Jul 07

We voted to leave. The pound falls against the dollar by 12%, more than anyone expected and is now at a 30 year low.

Guess what? The super smart team at Citigroup predict that this will hurt sales of Apple, Dell and other US tech firms that price in $.

Citigroup Global Markets analyst Jim Suva has predicted that economic uncertainty in the UK following the referendum decision to leave the EU will hurt Apple sales. Business Insider reports that Citigroup has lowered its estimates for iPhone sales across two quarters.

We are lowering our estimates for June and September quarters given potential for lower demand from macro uncertainty (Brexit related), currency volatility and lengthening replacement cycles.

The reduction isn’t a major one – just 700k down on the previous estimate – but does give some indication that the economic consequences of Brexit will extend beyond the UK.

As an indication of how other tech companies are responding, Dell has confirmed that it has raised its wholesale prices by 10% in the UK in response to a 12.4% reduction in the value of the pound against the dollar, and it’s been suggested that HP is likely to follow suit.

A spokeswoman at HP Inc said:

HP is carefully assessing the Brexit situation to better understand its business and economic impact. In the meantime, we continue to actively move forward with day-to-day operations supporting employees, customers and partners.

Apple currently appears to be adopting a wait-and-see approach, it seems likely that it too will raise its UK prices at some point.

Nov 10

Apple has confirmed that the iPad Pro will be available to order online on Wednesday 11 November. Prices start at £679, (32Gb with wi-fi) confirming that the UK pricing list we saw last week was correct. See our iPad Pro UK price section below for the numbers.

Tim Cook visited the Covent Garden Apple store and was interview by the Telegraph as he prepared to launch the iPad Pro.

Apple iPad Pro

 

“I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?”, asks Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who has just flown into Britain for the launch of the iPad Pro. Cook, whose spotless tailored suit and red poppy belies the fact that he spent the night in a plane, is clearly in ebullient mood. Wall Street and the City are obsessed with the iPhone, the company’s dominant product, but Apple appears quietly confident that its new tablet and TV device are going to help power the company’s continuing growth.

“Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones,” Cook argues in his distinctly Southern accent (he was born in Alabama). He highlights two other markets for his 12.9 inch devices, which go on sale online on Wednesday. The first are creatives: “if you sketch then it’s unbelievable..you don’t want to use a pad anymore,” Cook says.

The second is music and movie consumers: the sound system and speakers are so powerful that the iPad appears to pulsate in one’s hands when one plays a video.

Some consumers use the iPad mini to read in bed, he says, finding it more relaxing than using a phone and the busyness that goes with it. That won’t change, he believes. “But I think it clearly created some cannibalisation – which we knew would occur – but we don’t really spend any time worrying about that, because as long as we cannibalise [ourselves], it’s fine,” Cook laughs.

“We don’t want to put the watch through the FDA process, [but] I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it” comments Tim Cook.

iPad Pro UK price

The iPad Pro will be available in just three storage configurations, confirming the pre-launch rumour that the 16GB option has been killed off. Your only options are 32GB or 128GB (if you want the Wi-Fi model) or 128GB (if you want it with cellular connectivity).

We now have official word from Apple on UK pricing for the iPad Pro. (including VAT)

  • iPad Pro Wi-Fi (32GB): £679
  • iPad Pro Wi-Fi (128GB): £799
  • iPad Pro Wi-Fi + cellular (128GB): £899

Available in Silver, Gold and Space Grey:

iPad Pro

Specs

12.9″ Retina Display

2732*20148 Pixels

A9X Apple Chip – 64 bit

M9 motion coprocessor

8MP iSign camera

10 Hour battery life

iPad Pro layout

Options

Smart Keyboard – US Price $169 – UK Price £139.00

For many, a keyboard remains a convenient way to get work done or get thoughts down. The new Smart Keyboard completely reimagines this centuries-old invention to add even more flexibility to iPad Pro. With new technologies that free you from switches, plugs and even pairing, the Smart Keyboard is the perfect blend of full-size utility and outstanding portability.

Apple Pencil – US Price $99 – UK Price £79.00

Apple Pencil expands the power of iPad Pro and opens up new creative possibilities. It’s sensitive to pressure and tilt so you can easily vary line weight, create subtle shading, and produce a wide range of artistic effects — just like with a conventional pencil, but with pixel-perfect precision.

 

Nov 13

DigiTimes reports that Apple is entering production of the Apple Watch and has ordered between 30-40 million for the initial batch. We know that there have been issues with the Sapphire cover that was to come from GT Technologies, a supplier that is now in Chapter 11.

Apple-Watch

One assumes that the initial batch will be the Sports Watch version with the standard glass rather than Sapphire cover.

