Apple has introduced a stripped-down version of the 5th generation iPod touch (that’s the latest model) for $229. This new iPod only has one storage option – 16 GB – and has no back-facing camera. With limited storage and limited photo/video options, who is this new iPod for?
It’s an odd hybrid: it runs apps, plays music and videos, but you can’t shoot photos or videos (not easily, unless you plan to film yourself). And the storage is fine for a limited music collection, but it’s not very useful for adding videos.
However, this might be the perfect iPod touch for a very large demographic: your children. The iPod touch is a great device for games, and there are thousands of games for kids. If you have an iOS device, you’ve probably found that your kids want to bogart your iPhone or iPod touch, but at the current price for the 5th generation iPod touch, you may have hesitated about buying one. Given that the 32 GB model is $299, the saving of $70 for this device is a nice chunk of change. You get the same processor and display, but you don’t get a choice of colors. But, above all, you get a cheaper version of the iPod touch that is fine for playing games.
If it’s music you want, then the 7th generation iPod nano is what you want. It’s smaller, lighter, and has the same amount of storage – 16 GB. But it doesn’t have any camera, and doesn’t run apps. But if all you want is music, there’s no need to spend more than the $149 this model costs.
I’ve been a fan of the iPod nano over the years, and I very much like the newest model. Not only is it small and light, but it has Bluetooth. I’ve become enamored of wireless headphones for listening to music when I’m out on my daily walks, and if I didn’t have an iPhone, I’d buy the nano for music on the go. It’s got enough storage for me to add music I like to listen to when I walk, and is small and unobtrusive.
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, iPod | No Comments »
The recent hullabaloo over Apple not paying income tax is almost surreal. The company has so much money overseas – currently some $100 billion in cash – that it has issued bonds to proceed with a share buy-back plan. The interest on the bonds is much less than the amount of tax the company would pay if they repatriated some of their income.
In addition, it turns out that Apple negotiated a “secret deal” with the Irish government back in the 1980s, so they only pay 2% income tax on the money they park in that country, though they actually only paid about 0.5%.
My question here is not whether it is moral for Apple to do this (the law allows them to do so), but why Apple or any other major corporation is not treated like other US citizens?
Expatriate US citizens – whether they are permanent residents of other countries or not – are taxed by the US on their foreign income. There is an earned income exclusion, which increases from time to time, and which does not take into account exchange rates. A US citizen could be well under the threshold for paying taxes one year, but if on the date that the exchange rate is calculated, the rate is unfavorable, they could owe taxes the following year on the same amount of income. (The current earned income exclusion is $95,100 for an individual, and $190,200 for a couple.) This exclusion also does not take into account the relative cost of living of a country. If the cost of living is higher, salaries will be higher. I experienced this 25 years ago when I lived in Norway for a year; everything cost nearly twice as much as France (where I was living before that), but salaries were higher to compensate.
In addition, the paperwork for Americans overseas filing taxes is substantial, complicated, and in many cases requires the use of a tax attorney or accountant. (See this Boston Globe article for more about this issue.)
What’s even more unfair is that Americans abroad are taxed twice. Once in the country they live in, and another time, if they earn more than the earned income exclusion, by the US. It’s interesting to note that the only other country in the entire world that does this is Eritrea.
Yet Apple isn’t even a resident of another country. Their subsidiaries are, but those subsidiaries only make money for the US company; Apple doesn’t have separate business entities for different countries or territories. (Though they manage to avoid paying VAT in all EU countries but one by “locating” their iTunes Store activities in Luxembourg, where VAT is only 3%, thereby denying VAT income to other countries where digital content is purchased.)
It’s obvious that expatriate Americans get little or nothing in exchange for their taxes. Other than the low-probability events requiring getting bailed out by the US Consulate, Americans abroad get no Social Security benefits, no unemployment, no health care, or anything else for their tax dollars. Apple, however, and other global corporations, get huge benefits from the US legal system, research infrastructure, publicly-subsidized education system, and the many international treaties and agreements governing such key factors to their success as intellectual property and trade regulations. So all of Apple’s sales overseas benefit from the broader fact that it is a US company.
