Category Archives: iOS Devices

Review: PowerSkin’s Spare gives iPhone 6 users a modest 2200mAh of extra battery case juice

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Since late last year, the best iPhone 6 battery cases have generally included two things that iPhone 6 users now take for granted: enough spare power for at least one complete recharge, plus adequate coverage for the iPhone’s top, bottom, and back, if not its sides. PowerSkin has gone in a somewhat different direction with Spare for iPhone 6 ($80), a battery sled that caters to iPhone users who want less of everything. With a small 2200mAh cell inside, it’s the lowest-capacity battery case I’ve seen for the iPhone 6, and also offers the least body coverage, but sells for about the same price as more capacious and protective rivals.

Lightweight and marginally easier to pack in some bags than some rival battery cases, Spare is here for users who want a partial iPhone 6 recharge and anti-drop protection, but no anti-scratch safety. It’s offered in silver, gold, or space gray, currently ranging from $70-$72 based on your color preference. PowerSkin claims that it will deliver a 100% iPhone 6 recharge, but our testing found otherwise…

Key Details:

  • Three color choices match Apple’s official iPhone 6 options
  • 2200mAh cell is the smallest yet in an iPhone 6 battery case
  • 83% recharge is lowest yet seen
  • Design provides complete access to iPhone 6’s edges and top, while adding anti-drop protection
  • Includes a micro-USB recharging cable, but no headphone adapter

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Unlike most of the matte black battery cases I’ve previously reviewed, Spare’s design mimics the iPhone 6’s. The majority of the case is nicely color-matched metallic plastic, interrupted by two matte bars on the back in roughly the same places as Apple’s antennas. By comparison, the case’s front has a glossy finish, a material that could have looked cheap, but doesn’t draw undue attention since there’s so little frontage to be seen. While most iPhone 6 battery cases provide top and side coverage, PowerSkin leaves those portions of the device uncovered, instead opting for oversized corner grips that extend a millimeter beyond the iPhone’s screen. This enables the corners to absorb shock from drops, as well as to keep the iPhone firmly in place.

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Beyond limiting the case’s coverage, PowerSkin was somewhat sparing with Spare’s pack-ins. Although a micro-USB cable is included for recharging, no extension cable is packed in to provide easy access to the iPhone 6’s recessed headphone port hole. These little extenders are cheap and fairly common, but you’ll need to grab one on your own if you’re using a headphone plug that’s larger than Apple’s super-svelte connectors.

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From a performance standpoint, Spare is underpowered relative to other iPhone 6 battery cases I’ve tested. Four power indicators on the back glow blue as the case itself is charging, but remain off while an iPhone’s recharging inside, unless you press a circular button to indicate the remaining power. PowerSkin promises that Spare’s 2200mAh cell will achieve a 100% recharge of the iPhone, which was hard to take seriously since rivals such as OtterBox’s Resurgence just barely hit the 100% mark with 2600mAh cells. In my testing, Spare fell short, bringing a dead iPhone 6 back to only 83% before dying. That’s about what I would have expected from a 2200mAh battery, but there was always the chance that PowerSkin had some super-efficient charging circuit (or actually larger cell) inside. Clearly, that wasn’t the case with Spare.

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Having reviewed so many other, more powerful iPhone 6 battery cases, I’d say that Spare would make the most sense at a markedly lower price point than its increasingly numerous rivals. Between its so-so 2200mAh capacity and limited device protection, there’s not enough here to justify either the $80 MSRP or the current $70+ prices available online. The same dollars (or fewer) can buy a much more protective and higher-capacity Incipio offGRID Express, just to name the best of the other options I’ve tested. Even PowerSkin’s Lightning-equipped case-free version, PoP’n 3, offers higher battery capacity for only $55. But if Spare’s price falls, as most of its competitors have, it may be worth a second look.