Apple is employing a rather advanced system-in-package technology, beyond the current A-series chips designs. This consists of a single chip with an entire computer system called the S1. It is a piece of custom-designed silicon which stacks and integrates many subsystems into an area that is small enough for a watch.

The watch will also feature a Force Touch Retina display, Nearfield Communication for Apple Pay system, Taptic Engine, Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth, wireless inductive charging, and Digital Crown. The latter was designed for navigating the operating system and prompting Siri.

Spring arrival?

Recently, Angela Ahrendts (senior vice president of retail and online stores) shared a special video note directed to Apple retail employees claiming the new watch would hit stores sometime during the spring. In the message she explained, “[You] guys were hired because you’re the best people in the world. And you know how to service customers, but we are sprinting a marathon right now, and it’s not going to stop. Right? We’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring. So, I just, I really wanted to say, stop for a moment, take a breath. Realize that every customer you touch — and again I know you know this, but you’re really busy — so just every customer that you touch, how do you make sure that they will walk away feeling very different, very positive, than before they walked into that store or they interacted with you?”

Of course Time will tel.

Sep 15

Apple Announces Record Pre-orders for iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Top Four Million in First 24 Hours

iPhone6CUPERTINO, California—September 15, 2014—Apple® today announced a record number of first day pre-orders of iPhone® 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, with over four million in the first 24 hours. Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October. Additional supply of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available to walk-in customers on Friday, September 19 at 8:00 a.m. local time at Apple retail stores. Customers are encouraged to arrive early or order online from the Apple Online Store(www.apple.com) to pickup in-store or receive an estimated delivery date. Both models will also be available on Friday from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, additional carriers and select Apple Authorized Resellers.

“iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are better in every way, and we are thrilled customers love them as much as we do,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Pre-orders for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus set a new record for Apple, and we can’t wait to get our best iPhones yet into the hands of customers starting this Friday.”

iphone6-
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK beginning this Friday, September 19 and in more than 20 additional countries beginning on Friday, September 26 including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

How much is this worth?

The plus is sold out for a month so lets say this represents 75% of sales volumes. If we assume that half the people pick the lowest priced, lowest RAM iPhone 6 and 6+ and 25% each select the next two memory options we come out with an average selling price of $799. With 4 million handsets that generates $3.2 billion.

Read full release on Apple website.

Sep 12

iPhone pre ordering is today. However earlier this morning the demand crashed Apple UK, O2 and EE sites as buyers swamped the websites.

At the 10 AM EE is still down and 02 is far too slow to use.

02 crash

On the Apple UK site you can pre order the iPhone 6 and 6 plus in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models for £529, £619 and £699, respectively, with Apple selling the handset in silver, gold and “space grey” colour options. At the time of writing, the 64GB model’s shipping has slipped to “7 to 10 days” in silver, while the rest are all shipping next week, on 19 September.

The iPhone 6 Plus is, unsurprisingly, more expensive, priced at £619, £699 and £789 for the 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, respectively. This has clearly been the most popular handset, as all 64GB and 128GB models are showing “3 to 4 weeks” delivery times.

appel financeApple also kindly offer finance. For example as £699 iPhone 6+ with 64GB costs £33.53 over 24 months. That’s at a rather steep 15% APR.

With the EE and O2 websites currently unavailable, and Three yet to kick off its pre-orders – saying they will go live this afternoon – it’s unclear how much they are asking for the two new iPhones.

vodafone pricingWith its website still up and running, Vodafone’s pricing is not a mystery. It is offering the 16GB iPhone 6 for free from £48.50 per month, or on a cheaper £38.50 per month tariff if you cough up £99 for the handset. If you’re after the 64GB model, the cheapest contract comes in at £53.50 with a £29 upfront cost, or a £109 upfront cost if you want the 128GB model. As you would expect, the iPhone 6 Plus is even more expensive.

At present, Vodafone is still promising to ship out orders on 19 September, but this likely will change as demand ramps.

Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus handsets were announced on Tuesday at Apple’s launch event. Ful l report to come soon.

iphone6p-gray-select-2014_GEO_GBThe two iPhones have 4.7in and 5.5in Retina HD sceeens, respectively, with 38 percent and 138 percent more pixels the iPhone 5S.

Beyond their screens, the Apple’s two new iPhones have similar specifications. You’ll find Apple’s new A8 chip under the bonnets of the smartphones, along with an NFC chip enabling buyers to make use of the Apple Pay service, which will come to the UK next year according to the Enquirer.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus also feature 8MP rear-facing cameras, with the larger model boasting optical image stablisation, support for 150Mbps LTE speeds and a built-in TouchID sensor.

The smaller iPhone 6 model measures 6.9mm thick and promises 14 hours of talk time, with the iPhone 6 Plus a slightly chunkier 7.1mm thick and offering 24 hours of talk time.

 

Aug 26

Apple has been busy expanding their UK retail footprint.

