App’s I like

I haven’t posted a review of iPhone/iPad app’s in a long time, but here are two App’s that I have been using the past couple of months that I am very pleased with and highly recommend:

Dark Sky – Weather

I really like the design of this app. When I first read about that app my initial reaction was, “Well what can it provide that other weather app’s do not?”. However, i found that it really does display weather information in a very unique format that gives you a complete picture of the weather in your area very quickly.. The maps are great and are especially cool when displayed on a tablet

Dark Sky costs a $3.99, but I think it well worth it.

StocksTracker – Financial 

The second app that has become a new favorite of mine is StocksTracker.  Yes, there are hundreds of stock app’s out there, but I think this app is exceptionally well designed and the interface is very well organized.
The bacic app is free, but if you want the full version with all the bell and whistles it costs $15.00. I used the free version at first  and I liked it so much that bought the full version after two  weeks. I think the charts are very good.
It is a great app for the iPhone, but even better on the iPad.

Two Weeks with the iPhone SE

I have been in the market for a new phone for quite a while, but after much deliberation I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a new Apple iPhone SE two weeks ago. So far, I am very pleased it. I bought the 64GB $499.00 model and think it is a terrific value. I will write a more detailed review in a few weeks, but I think it the “little” SE delivers great performance. One of the best things about the phone is it’s 12 MP camera, the exact same camera that is the top of the line iPhone 6S has. The SE also uses the same high performance A9chip as the 6S.

I have already taken quite a few pictures with the SE. Here are a few of my favorites of the last weeks..

Painters on the Lehigh River, Easton, PA
Zion’s Reformed United Church of Christ, Allentown, PA
The Wolf Building, Easton, PA
Nisky Hill Cemetery, Bethlehem, PA

I was wrong about the Apple Watch

Very interesting assessment of the Apple Watch by Jean-Louis Gassee. Those of you who have followed Apple since the early days will know that Gassee was a high ranking former executive at Apple Computer (1981 to 1990). After leaving Apple, Gassee went on to found Be, Inc., which created the Be OS. Gassee is now a General Partner of Allegis Capital.

The more I learn about the Apple Watch the more impressed I am by it. (BTW, the title of this post is from the original blog post on the Quartz blog) I wasn’t wrong, Gassee was. Once again, Apple has created a device that is much better and more innovative, by a wide margin, than everything else in the same product class.

Impressions of The Surface Pro 3

I looked forward to Microsoft’s May 20th Surface event with great anticipation because I was impressed by the 1st and 2nd generation Surface tablets and I was very curious to see what improvements Microsoft would make to their unique tablet computer. I viewed the gen 1 and gen 2 Surface tablets as very imperfect devices, but ones that held great promise because they clearly raised the performance bar substantially for tablet class computers. And I say that as someone who has always been a huge fan of the iPad.

The Surface Pro 3 exceeded my expectations. It is not a perfect tablet, but Microsoft made very significant improvements with the Pro 3, addressing the weaknesses of the Pro 2 and refining an already great design. The screen has grown from 10 inches to 12 inches, but it is now a much thinner tablet. The spec’s blow away other tablets on the market, but this device is really made to go head to head with laptops and ultra books and the prices of the various Surface Pro 3 models are at laptop levels, with the base model (64 GB – i3 chip) going for $799.00 and the top of the line (512 GB – i7 chip) going for nearly $2,000.00. Additional accessories that many will want or need, such as the attachable keyboard, a mouse and a dock will add several hundred dollars to the cost, depending upon what you get. So, the Surface Pro 3 ain’t cheap, that’s for sure, but I think there are a significant number of consumers out there who are willing to pay a premium for a device they think has very quality. Surely Apple, among others, has proven that to be true for many years. Only time will tell if the Pro 3 will be a big sales success, but I think it has a decent shot of being a successful product and carving out a significant niche in the tablet/laptop market.

What I really like about the Surface Pro 3 is that it is the first tablet computer that could realistically serve as the only computer that one would need and at only 1.76 pounds it is a device that can easily be taken everywhere. It is a true all-in-one device. Unfortunately, the Windows 8 operating system is still an OS that needs significant improvement in some areas and is not fully developed in some respects, especially as a mobile/tablet OS. However, Windows 8 is really the only OS that can allow a hybrid device to function as a full blown computer and a fully functional tablet, with an assortment of mobile device style app’s. I’ve played with the gen 1 and gen 2 at the Microsoft Store and my I don’t consider Win 8 a major drawback. In fact, I like it, but I recognize that is a long way behind iOS and Android in terms of the number of app’s developed for it at this stage.

SurfacePro 3

Apple should take notice of just how thoughtful and innovative the design of the Surface Pro 3 is. If Apple produced an iPad with Spec’s similar to those of the Surface Pro 3 and enabled it to dual boot OS X and iOS it would be a HUGE hit in my opinion.

Microsoft has announced that the Pro 3 will hit select Microsoft Surface stores on June 6th, so that people can see it person and get some “hands on” time with it before it officially goes on sale on June 20th.. I will definitely be heading over to the Microsoft Store here in San Diego to see it. I will return to this post and add more impressions of the Pro 3 once I have seen it in person.

