Tags Ďbeatsí

Apple’s Back to School promotion returns to Australia and New Zealand w/ a Beats Solo2 promo

Featured image showing the Back to School deal currently on promotion in Australia and New Zealand

Apple’s annual Back to School program returns in Australia and New Zealand with a promotion to receive a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear¬†Headphones with qualifiying Mac purchases. Customers¬†may also alternatively choose to receive¬†savings on a new iPad (although there is currently an error on both¬†sites not indicating how much can be saved). Last year’s promotion in Australia and New Zealand included an Apple Store¬†gift card¬†up to A$100/NZ$125, so it’s nice to see them promoting¬†the acquired Beats brand and giving away instant¬†credit¬†for the headphones.

When purchasing a new iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or Mac Pro, customers¬†can elect to receive credit towards the purchase of a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones or a pair of the Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones. It’s important to note that because the Wireless On-Ear model is more expensive, customers will have to pay the remaining difference of¬†A$140/NZ$180.

Education pricing is available to university students, students accepted into university, parents buying for university students, teachers, lecturers and staff at all levels.

‚Äē Apple Student Discount

Apple notes that the Mac mini and refurbished Apple computers are not eligible for this promotion and that the qualifying purchases must be made between February 3, 2016 and March 21, 2016.

This year’s promotion in Australia and New Zealand follows a similar promotion the¬†Back to School program Apple had¬†in the¬†United States¬†last August¬†with the Beats Solo2 headphones.


Filed under: iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: Apple, Australia, Back to School, Beats, Beats Solo2, New Zealand

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Photo

Greg Barbosa

February 3rd

Apple

Mac

Do you listen to Beats 1? Here’s what Apple can do to improve its radio station & encourage more people to tune in

3D Touch Beats 1

Apple¬†continues to talk high praise of¬†Apple Music,¬†most recently leaking that¬†the service has 10 million paying subscribers,¬†but it has remained somewhat quiet about its Beats 1 online 24/7 radio station. Beats 1 launched to¬†much fanfare with Zane Lowe leading the¬†effort,¬†and while¬†it seems to be doing decently, it isn’t a sensation in the music business yet. It’s especially timely to talk about Beats 1 now that Apple has retired the iTunes Radio ad-supported stations, leaving Beats 1 as the only way to get free streaming music from Apple. I’m intrigued by the uptake¬†of the station¬†‚ÄĒ there’s a poll to find out how often you tune in below¬†the break ‚ÄĒ as it seems Beats 1¬†has an awareness issue.

I tend to like the music that is played but I just forget to tune in.¬†I think Beats 1 is good but¬†Apple¬†needs to¬†support it better within iOS and iTunes to make¬†it stickier. Here are some suggestions …

Use the poll above to give your input on Beats 1 usage. Even in the best case, I think it is pretty evident that Beats 1 could use some more features. At a high level, Beats 1 feels like an analog station. What follows are some ideas to make it more modern and approachable plus my thoughts on how Apple could make Beats 1 better in general.

At the top of my list¬†of wants is some kind of push notifications or alerts system for Beats 1 shows.¬†The¬†station is meant to be worldwide and always-on but the only way to know what’s coming up is to¬†check the schedule on the Beats 1 pages.¬†Apple should add a feature to iOS so you can subscribe to hosts or particular shows, alerting you to when those shows goes live. For instance,¬†I want to be alerted every time Zane Lowe goes live. Another example: I really like the chart show where¬†the host recaps the top songs at the moment and gives some commentary. I have no idea when it’s¬†on though and a push notifications feature would help me tune in to listen.

FullSizeRender

Going further, Apple has this Connect social networking feature where you can¬†already follow artists that you want to learn more about. Beats 1 regularly features some fantastic interviews with musicians. If I explicitly follow them on Apple Music Connect, I want to know if they are on the air. There’s no affordance for that stuff today.¬†Connect may not have set the world on fire as a social network, but at least try to make it better and more¬†integrated with the rest of Apple Music and avoid yet another Ping.