Since we last updated in 2012 this list the number of stores has grown to 37.

See full list below of jump to map.

Aberdeen, Union Square

27/28 Ground Level Mall, Union Square
Aberdeen, AB11 5PN
012 2428 7900

Barnet, Brent Cross

Lower East Mall
Barnet, NW4 3FP
020 3126 9200

Basingstoke, Festival Place

Upper Level, Queen Anne’s Walk
Basingstoke, RG21 7BE
0125 669 6000

Bath, SouthGate

SU39, Southgate Place
Bath, BA1 1AP
0122 548 7000

Belfast, Victoria Square

Upper Ground Floor
Belfast, BT1 4QG
028 9016 1900

Birmingham, Bullring

Level 3, Upper Mall West
Birmingham, B5 4BU
0121 224 2100

Brighton, Churchill Square

Upper Mall, Churchill Square
Brighton, BN1 2TE
012 7374 0500

Bristol, Cabot Circus

11 Philadelphia Street, Quakers Friars
Bristol, BS1 3BZ
0117 900 3450

Bristol, Cribbs Causeway

Upper Mall
Bristol, BS34 5DG
0117 959 7600

Bromley, Bromley

Intu Bromley Shopping Centre

Bromley, BR1 1DN
020 8225 5500

Cambridge, Grand Arcade

Grand Arcade Shopping Centre
Cambridge, CB2 3AX
0122 325 3600

Cardiff, St David’s 2

63-66 Grand Arcade
Cardiff, CF10 2EL
029 2055 6800

Central London, White City

Westfield London
Central London, W12 7GF
020 8433 4600

Exeter, Princesshay

24 Princesshay
Exeter, EX1 1GE
013 9231 6600

Gateshead, Metrocentre

Metrocentre
Gateshead, NE11 9YG
0191 402 2500

Glasgow, Braehead

Braehead Shopping Centre
Glasgow, G51 4BP
0141 885 4200

Glasgow, Buchanan Street

147 Buchanan Street
Glasgow, G1 2JX
0141 300 4950

Grays, Lakeside

West Thurrock Way
Grays, RM20 2ZP
017 0871 7500

Greenhithe, Bluewater

Upper Mall
Greenhithe, DA9 9ST
013 2264 0100

Kingston upon Thames, Bentall Centre

The Bentall Centre
Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1TP
020 8233 3400

Leeds, Trinity Leeds

Albion Street, 209 Trinity Leeds
Leeds, LS1 5AR
0113 251 1000

Leicester, Highcross

Upper Mall, Highcross
Leicester, LE1 4FT
0116 201 1900

Liverpool, Liverpool ONE

Paradise Street (West)
Liverpool, L1 8JF
0151 472 2600

London, Covent Garden

No. 1-7 The Piazza
London, WC2E 8HA
020 7447 1400

London, Regent Street

235 Regent Street
London, W1B 2EL
020 7153 9000

Manchester, Manchester Arndale

New Cannon Street Mall
Manchester, M4 3AJ
0161 455 1900

Manchester, Trafford Centre

146 Peel Avenue
Manchester, M17 8BL
0161 240 1000

Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes

26 Midsummer Place
Milton Keynes, MK9 3GB
019 0885 6650

Newcastle upon Tyne, Eldon Square

St Andrew’s Way
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7JB
0191 270 6100

Norwich, Chapelfield

Merchants Hall
Norwich, NR2 1SH
016 0321 6600

Plymouth, Drake Circus

1 Charles Street
Plymouth, PL1 1EA
017 5263 3000

Reading, The Oracle

Upper Level, The Oracle Shopping Centre
Reading, RG1 2AG
0118 925 4500

Sheffield, Meadowhall

80 High Street
Sheffield, S9 1EN
0114 212 1000

Solihull, Touchwood Centre

The Touchwood Centre
Solihull, B91 3GJ
0121 224 1300

Southampton, WestQuay

Upper Shopping
Southampton, SO15 1QE
023 8030 3100

Stratford, Stratford City

The Arcade, Westfield Stratford City
Stratford, E20 1EQ
020 8277 2200

Watford, Watford

Intu Watford Shopping Centre
Watford, WD17 2TN
019 2342 1700

Map of Apple UK Stores

 

Apple UK strores Aug 2014

Dec 23

Apple confirmed yesterday that it has at long last reached agreement with China Mobile to officially offer the iPhone in China.

After many months of rumours and claims about the world’s largest phone company selling the iPhone the story is now confirmed. No more guessing.

This is big news worthy of a special press release due to the huge size of China Mobile’s customer base of 740 million subscribers, more than any other phone company by far. China Mobile will start selling the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c on Jan. 17, with pre-registrations starting this Wednesday.