Apple should make a Mac Book/iPad Hybrid

On Tuesday Apple announced that they were introducing new Mac Book Air models with faster chips and a $100.00 reduction in price for each model across the line. That was welcome news, but nothing to get really too excited about because Apple is just making slight improvements to the MBA. I loved the groundbreaking design of the MBA when it was introduced and I still think it is very cool and best in class, but it is now three years old and I think Apple needs to introduce a radically new design which can complete with the new crop of Hybrid Laptop/Tablets which run Windows 8 and Android.

Not too long ago, when the spectacular new iPad Air was introduced, I put up a post on this blog praising the new tablet and noting that the ever-increasing capabilities of tablets such as the iPad were making them viable replacements for laptops. I stated that I thought I could see myself just using a tablet and a desktop computer in the future and not purchasing traditional laptops in the future. Now that Microsoft Office is available for the iPad it is an even more attractive laptop substitute. When the iPad Air hit the Apple Stores I took a trip to my local Apple Store to see it in person and I must say that the Air lived up to my expectations. As usual, the build quality was excellent and although I seen pictures of the Air and knew the spec’s prior to seeing it in person I was still surprised by just how light, yet sturdy, it felt.

In recent weeks I have also spent a lot of time looking at the some of the latest tablets running Windows8 and Android being sold at stores here in San Diego, including our local Microsoft Store. I have to admit I was also very impressed by Microsoft Surface tablets, particularly the Surface Pro 2. The Surface Pro 2, which runs on the Intel i5 chip, is really a full blown computer in the body of a tablet. It remains fairly a expensive device, with 128 GB model at $999.00 and the 256 GB model costing $1299.00, which is more than many laptops with comparable spec’s, but the Surface has redefined the capabilities of tablets in ways that even the iPad has not in some ways.

At least one company, Asus, briefly produced laptop that ran Win8 and had a detachable screen that could function as an Android tablet. However, it appears that neither MSFT or GOOG was very happy with that machine. I checked the Asus website and it appears that Asus no longer sells this laptop so they must have been pressured to discontinue it. Too bad, because I think that would machine have appealed to many people, because Android is regarded as a better OS for mobile devices and Windows is clearly superior to Android as a conventional computer OS. However, I can understand why MSFT and GOOG were not supportive of that type of hybrid because, ideally, they don’t want users to have split loyalties. Asus still offers hybrid laptops, but it appears that they only run Win8.1 now.

I think Apple should copy the dual OS concept and build a Mac Book that runs OS X with a detachable screen that could function as an iPad running iOS. High ranking Apple Executives have indicated that there are no plans to merge the Mac’s OS X and the iPad’s iOS into one OS a la Windows 8. Apple thinks OS X and iOS are perfectly suited for the type of devices that they run on respectively and I understand that position. A new Apple OS that combined OS X and iOS might indeed be advantageous in some respects, but might not provide the same performance or user experience that OS X and iOS provide for the devices they are specifically designed for.

I’m not sure if Apple could produce such a Mac/iPad hybrid at a competitive price, but if various PC makers can produce hybrids of this type I don’t see why Apple could not. Various tech blogs have run stories within the last year that suggest Apple may indeed be working on such a hybrid device, but who knows? Maybe they are and they are keeping it under wraps. We know that Apple is set to introduce a new 12 inch Mac Book Air that is rumored to feature a new lightweight design. Is it possible this new laptop will be hybrid? Probably not, I suspect an Apple hybrid is not quite ready yet, but I really look forward to the day that it is. Mac and iPad users would love it. It would indeed be the best of both worlds.

Is the iWatch going to be Apple’s next Big Thing?

As we draw closer and closer to the introduction of the Apple iWatch I have been giving this mysterious product some thought and wondering if it will have an impact similar to that of iPod, iPhone or the iPad.

Apple Monthly Chart
Apple Monthly Chart

Apple, as it usually does, has maintained a high degree secrecy around the development of this highly anticipated product.

I am guardedly optimistic about the iWatch. I think the iWatch will redefine the product category it is in in a way that is similar to the way iPod, iPhone and the iPad redefined their respective product categories. In the past Apple has studied products in a particular category for a fairly lengthy period before introducing their own and the blowing the competition out of the water. Take mp3 players, for example. Remember, there were many mp3 players on the market well before the iPod was introduced. Apple produced a product that mated best in class hardware with best in class software via iTunes and the rest is history. Total market domination was the result.

I really don’t consider any of the so called “smart watches” on the the market currently to be “must have” products. Pebble, Qualcomm, Samsung and a few others have introduced smart watches that are interesting in some ways, but really don’t offer features that I think most people find compelling.

I think the iWatch will offer a lot more capability than any smart watch currently on the market and I think it is logical to assume that the iWatch will be customizable via apps that will be available on iTunes. I also think the iWatch will be much more atheistically attractive than any of the current smart watches on the market. Of course, I am not privy to the design details and features of this product. I am simply basing my assumptions on Apple’s now well established record of innovation and beautiful industrial design.

It should be apparent soon after the iWatch has been released if it is a home run or not. If it is, it will probably be a good time to go long AAPL.