300 Days With The iPad Mini

It’s still — very much — the ‘real iPad’.

iPad Mini

The major difference between the iPad mini and my original iPad, purchased in 2010: I’m still actually using this one every day, almost a year after I bought it.

That wasn’t the case for my big, bulky first-gen iPad. As I wrote in a February, 2011 re-review, also after 300 days: “The main thing you need to know about my iPad right now is that I’m not sure where it is.” Ouch. The main thing you need to know about my iPad mini right now is that it’s here next to me, and I’ve already been using it a bunch today. I also fell asleep reading it last night, and almost every night last week.

(More recently, we’ve actually been using that 3-year-old iPad, too, as a dedicated bedside Netflix/Time Warner Cable-app TV. It’s fine, if slow, but none of the apps have broken yet, despite being almost two iOS versions behind. But if that’s all you want, there’s no need to spend $700 — actual small TVs are much cheaper. Anyway.)

  • The iPad mini’s light weight and easy holding have kept it as my go-to for reading anything longer than a few tweets. On a recent vacation to Brazil, I read two books and a magazine on it, watched a movie and a few TV shows, brought a bunch of “photocopied” pictures of a hardcover restaurant guide, etc. It’s the second-best travel companion Apple has made, after the iPhone.
  • On an average, everyday basis, almost everything I do on the iPad mini is in two apps: Safari and Twitter. There’s also some Instagram — now a better-looking iPhone-app-on-iPad experience in iOS 7, streaming the Tour de France most mornings in July, occasional gaming, a little magazine- and book-reading, and light email. (I still try to do almost all of my email on my Mac or iPhone, which are easier for typing.) What does this all mean? Is iPad web browsing just really good? Sometimes. Other times, frustrating. Are other apps just mostly forgettable? My Twitter affliction is probably abnormal, but are other people spending drastically more time in other apps than I am? (Games? Flipboard?)
  • I still don’t use it on the subway. I guess by now I should just give up on the idea of using an iPad on the train. A lot of people do it, but I still prefer my phone.
  • I don’t miss the extra screen size of a big iPad, and probably won’t buy another one. I would be tempted by an even-smaller iPhone-iPad hybrid. It’s unlikely an iPad will replace my laptop for work stuff any time soon — I still use way too many apps at a time, most of which aren’t properly available for iOS — so I’ll keep my tablet small, even if there’s a bigger iPad on the market with “mini”-like thinness and weight characteristics. (I sold my “new iPad” with retina screen on Gazelle, and saved up for an espresso machine, which I love.) We’ll have to see what happens if Apple ever does a 5- or 6-inch gadget — a really-big iPhone might be enough to justify consolidating to one device. My pal David Ewalt swears by his Galaxy Note, and I’d probably enjoy this sort of iOS beast.
  • I will almost definitely upgrade to a retina iPad mini, this time going for more storage (32 GB?) and a built-in LTE modem for on-the-road Internet access. I know, I can tether this thing to my iPhone for no extra fee, whereas I’d have to pay extra to add an iPad to my shared-data plan. But there’s something scary and irresponsible about draining two batteries at a time that has prevented me from tethering much so far. As a result, I almost only use my iPad at home.
  • So: Buy an iPad mini now or wait for an update? Unless there’s a specific reason you really need one today, I’d wait a couple months. My guess is that by early November or sooner, there will at least be a faster iPad mini on the market. That will be nice for iOS 7.

Wish list: Speed, more memory, a real Instagram for iPad (kind of nuts this hasn’t happened yet), retina screen, stronger magnets in the Apple smart cover and/or a better-than-Microsoft’s Surface keyboard cover, split-screen Twitter/Safari app, easier wireless file transfers from Mac.

Note: By popular request, you can now purchase a full-resolution version of my iPad’s lock screen photo for $5 via Gumroad.

Previously: 60 Days With The iPad Mini and 24 Hours With The iPad Mini

You Can Have A Gold iPhone If I Can Have A Clear iPhone

If we’re gonna go ’80s, let’s really go ’80s.

Clear 1990s Phone

AOL Hanging In There With 2.6 Million Dialup Subscribers

In what has become a bit of a pastime here at SplatF, let’s take a look at AOL’s latest dialup subscription stats, revealed in today’s Q2 earnings report:

  • 2.58 million subscribers, down 15% from last year and down 3% from last quarter.
  • Average monthly revenue per subscriber: $20.03, up 12% from last year.
  • Churn rate — the percent of subscribers who leave the service each month — of 1.4%, a nice improvement from 1.7% last year.

In short: Fewer people are leaving than before, as AOL dialup becomes a service you still pay for either because it’s actually your best option, or because you forgot you had it many years ago.

Btw, it’s entirely possible that AOL still has more paying subscribers in the U.S. than Spotify. Last December, Spotify announced it had 1 million subs in the States. Has that number tripled this year?

Don’t miss: AOL vs. Netflix, The Entire Internet In One Simple Chart

How Great Is The MacBook Air?

My sticky trackpad just fixed itself after an increasingly worrying week of soft, shallow clicks. This miracle means I can hold off on the impulse-replacement-purchase that I’d started to consider. Now’s just not the best time for that, so I’m grateful.

This is the first computer I’ve ever owned that still feels fast and new more than two years after I bought it. (“Late 2010″ model.) Thanks, flash-based drive. And, years in, it still feels light enough that I barely notice it in my bag.

Perhaps one small reason that Apple isn’t selling as many Macs as before: They age better and last longer.

Introducing The iPhone 5 SF

iPhone 5 SF

Pairs well with City Notes San Francisco.