Pricing details will come later, Apple said. “Apple’s iPhone is very much-loved by millions of customers around the world,” China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said in a statement. “We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile’s leading network. We are delighted that iPhone on China Mobile will support our 4G/TD-LTE and 3G/TD-SCDMA networks, providing customers with high-speed mobile service.”

Apple’s Tim Cook said he is excited to begin working with China Mobile. “China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world’s largest network,” Cook said. “iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can’t think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one.”

Read the full release below:

How many millions of iPhones will Apple sell into China? This is the great question that no one can answer but many people are happy to take a punt.

Piper Jaffray sees the potential for 17 million sales by China Mobile, while ISI analyst Brian Marshall said sales could reach nearly 39 million iPhones next year.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White sees thing somewhere between those estimates, forecasting calendar 2014 iPhone sales of 20 million to 24 million on China Mobile, while Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair sees sales of 18 million to 20 million iPhones, though the number will depend on how aggressively Apple and China Mobile promote the iPhone.

Even before the China Mobile deal, Apple has been making some inroads in the giant market. According to Counterpoint Research, the iPhone 5s, 5 and 5c were October’s No. 1, 2 and 4 top-selling smartphones, with Apple grabbing 12 percent of that month’s market share.

Apple stock up 3% pre-market.

Apple Release

China Mobile & Apple Bring iPhone to China Mobile’s 4G & 3G Networks on January 17, 2014

iPhone 5s & iPhone 5c Available for Pre-Registration Beginning December 25, 2013

BEIJING and CUPERTINO, California—December 22, 2013—Apple and China Mobile today announced they have entered into a multi-year agreement to bring iPhone to the world’s largest mobile network.

As part of the agreement, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c will be available from China Mobile’s expansive network of retail stores as well as Apple retail stores across mainland China beginning on Friday, January 17, 2014.

iPhone 5s, the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world and iPhone 5c, the most colourful iPhone yet, will be available for pre-registration from China Mobile’s official website (www.10086.cn) and customer service hotline “10086” beginning on Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

“Apple’s iPhone is very much loved by millions of customers around the world. We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile’s leading network. We are delighted that iPhone on China Mobile will support our 4G/TD-LTE and 3G/TD-SCDMA networks, providing customers with high-speed mobile service,” said Xi Guohua, China Mobile Chairman. “Apple has enormous respect for China Mobile and we are excited to begin working together. China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world’s largest network,” said Tim Cook, Apple CEO. “iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can’t think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one.”

China Mobile now has over 1.2 million 2G/GSM, 3G/TD-SCDMA, 4G/TD-LTE base stations and over 4.2 million Wi-Fi access points, providing broad coverage to quality networks for iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c customers. China Mobile is rolling out the world’s largest 4G network. By the end of 2013, China Mobile’s 4G services will be available in 16 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. By the end of 2014, China Mobile plans to complete the rollout of more than 500,000 4G base stations, which will cover more than 340 cities with 4G service.

The collaboration between Apple and China Mobile will give a big boost to the development of China’s homegrown 4G/TD-LTE technology. iPhone on China Mobile supports major cellular network standards, making a global phone a reality for China Mobile customers.

iPhone 5s redefines the best smartphone experience in the world with amazing new features all packed into a remarkable thin and light design, including the Apple-designed A7 64-bit chip, all-new 8 megapixel iSight camera with True Tone flash and introducing Touch ID, an innovative way to simply and securely unlock your phone with just the touch of a finger. iPhone 5c features an all new-design in five gorgeous colours and is packed with features people know and love like the beautiful 4-inch Retina display, blazing fast performance of the A6 chip, and the 8 megapixel iSight camera—all while delivering great battery life.* iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c both offer more 4G LTE bands than any other smartphone in the world and include all-new FaceTime HD cameras. iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c come with iOS 7, the most significant iOS update since the original iPhone, featuring a stunning new user interface, completely redesigned with an elegant colour palette, distinct, functional layers and subtle motion that make it feel more alive. iOS 7 has hundreds of great new features, including Control Center, Notification Center, improved Multitasking, AirDrop, enhanced Photos, Safari and Siri.

Details of pricing and availability of iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c for China Mobile will be available at a later date.

Jul 31

Apple’s share of the British smartphone market is growing thanks to cheaper, older versions of the iPhone being bought by first-time smartphone users.

iPhone 4s

Sales data collected by London-based Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reveal that Apple’s share of the UK market jumped from 25.3% to 30.5% for the three month period ending 30 June 2013.

Dominic Sunnebo, global strategic insight director at Kantar, said: “Although the flagship iPhone 5 was widely credited with boosting Apple’s global results last week, much of the market share growth for iOS in Britain is thanks to the competitively priced iPhone 4 attracting first time smartphone buyers.

