Home

Stephen Hackett's blog about things that light up and make noise. 512 Pixels is about Apple, technology, journalism and design.

An Italian Stephen

This week on Connected, we discuss the ever-expanding iPad line and I yell about Yosemite.

This week, the show is sponsored by these fine folks:

  • lynda.com: An easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. Free 7-day trial.
  • Hover: Simplified Domain Management. Use code 'OLDSTEPHEN' for 10% off your first purchase.

BBC celebrates 10 years of podcasting

The BBC:

In total, there have been more than 1.1 billion UK downloads of BBC podcasts since 2004.

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC Radio, said: “I am delighted to see that, 10 years after the BBC began offering podcasts, our programmes are being downloaded in record numbers. These figures show audiences' enduring appetite for a wide range of distinctive content and how digital media can bring brilliant programmes to an even wider audience. I hope podcast technologies continue to provide a boost to the whole radio industry.”

Mark Friend, Controller of Radio & Music Multiplatform, said: “These figures suggest that podcasting has been embraced by the smartphone generation and, 10 years on, is in rude health. The range of programmes in the top 30 shows the breadth of podcasting’s appeal and the popularity of a technology some thought would be losing relevance.”

Tim Cook, on the iPad

Speaking of this year's iPads, Dan Frommer has rounded up Tim Cook's comments on the iPad from today's quarterly results call. This jumped out at me:

What you do see is that people hold onto their iPads longer than they do a phone. And because we’ve only been in this business four years, we don’t really know what the upgrade cycle will be for people. So that’s a difficult thing to call.

I think Apple's thinking out loud with this year's iPad lineup; I bet 2015's doesn't look like this one does.

On the 2014 iPad lineup

Apple's selling a lot of iPads currently:

That's a crapton of iPads. I think the lineup is potentially confusing to customers, and I think there are a lot of factors as to why Apple's done this.

I think it's become clear that the iPad is not an upgrade-every-year class of device, but without going to a 5/5S-style naming and upgrade scheme, Apple's sending mixed messages about what it thinks customers want.

Likewise, I think it's last year's deal of having the iPad mini and iPad Air being the same will probably prove to be an anomaly. Maybe Apple's confused about what it itself should be doing with these products.

There's one big factor at play here besides the upgrade cycle, however: since the introduction of the iPad mini two years ago, the average selling price of the iPad line has fallen dramatically.

I think the old devices in the lineup, coupled with the lack of meaningful updates to the iPad mini are all about solving this problem. If someone wants the best iPad, the more expensive, bigger one is the clear winner.

Apple's at odds with itself, though. On one end, it's trying to push people up to the iPad Air 2, and on the other, it's trying to compete with low cost Android tablets. This plan leaves nerdy consumers in the middle; people who would happily have upgraded to a new iPad mini now won't, making the update cycle problem worse.

While the iPad Air 2 looks like a great upgrade from the iPad 3 or 4, upgrading is not tempting, speaking as iPad Air owner. With TouchID being the only feature separating the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3, I don't see why any iPad mini 2 owners would upgrade this year, either.

I think this year's iPad lineup is being used by Apple as an experiment. The company is trying to figure out how the iPad mini should stack up. It's an unusual thing to see from Apple, and I think a lot of customers would prefer a simpler product line with more clear reasons to move to a newer device.

Apple reports fourth quarter results

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 37 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

What's new with iOS 8.1

Federico Viticci:

iOS 8.1 brings bug fixes, speed improvements, and interface changes, but it also enables Continuity features such as Text Message Forwarding and Instant Hotspot, allowing iOS devices to better integrate with each other and Macs running OS X Yosemite. With iOS 8.1, Apple is opening access to its iCloud Photo Library beta – an iCloud service that stores all your photos from all your devices, in a single library that relays changes to every device. And last, iOS 8.1 marks the debut of Apple Pay, the company's new payment service that rolls out in the US today.

It's available for download now.

On that new Mac mini

Thomas Brand:

The new Mac mini (Late 2014) has no upgradable Memory. Its 4, 8, or 16 GBs of 1600MHz LPDDR3 are soldered to the logic board. A suction cup is required to remove the Bottom Cover. Six T6 security screws are required to remove the Antenna Plate. Each security screw must be replaced before the Mac mini can be reassembled.

This is disappointing, especially as the form factor didn't change. I would have expected this from a radically different design, but that's not what we got. The insides may be updated (like that PCIe SSD), but the shell of the Mac mini only changed to make it more difficult to work on.

Of course, the original Mac mini required some knowledge (and bravery) to open. The machine that was just replaced was easier to open, but while RAM was trivial to access, the hard drive was a little harder. This new guy seems to be more locked-down than ever before, and on a cheap machine, that's frustrating. If someone buys that $499 model, being stuck with 4 GB of RAM forever feels almost punitive.

Gus and Siri

An amazing story of how Siri has helped an autistic boy connect with the world — both digital and not — in new ways. This will make your weekend.