Apple & Beats

Apple’s potential acquisition of Beats is all everyone can seem to be discussing – on blogs, twitter, and the podcasts I listen to. It is a strange acquisition, and since we know nothing, I like what @siracusa said on a recent episode of ATP about “building your own acquisition”. And just like everyone else, I feel compelled to add my thoughts:

  • Beats is a fashion brand as much as a headphone manufacturer.
  • Apple just a hired Angela Arhendt, the (now) ex-CEO of Burberry. Apparently they’ve also hired the former CEO of Yves St. Laurent, Paul Deneve.
  • One of my first memories of the iPod are the silhouetted, colourful ads. This always Struck me as very fashionable
  • Yes, maybe Steve Jobs would never had executed an acquisition such as this…an established brand with a big consumer mindshare; but this is no longer Steve Jobs’ Apple. And I dare say, he would want Tim Cook to make Apple his own.
  • There is nothing wrong with “Beats by Apple”
  • I’ve generally stayed away from earphones / headphones that cost more than $/£ 40. This is because I’ve been burned by a more expensive pair of in-ear monitors stopping to work after not very long. I generally treat mine pretty badly, because I travel a lot, throw them in pockets, and crumple them up.
  • I would likely buy a pair of Beats by Apple. Especially if it integrated some kind of “quantified-self” sensor.
  • Most of my friend or family circle would not buy a pair of Beats by Apple.
  • I’ve never used the Beats music streaming service. It’s not available in the UK. I do use, am a generally a fan of, Spotify.
  • I don’t know or understand whether Apple would need to renegotiate streaming contracts. But I do understand the benefit of having people who have strong relationships within the music industry. Iovine and Dre will be critical in any future music deals. All business is done based in relationships.
  •  iTunes has been around since 2001. What if, just what if, Apple retired the iTunes brand in favour of Beats? It would be the ultimate canabalisation, quite likely something that only Apple is capable of. iTunes on the Mac needs a huge refresh, it’s become a beast of an application.
  • I do wonder how this acquisition will go down within Apple, culturally. This is probably the biggest risk.

The new iPad

Yesterday, on the way to visit family out in Essex, Reva and I stopped by the Apple store at the Westfield mall in Stratford. But I think a more accurate description of events would be that I dragged Reva to the Apple store at the Westfield mall in Stratford. It was the day after the release of the new iPad aka the third generation iPad and I wanted to get a glimpse of the screen that had been described as “resolutionary” by Apple’s marketing but had also been talked up greatly by all the blogs and podcasts I’m subscribed to.

Overall, yes the screen is a lot brighter and sharper, but to see the difference I really had to compare it to the iPad 2. I do see the difference between the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4S, but only on close inspection. I don’t know if the difference would be noticeable to me in daily use. In fact, I’d say it isn’t because I regularly use both an iPhone 4S and a Nexus One. And it’s not the screen on the Nexus One that annoys me (but that’s a story for another day).

The 3rd generation iPad is similar – only when compared to an iPad 2 up close can I really notice the difference, but ohh boy – what a difference it is. The size, shape and weight is almost identical to the iPad 2. The rear camera is apparently better, but personally that’s not a big selling point. Faster processor (quad core graphics?) and increased RAM are two big factors for me because original iPad I have is almost unusably slow with iOS 5 on it. LTE? Well, not until there’s some serious LTE push outside North America will I take notice of it.

Bottom line? If it’s the first tablet one is buying, then this is the best tablet on the market. If one already has an iPad 2, then don’t buy it unless one has $800 burning a hole in one’s pocket. What about me? I have an iPad 1. I’m sorely tempted, but I think I could last another year. Hopefully by then there’ll be a reason to get it for LTE in Europe.

False Advertising in the UK Mobile & Broadband Market

It has always irked me that the carriers in UK Mobile market claimed “unlimited” data when their products are far from unlimited (usually a 500 Mb monthly cap). Something ought to be done about the unfair advertising, or more and more people are going to be facing slowed data throughputs at the end of their 30 day cycle. Now that I’ve been shopping around for broadband, I’ve noticed this false advertising also affects broadband in the UK. While it is true that the increased competition offers lower prices and more features in terms of broadband availability, they all tend to generally advertise “unlimited” plans, while the small print talks about a data cap (generally 5 – 10 GB), after which the provider can slow your available bandwidth.

Lately though, I’ve noticed that some carriers are trying to move away from this (O2 doesn’t seem to have the word “unlimited data” on their home page and it took me a while to find the words “unlimited data an downloads on the Orange website, but find it I did). I attribute this to Three UK promoting it’s One plan, which apparently has “true” all-you-can-eat data. T-Mobile, however takes a different approach on their iPhone page. The wording on this page, under the title “No scary data charges” says, “But we won’t charge you any extra if you go over your limit. And, we’ll always let you browse and email, even if you’ve reached your data limit for streaming videos and downloading files”. Vodafone’s advertising on their website is perhaps the clearest of all – they offer different “web packs” that subscribers can buy, but even the best of those has a paltry 500 MB limit.