“More than a third of iPhone 4’s sold [between April and June] were to consumers who have never owned a smartphone before, compared with just one in 10 new customers buying the iPhone 5.”

Despite this resurgence for iOS, Android remains far and away the most popular mobile operating system in the UK, with 56.2% of the market, thanks to being available on a wide range of devices from various manufacturers and across all price points.

This is also true across Europe, where Kantar says Android accounts for an average of 69.8% of sales across Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, up from 64.5% a year ago. In the US Android commands 51.5% of the smartphone market, down from 52.6% this time last year.

Apple is widely expected to announce a cheaper, plastic iPhone C alongside an update to the iPhone 5 in the autumn. The company has until now resisted the urge to join rivals Samsung, HTC and Nokia in offering a range of handsets at various prices – so far, Apple’s strategy involves selling the previous two models at reduced rates.

Sunnebo continues: “Margins are tighter at the entry-level end of the market, but as consumers become more engaged with their smartphone they are increasingly prepared to invest more when they upgrade.

“Apple boasts the highest level of customer loyalty of the operating systems, and by capturing consumers at entry-level it is in a good position to grow its customer base in the future. With almost 19 million feature phone owners left in Britain, there is still a lot for iOS and the other platforms to compete for.”

Best of the rest

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system remains in third place with strong performances in Britain and France where it accounts for 8.6% and 9% of smartphone markets respectively. The US remains a problem for Windows Phone however, as its market share there has dipped slightly, down from 4.6% in the three months to May, to 4% now.

Although flagship handsets like the Nokia Lumia 925 and HTC 8X capture the most headlines, it is the low-end models like the Nokia Lumia 520 and 620 which are quietly boosting Microsoft’s market share, according to Sunnebo.

“It is vital for Windows to be seen a mainstream alternative to Android and iOS rather than a niche platform. Selling large volumes of lower end smartphones is a good way of getting Windows seen in the hands of potential customers’ friends and family, convincing them there isn’t a risk in choosing the operating system

“The majority of people are trend followers, not trend setters, so Windows needs to get as many smartphones to market as quickly as possible.”

Microsoft has found itself under mounting pressure from partner Nokia to improve Windows Phone 8 and its selection of apps, which falls some way behind that of iOS and Android. Nokia vice president Bryan Biniak said: “We are releasing new devices frequently and for every new device, if there is an app that somebody cares about that’s not there, that’s a missed opportunity of a sale.

“We are trying to evolve the cultural thinking [at Microsoft] to say ‘time is of the essence’. Waiting until the end of your fiscal year when you need to close targets, doesn’t do us any good when I have phones to sell today.”

Stressing the importance of a well-stocked application store, Biniak added: “It’s not just about the hardware, it’s about the tools that are on the hardware. You can’t sell a phone without the apps, you just can’t.”

Kantar also found smartphone penetration in Britain to be at 65% in June, with 87% of devices sold in the last three months being smartphones

Nov 21

How to decide on a tablet: should you buy an Apple iPad mini, an Amazon Kindle Fire HD, or a Google Nexus 7?

 

Summary: You might think the big decision is about which tablet has the best hardware, but there is far more to these devices than the hardware specifications. In fact, the big decisions are all about price and ecosystem. Alastair Dodwell explains more..

ipad mini imageThe tablet market is rapidly changing. For a product class that did not exist four years ago there are now a plethora of devices on the market. Apple supercharged the tablet space with the original iPad, launched in the summer of 2010. Since the initial iPad, Apple has steadily enhanced the iPad with newer versions, culminating with the most recent iPad (4) with retina display. At the last iPad launch Apple also introduced the widely anticipated iPad Mini.  Since the original IPad launched, Apple have sold over 100 million devices. This article looks at the iPad Mini and the two main competitors: The Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Google Nexus 7.

nexus 7You may well think deciding between these units is a hardware choice, but it’s better to look at the larger picture and focus not just on price but on the complete eco-system that stands behind these products.

The Amazon Kindle Fire is an update to the Kindle family and adds an improved HD screen. The Nexus 7 recently added more memory for the same price. Apple has introduced a smaller tablet to complete at a lower price point, with the 7 and a bit inch iPad mini.

Amazon Fire HDAs Christmas looms these devices are going to be snapped up by the million, but which one is best for you?

The ground rules

Before we jump into the murky details and specs of these three tablets, let’s discuss the objectives as this article: First this is not a product review. Instead, I’m helping you understand the various elements of each product line, so you can make up your mind which best fits your needs. This is all about you and how you will use the device.

There are two big deciding factors between these devices: price and ecosystem.

Second, I’m only talking about the 7-inch (ish) mid-size tablet offerings. Each of these vendors offers a larger 9- or 10-inch variety, and I’m not going to talk about them at all. You need to decide if you want a smaller or larger tablet (or both). This article is just about the 7-inchers.

