A Truly Smart TV

Last year, I wrote about Switching to 4K video and how reluctant I was at the prospect. I figured I’d hold out longer but was also starting to warm to the idea because I’d love to play games in 4K. Well, guess what? We upgraded!


After being content with our 40” HDTV for the past 9 years, we finally bought at 4K TV at 55”. There were only two things we we’re wanting: the bigger screen (for more immersive/expansive entertainment) and the higher resolution (for more stunning life-like imagery). To our surprise and delight though, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

I don’t keep up with TV tech trends; I’ve always treated my TV like a computer monitor, just a simple “dumb” display. Our previous HDTV had the Nintendo Switch, a Bluray player, and a Roku connected. The latter stick was our portal to online streaming content like YouTube and AppleTV.

Now our new UHD TV is smart in many ways. It totally eliminated the need for our Roku. Every streaming service you would want is built-in and runs great: Prime video, Netflix, and Disney+ to name a few. I can even AirPlay stuff from my iPhone to it with ease.

The shiny new rectangle (not curved, by the way) also has more HDMI ports than our former polygonal movie portal, and one of them has the ARC capability as does our existing soundbar. So now we can connect all our devices directly to the TV, removing the need for the janky cable splitter while also minimizing cables.

Things are also simpler since we’re now able to control our soundbar with the TV remote rather than a separate remote. Also cool, the new TV is smart enough to detect when a connected device powers on, which auto-switches to the correct input. Another bonus, the TV has Bluetooth, so now I can enjoy stuff on the big screen using my wireless headphones so I don’t disturb those in slumber.

There is one minor downside to our new set-up, but it’s not the TV’s fault. Our DSL internet is, by definition, not broadband (it pains me to even say it). So it’s simply not fast enough to stream 4K content. I sampled 4K HDR videos on YouTube and have been able to watch only a few. I tried selecting the full 4K setting on some videos but they collapsed inside a buffering black-hole. The next resolution down (1440p I think) is something like 3K or 2.5K and we’re able to stream that, so at least we have improved over 1080p full-HD (or what you might consider 2K).

If we want to watch full-4K videos, we’ll need to buy a 4K disc player, but those are still very expensive. Frankly, this gives me pause as I consider no longer buying physical media for movie watching and instead may rely on streaming. Hopefully, in the next year or two, our local service providers will finally roll out fiber optic internet to our house (we live in a rural area).

Playing Switch games in HD upscaled to “4K” on the bigger screen is awesome for the improved immersion in 3D environments. Overall quality looks better too. Part of that is due to the smoother motion thanks to a simulated (or interpolated) refresh rate of 120Hz (true native is 60Hz). When Nintendo unveils a 4K Switch, I’ll certainly want to upgrade my gaming. Glad I have a TV ready for it. That said, I’m more inclined now to also buy a PS5. One thing at a time.

I resisted the march of progress for more pixels until now. The cool thing is we got more than that. We have a truly Smart TV that meets our entertainment desires with less effort and greater efficacy than ever. Looks like a smart move to me.

Why Make Apple TV Pro And Mini

Apple TV hardware has languished. Apple is in the hardware business and could do better with Apple TV. Here are some ideas.


The naming, pricing, and marketing should all be refreshed.

Naming

To help differentiate Apple’s TV products and services, I suggest two new Apple TV hardware models called: Apple TV Pro and “Apple TV Mini.”

These names would better distinguish the hardware from the software app, “Apple TV” and the service, “Apple TV+.”

Pricing

Apple TV Mini

It should hit the magical $99 price point. It would match the HomePod Mini at the same price and be more competitive with other TV boxes. And even if Apple TV Mini had the least market share, more people would buy it than the current Apple TV box because it would be more affordable. That’s more revenue for Apple.

To hit $99, Apple TV Mini would be like a small streaming stick with one feature: 4K resolution. So no Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, or HDR. And it would have only 32GB of storage since it would be for streaming not storing content.

Apple TV Pro

This one should start at $199 and be marketed towards the gotta-have-it-all crowd and…gamers. It would feature 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, and start with 64GB up to 1TB.

And throw in a free trial subscription of Apple Arcade.

It would be a small box like the current Apple TV hardware and be for storing loads of games or videos.

GamePad

Apple TV Pro would pair with an all-new Apple GamePad.” This new device would sell for $99 and would have physical buttons, be shaped more like a modern game controller with analog sticks, and also serve as the remote control.

The GamePad would utilize the W-series and ultra-wide band chips from Apple for auto-magically pairing (like AirPods) with Apple TV Pro and for finding with Apple’s upcoming (rumored) AirTags product. It would, of course, work with games on iPad and iPhone too.

