Category Archives: Apple

At Last

It’s been almost five years since I first told my blog readers that I wasn’t going to be buying the first iPhone. Perhaps you remember that post? I put forth my “alternative,” the MyPhone.

In 2008, I again posted that I wouldn’t be buying the iPhone 3G, although I did buy an iPod touch at that time. I updated that post a year later to say that I wouldn’t be buying the iPhone 3Gs.

Since those posts, many things have changed. We’re in a significantly different place, financially, than we were five years ago. I’m no longer as put off by the price of the required data plans as I was back then. The iPhone has become more and more compelling and capable with each release. I’ve upgraded to an iPod touch 3g, and Rebecca got an iPod touch 4g, so iOS has been making itself a part of our lives. Finally, Sprint now supports the iPhone, one of the biggest hurdles, meaning that we could buy it without terminating our contract and with the benefit of the Sprint upgrade discount.

So, today, Rebecca and I bought iPhones* – two iPhone 4S models. Rebecca’s is white, and mine is black, and we’re having a great time learning all of their in and outs, and sending each other silly videos via MMS, and texting with those cool iChat-style bubbles.

iPhone

iPhone

The iPhone is certainly no longer the hot new thing. At work, nearly everyone in my department has an iPhone. Most of the people I know in Build Guild have one (or if not that, then some sort of Android smartphone). A number of people at church have them. As I think of it, I’m not sure I know of anybody in my family who has one, but there are probably a few. But I’m no longer the guy who is known for getting the hot new technology, and I’m okay with that. If I wanted to buy one just because “everyone else” had one, I would have done that (and spent a ton of money to do it) years ago. Even the iPhone 4S started shipping almost five months ago!

I’m going to go chat with Siri now, but I’ll leave you with Etta James.

*I will say that the process of buying them at the North Shore Mall was a bit of a hassle. We spent a while at the Apple Store, picking out the models we liked and looking at cases, and finally going to talk to a specialist to purchase the phones. But when we got to the activation process, the Sprint activation network was down. So they told us they couldn’t help us, but sent us downstairs to the Sprint store. That should have been quick, but as it turns out, we had some features set up on our Sprint account that they were having trouble removing so that they could convert us to an iPhone-approved account. So they had to make some calls to Sprint service to get that all fixed up, then we went back upstairs to buy the cases we wanted. They were busy at the time, and the lady I talked to had me download the Apple Store app on my new iPhone, and use the Easy Buy feature to buy the cases. But that wasn’t really an “Easy Buy,” because it couldn’t scan the bar code on my case. So one of their people ended up having to do that. And *finally* we had everything. I guess those are the perils of buying a Sprint iPhone? The guy at the Apple Store said that most of their customers are buying AT&T iPhones, so I’m sure they don’t have as much exposure to the Sprint process.

Why I didn’t buy an iPhone

I want an iPhone. Really, I do. I love the idea of having this spiffy little device with a gorgeous screen and the ability to get online from just about anywhere. I’d love to have my phone, cameara, multimedia player, organizer, and applications all running on the same slim device. I’ve seen the iPhone, played around with it, heard lots of love stories. There’s also the fact that just about every web developer seems to have one. It’s only $199, so why not take the plunge?

Let’s take a look at what would be involved in my potential acquisition of an iPhone.

First, I’d need to purchase the iPhone. The price is $199 with a two-year contract through AT&T. Then, I’d need to sign up for a service plan. The cheapest individual AT&T plan that works with the iPhone is $69.99 plus tax and fees. That’s $69.99 out of our monthly budget for at least the next two years, which works out to $1679.76 over the two year span. So for $1878.76 over two years, I’d have my very own iPhone 3G. Unfortunately, our budget is pretty tight, and we simply don’t have the extra funds to spend on the added monthly fees. So there’s a fairly clear reason not to buy an iPhone.

Now, let’s think about workarounds. Rebecca and I already have cell phones, with a Sprint plan that costs $59.99/month and allows us to share minutes between our phones. So couldn’t we cancel our plan and use that money toward the iPhone and AT&T service plan? Sure, but there are a few problems. First, our contract with Sprint is still in effect, so we would need to cancel that and pay the $200 early termination fee. Signing up for the $69.99 individual plan above would leave Rebecca without a cell phone, so we’d need to sign her up for her own cell phone. The cheapest plan I could find for the amount of minutes she normally uses is an AT&T GoPhone prepaid plan for $39.99. So we would both end up with phones for about $50 more per month, which is $20 less than we’d spend if I went straight for the iPhone. But still, $50 is not a small amount in our monthly budget, so this isn’t all that appealing. Plus, we’d be adding the $200 early termination fee onto the purchase price of the iPhone for a total of $399 spent up front.