Manufacturer:
PowerSkin
MSRP / Sale Prices:
$80 / $70+ (Amazon)
Compatibility:
iPhone 6

Filed under: iOS Devices, Reviews Tagged: 2200mAh, battery case, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Battery Case, PowerSkin, Spare

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Claimed ‘iPhone 6C’ rear shell leaks, lends further credence to rumors of new 4-inch model

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Image via Future Supplier

Some new photos posted by Future Supplier claim to show the leaked rear casing to the rumored “iPhone 6C.” Recent reports have said that the device will sport a 4-inch screen like that of the iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S, allowing it to appeal to those who prefer smaller displays over the larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

While the veracity of these shots has not been confirmed, there are some interesting details to note that could give us some more clues about the design of the rumored device.

In the image above, there are a few notable differences between the purported iPhone 6C and the iPhone 5C provided for comparison. The cutout for the camera flash on the 6C is elongated, unlike the round one found on the iPhone 5C and current iPhone models. The elongated shape goes back to the introduction of the True Tone flash in the iPhone 5S.

There are also changes to the cutout for the camera itself. Unlike the iPhone 6, the supposed 6c does not feature a “camera bump.” The opening for the lens seems to be flush with the rest of the shell. Additional changes can be noted by looking at the device from another angle.

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Image via Future Supplier

On the bottom of the handset, there are changes to how the mic and speaker grilles are designed. On the current iPhone 6, there are six speaker holes on the left side of the Lightning connector (when the phone is face down), and one microphone opening next to the headphone jack.

On the 5C, there were only four speaker holes, but the design is otherwise the same.

The new photos of the supposed 6C, however, show eight speaker holes arranged in two rows on what looks to be a noticeably thicker body that is found on the iPhone 6. The microphone has also gained a few extra openings, with six cutouts now situated next to the headphone jack rather than just one. Like the speaker grilled, those circular cutouts are stacked in two rows.

It’s hard to say whether these images are real or fake just yet. While some of the changes seem to be a step backwards for Apple, like the seemingly thicker design and elongated camera flash, the redesigned audio grilles and the removal of the “camera bump” could indicate that it’s actually a step forward. It’s also entirely possible that this is simply one design Apple is considering, or an entirely fake shell.

Rumors of multiple next-gen iPhone models in varying sizes have been swirling for a while now, with some indicating that the 6S will receive Apple’s new Force Touch technology and be available in the color pink—though it doesn’t seem likely that the above photos are any indication of what that might look like on the higher-grade device.

Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: Apple pay, audio holes, camera flash, force click, force touch, Future Supplier, Haptic feedback, Hardware, iPhone, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iphone 6 plus, iPhone 6c, iPhone color, leak, NFC, part leak, plastic, rear shell, shell, Taptic Engine, Touch ID, true tone flash

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Apple launches in-store Android trade-in program to boost iPhone sales

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In line with our report from earlier this month, Apple today launched its first trade-in program for non-iPhones in its Apple Retail Stores. The program allows users of select Android and BlackBerry phones to bring in their devices and receive credit toward the immediate purchase of a new iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus (but not an Apple Watch). Apple has opened up the program to non-Mac computers. Apple first launched its standard iPhone Reuse and Recycle trade-in program in 2013, and the company expanded the feature to the iPad last year. Apple made today’s announcement on the individual retail store pages, indicating that the program is so far now available in the U.S., France, United Kingdom, and Italy, and multiple retail sources say that the program has indeed gone live today. A version of the iPhone trade-in program that does not support non-iPhones is launching this week in China.

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Filed under: AAPL Company, iOS Devices Tagged: Android, Apple, Apple Store, BlackBerry, Boost Sales, china, France, Italy, trade-in, United Kingdom, United States

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10 reasons why Apple is to blame for the decline of iPad sales

KGI

It has been a tough slough for Apple’s iPad since the height of its popularity in 2013. Facing its second straight year of negative growth, there isn’t a consensus on why iPad sales have declined. I believe the slump is attributable to a combination of factors.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called the declining iPad sales a “speed bump” last year before the launch of the 2014 models, but we haven’t seen what Apple plans to do to rejuvenate the product. From my point of view, Apple itself has done more to hurt iPad sales than any external factor, such as Microsoft or Google.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here’s a full explanation of my theory…

1. Apple’s bigger iPhone 6 Plus phablet has made the once popular iPad mini all but pointless. That’s not entirely true – there are significant cost differences and over 2 inches of additional diagonal screen real estate – but having a huge iPhone makes having a small tablet a lot less desirable. Combine that with the fact that most people buy their phones subsidized, and a much faster, sleeker iPhone 6 Plus costs about the same as an iPad mini up front.