You know the Handoff app shortcut spot on the lock screen? Apple could¬†add a way to permanently set a shortcut app there. This would benefit all iOS users really as you could just put your favorite or most-used software in the slot for quick access, but it would personally help me get to Beats 1 more often. It’s a chore to drill-down from the Home screen into the tabs of the Music app just to start some music in the morning. Putting it on the lock screen makes it eminently more instinctive to start listening. The latest iPhones add 3D Touch shortcuts, but lock screen access would reach all devices. Even as I sit here writing this article, I want some background music playing but I can’t be bothered to navigate to Beats 1 …

Apple Music Beats 1 3D Touch

Apple¬†is competing against traditional radio¬†and right now Beats 1 is¬†slower. With a home radio, you press the power button and music starts playing. Apple has to get closer to that ease of use for it to be more compelling. It’s a modern electronic digital device ‚ÄĒ there are even opportunities to be smarter, like only showing my Music¬†app shortcuts when I plug in headphones or connect to Bluetooth speakers. Apple started some of this with iOS 9’s Proactive shortcuts, but it should be expanded to be more explicit and less hit-and-miss.

I have even considered whether Apple should break out Beats 1 into a dedicated app. Right now, it’s stuck beneath¬†a tab inside the Music app¬†but thinking about it, it doesn’t really fit in.¬†It’s free form radio with few¬†user¬†controls.¬†The other Apple Music ‘Radio Stations’¬†are really dressed-up playlists, as you can skip tracks and¬†thumbs up songs you like. If Beats 1 was a separate app, I honestly think I would use it more. I would at least remember that it exists.

I’m generally resistant to Home screen¬†stock app creep but in this case, it¬†seems justified. Maybe it would be an optional download from the App Store or a default app that you can uninstall.¬†It would contain the live streaming service as well as UI to access information about the schedule and past broadcasts for replay.¬†I think when Apple inevitably expands the initiative to include more stations (to use the obvious name, ‘Beats 2’), breaking the service out into a dedicated app makes a lot of sense to streamline the experience. It would also make the Music app less confusing: it could refine the UI with less features to worry about accommodating into one screen.

Moreover, there are some obvious low-hanging fruit opportunities to improve listener interaction with Beats 1. You could have some voting options for the Best Of roundups or add a facility for listener¬†shoutouts directly from the Beats 1 app. Right now, this interaction happens over Twitter but the @Beats1 account only has ~300,000 followers, so it’s not a huge attention driver. Beats 1 includes a Mixtape segment where you can submit songs: there is the space to¬†do these recommendations right within Music. Currently, Beats hosts ask for user participation by sending in iMessages to a special iCloud address. That feels antiquated. Ultimately, these features¬†would drive¬†engagement and increase the Beats 1 audience.

Beats 1 has a lot of shows with famous hosts, but do people know they are on air?

Beats 1 has a lot of shows with famous hosts, but do people know when they are on air?

There’s always marketing to fall back on too.¬†There is a lot of¬†advertising for Apple Music as a service but Beats 1 is generally left alone. I think the idea of a¬†freely available 24/7 radio station is a very compelling idea for prospective¬†iOS customers. Apple should¬†feature it more prominently in its TV commercials as a way to sell iPhones and iPads.¬†When I casually mention Beats 1 to friends or family, they almost universally don’t¬†know it exists. There is an obvious need for more awareness that the radio station exists.

Aside from traditional media marketing, there could also be hooks in the iTunes Store to push Beats 1. Contextually, people who go to listen to an artist usually like following their work and want to hear more of them. This enables some opportunities for Apple to do tasteful in-app marketing.  For instance, searching in iTunes or the Music app for music featuring Drake or Dre would show banners promoting their respective shows on Beats 1. In one tap, you could add a calendar reminder so you remember to tune in when they are on next.

Although this will help drive people to Beats 1, I got the idea from the Proactive suggestions. It is marketing but it isn’t really that¬†intrusive¬†or¬†forced in¬†your face. The Music app already includes ‘Related’ suggestions for other albums to buy ‚ÄĒ this is the same concept but applied to live radio. Naturally, Apple could include a settings toggle to disable the¬†recommendations feature for people who don’t¬†want it.

Finally, you can never beat having more content available for people to listen to. We did a poll a few weeks ago about new stations, and there is clearly demand for diversification into new areas like sports and¬†news coverage … as well as people wanting more specialized music channels for certain genres. Although Beats 1 is advertised as a 24/7 station, it isn’t really true. The schedule is set up¬†on a 12 hour basis, so¬†for the other 12 hours¬†it plays a recording of the last 12 hours.

This is frustrating for me, being based in the UK. If I listen in the afternoon and¬†in the following morning, I am likely to hear the same¬†shows repeated.¬†Apple has done well in getting a huge roster of¬†well-known talent on board with shows (including famous names like Elton John¬†and Pharrell Williams)¬†but they need to fulfil their promise of it being a truly ‘always-on’ station.