Within this article, when I talk about “tablet” I’m speaking of the device that’s approximately 7-inches in size. That’s just so I don’t have to type “approximately 7-inch tablets” over and over, and you don’t have to read it.

The big differences

There are two big deciding factors between these devices: price and ecosystem. Put simply, the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 enter the market at a lowish price £159 each while the iPad mini starts at £269. If you just want the cheapest, the iPad mini probably won’t be your choice.

The second big factor is and arguably the most important is the device’s ecosystem. Each of these devices is very firmly attached to its own ecosystem: Amazon for the Kindle Fire HD, Google’s Android for the Nexus 7, and Apple’s iOS for the iPad mini.

If you already have a big investment in any of these three ecosystems, the device choice may turn out to be a no-brainer. Let’s look at those ecosystems in a bit more detail.

The Kindle Fire vs. the Kindle Fire HD

In this guide, I won’t really be talking about the Kindle Fire (the first generation color Kindle). As of November 21, 2012, the Kindle Fire was still available for £129. But since it got beaten handily by the Nexus 7 on features, and the Kindle Fire HD is only £30 more, I won’t be comparing the original Kindle Fire to the other machines in this article.

The app world

The Apple’s App Store now contains over 1 million applications as of news release Nov 21 2012. Google not to be left behind also offers a boat load of apps from their Play site. Google claim 500,000  apps so far.

While it is possible to run Google app store Android apps on the Kindle Fire HD, there is some hacking and fiddling involved. According to The Verge, Amazon’s Appstore for Android had 50,000 apps as of September — but only a subset of them will run on the Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD.

An important factor (perhaps the most important factor) to keep in mind is that if you already have a substantial app investment, that investment transfers to the new device. So, for example, if you already have a full-size iPad with a pile of apps, you get those apps again on your iPad mini for free. That, alone, might justify the added price.

Clearly, when it comes to the absolute volume of available apps, the iPad mini and the Nexus 7 handily beat the Kindle Fire HD. But if you’re buying a Kindle Fire HD, you’re probably not buying it for the app store.

Application security vs. application variety

The Android ecosystem has been growing at an astonishing speed surpassing iOS in terms of number of units out there and reaching application quantity parity (at least according to Google, but not to Apple) a few months ago.

But there are some very serious qualitative differences between these two ecosystems.

The first issue is security. Apple’s iOS architecture “sandboxes” apps, so each app can’t touch much of what’s in any other application. Some apps can get to your contact list, but they can’t modify anything in the OS or files belonging to other applications, or the behavior of the machine.

On the other hand, Android lets everything be controlled and programmed by app developers. This allows applications like XBMC (the Xbox Media Center) to be ported to Android, but not iOS. Apple doesn’t allow some of the media codecs that XBMC uses. Apple is extremely careful about what apps it allows to be sold for iOS, where Google allows everything.

You can find apps for Android you just can’t find for iOS. This is good… and bad.

As CNN reports, Android malware is rising at a furious pace. Because each app can fiddle with the entire environment (assuming you grant it permission), a lot more damage can be done in Android than in iOS. It has also been revealed that certain third-party app stores are embedding malware payloads on otherwise legitimate Android products. This problem doesn’t exist for iOS devices.

If you want to run something specific and special, like XBMC, then you’re probably going to want the Nexus 7. But if you’re at all worried about security, the iPad mini is your choice.

Office ecosystem integration

The Nexus 7 is intimately tied into the Google ecosystem, so if you’re running Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs (which are part of Google Drive), the Nexus 7 is a no-brainer. You actually can’t use the Nexus 7 until you login with a Google ID.

Speaking personally, I really hated that. I don’t use Gmail (I use our Office365 corporate Exchange server), and I really didn’t want to immediately link my Nexus 7 to Google’s identity controls.

The iPad has a number of excellent Office clones, as does the Android ecosystem. However, the iPad mini will let you access a corporate Exchange server with the built-in Apple iOS email app, where you need to buy an Exchange-aware app for either the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7. For anyone wishing to use a company e-mail system this alone is a key differential. 

Amazon ecosystem integration

This is clearly a gimmee for Amazon, but for good reason. Amazon provides a wide range of added features to Kindle Fire HD purchasers, especially if you’re also an Amazon Prime customer.

If you are primarily a book lover and looking for an e-reader then the Kindle works very well. To be fair, the Kindle reader app works just fine on the iPad mini and the Nexus 7 as well, so if you just want to read Kindle books you’ve paid for, you can use any device. This, in fact, is the enormous inherent value in the Kindle ecosystem itself.

One thing to be aware off is that the base £159 Kindle Fire HD comes with “special offers”. These are ads that pop up in between programs you run (no, they won’t intrude while you’re reading). Most users tell me that they’re very unobtrusive, but do be aware that you’re paying £159 for access to an ecosystem where you can buy more stuff, and you’re also being advertised to at the same time. If you don’t want those ads, Amazon will ding you an extra £10 to buy an ad-free device.