Below the cannibalization of the iPad is shown in a chart from Credit Suisse. Characterizing phablets as “4+ inches” seems a little out of date, but the point is clear, phablets like the iPhone 6 are eating into tablet share across the board.
phablet killing ipad

2. This year’s iPad hardware updates weren’t terribly magical. The iPad mini got Touch ID (at a $100 price premium). The Air 2 got both faster and lighter, which is always great. And both became available in gold. But for people like me who are very content with the iPad Air – discussed in point 10 below – adding Touch ID or a golden housing wasn’t a big enough incentive to upgrade. Would sales have taken off if Apple offered more storage on the lower end, more laptop-like features, or lower costs?

3. New tiny 12-inch MacBook sales will impact professional/luxury iPad users. The 2-lb light weight and super portability will bring over folks who can spend a lot to get the latest technology. In fact, lowering the prices on the very popular MacBook Air to near cost parity per GB basis also makes a MacBook Air seem like the better deal (128GB MacBook Air: $899 retail, but often lower, versus 128GB iPad w/cellular: $829).

When I go to bed at night and have my iPad Air for consumption, there is often something important that I can only do well on my Mac (like adding something important to this post). This has happened so many times that the iPad doesn’t get picked up at bedtime much anymore. If I lost my iPad Air this week, I’d probably replace it with a MacBook.

4. Split screen iPad support and other laptop-like functionality is late in coming. If those features come out this year, and I think they will, a lot of professionals will jump on board. Currently functionality that makes an iPad a better solution to a problem than a laptop is often lacking.

5. Microsoft and its ecosystem have been making inroads into the professional ranks. You have to admit some of the hardware the Windows folks are putting out isn’t bad, especially when a hybrid computer can go from a MacBook Air form factor into a tablet form factor with a swinging hinge. Yes, I know Apple’s philosophy is not to marry toasters and refrigerators, but tablets and laptops aren’t that different anymore.

Even if they aren’t right, many folks will choose a convertible laptop-tablet PC over an iPad or a MacBook for that matter.

6imgres. Chromebooks in education. Google Chromebooks have been eating Apple’s lunch in education and ironically the iconic appeal of the iPad is partially responsible. A sysadmin for a large school district tells me that the iPad trials went something like this: 100 iPads were given out to 4th graders. Within a month, over 50% of them went missing, and a few of them broke, while 10% of them were jailbroken or hacked. At the same time, with a similar Chromebook rollout, only 10% went missing, a few of them broke, and none of them were hacked (though it is certainly hackable). Give kids free iPads and they’ll have a tendency to disappear or get subverted for personal gain.

Apple has done some work in getting its iPads in schools with some noted success and other spectacular failures.  A new initiative may really help but the fact that most schools either have Microsoft or Google email/apps on the backend means it is going to be tough.

7.  Pricing. Apple could sell iPads at lower price points if it really wanted to. In fact, we’ve seen major retailers cutting as much as $130 off the price of new iPad Air 2s, and up to $200 on the high-end models. Subsidies are another option. Apple was able to stave off any encroachment from the Amazon Fire Phone because it offers iPhones at low price points (including “free” with plan). Apple, however, has no protection for its iPad line when Amazon comes in at $100 or less for a new Fire tablet. Fire tablets continue to be popular though Amazon won’t let you know any numbers.  Spotting a Fire Phone is harder than finding a Sasquatch.

Also, 16GB is not enough space on the low end. Apple can afford to pop in 32GB of storage on the entry-level iPads and I think they will go up to this amount this year. 16GB isn’t enough for even a base model iPhone in my opinion, and with the bigger display, iPad apps need bigger files.

8. Killer App? You need a smartphone for certain things. You need a computing device for other things. There are very few apps that need an iPad, especially when you have a big iPhone in your pocket and a 2 lb. Mac next to your bed.