There are other factors as well. We’ve been Sprint customers since 2000, so we have a fair amount of brand loyalty. Their service is excellent everywhere that we need it, call quality is crystal clear, and the plan we have is a good deal. I’ve not heard good things about AT&T’s service or call quality in this area. Also, the above-mentioned plan from AT&T doesn’t include any text messaging, which I’d almost certainly want to use, so that would be an extra $5-$20 per month depending on the amount of messages I wanted to send. And of course, there is the fact that Rebecca would also love to have an iPhone, and in order to have a shared plan for two iPhones, the cost for the plan jumps to a minimum of $129.99, which would put us back at the same price as if we had kept both of our Sprint phones and our Sprint plan active. Not to mention buying a second iPhone for another $199 (that’s $600 for two iPhones and one early termination fee). Finally, there’s the fact that even though it would be really cool to use the Internet from anywhere, it’s not something that I really need to have.

In reality, it all comes down to the extra monthly service charges. If it was just the early termination fee and the purchase price I had to deal with, I’d be willing to consider it. It’s not hard to come up with that kind of money in the short term. But consistently paying an additional $50-$70 per month for the lifetime of the account for something I don’t really need just isn’t worth it. Perhaps if I was able to claim it as a business expense and write off the monthly fee, or if my company was subsidizing the extra cost, I’d go for it. Or if I got an enormous raise and forgot about all of the other things my family needs to have or would like to do. But for now, the iPhone is out of the picture.

Which is why I bought an iPod Touch. More on that later, but for now, here are some photos.

Update, 06/09/2009

With yesterday’s introduction of the iPhone 3G S at $199, Apple also knocked the price of the iPhone 3G down to $99. While this is definitely cheaper, I still am unable to bring myself to buy an iPhone because:

  • It’s only available on AT&T
  • The required data plans are still priced out of our range

However, I am very excited about the iPhone 3.0 software update, which will also work on my iPod Touch, and which I will certainly be willing to pay $9.95 for.

Apple Store Boylston Street

Tonight, Rebecca, Catherine and I attended the grand opening of Apple’s first retail store in Boston, Apple Store Boylston Street. We drove down after work, parked at the Boston Common Garage, and walked the eight blocks or so to the Apple Store. By the time we arrived at 5 p.m., we found that the line had wound its way around the corner, down Fairfield Street, and all the way to Commonwealth Ave. That’s where we got in line. We spent the next hour and a half inching forward, all the while taking in the sights and sounds of the grandest Apple Store opening I’ve ever seen.

The crowd in line behind us.

Continue reading

iPhone

I’ve been flattered, over the past week, to have several people ask me whether I would be buying or whether I had bought an iPhone — flattered that people thought I might possibly have the financial wherewithal or budgetary flexibility to buy one. However, with our recent house purchase, all the usual monthly bills, and the continuous challenge of supporting a family of three on one income, it simply hasn’t been a possibility.

Sure, I’d love to have one. If Apple is listening, here are some things that would make me more likely to buy one:

  • Offer the iPhone for Sprint customers. I’ve been a Sprint customer for seven years, and have no desire to switch to another carrier, particularly AT&T, Apple’s partner, since I’ve heard some pretty bad things about AT&T/Cingular’s service. However, Apple’s deal with AT&T is for five years, so there’s always the possibility they could offer a Sprint plan after that.
  • Offer the iPhone for $300 or less, without subsidy. That’s about the price of a new iPod, and being an iPod user, I can conceive of wanting to buy a new one within a few years. $500 is just a bit too much for me to pay for a pocket-sized device, especially when I get a new cell phone for free every two years.
  • Make the iPhone work better as a phone. From all of the reviews I’ve read, the phone functionality is one of its weakest points. I don’t want to spend all that money and be stuck with a phone that’s a pain to use.
  • Offer more storage. If this thing is going to replace my iPod, it’s got to have at least 20 GB of storage space.

In the meantime, however, I’ve come up with what I think you’ll find is an elegant workaround. It has many of the features of the iPhone: it has some of the features you’d expect from an iPhone: high quality audio playback, cell phone and contact manager functionality, web browsing, and a digital camera. It even has some features you won’t get in the iPhone: 20 GB of storage space, a five-megapixel camera with 4x optical zoom and flash, and the ability to run on the Sprint network.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the MyPhone.

Prepare yourself for a shock

So, over the last few months you’ve all heard about Peter’s new technological acquisitions. He has been very happy with his new toys and has been spending time tweaking them to his liking.