Also, why do these companies complicate things with Boosters (T-Mobile), Bolt-Ons (O2), Animal Plans (Orange) and Freebees (Vodafone)? And while I loved the Orange Wednesdays when I used them (2-for-1 cinema tickets), isn’t it just an extra cost that they can pass on to the consumer in terms of lower prices? I wouldn’t stick with Orange for these deals, I moved my number the moment I realised their 3G service was awful.

What prompted this rant? My search for a good broadband provider, now that we’re moving flat’s and need to get our own service. We’ve been using our landlord’s Sky broadband service so far, and while it’s been decent, there are definitely times when I know they’re throttling me down.  And what does Sky’s broadband page say? There are 2 plans, the first with a ridiculously low 2GB monthly data allowance. The second one, while claiming to be “unlimited” has a soft cap of 40GB and is subject to network management policies. And oh, I need to sign a 12 month contract. BT is even worse, with an 18 month contract required and the “unlimited” broadband that is capped, but their T&C don’t mention what the cap is. Forum poster seem to claim it is 100 GB, which is decent, I suppose. I can’t seem to find any information on whether BT Vision usage (IPTV) contributes towards this cap, but it shouldn’t.

Anyway, rant time over and some good news: I was very pleasantly surprised at the very decent BT customer service when I ordered a new phone line at the flat we’re moving to. It was set up fairly quick and when I had to make a change to the activation date, it was done without any fuss at all. I was quite impressed. And with regards to the broadband I finally ended up singing with? BE Broadband – apparently the only UK ISP with no caps or any traffic shaping policy.

Note: Tesco mobile (I’m currently employed by Tesco) adverstises “unlimited” web and data on their pay monthly sim only plans, while the paragraph below that says “fair use policy applies” and states the montly data allowance is 500 Mb (yes, with a lower case “b”, meaning megabits.) *sigh*

Choosing a new phone

I had been having a little trouble with my iPhone 3GS.  The software was fine, it was running iOS4.0 (jailbroken and unlocked). It used to be an AT&T locked iPhone, so to use it in the UK, I had to keep it unlocked.  The hardware was fine too, save the headphone minijack.  If I was walking and listening to something (which I’ve been doing a lot, lately) one channel would often cut out.  It was bothersome, but nothing I couldn’t live with for a bit.  Then on a telephone interview or two (with me using the included iPhone earphones/mic), interviewers mentioned they couldn’t hear me very well.  I didn’t quite put two-and-two together until I spent the entire day repeating everything I said on the phone one Friday two weeks ago, when I was working with a consultant to rewrite my CV.

That did it for me.  Realising that possible work opportunities depended on recruiters and employers being able to hear and understand me on the phone, I started looking for a new phone.  With the release on Windows Phone 7 around the corner, I stopped in at an O2 store to check out the phone in action.  They had the HTC HD7 on display which I could play with.

The hardware:  The phone looks and feels really nice.  It has a solidity to it that I’ve come to expect for HTC devices.  The 4.3 inch screen is a beauty, but just a little to large for me.

The software:  This was my first time playing with Windows Phone 7, and I must say, I’m impressed.  The UI has a fluidity to it that trumps anything else I’ve used.  One of the key things I look for in the UI/OS is how long a first time user takes to figure things out.  And as a first time user, I was very comfortable navigating in and out of the various apps in under 5 minutes.   I was pleasantly impressed by Internet Explorer on the phone (I was really dreading it, after being used to Safari on the iPhone). loaded flawlessly.

The things holding me back from getting a WP7 device is that I couldn’t get one unlocked or “sim-free” yet.  Also if I purchased the devices contract-free in the UK, they are still locked to the career.  Other things holding me back are the lack of copy & paste, a native Mac client for syncing, and the relative lack of multi-tasking for third party apps.  Some of this has been fixed already and others I’m certain will be fixed very soon.  Also I don’t yet own an XBOX 360, so I’m not tied to the Microsoft platform in anyway.


I also looked at several Android phones (unlocked of course).  The phones that I was considering were the HTC Desire, Desire Z, Desire HD (all £400 and above) or the Wildfire (around £200).  My rationale here was that I would probably want the iPhone 5 when it arrived in the middle of 2011, so a temporary Android device would let me get a taste of the platform.

But given my lack of a job, I wasn’t about to plonk down some serious cash on a phone yet.  So I listed my iPhone on London Craigslist, which isn’t very popular here, one morning for £250.  And lo, I got a serious offer that evening.  I wasn’t quite ready to sell, since I had listed it just to see if any fish took the bair.  But as Reva said, if I’m being offered £250, from a serious buyer, I should take it.  It would only be harder to sell later on.  I sold it that night, and reverted to using my ageing Sony Ericsson w880i while I scoured the Internet and high-street stores for an Android device I wanted.

