After a well-earned sojourn to Mouseville (the resorts may be expensive, but it’s well worth the investment) we’re back. While I was enjoying Mickey’s hospitality Apple finally released the next incarnation of their mobile operating system, iOS7. So is it worth all the fuss? Yes…and no.
On the surface life post-upgrade is a bit jarring. The look and feel of the iPhone (and iPad, although those covering iOS7 haven’t mentioned non-iPhone devices nearly as much) is garishly different. Brighter colors, flatter icons, and brighter backgrounds await the user after the upgrade completes. Gone are some of the interface tools I had come to use- a swipe to the left of the home screen no longer brings up the search function, gone is the ‘swipe to unlock’ graphic on the lock screen, and the translucent area around folders of apps is somewhat jarring. While the updated operating system has new features aplenty, there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for most iPhone users, as not all of the added functionality is readily obvious; like swiping up for the new Control Center panel (not everyone I’ve spoken to at work even knew about swiping down to access the notifications panel introduced in iOS6).
There are numerous reviews out already on iOS7 (spoiler alert- they are overwhelmingly positive) so no need to rehash what others have done better. The bigger question is if you own an older iPhone should you update (Android-loving friends have already posted instructions on how you can downgrade to iOS6 in a podcasting group I participate in). Back when Windows 7 was released many PCs were dubbed ‘Windows 7 ready’, but the user experience left something to be desired as the underpowered systems would sputter trying to meet the needs of the new OS. While I’ve never had issues upgrading to newer versions of iOS, I’m admittedly an early adopter and haven’t kept any handset longer than my AT&T contract insisted on.
Apple states that iOS7 is compatible with the iPhone 4 on, all but the first generation of iPad, and the fifth generation of iPod Touch. My iPhone 5 and iPad 3 have offered excellent experiences so far; I haven’t had a single issue- to the contrary, some things like Airplay to my Apple TV have actually been better. On the iPhone 5 this isn’t surprising as the new iPhone 5c is essentially the same device, but my older iPad 3 surprised me as I had expected it to struggle at least slightly with the new animations that are default in iOS7. Some devices, like the iPad 2, may not run said animations as fluidly (and there are already postings instructing users on how to deactivate graphical features that cause your device to struggle).
There are users out there that have posted about the experience of iOS7 on an iPhone 4, but I’d advise caution. According to those that have tried it’s a livable experience, but you aren’t able or willing to upgrade your handset (and if you’re using an iPhone 4 you’re almost certainly not still in a contract) you may be better off sticking with iOS6 or reconsidering your dedication to your 4; the 5s is being offered free on contract to new customers by Sprint and both Target and WalMart have offered it for $79. You may not realize it, but you’re paying a higher price for your cell service to offset the discount on handsets; why continue to pay that higher price without getting something in return? Cell providers aren’t going to lower the price of your coverage after your contract is up, so for most it makes sense to take advantage of those subsidized newer handsets.
For those that have upgraded, welcome to your new iPhone- regardless of the age of your device. iOS7 offers a whole lot of improvement over it’s older sibling, even if the changes take a bit to get used to. Here’s to progress (and looking forward to iOS8)!
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Posted in Advice, News, tagged apple, at&t, Code division multiple access, gsm sim cards, iphone, iphone 5, itunes, mobile, sim card, Subscriber Identity Module, Verizon on September 28, 2012 |
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A vast majority of us that have purchased iPhones have done so at a significantly subsidized price in exchange for signing a two year contract with a cell service provider. At first only AT&T had rights to provide service to the iPhone, but now all manner of providers large and small have joined in.
With this influx of competitors for your iPhone’s service an underground market developed: “unlocking”, or removing the barriers that keep your iPhone tied to a specific provider. Unlike jailbreaking, unlocking your iPhone isn’t against the wishes of Apple- only the provider that’s subsidizing the purchase price of your handset. While the contract you signed will keep you in their service (and there’s a hefty penalty awaiting you should you decide to break that contract) your handset remains ‘locked’ even after that contract expires.
Your cell provider may or may not unlock your iPhone after your contract has expired; your mileage will likely vary depending on the provider and possibly even the location you visit. If you’re tech savvy (and feeling brave) there are software solutions and tutorials so you can do the unlocking at home, although none that I’d endorse.
