airport · apple watch · appletv · imac · ipad · iphone · macbook pro

2017 Apple Hardware Purchasing Plans

apple_product_family_2015

Just a few days ago, I was talking about my accidental trip into the Amazon ecosystem.  Today, I want to evaluate where I am going with Apple hardware.  What follows is what I think I will be my Apple hardware purchasing plans for 2017 with a little bit of commentary thrown in for fun.

2017 iPhone

Rumors about the 2017 iPhone have been circulating since before the iPhone 7 launch.  What we do know is that the 2017 iPhone, regardless of whether Apple acknowledges it in any meaningful way, will be the tenth anniversary iPhone.  We know that the 2017 iPhone will have a new system on a chip, probably called the A11.  Maybe more RAM.  Personally, I would like to see the return of the squared off sides, like the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 series, but I don’t think that will happen.  What I do think will happen is that we will get a curved iPhone display just like the one used on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.  With all of this in mind, I do plan on buying a new 2017 iPhone Plus.  We don’t know if the 2017 iPhone will be an ‘S’ year or not.  I feel that if Apple gives us a dramatic form factor redesign in 2017, they should call it the iPhone 8.  If there is more than one ‘large’ model, I will likely get the largest screen/best camera model.

Purchasing Probability – Yes, please!

2017 iPad

I use my iPad Air (October 2013) and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (November 2015) every day and I love them.  For me, the iPad has taken a central role in my daily computing.  Reading the news?  Surfing my favorite websites?  Catching up on Twitter?  Reading ebooks?  Watching TV shows and movies? Checking and replying to email? Yup.  All of this gets done on my iPads.  The iPad Pro covers work-work and ebook reading for class.  The iPad Air takes care of my personal needs.  In 2017, I am hopeful that Apple will release new iPad Pros.  Screen sizes are up for debate.  I don’t expect to replace my work-issued iPad Pro.  Cost is the main reason here.  I would hope that Apple releases an updated 12.9-inch iPad Pro that brings it up to parity with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.  The way I use my iPad Air, it is still working well for me.  I do not expect to upgrade my personal 9.7-inch iPad in 2017.  I do think that 2017, with iOS 11, will be the last year for my beloved Air.  Check back with me in 2018 to see if there is a new 9.7-inch iPad in my future.

Purchasing Probability – Not likely.

Macintosh

The Macintosh is still an important product for me.  Maybe because I have bene an Apple user and fan for so long.  Maybe because I prefer Mac OS over Windows and Linux  I know I am in the minority here, but it’s the way I feel.

In 2016, I purchased a new 5k iMac and I love it!  I chose to go with the 2TB Fusion drive and a 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU.  Thankfully, Apple still allows customers to upgrade the RAM on the iMac, so I stuffed it full of 8GB DIMMs and maxed it out with 32GB of RAM.  There’s no SSD – they are still too expensive for a 1.0TB or larger drive – and I didn’t get a Core i7 CPU either.  And that’s fine.  I think my iMac is super-fast, considering my upgrade from a 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro.  So, I don’t plan on getting a new iMac in 2017.

I’m on the fence about the 2016 MacBook Pro.  I miss having a MacBook for the times I want to do work away from my iMac and home office.  Still, the frustration with the MacBook Pro’s inconsistent battery life, 16GB memory limit, and the use of an older Intel Core CPU are tugging on logical side of my brain, and is disrupting the famous Apple reality distortion field.  See the Ars Technical 13-inch MacBook Pro review for more details.

On the go writing with Microsoft Word and surfing with Safari can easily be done with my iPad Pro.  BBEdit on the Mac and Coda on the iPad Pro are a good match.  But not having OmniGraffle (or Visio), XCode, or Eclipse on the iPad hurts a bit.  I know I can spend another $100 to get OmniGraffle for iOS, but if I am being honest, I don’t use it enough to justify the cost.  I don’t expect there to be new MacBook Pro notebooks in 2017, so I am leaning toward a 2016 MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar and Touch ID.  I would get the 16GB RAM upgrade, however, the aforementioned battery issues, are keeping me from spending the money to upgrade to a 512GB SSD and an i7 CPU.  So, no new iMac and there is still a 50/50 chance for a new MacBook Pro.

I feel sorry for Mac Pro and Mac mini fans.  They are long overdue for some new hardware. Hopefully, 2017 will be their year.