What complicated matters even more was rumours of a “Nexus Two” to be released shortly.  I figured if I was getting a phone to experience the platform, it should be able to update to the latest OS as soon as possible, à la Nexus One.  I waited a few days and the tech blogs didn’t really heat up with the possibility of the Nexus Two with Gingerbread anytime soon.  If I could buy a Nexus One for around £300, that would be perfect, I thought to myself.  Randomly one morning, I looked on Gumtree (UK’s Criagslist) for a Nexus One in decent shape.  I found a very friendly lady selling a brand new, still in the box, Nexus one and she was willing to part with it for £300.

So for only £50 pounds more than I sold the iPhone for, I’m currently rocking a Nexus One running Froyo.  Not bad, eh?  Yes, the model itself is more than a year old, but it is likely to be one of the first phones to get new upgrades of the OS.  This was my top criteria for any Android model I got, anyway.  Given that the Galaxy S devices are still running 2.1 (Eclair) when 2.3 (Gingerbread) is around the corner, is pathetic.

So I’ve been enjoying this phone for about a week now, and it certainly fails the earlier test I mentioned (a novice to the platform being able to use it in under 5 minutes).  But I love the configurability.  I’ve not rooted it, and I don’t plan to at the moment.  I’ve got most of the apps I normally use for free from the Android Market, including a few games to keep me occupied.  I like that I don’t need a computer to get it up and running, or really to do anything on it, including downloading podcasts and music.  The phone came with Android 2.1 installed, and I spent a day or two pinging the servers to get the OTA update without luck.  Finally, I manually updated it to 2.2  I hope 2.3 isn’t such an issue, but I’m not sure if this has to do with the fact that the Froyo rollout for Nexus One is over or that I’m running it on Orange.  Additionally, I had to manually set the Orange APN for the UK to get 3G service (something I didn’t have to do with the unlocked iPhone).  The screen is not great, but the camera is better than the 3GS.  The keyboard is definitely a downer, but I like the audio input, which actually works very well in a quiet environment.  And I still can’t figure out how to get Swype on it.  Battery life seems decent, but I’ve not put it through any heavy usage yet.  I’ve also been killing of background tasks fairly often.  And the real bummer? The native GMail client doesn’t support copy/paste from a non-editable text field.

Overall, one week into using the device I’m happy.  I plan to keep using this till next Summer at which time I may upgrade to the new iPhone if it is compelling enough.

Update: And here we go, the Nexus S has been spotted.  No release date tho.  It does look like a front facing camera in that picture.

Intrepid Ibix

The Vaio laptop is finally working.  The last few weeks saw the motherboard, optical drive, and internal power cable get replaced.  It took 3 visits from a technician to get it all done.  The second of the 2-year warranty on the laptop expires in a few months.  I hope this is the end of the problems with it.  Anyway, I purchased this way back in 2005 March, so it is coming up on 4 years.  I dont think I used the Dell for 4 years even.  Altough, to give credit to that machine, nothing ever went wrong with it – save the battery totally draining.  It still boots in to WinXP, but the processor on that has become so slow that its not worth the trouble any more.

I just installed Intrepid Ibix (Ubuntu 8.10) on the Vaio.  I installed it within XP first in order to get all the bugs worked out before I wiped the system.  I intend to use it this way for a few weeks before wiping XP completely.  Out of the box, everything worked splendidly, save the sound.  I’ve normally has a lot of trouble getting the video card working on any machine I’ve tried to install various flavors of Linux on.  This is the first time that process went without a glitch.  Thankfully, Flash is now available for Ubuntu so I installed that and retrieved all the required updates.  Things seemed to be going great until I popped open – at which time I realized I had no sound! Playing around with the setting of the mixer didn’t quite work.  Also, it seemed like soundcard was installed and working properly, I just wasn’t outputting any sound. is a great resource, but I was having no luck.  I finally came across this…such a simple solution, so complicated to figure out!

1. On the toolbar at the top of the Ubuntu screen, next to the time display, there is a speaker icon. Right-mouse click it, and choose “Open Volume Control”.

2. Go to “Edit” and then “Preferences”. This takes you to the Volume Control Preferences box. Here, tick all the boxes for all the track options provided (“Master”, “Master Mono”, etc., but especially “Headphone Jack Sense” and “External Amplifier”).

3. Now close that box, and go back to the Volume Control box.

4. Click on the “Playback” tab. Make sure none of the playback tracks (“Master”, “Master Mono”, “Headphone”, etc.) is muted. If any is muted, unmute it. Make sure none of the volume buttons are down bottom. Make sure they are up.

5. Go to the “Switches” tab. This is the essential bit I found that made it all work. Untick these two boxes: “External Amplifier” and “Headphone Jack Sense”. Now, you can close the Volume Control box.

What really impresses me is that WiFi worked great, out of the box.  Even more impressive, the Fn keys (brightness, page up/down, home/end) work as well.  I’ve not tested Fn-F7 (monitor out) but I’m sure that will work too.  The one thing that I dont see so far is a drive for the Memory Stick reader.  But I’ll figure that out soon, I’m sure.