“What about you, Bec?” You might ask. “What have you gotten lately?”

Well, I have indeed made a few techy purchases of my own. The first is a pretty little piece of metal called the 30gig Video iPod. See it here:

ppp|30g iPod|ppp

I am pretty enamored with it. It is shiny and little and has a color screen. Not only does it play music, but I can watch videos and look at pictures on it! Doesn’t get better than that!

I was also a little concerned about my picture taking abilities once the baby comes along. Peter’s camera is great, but it is hardly the kind of camera you pull out at a moment’s notice to take a snapshot of little BabyWood schmering squash all over the table… So we went looking for a “point and shoot” digital camera. Here’s what we found:

ppp|Canon A530|ppp

[edit] It is a Cannon Powershot A530. It has a few little issues: the flash recycle time is kind of slow, the screen is a little grainy… but it works for my purposes and was definately in my price range (ie. cheap).

I’m still figuring out how to take good pictures with it, but I’m planning on reading the manual and practicing. Never fear. I’m glad to have an easy to use camera and look forward to capturing many many precious moments 😉

Don’t think for a moment, though, that I’ve completely jumped to the geeky side… Peter was trying to convince me to get a new cell phone tonight…I told him that I was still plenty happy with the phone I have. Yes. The one he bought in 2000 and gave me when he grew tired of it. I like its size, shape, etc. and it still works like a charm. Why fix what isn’t broken?

mini Computer, Max capability

To follow up on a comment Angela had left on my original post about the mini, here’s a run-down on the capabilities of the Mac mini, in no particular order:

ppp|The Tower|ppp

  • Yup, that’s our “tower”.
  • The mini itself is six inches wide, six inches deep, and two inches tall. The whole machine can sit on one of my outstretched hands. In the picture above, it is sitting on top of a matching drive enclosure called the miniStack. the miniStack has the same width and depth as the mini, but is just one and a half inches tall.
  • You can read Apple’s official spiel on the mini here.
  • It contains a slot-loading “SuperDrive”, which is an optical drive that can read, write, and rewrite both CDs and DVDs. It can even write and rewrite dual-layer DVDs at up to 8x speed. Just stick your disc into the front, and it pulls it right in!
  • It has two RAM slots. Each one can take up to a 1 GB DDR2 PC2-5300 SDRAM. It came installed with two 256 MB RAM chips for a total of 512 MB, but I upgraded it to two 1 GB RAM chips for a total of 2 GB of RAM. The machine was very fast with just 512 MB, but it did take an extra second or two to switch between applications when running a lot of applications. With 2 GB you can switch apps instantaneously. If you don’t feel comfortable working inside of a computer and possibly voiding your warranty, have Apple do the upgrade for you. If, like me, you are comfortable working in computers, it might be worth it. Yes, even though I goofed up the first time, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the same decision again (this time with the benefit of a lesson learned).
  • It has a 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo processor (also known as a dual core processor). To put it simply, dual core means that the computer can perform two separate tasks at the same time, each one running at 1.66 GHz. It’s actually more complicated than that, but I can give you the more complicated answer another time. 🙂 Compare that to our old Mac, which had only a single core 450 MHz processor. Just one of the two cores in the mini is almost four times faster than that.
  • It came with an 80 GB internal hard drive, but that was barely big enough to hold our existing collection of movies, music, and photos. Rather than order it with a larger hard drive (the internal hard drives spin at 5400 RPM and thus are a bit slow), we ordered an external drive enclosure called a miniStack. This sits neatly under the mini and lets you add an additional hard drive. We ordered it with a 320 GB hard drive, so we’ll have plenty of room for baby photos and videos. 🙂
  • The mini comes with Apple’s excellent iLife ’06 software package. I won’t take up your time by telling you everything it does, but suffice to say, it lets you do some very cool stuff with photos, video, music, and more. Be on the lookout for more cool creations from the Wood Family thanks to iLife ’06. 🙂 Don’t take my word for it… head over and take the tour.

So that’s a little blurb on what’s cool about the mini. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m excited about the creative possibilities it holds. It’s so much easier to put together movies and edit photos when you have a blazingly fast computer to work with.

Drama King

Just to clarify a bit from my last post, I’d say that my interpretation of the situation was rather over-dramatized. In the grand scheme of things, it really was no big deal. The computer was completely usable with the IR receiver broken, we didn’t lose any data, and though I lost a bit of pride, I’ve mostly gained it back since successfully completing the repair. There was no household crisis, Becky didn’t yell at me for breaking the computer, it was pretty much 100% me being very hard on myself.