So let’s treat Apple – and Google, Amazon, Yahoo! and all the others – like American citizens. Tax their overseas income, don’t let them set up a web of tax shelters, but make them pay their share.
Posted: 5/27/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, Miscellanea Tags: Apple, taxes | 15 Comments »
Have you ever wondered what an Apple landline phone might look like? I did. And I wrote about it for Macworld.
You may disagree with the idea, but I think it would be very useful.
Posted: 1/29/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPhone Tags: Apple, iPhone | 2 Comments »
I haven’t been doing well with tech hardware this year. I think I’ve had to return more devices that failed on installation this year than any year before. The last one was just last week, and it looks like I’ve got another one now: a new AirPort Express Wi-Fi device.
This should be simple to set up. In fact, when you plug it in, and open the AirPort Utility, it looks like it’s only going to take one click to do so. I want the device to extend my network, so my Wi-Fi is better at the far end of my house from where my AirPort Extreme is located. But no luck. When I tried, I saw this dialog, informing me of an “unexpected error” (as if any errors are “expected”:
I tried resetting the AirPort Express to factory settings, a half-dozen times, in fact, but no dice. So this goes back to Amazon for an exchange. I’ve also got a new AirPort Extreme, which I was in no hurry to set up, but which I think I’ll try today, just in case.
This is getting tiring. I’ve spent way too much time trying to get faulty devices to work this year. Last year it was an iMac and a Mac mini, and this year it’s been small devices that have been DOA. Quality control seems to be slipping among many companies, Apple included.
Update: Interestingly, I set up the new AirPort Extreme, and tried setting up the AirPort Express extending its network; it works fine. So is there an incompatibility between the new AirPort Express and the older AirPort Extreme (it’s an 802.11n model, a couple of years old)? If so, there certainly shouldn’t be.
Posted: 12/30/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: Apple, rants, troubleshooting | 10 Comments »
Apple finally released iTunes 11 on Thursday, and a number of readers have written asking what I think about it. I’ve been very busy looking into the nooks and crannies of the program for an extensive review which will be published on Macworld on Monday or Tuesday, so I haven’t had time to write anything here. My first impressions are mixed: while I applaud many of the interface changes, I’m unhappy about some of them which remove display options. Many users will need to get used to a lot to manage or organize their media libraries.
I’ll have much more to say in my review, and in future articles here, as well as in the update to my Take Control of iTunes, which I’ll be working on as soon as I’ve finished my review. So stay tuned for more about iTunes 11.
Posted: 12/1/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, iTunes | 3 Comments »
As the one year anniversary of iTunes Match approaches, many users are currently wondering if they are going to renew the $25 a year service. For some users iTunes Match works fine; for others it’s a disaster. I recently did some research for a Macworld article that will be published on November 14, the date that iTunes Match was introduced last year, and found that many users suffered from a number of problems. These involve poor matching, incorrect matching (often “clean” versions of songs instead of “explicit,” or live versions instead of studio versions), problems with tags disappearing, and especially problems with playlists not syncing correctly or getting mixed up.
So, if you’ve decided to throw in the towel on iTunes Match, you had better prepare. If you don’t have local copies of all your music, start downloading it now. Because if you don’t, when iTunes Match turns off for you, you won’t have access to any of that music, and you can’t get it back.
Posted: 11/8/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, digital music, iTunes | 15 Comments »
I wrote yesterday about how the iPad mini is the future of the iPad, and using it for another full day has convinced me that this is going to be the case, at least for most users. (One friend commented on Twitter that, for him, the iPad mini is too small, as his main use of the iPad is for maps.)