Hardware

You may have noticed that I’ve penned around 1,000 words into this article before I talked about a single hardware feature. That was on purpose. You see, I don’t consider the hardware features key in almost anyone’s decision-making process.

Yes, one has a slightly faster processor. Yes, one has slightly better speakers (although this is disputed by reviewers). And yes, one has slightly more screen real estate. They all run quite well, they all do the job reasonably well, they all play most games well, and they all play video quite well.

The thing is, if you’re trying to decide between these devices, on paper the hardware differences are, essentially superficial. It’s only when you see and feel the devices do the differences become clearer. If you have used an iPad classic the mini feels about half the weight, it is surprisingly thin and the screen fills the device as the surround seems to vanish into the device. Plus the build quality and level of detail in the iPad mini is just exquisite. This is a device you can love. The others feel, we’ll cheap and plastic compared to the iPad.

The screens have been talked about at great length. Some have complained the iPad mini does not offer the ‘retina’ display of other Apple devices. The mini has the same screen resolution as the iPad 2, that was raved about only last year, and I am not going to dwell on this point just to say that they are all totally fine to look at.

However the iPad mini does render far more content of a website due to its surprisingly larger 7.9” screen size, so if heavy web browsing is a priority then again thus favors the more expensive Apple product.  Apple claims that a 7” inch screen gives 21.9 viewable square inches while the 7.9” mini offers 29.6 square inches. That may now sound much but does represent 35% more screen.

You can go ahead and read about the hardware features in many of the reviews all over the Web. But, fundamentally, you probably shouldn’t decide on one of these three devices based on the hardware configuration. The ecosystem decision is far more relevant.

The iPad mini price issue

Okay, here’s the thing. The iPad mini is £110 more than the base Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7 and comes with the same 16GB of RAM that they do. You are paying an Apple premium; it’s up to you to determine the value.

How to decide

Let’s bring this story in for a landing, shall we? Here are some guidelines to consider:

• If how much you spend is the most important, get the £129 Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7.

• If how much you spend is really, really important, get the last-generation Kindle Fire for £129.

• If the most important thing is using all your iOS apps, get the iPad mini.

• If the most important thing is using all your Android apps, get the Nexus 7.

• If you want the freedom to run apps that Apple might not approve of, get the Nexus 7.

• If you want the most mainstream option, with better app security, and you don’t mind spending extra for the privilege, get the iPad mini.

If you’ve never used a tablet or a tablet operating system and you want access to the most training resources and materials, get the iPad mini.

• If you want to read magazines and books in the bathroom and don’t want to freak out if you drop your tablet in the toilet, get the last-generation Kindle Fire.

One last point to close is how to get these devices. The iPad and kindle are available from a number of retail chains like PC World, Dixons, Peter Jones and others and it does make sense to see and touch these devices as they do tend to become ingrained in your life and how they feel in the hand impacts their enjoyment. The Nexus is available from a more limited number of stores. Of course all are available on-line; in fact you can’t go to Amazon.com and miss the Kindle. Google runs a site for the Nexus where you can purchase on-line. You do need to plan for Christmas as the entry-level iPad mini is currently shipping directly from Apple with a two-week wait.  Apple SaleApple has announced a Black Friday sale this Friday Nov 23 to help us Brits partake in the US Thanks Giving celebrations and shopping bonanza.

The clock’s ticking for Christmas.

For comments of feedback contact the author who passes thanks to comments from ZD journal.

Oct 30

Apple management reshuffle: Who, Why, and what next

Summary: Two significant senior Apple executives are out of the technology giant without an explanation. Who will win out of the management shuffle, and who could be vying for the chief’s chair next?

Reprint from ZD magazine. A major management shake up at Apple earlier today has left many shocked at such wide-ranging company changes likely not seen since the death of the firm’s co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the Apple-sphere once the company announces something. The famously secretive technology giant simply exhales and the media jumps into a frenzy.

While this time is no different, it’s not a product announcement or service launch: it’s a shake up at the very heart of the world’s wealthiest, and one of the most powerful companies on the planet. And that spells major changes at what comes next.

Who

Scott Forstall, Apple senior vice-president for iOS software, will leave the company in the coming months and will stay on as advisor to CEO Tim Cook.

In charge of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system platform, Forstall was a controversial and often at times idiosyncratic figure within the company. A relic from the Steve Jobs days, it was argued that he didn’t necessarily fit into the new corporate “design” — in more ways than just the obvious. Jobs passed away and the company remained vastly the same, but the company’s innards were given freedom and independence from the Jobsian era.

John Browett, Apple senior vice-president for retail, was shown the door immediately after less than a year in the job.

