The recent iPhone 6 and Apple Watch unveiling makes one thing perfectly clear: Apple has no interest in the several billion people who don’t own smart devices. It doesn’t care if you can’t afford its products and services. Apple is focusing solely on an affluent audience. If you want to buy an iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, you’re going to wind up spending about $5,000. That’s $500-$1,000 for the iPhone, case and tax, depending upon whether you sign up for a new two-year contract or buy the phone outright. Factor in another $2,400 for your monthly cell phone bill over two years, and $500-$750 for the Apple Watch and a cool band. Apple hasn’t announced full pricing on the Apple Watch, so that last number might in fact be a lot higher. Apple doesn’t care about the billions of people who don’t have the money for these new gadgets. It is instead laser-focused on a fashion-conscious aristocracy that also lines up with its developers, advertisers and its business partners.
The iPhone 6 and Apple Watch are nice, but Apple’s most disruptive new product is Apple Pay, its mobile payments platform. Powered by near-field communication and Touch ID, Apple Pay lets you use your mobile device to make a purchase at participating retailers, like Macy’s, Staples and Subway. Apple Pay also changes the way we make mobile purchases through in-app purchases. In apps with Apple Pay enabled, you can buy items with a single touch. That means no need to enter credit card information or billing and shipping address. It’s all just there. Worried about security? Apple’s got your back. Your credit card number is never given to any merchant; instead, Apple Pay uses a one-time payment number and a “dynamic security code.” There’s no record of where you shop, what you buy, or how much you spend. Lose your iPhone? No worries! You can suspend all payments through “Find My iPhone.” If you’re picking up a new Apple device, look for Apple Pay when it starts rolling out to participating retailers in October.
What exactly is an Apple Watch? No one – not even Apple – knows. It may be a gateway to health and wellness, sports and fitness, quantified self or personal navigation. It may be none of these things. It may be a platform for app developers or a failed attempt at a user interface. As of today, the Apple Watch could be anything… and that’s the point. It’s clear what the Apple Watch is not, though: a pocket watch strapped to your wrist. It was not designed to tell time any more than the iPhone was designed to make calls. We’ll find out exactly what it is and what people will use it for when it launches early next year. For now, it looks like a great first attempt at a new interface in a connected world. But until it has a “killer app” that makes it a “must have” device, it doesn’t mean much. Exploring the Apple Watch will be fun. Let’s see what Apple and other developers create to inspire consumers.
Destiny, the first big ticket, cross-platform next-gen game is finally here. While other high profile games came out earlier this year –Titanfall on Xbox One and Infamous on PlayStation 4 – Destiny is the first game that’s a true next-gen system seller across the board. Everywhere except the Wii U, which isn’t getting Destiny. There are a ton of great games coming out for the Wii U over the next year – but almost every one is exclusive to the Wii U. So what is the Wii U’s destiny? Its sales are way up over last year, but its numbers are still dwarfed by those of the Xbox and PlayStation. Owning a Wii U means owning a system populated with awesome first-party games and not much else. The original Wii was one of the biggest successes in video game history because it offered a brand new experience. The Wii U is little more than a place to play Mario and Zelda right now, which is fine – as long as that’s all you want.
I’d love to tell you how great Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are, and do some hardcore fanboy gushing. But I can’t. The new iPhones are iterative and that’s all they can be. Like a big screen? You’re in luck. If you want a slightly better camera, a little more speed and some new bells and whistles… Apple heard you. If you’re looking for the Second Coming in a phone… you will have to look elsewhere. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are nothing more than big iPhones. But as I often say, “If you want an iPhone, nothing else will do.” If your contract is up and you’re an iPhone person, get one. If your contract is not up, pay the retail price and love your new phone. If you’re an Android person – and you know who you are – there’s no reason to switch. If you have a device like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or an HTC One M8 and you’re happy, you can completely ignore the iPhone 6.