Apple may have given a virtual thumbed nose to the carriers with their latest handset, however. Reports have pointed out that Verizon‘s version of the iPhone 5 arrives unlocked and able to use GSM SIM cards right out of the box (Verizon’s CDMA-based service doesn’t require a SIM card). TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) revealed in a recent post that an unsubsidized iPhone 5 sold for AT&T’s service can easily be unlocked by restoring it in iTunes. Bear in mind, this iPhone 5 was sold full price and without a contract; no word if this trick will work on a handset that is still under contract.
Provided you honor the terms of your contract I see no reason for your iOS device to be tethered to a provider. If you’re one of the fortunate ones that can afford an iPhone full price, you should be able to shop around for the best possible price on your cell service- even carriers like T Mobile want you!
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According to a recent article from MacRumors T Mobile USA is prepping employee training to lure in iPhone users with unlocked handsets. Branded as the “Bring Your Own iPhone” initiative the plan seeks to lure in iPhone users not tied down by contracts by offering unlimited data, faster network speeds, and lower cost plans (touted to be up to $50 per month less than AT&T).
Along with this push T Mobile USA is currently working to expand their HSPA+ network, currently live in only a handful of major cities. I had T Mobile before I switched to AT&T for the first iPhone and had a mixed experience. The customer service was outstanding, but the actual cell coverage was awful. I counted several dead areas along my short commute to work, and would lose my signal when crossing any of the multiple bridges downtown. Even with the superior customer service I’ve had and the promise of better/faster cell connections, I would be unlikely to switch without being afforded a subsidized iPhone (the current providers offer a significant discount on your phone if you sign a contract binding you to their service, typically for two years). I love my smartphone, but it would take quite some time to offset the much higher price of an unsubsidized iPhone 5.
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Numerous reports are surfacing today on the unwritten policy of the two larger cellular providers AT&T and Verizon to have associates steer in-store customers away from iPhones and to Android or Windows handsets. Activations of new phones on AT&T service seem to reflect this policy as iPhone sales have fallen from approximately 80% of all smartphones to between 50-60%.
There are numerous reasons for carriers to convince customers to purchase something other than an iPhone. The iPhone has closed architecture, and can’t be preloaded with proprietary software or front ends like some Android handsets. The margin on the iPhone is likely less than other handsets thanks to both Apple’s negotiating might and competitor’s willingness to take less to gain a foothold in the market. iPhones don’t support LTE yet, so those customers aren’t going to purchase the more expensive LTE data plans being offered (and needing more of it thanks to LTE’s blazing speed compared to 3G). iPhone users have also been shown to actually use their devices more than Android owners, spending far more time browsing and interacting with their network connection thus costing carriers more to provide service.
I’ve witnessed this gentle bullying secondhand. I’ve been called to help a friend who lost their iPhone and wanted a replacement, only to be strongarmed by an AT&T associate that insisted a Samsung handset was better. For some it may very well be, but for my friend it was a disaster- she lacks any technological aptitude and just couldn’t navigate Android’s inner workings like she could with the familiar iPhone. I instructed her to return the handset for something she was comfortable with, but the story didn’t have a completely happy ending- AT&T charged her a $30 restocking fee, and refused to issue refunds for the $35 case or microSD card they insisted she purchase with the handset.
Whether the inspiration is financial or in retaliation to a company they see as having too large of market share, there is a palpable push to steer customers away from the iPhone. Even before this bit of news I have advised family and friends to just go to our local Apple store instead of the carrier’s outlet; the customer service is vastly better and the level of support can’t be compared. For those that don’t have the luxury of an Apple store your best bet is to order the device directly from Apple.
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One of iCloud‘s more welcome features has been Find My iPhone. The free service has been a boon to those of us that tend to forget where we left our devices, allowing users to locate their iOS property via Maps, play a tone to see if it’s close (or to alert those around that the device has been nicked), display a message to the finder of the device , or lock it/remotely wipe the data off the device if it isn’t returned.
As helpful as this can be, it isn’t foolproof. A simple factory reset of the device (even if locked) will wipe it clean, allowing a thief full use of their ill-gotten gain. Courtesy of an article from MacRumors, AT&T has revealed that they will put into play a database for stolen phones that use their service. Per the press release:
“As announced in April, AT&T is creating a stolen phone database to prevent devices reported stolen from accessing wireless networks. We will install this availability next week for AT&T phones on our network and are working toward a cross-carrier solution later this year.”
The MacRumors article cites further that only the customer that originates the block may request its removal, in effect creating a blacklist that would prevent the phone from being used on AT&T’s network.
While an excellent idea, the plan does have some limitations. The iPhone 4S has chips (theoretically) allowing use on multiple carriers, so it is possible that the device could be used on a different service if stolen, or be sold for use overseas.
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