Marketing

Marketing for Apple TV Pro and Mini would draw both consumers and developers. For the Pro, “Casual Console” gaming would attract more buyers and also compel game developers to…step up their game.

If Apple really wanted to lean into gaming, they could call their Apple TV Pro device the all-new, “GamePod.”

An Apple TV Pro (GamePod) with Apple GamePad and Apple Arcade would, like Nintendo, differentiate from hardcore gamers (Xbox and PlayStation) and lean towards more casual gaming. And of course, it would have the distinct advantage of a vast library of mobile games from iOS.

Apple could promote Apple TV Pro with Apple Watch and Fitness+ by pairing them together, like how Apple integrates Apple Watch, Fitness+ and Apple TV for video workouts.

It could also enable more interactive games, using Apple Watch, with its fitness and motion sensors, to track movement similar to the Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure.


Family Friendly

My wife and I have five sons, and we all play Nintendo. Owning two Switches, many 2DS devices, and a Wii U, we enjoy different types of gaming across several age brackets. Of course, Nintendo’s intellectual property, franchises like Mario and Zelda, are the “software that sells hardware.”

Apple can mirror Nintendo as a Family Friendly game distributor and leverage its Apple Arcade service along with a new Apple TV Pro device (GamePod) to sell more of its own TV boxes, peripherals, and third party and indie game apps. Apple is poised with the potential.

Think about it. An Apple TV Pro at $199 plus a GamePad at $99 would basically match the cost of a Nintendo Switch at $299.

Making Apple TV Pro would address the current languished state of Apple’s TV hardware. Pushing into home console gaming via Apple TV would do more for Apple’s overall gaming efforts than has its Augmented Reality gaming push.

If nothing else, a sub-$100 Apple TV Mini would revitalize the platform and be a strong complement to HomePod.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Apple Reiterates The Smartphone

Shiny New Apple

Earlier this week, Apple had their annual iPhone event and announced some updates. So here are a few of my well-uninformed thoughts from my soft spot for new tech.


The Event

Apple did not reinvent the smartphone, they merely reiterated it.

Overall

Apple’s announcements were par for the course. No revolution. Even the “new” stuff was really just the “old” stuff updated marginally. It was great before, and now it’s as excellent as ever. That’s to be expected.

Services

Two forthcoming subscription services, Arcade and TV+, were finally priced at $5 each. That’s a good price point comparatively for the market.

For me personally, I’m not interested enough in either service to sign up. It’s not like my entertainment needs are unmet in today’s over-abundant media landscape. I’m good! And the content previewed by Apple for their new services showed nothing compelling. Okay, maybe The Morning Show.

But you know what, I bet after a season or two, Apple will outright sell older seasons and episodes of their TV+ shows in iTunes. Maybe I’ll wait for that.

Products

iPad

A new iPad was revealed! I still think the iPad is awesome (for a tablet, not for a laptop). And the newest version of the base model is a fantastic deal at $329.

New this time is a slightly bigger yet welcomed screen size, going from 9.7” to 10.2”. Also new is the added Smart Connector, so you have the option to buy the over-priced Smart Keyboard. (Honestly, it’s fine if Apple drives a high margin cost for their main products, but for accessories? Give us a break, Apple!)

I used the iPad Air 2 as my primary computer for about two years until last month when I caved for a proper clamshell laptop – Chromebook! But if I had stuck with iPad, the new one would be on the top of my to-buy list!

Watch

I once owned and enjoyed an Android Wear Moto 360 smartwatch, so I have some idea about the utility of such a device. And as iPad is to tablets, so is Apple Watch to whatever else wants to be on your wrist these days. The new Series 5 has slight updates that maintain the crown.

But one simple yet profound update is the Always On Display! This was one of the top three features I said could make me buy an Apple Watch. But I’m still not gonna. Because I still don’t need one.

I sport a $35 Timex “dumbwatch” with an Always On Display. Plus, I always carry a SmartPocketWatch – my iPhone. If I really want fitness features, I’d likely buy a FitBit since they’re more affordable, have a much longer battery life, and work great, whether you’re in the Apple or Google ecosystem.

But that now $200 Series 3 Apple Watch is tempting. Just sayin’.

iPhone 11 and Pro

Finally, the device that changed the world. iPhone. Now it says 11 instead of XR. Meaning, the updates are good but incremental. No leaps and bounds here. A solid smartphone further cements its status as Most-Bestest-Ever. Take that, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 with your fancy stylus.