British retail expert Browett was a controversial choice from the get-go. He ran U.K.-based popular computer and technology chain Dixons and was poached at the end of January. But Dixons had already gone to the dogs and earlier this month was finally shuttered. Dixons had crumbled and Browett was lucky enough to have been given a way out. Our comment – Dixone was never a well run business, their stores were never great, in fact they were rather grim, dirty and staffed by low paid, low skilled staff. Why Apple should ever be rometly interested in him has allways been a mystry.

Why

Apple did not give a specific reason — let alone even hint at one — as to why the two high-ups left Apple. (For all intents and purposes, even though Forstall will remain on to advise the chief executive, he has a scheduled departure date.) That said, looking back at what the two were responsible for, and two major screw-ups later and a cultural shift, it’s not difficult to deduce why the two were likely pushed rather than walked freely out of the doors of 1 Infinite Loop.

The first major collective moment of public weakness was Siri, Apple’s first major software headache. In spite of its appeal and its glamor among consumers, it was in “beta” for far too long and didn’t work as well as it should’ve done. Maps was the next major slip-up, and for a while dubbed “Map-gate,” a result stemmed from the firm’s decision to ditch Google Maps from iOS 6 for an unfinished and botched attempt at a rival service.

But it wasn’t the firm’s decision. It was Forstall’s final decision to defenestrate Google from the top-floor executive suite at Apple HQ and replace the mapping app with Apple’s own in-house service. And it was beyond a flop, riddled with errors, and received criticism from both the media and end-users alike.

Having said that, it does not rule out the possibility that Forstall was looking for something new.

With Apple chief executive Tim Cook at the helm and a further reshuffle away from Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive being the chief executive officer himself — we know the connection between Jobs and Ive was a special, unique partnership — made it almost inevitable that he would eventually be groomed for the top-spot should Cook ever leave. With that, it rules Forstall out of the top-spot role, something he reportedly desired.

The second major blow to Apple’s public image came earlier this year when retail chief Browett caused a stir amongst the firm’s retail store staff. While previous company focus had honed in on customer experience and seemingly little else — there were no pushy staff in stores, they were friendly, every store has a calm, laid back employee-to-customer feeling — Browett was instead told to focus on sales and raking in the cash by then chief operating officer Cook and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer.

Browett had to offer reassurances following concerns that the Apple retail stores would face cutbacks and reduced worker hours, including all-out layoffs. By publicly admitting that he had ‘screwed up’ a new implementation of a staffing schedule system may have tarnished the technology giant’s image that it was invulnerable to injury, as it winced through the pain of the ordeal.

Also, his predecessor Ron Johnson said he wanted to expand rapidly into China, a key emerging market for Apple to crack, with more than 25 stores by the end of this year. In mainland China and Hong Kong, there are only eight stores, signaling a considerable effort still required to get the firm on track in the region. Tim Cook said on the Apple Q4 earnings call that China represented 15 percent of Apple’s revenue, but it clearly isn’t enough for the Cupertino technology giant.

Browett failed to achieve what Apple wanted in retail, and likely had to go for that reason alone.

The next?

With Browett out, Tim Cook will be directly responsible for retail. Considering it was he who pushed Browett into focusing on sales rather than customer experience, we can only guess at how that will work out. Any changes to the status quo will likely remain minimal and inconsequential — strategy only, perhaps — instead of refocusing efforts elsewhere or anything other than the customer experience.

Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice-president for Internet software and services, will take over Siri and Maps — two ‘failed’ products under the Forstall command.

Bob Mansfield, now senior vice president of technologies, will be charged with above all else bringing the semiconductor and chip-making effort in-house, something the firm has wanted for some time. Not only does it give Apple the opportunity to cut out its part-rival, part suppliers in the chip-making business, but it also allows Apple to gain a firmer grip on its increasingly leaky supply chain.

Despite his brief hiccup of wanting out to face retirement head on with more than a decade employment under his belt at Apple, Mansfield will now head up the new “technologies” division. He will also oversee the consolidation of the firm’s wireless efforts.

Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of Mac Software Engineering, will now take the lead the iOS software team effort from Forstall — along with being responsible for Mac OS X software.

But with Ive now in charge of product design, device hardware and software, Ive now controls the very core of Apple’s business: the iPhone. The iPhone division made more in the first quarter than Microsoft did as an entire company. Next is the iPad, but it has less prominent focus than the iPhone division. But what goes with the iPad goes with the iPhone later down the line and vice-versa.

But Ive is now the logical next in line to replace Cook when the time inevitably comes. With the experience, the company ethos, the ghost of Jobs over him, and the practical ability to take the company forward with the product design edge over anyone else at Apple, it’s clear as day that Ive is next to sit in the chief’s chair.

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