There’s one difference that I immediately spotted between the two devices, and that’s the color balance. The new iPad mini has a yellowish tinge to it, and seems to have a bit less gamma. Here is a picture of my home screen, where you can see that the blue background shows a hint of green because of the additional yellow. (Note that both devices are set to maximum brightness.)
It’s hard to tell from photos of displays, especially because the color bleeds a bit around the icons, especially in the dock; it’s much more visible when you can look closely. Another example that may be more obvious is this shot of a page of a book in the Kindle app:
Again, you can see that the iPad mini looks a bit dingy compared to the iPad 3, but I think the yellowness is clear in this photo.
Finally, here’s a photo showing the iPad 3, iPad mini and iPhone 5. Since I shot this with my iPod touch 4th generation, the photo is much poorer, with lower resolution and less brightness. But you can see that the iPhone is clearly the brightest of the three, and it seems to my eyes the whitest of the devices. The iPad 3, compared to the iPhone 5, is slightly bluish (or, again, it might simply be higher gamma), and the iPad mini yellowish.
I don’t know if this yellow tinge is inherent in the iPad mini’s display, or if my unit has a problem with the color balance. If anyone else is seeing different things, please post in the comments so I can figure out if it is normal or not.
Posted: 11/4/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad Tags: Apple, iPad | 5 Comments »
I love my iPad, but I have long grumbled about its weight. When you pick up a 10″ iPad, you know you have picked it up. At 651 grams, it’s a hefty device. I’ve always found it a bit too heavy for reading, and the 207 gram Kindle Touch is much more comfortable to hold, and its smaller screen is not a problem when reading books.
In the article I linked to above from July, 2012, I explained why I wanted a 7″ iPad. I use my iPad for consuming media and playing games, not for creating. The larger display doesn’t add anything for me, and the extra weight makes it a bit of a drag.
When I got my iPad mini yesterday (which finally has a 7.9″ screen), I realized that this is the iPad I had been waiting for all along. Not only is it smaller and lighter, but it’s thinness makes it feel like a totally different device. The lack of heft means that you pick it up easily, with less strain and gravitas than the heavier iPad. At 304 grams, it’s less than half the weight of the full-sized iPad, and, while it’s not that much thinner (7.2 mm compared to 9.4 mm), the difference is notable.
Following some of my fellow tech writers on Twitter yesterday, they all had good things to say about the iPad mini. It’s cute, it’s easier to type with two thumbs, and it’s much better for reading than the Kindle Paperwhite (the backlit Kindle) because the light is more even.
There are a couple of things that could be improved on the iPad mini. First, the display could be better. It’s better than the iPad 2, but not as good as the retina display of the iPad 3 and 4. This said, it’s fine for reading, even if the fonts aren’t as crisp as one might like. Apple most likely decided to forgo the retina display so they have a feature they can add to new year’s model, and I think this is a shame.
Second, everything on the iPad mini is just as it is on the full-sized iPad, but scaled down. I think that the interface could be re-designed so icons are a bit larger, and interface texts a few points bigger. There’s room to do this, but it does mean a different version of the interface than the standard iPad. Many interface elements have small fonts, which would be more readable at a slightly bigger size.
The iPad mini, which you can hold in one hand if you have large enough hands (as I do), is the right size and weight for usage on the go. It’s a portable iPad (sure, the large iPad is portable, but lug it around in your backpack, together with the rest of your everyday belongings, and you notice the weight). And it’s the future.
I will gladly predict that the iPad mini will become the standard iPad, and that, in the future, we’ll look back on the early full-sized iPads with a smirk, the way we look back at the first portable computers. If you already have an iPad, go check out the mini. If you don’t have either, compare the two. You’ll see that, unless you want to use the iPad to create – to work on images or videos, for example – there’s no reason to buy the bigger model. The iPad mini is really just right.
Note: See this post for some observations on color differences between the iPad mini and the iPad 3.
Posted: 11/3/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad Tags: Apple, iPad | 8 Comments »