Seriously, all the new iPhones focused on improved camera features and added new shnazy colors. Other than that, they’re a little faster and better. The biggest upgrade is the longer battery life – nice! That deserves a, “Finally!

Oh, let me ask one thing. Slofies?! Whatwhy?!


iGoogle

I’m still cruising along with a post-swank iPhone 7 that is now three generations old yet not obsolete. I don’t plan to upgrade to a lower-priced iPhone 8 or a refurbished iPhone 8 Plus. Instead, my eyes are set on the low to mid-range Android phone arena. Because I’m more into Google stuff now than Apple’s sauce.

So despite the new bling announced by Apple this week, I’m unswayed.

The best thing about the event is that it showcased the industry progress Apple is known to herald. Mobile device technology has been pushed forward again, ever so slightly. And that means other players and contributors will echo the effects.

Plus, what’s hot today will soon descend lower on the ladder to us mere mortals with only enough cash on hand to invest in good-enough tech. I see that as a win for everyone.

But that Midnight-Green iPhone 11 Pro Max suuuuuure looks special.


What are your thoughts? Did Apple’s Reality Distortion Field envelope you? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Subtracting Subscriptions

Have you noticed how many subscription services there are these days? There’s a thing called “Subscription Fatigue” now. It’s where you feel nickeled and dimed to oblivion. Like a continual dripping of water that wears away stone, you can’t take any more subs. And I don’t want a single one.


It makes sense that having too many subscriptions is overwhelming and irritating. A bunch of $5 and $10 fees every month add up fast. Your wallet is constantly pinged for money, like your phone is constantly dinged with notifications. It’s stressful.

But I’m against subs altogether for certain categories of things. Most subs seem to be for tech stuff online, digital content.

For a service like streaming music or movies, I think that works okay. But my biggest gripe is towards a software product. A big example for me is Adobe Lightroom software.

Sure, Adobe bundles their software product with online photo storage as a service, complicating the matter. Yet call me old-school, I don’t care; I want to pay one time up front for software like the simple days.

Another example: I signed up for Apple’s 3-month free trial of Apple Music. Nice service. But I canceled because it’s still not worth $10 a month in perpetuity for me.

I also don’t like games in the app store that are pay-to-play with in-app purchases. I would much rather just pay up front for the game and then enjoy it! I think many people feel suckered in with a “free” game to try out, get hooked, and then be expected to pay-up fee after fee to keep playing the game. That’s not fun!


The popular subs now are for streaming TV shows or movies: Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, etc. Later this year, Disney and Apple are starting their own streaming TV/Movie services too!

The irony with these and what may be coming is the unbundling and re-bundling of bundles. People got tired of cable TV. You paid a lot for a lot of content when you only really wanted a small portion of that content. So people cried for a-la-carte TV.

Now we’ve kinda got what we wanted. We became “cord-cutters” and can now choose to pay only for a few shows or services that we want. But unbundling all the content is proving to be too much to manage. So the tide turns toward simplifying: re-package all the stuff together into one cohesive thing. And give me a discount for it too!


Here’s my experience of a subscription in the past: You pay a one time fee up front, and then you get new magazine every month.

Contrast that with a present day subscription: make a payment every month, and you get a one-time thing (streaming music, software).

You can say that you do get something new on occasion, like new songs or new features. But it feels different. It feels like you’re getting charged repeatedly for the same thing over and over.

Some subs charge you monthly. But some charge annually. I think the annunal ones feel better because it’s a one-time payment once a year. You only feel the hit once.

But the monthly charging is like constantly feeling the hit. And if you have multiple subs, you really feel the hit. It’s just too much.

Maybe subscriptions are ok in general but need to be done differently.


Monthly payments are a thing. Most people finance a car for example. You agree to pay monthly, but it’s for a limited time instead of forever – there’s an end to the paying, so there’s hope. And when you finish paying, you get to keep the car!

But with monthly subs, there’s no end. You’re stuck, shackled to the service forever, your funds continually seeping from your bank account over and over again. And if you stop paying, because you never “finish,” then you do not get to keep the product or service!

A trickier subject that stems from subscribing to services and stuff is about ownership. Are we paying for a product or a service? Or is it just access to a product or service. Or is it a license? Or is it like a lease? Do we keep what we’ve paid for? Is it more like renting than buying?

Anyways, those are some random rants against subscriptions. I don’t care for them. Hopefully they’ll be like a passing fad.


Where do you stand on subscriptions? Do you feel like you’ve got too many? Leave feedback in the comments. Or shoot me some email. Take care.