some news, a podcast or some music while still being able to hear other things going on around you makes you much more likely to use these more and more.
  2. Speaking of using the AirPods more, ever since getting them I my backlog of unlistened to podcasts has shrunk to near zero (and after my massive summer of travel I had an incredibly large backlog of podcasts to listen to). I am now using AirPods to listen to podcasts at times and in places where I never did before because they are so convienent.
  3. If you have a car that doesn't have a good wireless or handfree setup for your iPhone, wearing a single AirPod is an excellent way to get a handsfree expereince to listen to audio (like a podcast) and take an occasional phone call.
  4. AirPods work really well in an office environment where you have to start and stop music constantly because of people coming into your office to talk to you. With other headphones I would have to take the headphones off from my head (the headband) and then seperately stop the audio. With AirPods all I have to do is pull a single AirPod out of my ear and the audio stops. When I put the AirPod back in the audio resumes. Seems like such a little thing but this makes them so much easier to use in a busy work environment.
  5. Sound isolation is ok but not great with these. They isolate just enough sound that they allow you to enjoy your music in a noisy office environment, but not good enough to block out noisy gym music if your gym plays music over a loud speaker (why do gyms still do this when everyone brings their own anyway).
  6. Looks...wearing AirPods does make you look a little geeky, but honestly if you are selecting your headphones based on how "cool" they make you look then you probably need more fashion help then headphones can provide. I personally think people wearing a huge set of Beats headphones look pretty silly but that seems to be in style so maybe I'm not a good judge of cool. So just be aware that AirPods probably won't win you any fashion points.
  7. If your ears are a good fit with AirPods then they really do stay put in your ears. I have gone running, done burpees and upside down yoga poses all without the AirPods moving. Surprisingly these things are very secure in your ears. But if the contours of your ears don't work well with AirPods then return them to Apple within the return timeframe and don't look back. It's not worth having headphones that don't fit well enough to give you good sound quality and stay in your ears. From what I have heard from people the AirPods either work really well with your ears or they don't, there is no in between.
  8. I miss having volume controls on my headphones and using voice commands to turn up or down the volume with Siri is a bit clumsy. But I have an Apple Watch so I can just turn the Digital Crown to control volume and that has worked really well.
  9. AirPods are very comfortable in your ears. They are extremely light-weight and I can wear them all day long without my ears getting sore. My ears hurt after wearing Apple's wired headphones for about 30-minutes so this is a HUGE comfort improvement.
  10. Both the individual AirPods and the case are quite slippery to the touch. Since they spend most of the time in your ears this isn't too big of a deal, but just be careful handling them in an environment where its not safe to drop them in. Same thing goes for the case, there is a pretty big drop potential so be careful. The case can also easily slip out of your pocket unnoticed which is why I rarely keep the case in my pocket.

Overall I have been very happy with my AirPods. I am listening to music and podcasts more than I ever have and I have found the auto-pause feature when you take one of the AirPods out to be the most valuable feature for how I use them. I know there are better sounding wireless headphones out there but the combination of comfort and convenience makes AirPods a must have, especially when used in combination with the Apple Watch.

Apple Is Going to Sabotage the Internet, Says Advertisers

Apparently online advertisers are pretty upset over some of the new privacy features being built into Apple's new web browser Safari 11 (which comes out with their new operating system High Sierra later this month).

From the linked article from the Mac Observer:

In a letter obtained by Adweek, the advertisers claim Safari 11 will “sabotage the economic model for the Internet.”

This is what happens when we allow companies and advertisers to profit off of our personal data. They get used to having access to it and before long they start considering access to our personal data a right. Then when Apple introduces new privacy features to help us protect our personal data companies and advertisers start coming unglued because Apple is going to "sabotage the economic model for the internet."

The True Cost of Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program

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Last year right around this time I bit the bullet and signed up for Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program (in fact I wrote a blog post about it). But back then I was only guessing what my then new iPhone 7 Plus was going to be worth on the used market a year or two years later. But now I know exactly what it's worth, so now the question is was the Upgrade Program a smart move? Here are the numbers:

If I Had Purchased the iPhone Outright:

If a year ago I had just paid cash for my iPhone 7 Plus, here is how much owning that iPhone for a year would have costed me...

Initial Purchase Price: $849.99 plus Apple Care Plus $129 = $978.99

Trade in value as of today:

This is a bit tricky since the money I can get for selling my used iPhone varies quite a bit. On the high end if I were to sell it on Amazon as a used device it would sell for about $700 and after paying Amazon $65 in sales commissions that would leave me $635. On the low end if I were to sell my iPhone to a service like Gazelle I would only get $350. So taking the average value between the two I come up with $492.50.

So if I have purchased my iPhone 7 Plus outright the total cost of 1-year of owning the phone would have been $486.49

Cost of Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program

This one is really easy to calculate, it is simply my monthly payment x 12 months, or $41.58 x 12 = $498.96

Which Was The Better Way To Go?

So since I went with Apple's Upgrade Program it ended up costing me an extra $12.47 over the span of a year compared to the cost if I had just bought the iPhone outright and then sold it on the used market. That is about as close to an even proposition as you can get. Except it is a little more complicated than that. For one thing it takes some time and effort to sell your used iPhone, package it up and get it shipped out. There is also some risk when you sell your used device. You could end up with someone who buys your iPhone that later claims it was damaged or broken and requests a refund, and while Amazon is great for getting the most money out of selling your device Amazon is not seller friendly (they protect the buyer and sometimes the buyer takes advantage of that). There is also no guarantee that your device will sell quickly, which means you have now purchased a new iPhone and you have not yet sold your old iPhone to help pay for the new one. Then what about the condition of your device? My iPhone 7 Plus was dropped once and has a ding in the bottom corner (doesn't effect the screen but it is still a blemish). It also has a couple of very light scratches on the screen. I've carried it around for the past year without a case because that's what I wanted to do. I was able to do that because I knew if it got a ding or a few scratches it wouldn't matter. As long as it was fully functional and didn't have a cracked screen or water damage Apple would allow me to trade it in for a new iPhone. Then there is the convenience factor. With Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program I will pre-order my new iPhone just like everyone else and my new iPhone will be shipped just like everyone else's except for one difference. Before my new iPhone arrives Apple will ship me a postage paid box to return my old iPhone to them in. So when I get my new iPhone in the mail I simply wipe my old phone, put it in the postage paid box Apple sent me and I'm done.

So for me it is still a very easy choice, the iPhone Upgrade Program is the clear winner. Even if I was able to get a couple hundred dollars more for my used iPhone and the Upgrade Program ended up being $200 more expensive, the combination of getting an unlocked iPhone, convenient trade in and not having to worry about keeping the iPhone pristine so I can resell it make the Upgrade Program a great fit for me. However, if you don't travel internationally and you wouldn't normally buy Apple Care and don't mind going through the effort of selling your iPhone then you may want to consider saving a little money and buying your next iPhone outright instead.

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