Purchasing Probability – Looking favorable for a 13-inch, Space Grey MacBook Pro.

Apple Watch

The Watch is a good product.  I’m glad I have it over a Fitbit or a Nike+ Fuelband.  I owned both, but I feel that the Apple Watch offers more utility then those other devices.  I love having important to me notifications on my wrist.  I should exercise more, and hey, who shouldn’t, but in day-to-day usage, I just don’t use the fitness features of the Watch over tracking my walks.  With that said, I don’t see myself upgrading to a Series 2 Watch anytime soon.  My original, aka Series 0, Watch Sport model with watchOS 3 is good enough for me.

Purchasing Probability – Not likely.

Apple TV

I do not expect that Apple will refresh the Apple TV in 2017.  I have a 32GB fourth generation Apple TV.  I use it often to watch Netflix and some movies and TV shows purchased from iTunes.  But I don’t use it every day.  I am not a big apps user.  I don’t expect to buy a new Apple TV.  I would buy a new Siri Remote if Apple released one, but I don’t expect any new remote to appear in 2017.

Purchasing Probability – Not likely.

Apple Accessories

In 2016, Apple exited the monitor business.  In place of the Cinema Displays, Apple co-designed a new 5K display with LG called the UltraFine 5K Display.  My iMac doesn’t have USB-C, so I don’t see myself buying a second monitor.  In all honesty, I like the cleanliness of a single monitor on my desk.

Apple is also rumored to be out of the router and Wi-Fi business.  As I recently wrote, this means the end of the line for AirPort networking equipment.  I just purchased my last refurbished AirPort Express.  I wish Apple would stay in this business, because they are very reliable and very easy to setup.

With Apple exiting both of those businesses, I don’t see myself buying the LG display or another AirPort.  If I find myself needing a second monitor in 2017, I need a second monitor or new networking equipment, I see myself getting the Dell UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K UP2715K and an eero mesh Wi-Fi network 3-pack.

My iMac came with a new Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2.  I don’t expect to replace them in 2017.  Mostly because I still like using my Apple Wireless Keyboard (2006) and my Apple Extended II keyboard (1995).  I have gotten better with typing on the Magic Keyboard, but I prefer the key travel of it’s larger format cousins.  I would get a new wireless Magic Keyboard if it included all of the function keys of the Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboard (2006), but we all know that Jony Ive won’t allow such a monstrosity to be created.  Maybe if the Magic Keyboard was released with the same amount of key travel and included the Touch Bar and Touch ID I might spring for it.  After all, I’m not above spending $200 for a great Apple keyboard.

Purchasing Probability – Unlikely, without the release of an iMac compatible Touch Bar and Touch ID Magic Keyboard.

Closing Thoughts

So, there are my plans for Apple hardware in 2017.  I don’t think that there are going to be any surprises for me.  New releases of Mac OS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS are surely going to be welcomed and will delight customers.  I think I am most excited about a new iPhone.  I feel that a new MacBook Pro would be helpful with my school work, primarily with my upcoming programming classes this year.  I wish I had the option of upgrading to 32GB of memory, but there are still issues to be worked out there.


Image credit: MacWorld.com, 2015.

airport · apple · eero · google · netgear · networking · tp-link

One Last Go With the Apple AirPort Extreme and Express

apple_airport_extreme_express_time_capsule

I have been using Apple’s AirPort Extreme and Express Wi-Fi equipment for about two years now.  In a fit of rage over my previous equipment’s constantly poor performance, constant reboots, and dropped connections, I ripped everything out, put in a new Surfboard cable modem and installed a refurbished AirPort Extreme (802.11ac) and Express (802.11n).  I never looked back.

I never looked back, that is, until Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg Technology (Warning: auto-play video…Grrrr!), last month, reported that Apple has quietly “disbanded its division that develops wireless routers”.  The last time Apple updated their networking hardware was June 2013 for the AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule (for performing wireless Time Machine backups).  The AirPort Express last received an update four years ago, in June 2012.

Since seeing the report back on November 21, I have been on the prowl for a second refurbished AirPort Express to extend the Wi-Fi coverage in the kid’s bedrooms.  It was one of those things that was on my “I’ll get around to it” lists.  Knowing that the AirPort line of products are on the way out lit the fire I needed to get in my last go around with AirPort.

Earlier this week, I happened to check the Apple Certified Refurbished store and saw that all the AirPort hardware was in stock.  I hastily purchased another Express.  It should arrive today.

