Apple Event: Apple TV

Apple TV at the Macworld 2007
The outgoing Apple TV. Image via Wikipedia

Apple TV, or iTV based on many rumours, was the big disappointment of the show for me. I suppose a lot of that was due to getting my hopes up by reading about all of the possibilities which ended up not coming true. Namely the addition of an app store. The second being that lack of an app store, but I’ll get to that later.

One thing that did come true was the $99 price tag. I knew Apple weren’t going to go with the exchange rate and make it around £60 or £70, but I expected something around £80 as a fair price. That didn’t happen, and they just went ahead and announced it for £99, which really is just wrong and a joke in my opinion. Yes, I can understand that it’s a different economy, with different taxes. Still, to charge the same amount, when one currency is worth close to double the other is just ridiculous.

Despite the fact that it is ridiculous that they charged as if we share the same currency, £100 isn’t actually that bad all things considered. It’s soured in several ways though. The first being that it doesn’t come bundled with an HDMI cable. Surely that’s what 99% of people will be using to connect this to their TVs. Why not inclue one?

As far as the device itself, it’s a redesigned and cheaper Apple TV. It uses an A4 Chip just like the other iDevices do now, which lends credibility to rumours that this could be updated to run apps. It’s capable of outputting up to 720p but no 1080p, which is disappointing but not necessarily a huge loss as most content available isn’t available in full HD and I don’t see that changing soon.

In the end, Apple decided to strive for two main objectives with this new Apple TV. It had to be affordable and easier to use than previous versions. Maybe an App Store will come and they just wanted to keep things simple for the time being to give the market a chance to absorb the basics rather than overloading them and rushing into too much.

With that said, the iPod Touch seems to be doing just fine in sales and that has an App Store and can be fairly complex at times to understand, so that argument may not hold up well.

The actual features of this new Apple TV remain very similar to the previous one, except now there is no hard drive and the emphasis is on streaming and the rental model, which personally I much prefer as long as the prices are fair. The internet based content offerings remain similar with the usual youtube and podcast watching. You can also now stream Netflix instant watch movies if you have an account with them. This is a nice touch, especially as they’re competing with Apple in rentals. Obviously, if they had done a LOVEFiLM app for the UK then I’d be a lot more interested, especially if it did 720p streaming, But that didn’t happen. Hopefully more movie streaming options will be forthcoming.

Apple have also redesigned the remote for Apple TV. It’s now longer and looks more like a traditional remote, but is still very different at the same time. It still has very few buttons and no keypad. This isn’t a huge loss though since you can use your iPhone or iPod Touch to input text which should make searching for things much faster. It’s also made of aluminium now which is an interesting choice and will definitely make it more likely to stand out among all the standard bland remotes we all have on our coffee tables.

Overall, I think the new Apple TV is a step in the right direction, while not being particularly world changing. It’s a safe update by Apple in much the same way as the iPod Shuffle was this year. The lower price and new streaming rental model should ignite sales for the time being.

The product line has huge potential and I’m sure apps will be coming at some point, whether in this particular model through updates, or in future ones. Definitely watch out for big things in this space in the next couple of years with the likes of Google TV coming soon to provide some hopefully stiff competition. In the meantime at least, it’s definitely lacking something special to get me excited about it enough to want one, but I hope that changes sometime soon.


Apple Event Thoughts: Intro and iPod Shuffle

I’ve been speculating a lot leading up to yesterday’s event where Apple announced most of the things we thought they would do. I just want to go over what I predicted and see what happened and what didn’t, and what that means for the new products.

iPod Shuffle

I made some rather outlandish Shuffle predictions, including turning the device into a necklace type product. In the end, it was a pretty simple refresh. They responded to customer complains over the lack of buttons on the last version, and brought them back accordingly. Where the 2nd gen shuffle had a gap to the side of where the buttons were positioned, this one has seemingly no wasted space. The buttons are also 18% bigger to make them as easy as possible to press. Most importantly, they’ve decided to scrap the 4gb version and focused on having a lower capacity, and more importantly, lower priced player designed to have music swapped around every time you sync.

£39 isn’t as cheap as I would have hoped, but it’s still good and it’s almost . One of the problems with last year’s shuffle was that because the device had no buttons on the device itself to control playback, you were restricted to using the pretty poor default headphones unless you bought a special adapter but that wasn’t ideal. Now, the controls are all on the device itself, including a special new button to control the voice over feature, leaving you free to use any headphones you like, which is nice.

I could actually see myself getting a shuffle at some point as a dedicated podcast or audiobook player, or maybe just to load up a few favourite tracks to listen to when I’m out. It’s so light and simple to use that it’s perfect for wearing while jogging. I don’t know if I trust the clip to keep it securely fitted to clothing and I would probably opt for putting it in a pocket instead.

Another reason why it’s ideal for going out is because I’ve taken my 1st gen iPod Touch out in my pocket many times, practically daily and it is a bit bulky considering I often have my pockets loaded up with my phone, keys, wallet and a pedometer sometimes as well. Not only would using a shuffle save me pocket space and weight but it would also keep my new touch from getting it’s screen slightly scratched as my current one has been.