Samsung recently unveiled its newest phablet, the Galaxy Note 4. The biggest improvement over previous versions is the phone’s aluminum frame, which continues trend a started by the Galaxy Alpha. Hopefully, this means we’ll see more of Samsung’s future releases encased in metal, too. The Note 4 also has a removable back, which means you can carry a spare battery in your pocket to make sure you get a full day’s worth of use out of the device. The Note 4’s screen is the best-ever in the series, as is the rear-facing camera. For selfie lovers, the front-facing camera now works better in low light and added a “wide selfie” mode to help get more of your friends in the frame. The phone also comes with a fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, just like the Galaxy S5, and added a new UV light sensor on the phone’s back. Samsung hasn’t announced a price yet, but look for the Note 4 to be available from all major wireless providers this October.
The next time you go to a barbeque, you’re going to want to make sure you bring The Coolest along. A brand new cooler design, The Coolest recently became the most-funded Kickstarter campaign ever after raising more than $13 million in its 52 day campaign. There are plenty of reasons for the campaign’s 60,000 backers to be excited about The Coolest. Built into the case is everything you need for food prep and storage – a blender, cutting board, knives, plates and even a bottle opener. The cooler portion also includes a divider to keep your drinks icy cold while making sure your food stays chilled but not soggy from melted ice. The Coolest is more than just food prep, though. It also has a few cool tech bits, like two waterproof USB ports and a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. The Coolest will make its way to backers in February, and will be available to the general public sometime after that for $299 – just in time for next summer’s barbeques.
When Facebook launched Slingshot, some people saw it as nothing more than a Snapchat knockoff. But Slingshot had a unique feature: to see the photos or videos your friends sent you, you’d need to sling a photo or video back to them. The most recent update to the app, though, makes that feature optional. Now when you send a picture, you can set it to be “locked” or “unlocked.” Locked photos still require your friends to send you a photo before they can view yours, but unlocked photos can be viewed with no reply needed. Slingshot still sets itself apart from Snapchat with its Reaction feature, which lets you quickly take a selfie after you receive a sling. But the latest update makes it seem like Facebook is giving the struggling Slingshot one last chance before it offs the app. Slingshot is Facebook’s second attempt at cloning Snapchat, and the first didn’t fare well either – Facebook killed off Poke a few months back. Will Slingshot fare any better? We’ll have to wait and see.
Facebook wants you to know exactly what you’re sharing with whom, and its latest feature, ‘Privacy Checkup,’ will help you do just that. After a successful test run in May, Facebook is now asking all of its users to complete the checkup, which makes you review your privacy settings and double-check your sharing preferences. The checkup covers a handful of different areas. It’ll show exactly who can see your posts, which third-party apps you’ve linked your account to, and what personal information is visible on your profile. None of these privacy features are new to Facebook – they’ve all been around for at least several months. The point of the checkup is to simplify Facebook’s privacy settings, which are known for being overly complicated. This is the latest move in Facebook’s recent charge to make its privacy and security easier, after tightening the default share setting and unbundling app permissions earlier this year. To make sure your Facebook settings are set up the way you want, make sure to complete your Privacy Checkup today.
When you talk about hacking, you’ve got to remember there are all kinds. When a Russian crime ring amassed a billion stolen passwords earlier this year, it was an example of the kind of hacking that poses a real threat. There’s a whole other kind of hacking, though, which is what we saw recently when a bunch of celebrities had private pictures leaked online. This is essentially cyber bullying, where hackers are all trying to one-up each other and prove they’re the big kid on the playground. While I don’t believe that any of the people who leaked these photos have the power to hack into Apple, the leak reminds us about a few things. It reminds us how important it is to use strong passwords, to make sure you completely trust everyone who may have access to your accounts and, most importantly – if you take a picture of yourself that you don’t want the whole world to see, guess what? The whole world will see that picture. Don’t take the picture. It’s that simple.