Some AirPort History

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Apple AirPort Base Station (Graphite) 1999 – via AppleToTheCore.me

AirPort has been around for a long time.  The original AirPort Base Station (sans Extreme) was released all the way back in July 1999 – the same year Apple released now classic Macintosh machines such as the iBook, the CRT-based iMac, the Power Mac G4, and the PowerBook.

apple_airport_extreme_2007
Apple AirPort Extreme 2007 Edition

Truth be told, my current AirPort hardware is not my first.  I purchased a first-generation AirPort Extreme base station from circa 2007, when CompUSA was closing their brick and mortar retail operations.  It supported 802.11a/b/g, and the draft 802.11n specification.  (For clarification, the previously mentioned ripping out of hardware was non-Apple 802.11n equipment.)

Oh, What a Mesh!

If you are looking to replace your existing Wi-Fi hardware, I can’t recommend Apple’s router and Wi-Fi hardware.  While my AirPort hardware has been extreme-ly (I’m not sorry about that pun) reliable for me, there is no point in investing in new hardware now that we have seemingly reached the end of the road for AirPort.

Besides, mesh Wi-Fi networks are all the rage these days.  At a high-level, traditional Wi-Fi networks that have access points sprinkled around a home or small office.  Each node connects back to a router base station.  As you move between access points, the connection must move (manually or automatically) between the access points (Brain, Wilson, Johnson, 2001).  Mesh network connections, on the other hand, are spread out among satellite nodes.  All of the nodes talk to each other to create a single, larger wireless area network (Roos, 2007).

eero Web Photos
eero Home WiFi System 3-pack

If you are looking to install a new Wi-Fi network in your home or small office, I would suggest investigating mesh Wi-Fi networking equipment from eero, Netgear’s Orbi line, Google WiFi (if you are OK with Alphabet snorting up even more of your personal data), and others.  Jim Salter, over at The Wirecutter (part of The New York Times Company) has a great overview of the current state of mesh Wi-Fi networking equipment.  As of this writing, Mr. Salter last updated his post on November 30, 2016.

Mesh networks aren’t for everyone.  They can be expensive.  The eero 3-pack, pictured above, is $499.  If you have a small home or apartment, you can very likely do well with a single Wi-Fi Router like the TP-Link Archer C7 (TheWirecutter.com review).  The C7 can be purchased for under $100.

Looking Ahead

If you find yourself in a similar situation as I am, and you want to get that one last addition to your home network, you should checkout the RefurbStore website.  It “looks into” Apple’s refurbished inventory and allows you to setup an alert when the part you are interested is back in stock.  For example, two days ago, Apple had AirPort Express units in stock.  Today, they are all sold out.  RefurbStore looks like a good way to keep tabs on what Apple has available over time.  It took me about four weeks to finally find the Express in stock.

For me, I am sticking with my AirPort Extreme base station and two AirPort Express nodes for a little while longer.  Looking down the road, if I squint, I think I see an eero two or three node mesh network in my future. But for now, I’m


References

Marshall Brain, Tracy V. Wilson & Bernadette Johnson “How WiFi Works” April 30, 2001. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved from: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/wireless-network.htm, December 30, 2016.

Dave Roos “How Wireless Mesh Networks Work” June 20, 2007. HowStuffWorks.com.  Retrieved from: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/how-wireless-mesh-networks-work.htm December 30, 2016.


 

airport · apple · apple tv · apps · ios 7

Briefly Noted: Apple Updates Remote, AirPort Apps

Yesterday afternoon, Apple released updates to their Remote and AirPort Utility apps.

Evident from the app descriptions, the AirPort Utility did not receive an iOS 7-like remake.  It still looks like it’s older iOS 6 version of the add.  The jump to 64-bit native code should make the app run smoothly on the new iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and the soon to be released, iPad mini with Retina Display.

The Remote app, received a complete iOS 7 design make over.  While the functionality of the software does not appear to have changed, the UI has.  Remote now has the Help screen overlay that flies in when you tap the help question mark icon located at the top right of the screen.  The Menu button now appears a circle icon with a text label “Menu” at the bottom center of the screen, with additional playback controls on either side.  The large “track pad” area still dominates the majority of the screen, however, now appears as a frosted pane allowing you to “see” your wallpaper in typical iOS 7 blurred effect fashion.

Both applications are available in the iTunes App Store for free.