My brother won a 2nd gen shuffle on a crane game at an amusement park a couple of years ago, and it’s great. It’s 1gb which is ideal especially if I’m only going to have one piece of audio on it at a time. The clip is a disaster though, it got bent badly and won’t go back to it’s original shape. It still clips but not well. The worst part is that the charging dock is designed so that if the device is bent at all, it won’t fit unless you really force it. They fixed this in the more recent models by using simply a cable instead of a dock. I’m glad they’ve solved this problem now as the clips are very easily ruined. I personally would have preferred the clip to be optional, similar to the old iPod Mini which had a plastic clip that you could fit when you required it.

Overall I do like the new shuffle and like the product line in general as I feel it still fills a niche in the market, especially as the price lowers.


iPod Nano 6th Gen & Shuffle 4th Gen Wishlist

The current, outgoing lineup. Image via Wikipedia
The current, outgoing lineup. Image via Wikipedia

I’ve recently talked about my wants for the next generations of iPod Touch and Apple TV which we could see next Wednesday. The Apple TV is not necessarily a certainty for the show but it will come sometime soon. They just might focus on iPods only for the time being.

I now want to go over what I hope the next generations of Nano and Shuffle will bring to the table. These aren’t products that I would typically buy these days due to the iPod Touch doing so much more, but they are fun to speculate about.

iPod Nano 6th Gen

  1. Touch screen and no click wheel – The leaked shots of cases for a supposed new, smaller and square nano combined with the leak earlier this year or a 1.7 inch touch screen would indicate that Apple are going in a radically different direction with the nano this time around. Personally I find the click wheel fiddly on my old 2nd gen nano and I think it’s time they got rid of it, iconic or not. They still have the classic to fly the click wheel flag.
  2. Cut down version of iOS – because the device will be so small, they can’t use the regular iOS interface. They’ll have to cut it down further to fit on this device but it will save space and look great.
  3. Camera – I hope the camera stays part of the package although it is weird to envision one on a device so small as it could be difficult to hold. Still, I hope they do keep it and up the resolution as well as allow stills to be taken.
  4. Radio – Hopefully the radio also stays as this is a feature I personally would find very useful.

iPod Shuffle 4th Gen

  1. New form factor – The only way I could see the shuffle getting any smaller would be if they incorporated it into a necklace or into the headphones themselves. Personally I’d prefer to be able to use my own headphones. You could do a wearable necklace shuffle with the controls built into the the strap somehow. You could then have a cable tidy solution to stop the headphone cable hanging down and bouncing everywhere as well. However, they will probably just play it fairly safe, or just remove the product entirely and replace it with the new, smaller nano.
  2. Voice control – The nano already has voice over support. iPod Touches come with a mic in the headphone control and this feature would make sense on a device like the shuffle which obviously doesn’t have a screen and is designed to be used during exercise.

The event is next Wednesday at 6.00 pm UK time. It’ll be interesting to see if any of this and all of the other rumours end up coming true. I’m excited to find out.


Apple iTV and iPod Touch 4th Gen Wish List

With rumors of a new iPod Touch and an updated and renamed Apple TV in full swing, I think it’s time to highlight some of the things that will really make these products amazing. It will be interesting to see how many of these will appear at the Apple event likely to take place in mid September.

iPod Touch 4th Generation

  1. iPhone 4 power – An A4 chip should be included so that all the same games and apps can be run on this new iPod.
  2. Retina Display – The new screen from the iPhone is likely to make an appearance in the iPod Touch as well, as long as costs aren’t too high.
  3. Twin Cameras with FaceTime support – I always thought having one camera would be a cool addition to the iPod Touch for quick photo taking and easy uploading. Video recording and a front facing camera for FaceTime and possibly Skype video calling would be a great bonus.
  4. FM Radio – Sometimes it’s nice to have a radio for when you don’t know what you want to listen to. At the moment I have to use my phone for radio. It works but I’d like to be able to use my usual headphones and save my phone battery. I think Apple could do a great job with something like that, and they’ve already proven it with the iPod Nano last year.
  5. A built in Mic – If the iPod had a mic build in just like an iPhone then you could use Skype like a real phone. It can be a hassle and uncomfortable to use an inline mic or a headset.
  6. Gyroscope – It’s the latest innovation for iPhone gaming, and it should come to the iPod as well to keep them equal.
  7. Podcasts Subscriptions – Your podcast subscriptions should be transferable to the iPod for easy downloading and managing of episodes. Currently you can download episodes through iTunes but you must search for the podcast you require every time which is far from ideal.

Apple iTV

  1. Low cost – If the sub $100 price tag is true then it will become a mainstream product where the original Apple TV failed to. This product category is really maturing now and has the potential to become another pillar of Apple’s business alongside the iPod, iPhone and Mac.
  2. App store – An app store is essential. With this they can do what they did with iPad in making modified apps to suit the device. Things like NetFlix, Cable TV integration like Google TV, an iTunes subscription service and even games are likely to come from this.
  3. Gaming – This device will likely represent Apple’s best chance of entering the console games market to date. iPhone games have exploded and if priced well iTV games can do the same easily. If the box has bluetooth, they can even make a controller like a PS3 duel-shock to play games on. Even without that, the potential for casual games is enormous.
  4. Podcast Subscriptions – At the moment you can stream your downloaded podcasts over the air from your computer to your Apple TV automatically. This is complex though and I think there should be a way to subscribe directly on the device itself to cut out that complexity and give people more options.

These are a few of the most talked about as well as my own ideas for these devices. Whether or not the new Apple TV will be showcased at the upcoming event or not is unknown, but even so, I’m really looking forward to it and hope as many of these come true as possible.