Consumer Tech for August

What if Apple Inc. didn’t exist? Here are some alternative choices.

By Richard M. Sherwin

It’s that time of year for me when New York City has even more traffic problems and street repair so driving is not an option. Long train rides and even longer bus rides to cover events for DFA require more entertainment and better portable productivity during these sometimes 4 hour trips each way.

On a recent excursion back and forth from the Berkshires through Connecticut to NYC ,  I noticed a mixed demographic of baby boomers, older seniors going to NYC for the theater and college age kids finishing first 4 weeks of summer camp or summer college activities .

Biggest surprise, these diverse groups were not all using the iPhones, iPads, iMacs  or iPods that you would think they would be.  So with the steady but slow round trip on Peter Pan bus lines (horrible prices but good Wi-Fi), I took an informal poll and received these answers when questioning the travelers about their mobile and home products and the influence Apple products had on them:

  • 6 out of ten millennials on the bus were using Android based mobile phones because they were cheaper to buy or lease than iPhones.  Also the more tech savvy of those young people thought the new Samsung Galaxies and LG phones had better features. The even cheaper 2d and 3d tier mobile phones coming from the budget mobile service providers were gaining fast and those were all Android based phones.
  • Same results when asking the baby boomers about their choice of laptops and or the Tablets they were using: A majority were using either PCs or android based Tablets with the common thread of answers “I can buy three non-Apple devices for the price of one Apple device and the performance of Android is the same or better.”
  • Directly questioning the iPhone or iPad users, they touted the simplicity the look and feel of Apple products and most were influenced to buy the Apple products by the coolness over the actual performance.
  • On the return trip the next day with slightly more under 30 travelers, I also posed the question about connected homes being the hottest craze for electronics: how many travelers were using Apple in that product mix: Answer maybe 2 in 30. In fact some had even switched back to Sony for their music (MP3) player from Apple iPod because of the features and quality and most important: storage capacity.
  • And finally how many travelers use Apple Products in their TV mix? Only 1 had an Apple TV set top box for streaming video, while the majority had Roku, then Kindle Fire TV or stick and a few with Google Chrome cast stick.

DFA’S 2017 APPLE ALTERNATIVES

In the top of the line smart mobile phone segment, the Samsung Galaxy 8 has a better screen, higher capacity memory and faster processor for doing productivity than Apple’s IPhone 7. Previews of the late August Samsung 9 and Apple IPhone 8 (Sept launch) call for almost a dead heat, but the Samsung line will be cheaper to buy or lease from the big service providers. Remember Motorola’s Moto and LG’s latest model will be perfect for 99% of users and are much much cheaper.

Some other experts also choose Sony’s Experia line of Android mobile phones but because the company does not have a service provider deal, the very sophisticated and top audio producing model is even more expensive than an IPhone.

Apple does have two great Wi-Fi based Tablets, the iPad Pro 10.5 inch ($650) and iPad 9.7 ($330) inch. Both can be beat in price speed performance by the Samsung S3, the best video and audio Tablet on the market ($600). The best all-around regular use Tablet is the Samsung S2, which crushes Apple’s iPad mini in all features and can be purchased in most stores for less than $200. If you absolutely have to compete with the Joneses and don’t mind spending $800, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Google Pixel C (slightly less) are also viable alternatives to Apple’s tablets.

Home Automation

Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are already leading the pack with millions of satisfied customers with Amazon’s Dot sometimes at an incredible $39. Apple’s version of a voice based device (not ready until the fall) is said to take advantage of the talents of Siri, but from the get go will be ten times as expensive and have even less technology partners in the automated home. That also means that home cooling, heating, lighting safety devices, TV remotes, audio players and set top boxes attached to the Apple Home, will also cost more and probably not do as much as Amazon and Google.

Set Top Streaming Devices

Because streaming video and cord cutting is the hottest thing for people of all ages trying to save on huge cable bills, this category has been a bust for Apple, whose Apple TV was even described by the late Steve Jobs as a toy. The new 2017 version is not much better. At the high end, the 4K Roku sells millions, while the very affordable and very portable Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, mid-level Roku are easier, better and cheaper than Apple TV. And the irony here is that usually Apple offers the latest technology if not the highest price in each category. However, in the product that’s now becoming the most purchased device in the home (streaming video) Apple doesn’t even have the highest level TV technology. So take that! You Apple lovers: you can’t watch 4K TV on Apple TV.

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