Thank you all for your concern. 🙂

Oh, and Mr. Anonymous, I would be more inclined to approve your mean-spirited comment if you would leave a valid email address. Then again, maybe not.

A Humbling Learning Experience

I recently blogged about the new Mac mini Core Duo that we purchased on Saturday, March 18. Well, up until now, I haven’t really given you the whole truth. I wanted to wait until the story had ended in a way that I found satisfactory before I told the whole thing. Kind of selfish of me, I know, but hey… it’s our blog and we’ll write how we want to. Anyway, it’s pretty embarassing and humbling, but I need to get it out there for everyone to hear:

I broke our brand new Mac. Continue reading

Our New Baby

No, not that baby. This one:

ppp|New Baby|ppp

(You can see all of the photos here.)

We purchased a Mac mini Core Duo on Saturday at the Rockingham Park Apple Store in Salem, NH (no sales tax!). We were originally thinking of getting the new iMac, but we opted to get the mini for several reasons:

  • We don’t need or want the built-in iSight that comes with the iMac.
  • We already have a good keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
  • I don’t like the mouse that comes with the iMac, anyway.
  • The mini is almost as fast as the lower end iMac we were considering, and way, way, way faster than the 450 MHz PowerMac G4 that was our main machine. For proof, check out the XBench comparison of these two specific machines.
  • We were able to get more RAM and hard drive space for the mini than we would have been able to afford with the iMac, due to the cost savings of not having the iSight, keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

We bought just the base model (512 megs RAM, 80 gb hard disk) at the Apple Store, so that we could buy less-expensive add-ons elsewhere. You can definitely feel the pinch with only 512 megs of RAM. When running several applications at the same time, for example iPhoto, Safari, Adium, and Mail, there is a bit of lag when switching back and forth, because the system has to take one application out of RAM and write it to disk, while reading another application off of disk and into RAM (also known as swapping). That should be solved, however, when the 2 GB RAM upgrade arrives from OWC later this week. More RAM means less swapping and less waiting when switching applications.

Beyond the lag when switching applications, performance is quite impressive. Most of the typical tasks like email, instant messaging, and web browsing aren’t dramatically faster than they were on the G4/450. It’s in the multimedia applications that the mini really shines. I haven’t had much chance to use iMovie, but iPhoto is extremely impressive… the speed is just amazing. I’m really looking forward to playing around with iLife ’06.

We’re also getting a miniStack v2 with a 320 gb, 7200 RPM hard drive, which will give us plenty of storage space, not to mention a faster disk than the mini’s included 5400 RPM model. It also provides some extra USB ports and extra FireWire ports (handy, since the mini only has a single FireWire port).

I’m pretty excited about this purchase, because it’s the fastest Mac we’ve ever owned. I started with a Mac clone in 1997, running with a 180 MHz PowerPC 604e processor. Then I bought a PowerBook G3 400 MHz in 2001, just after the first PowerBook G4’s were introduced. Most recently, we purchased a PowerMac G4 450 MHz to replace the Mac clone. Jumping up to a Dual Core 1.66 GHz is a huge step.

Apple Store Derby Street

fff|ppp|The Facade

The Facade

|ppp|fff

On Saturday, I attended the opening of the seventh Apple Store in the Greater Boston area. The first six were Northshore (our “home” store), CambridgeSide, Chestnut Hill, Rockingham Park, South Shore, and Burlington. Saturday’s grand opening was the Derby Street Apple Store, at the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, MA.

The Derby Street Shoppes is a ‘lifestyle center’, a new and growing breed of shopping establishment. This is an arrangement with various stores of the type you’d find in a mall, only the store fronts are outside. I call it an overgrown strip mall. In any case, the Apple Store is located in between The Children’s Place and Burton’s Grill. It’s an average size Apple Store, with all of the features one would expect – lots of Apple and third party hardware and software, plenty of things to play with, and technical help at the Genius Bar.

I arrived at about 8:30 a.m., and at that point nobody was in line. A bunch of people were waiting around in their cars – a wise move, considering how cold it was. At about 9 a.m., the management came out and set up the velvet ropes. After that, people started getting in line. I ended up being about #20 in line after taking some photos. Once I was in line, I shot some more photos from my spot, and shot some video as well.

Since I’ve already been to many other Apple Stores, I wasn’t entralled as much by the store and its contents, but rather by the grand opening event, and all of the hoopla and crowds surrounding it. To that effect, you can check out my photo gallery of the event, as well as a movie that I shot with our new camcorder and edited in iMovie.

Enjoy!

Update

Here’s some other coverage from around the Interweb.