9. Marketing and the Apple Watch. iPad hasn’t been getting the marketing spend it got in its first years for a variety of reasons. Last year Apple had the big iPhones to explain to the public. Before that it was iOS 7’s new look and feel. This year it seems Apple is focusing its attention and every extra marketing dollar on the Apple Watch.

But Apple Watch isn’t just hurting the iPad from a marketing standpoint. Those of us who have a yearly Apple discretionary fund of $500 or so bucks aren’t likely going to put it towards the iPad this year. And Apple announced the Watch right before the holiday shopping season. Sure, that was mostly to dissuade people from buying other watches, but some folks also probably held off on Apple purchases.

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On a higher level, it also makes me wonder if Apple’s got a new paradigm. Instead of iPhone|iPad|Mac, is Apple now promoting: Watch+CarPlay+Apple TV+Accessories|iPhone|Mac in its “3 screens” paradigm? Where does iPad fit?

10. Perhaps this is unintuitive, but Apple’s incredible build quality coupled with genuine efforts to update old iPads to the latest version of iOS has made the decision to purchase a new iPad a difficult one. My old iPads still look, feel and work great. My son can still use our original iPad and a lot of the apps he likes. I bought an iPad Air last year, and it is hard to justify the purchase of a new one (even though retailers are discounting the heck out of them). My wife uses an iPad 3, and for what she does on it, there is no reason to update.

The good news here is that much of the iPad’s sales decline can be fixed by Apple, because it’s responsible for most of the issues above. An iPad Pro, price drops, a better iPad iOS version with split-screen support, and better integration with keyboards are all ways Apple could stop the decline in iPad sales and get the platform growing again. More and more engaging marketing wouldn’t hurt, either.

Perhaps Apple can fit iPad in between the Apple Watch launch and the launch of the new Apple TV?


Filed under: AAPL Company, iOS Devices, Opinion Tagged: Apple Inc, Apple watch, decline, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Market share, Microsoft, Revenue

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Wired video abuses ultra-protective iPhone cases, two withstand slams, one even survives falling safe

Most cases will protect your iPhone during regular use, and many can handle accidental drops and a little abuse, but very few can withstand deliberate punishment. An amusing new Battle Damage video from Wired uses abusive tests to crown the “toughest iPhone case ever” from four different ultra-protective models: Griffin’s $50 Survivor,* LifeProof’s $80 Fre, Lunatik’s $125 Taktik Extreme, and Otterbox’s $50 Defender. The iPhone 5 units inside the Griffin Survivor and LifeProof Fre don’t make it through the first test, a hard smash of the encased iPhone on a hard floor, but Lunatik’s Extreme and Otterbox’s Defender go onto a second test: attempting to withstand a 50-pound safe while standing in a completely vertical position.

Unless you’re planning to drop a safe on your upright iPhone, the smaller and more affordable Defender seems like a smarter choice. But only Lunatik’s metal-reinforced Extreme survived the safe-dropping test; an iPhone 6 version hasn’t yet been released. Most people will do just fine with regular iPhone cases (or great iPhone battery cases), but if you want something that can protect against Looney Tunes-like antics, check out the video for some nice camera work and screen-shattering fun.

[* Note: Wired claims that the Griffin Survivor case shown in the video is Survivor Slim, but it looks more likely to be Survivor + Catalyst, a now-discontinued $80 model that was marketed as waterproof. Thanks, Nick!]


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: accidental damage, battery cases, battle damage, Damage, Griffin, iPhone, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, LifeProof, lunatik, OtterBox, Protective cases

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iPhone-connected Canary home monitoring system hits retail stores, plans international expansion

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The Canary smart home monitoring system that started with a $100l Indiegogo goal and actually raised almost $2 million, is now available in retail stores for the first time, priced at $259.

Canary is a security camera that learns your living patterns, like when people leave and enter the home, and sends alerts to your iPhone when anything seems out of the ordinary. You can then view and listen remotely to ensure all is well.

Canary is now available in Best Buy, Home Depot and Verizon Wireless, and is also available on Amazon with free shipping. The company plans to make it available in other countries later this year.


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: Canary, Canary camera, Canary security system, Canary smart home monitoring, Crowd funding, Indiegogo

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