“Hatching Twitter: A true story of money, power, friendship, and betrayal.”

— I’m looking forward to reading Nick Bilton’s Twitter book this fall.

Data Roaming Report: Virgin Mobile Canada

I’ve traveled extensively over the past 1.5 years with unlocked iPhones — first an Apple-unlocked 4S, and now a Verizon Wireless iPhone 5 — buying local prepaid SIM cards along the way. I’ve meant to start reporting my data roaming successes and failures, which I’ll do from now on. Here’s the first in this series.

Carrier: Virgin Mobile Canada, which operates on its owner Bell’s network. Purchased in Montreal at its 1221 Sainte-Catherine store. Helpful, friendly, English-speaking staff. Everything took less than 15 minutes in the store, and about an hour for service for activate.

Price: $25 for 500 MB of data. Free SIM card. I bought another $5 in credit for random calls/texts. Another ~$4.50 in taxes. Credit cards accepted.

Performance: Bell’s LTE network apparently uses a band that my Verizon iPhone 5 doesn’t support, so I could only access its 3G network. But that’s all I needed, and data service was reliable and fast throughout Montreal. (In future reports, I’ll include specific speeds.) Tethering was supposedly included in my plan, but I didn’t try it. (I was ostensibly on vacation.)

Value: At $5 per 100 MB, this was 80% cheaper than Verizon’s current international data roaming package. Considering how easy it was to buy and use the SIM card, I’d highly recommend Virgin Mobile for data roaming in Canada.

This information is current as of July 17, 2013. Evaluate your needs, consult carrier websites, and explore other options before purchasing.

The App Store Era’s Biggest Winners And Losers

Five years in, here’s who has done the best and who’s lost the most.

Macworld App Wall

Winners

Apple. Obviously. Apple’s iPhone App Store wasn’t the first way to load apps on your smartphone, but it was the best and quickly became the most popular. “There’s an app for that” became a universal (and quickly annoying) catchphrase. The App Store has helped Apple generate billions of dollars in profit selling millions of iPhones, iPads, and Macs — plus its 30% cut of App Store sales. It has become the go-to model for distributing software, since replicated by every platform- and OS-maker.

Us. Thanks to the App Store, we have access to millions of software tools that didn’t exist before, at astonishingly low prices, with an incredibly easy way to find, purchase, and update them. I remember once buying a Palm Treo e-mail app for $40, awkwardly side-loading it, and probably never updating it, bugs and all. Now you can download an amazing variety of apps for little or no money and easily keep them up-to-date for new features or bug fixes. (Apple’s even making it easier in iOS 7 this year with automatic updates.)

Developers. Not all of them. But most of today’s App Store success stories would never have been able to do what they did in a world without it. The App Store has made many millionaires, and has provided the distribution mechanics for someone like Instagram founder Kevin Systrom to generate a billion dollars of value in short time. Even big, public companies like Pandora and Facebook owe much of their growth to the App Store. Also: Loren Brichter!

Google. The Android app story and Google Play store still aren’t as good as Apple’s, but they’re improving. And while mobile advertising is still in the figuring-out stages, Google is the clear leader there so far. (Thanks in part to its acquisition of AdMob, still the big App Store advertising winner.) One long-term unknown: How will App Store and in-app searches disintermediate Google’s bread-winner search engine?

Rounded rectangles. For obvious reasons. Also, the color blue.

Losers

Mobile operators. It wasn’t long ago that mobile app distribution was their territory, and the “carrier deck” ruled — a walled garden of mobile websites, services, and apps, with relatively anti-developer revenue-sharing terms and exclusive agreements. Now, carriers rarely see any direct revenue from mobile app sales, and developers have pinched operators with free or cheaper ways to make phone calls, send text messages, share photos, and make video calls. This isn’t to say that operators have done poorly over the years — they’ve picked up hundreds of millions of new smartphone customers, who pay more for service than before. (You might even argue that the “dumb pipe” route is the better one for most operators.) But losing control over content and software distribution certainly wasn’t the plan.

Microsoft. It’s hard to argue that the rise of mobile computing, powered in part by the App Store, hasn’t hurt Microsoft. It’s still the world’s biggest software company, and is still very profitable. But the PC market is fading and Microsoft still doesn’t have a credible mobile story.

Big Gaming. The shift to free or cheap mobile gaming — from $50 console gaming — hasn’t been great for the Electronic Artses of the world. Mobile is a growth area for the company, but the App Store era has been better to smaller, more nimble gaming upstarts. Over the past five years, as mobile gaming has exploded in popularity, EA’s revenue has only grown 23%, to $3.8 billion in fiscal 2013 from $3.1 billion in fiscal 2007. (SplatF reader Chris Biggs notes that Activision, on the other hand, did significantly better during that time.)

Big Media. As reader Andrew Stillman notes, Apple’s 30% bounty on magazine and newspaper subscriptions isn’t great for publishers. Moreover, free news distribution tools like Twitter and Flipboard have increasingly come between readers and publishers. On the other hand, Apple’s growth — and the App Store’s — has provided great article fodder for business and tech publications!

Electronics retail. When the software store is on the Internet, who needs software stores? The only real winner here has been the Apple Store.

Dishonorable mention: AIM. I can’t think of a single app that I used more on the desktop — well, really, Adium, the great Mac AIM client — but less on mobile. AIM isn’t really central to AOL’s plans, nor is it their biggest problem, but what a sad story.

More: Microsoft’s Mobile Comeback Isn’t Happening