In summary, Beats 1 as a concept is great. I was skeptical back when Apple running a 7-day radio station was just a rumor. It was a pretty crazy move, but I think they’ve proven it’s a valid idea.¬†It needs some work on the software¬†side and the production side to make it really shine and motivate¬†users to come back and listen on a regular basis.¬†Let¬†us know your thoughts about Beats 1 in the comments below …


Filed under: Apple Music, iOS, iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: Apple Music, Beats, Beats 1, Music, radio station, zane lowe

For more information about iOS Devices, Tech Industry, and iOS continue reading at 9to5Mac.

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Photo

Benjamin Mayo

January 19th

Apple

Mac

Do you listen to Beats 1? Here’s what Apple can do to improve its radio station & encourage more people to tune in

3D Touch Beats 1

Apple¬†continues to talk high praise of¬†Apple Music,¬†most recently leaking that¬†the service has 10 million paying subscribers,¬†but it has remained somewhat quiet about its Beats 1 online 24/7 radio station. Beats 1 launched to¬†much fanfare with Zane Lowe leading the¬†effort,¬†and while¬†it seems to be doing decently, it isn’t a sensation in the music business yet. It’s especially timely to talk about Beats 1 now that Apple has retired the iTunes Radio ad-supported stations, leaving Beats 1 as the only way to get free streaming music from Apple. I’m intrigued by the uptake¬†of the station¬†‚ÄĒ there’s a poll to find out how often you tune in below¬†the break ‚ÄĒ as it seems Beats 1¬†has an awareness issue.

I tend to like the music that is played but I just forget to tune in.¬†I think Beats 1 is good but¬†Apple¬†needs to¬†support it better within iOS and iTunes to make¬†it stickier. Here are some suggestions …

Use the poll above to give your input on Beats 1 usage. Even in the best case, I think it is pretty evident that Beats 1 could use some more features. At a high level, Beats 1 feels like an analog station. What follows are some ideas to make it more modern and approachable plus my thoughts on how Apple could make Beats 1 better in general.

At the top of my list¬†of wants is some kind of push notifications or alerts system for Beats 1 shows.¬†The¬†station is meant to be worldwide and always-on but the only way to know what’s coming up is to¬†check the schedule on the Beats 1 pages.¬†Apple should add a feature to iOS so you can subscribe to hosts or particular shows, alerting you to when those shows goes live. For instance,¬†I want to be alerted every time Zane Lowe goes live. Another example: I really like the chart show where¬†the host recaps the top songs at the moment and gives some commentary. I have no idea when it’s¬†on though and a push notifications feature would help me tune in to listen.

FullSizeRender

Going further, Apple has this Connect social networking feature where you can¬†already follow artists that you want to learn more about. Beats 1 regularly features some fantastic interviews with musicians. If I explicitly follow them on Apple Music Connect, I want to know if they are on the air. There’s no affordance for that stuff today.¬†Connect may not have set the world on fire as a social network, but at least try to make it better and more¬†integrated with the rest of Apple Music and avoid yet another Ping.

You know the Handoff app shortcut spot on the lock screen? Apple could¬†add a way to permanently set a shortcut app there. This would benefit all iOS users really as you could just put your favorite or most-used software in the slot for quick access, but it would personally help me get to Beats 1 more often. It’s a chore to drill-down from the Home screen into the tabs of the Music app just to start some music in the morning. Putting it on the lock screen makes it eminently more instinctive to start listening. The latest iPhones add 3D Touch shortcuts, but lock screen access would reach all devices. Even as I sit here writing this article, I want some background music playing but I can’t be bothered to navigate to Beats 1 …

Apple Music Beats 1 3D Touch

Apple¬†is competing against traditional radio¬†and right now Beats 1 is¬†slower. With a home radio, you press the power button and music starts playing. Apple has to get closer to that ease of use for it to be more compelling. It’s a modern electronic digital device ‚ÄĒ there are even opportunities to be smarter, like only showing my Music¬†app shortcuts when I plug in headphones or connect to Bluetooth speakers. Apple started some of this with iOS 9’s Proactive shortcuts, but it should be expanded to be more explicit and less hit-and-miss.

I have even considered whether Apple should break out Beats 1 into a dedicated app. Right now, it’s stuck beneath¬†a tab inside the Music app¬†but thinking about it, it doesn’t really fit in.¬†It’s free form radio with few¬†user¬†controls.¬†The other Apple Music ‘Radio Stations’¬†are really dressed-up playlists, as you can skip tracks and¬†thumbs up songs you like. If Beats 1 was a separate app, I honestly think I would use it more. I would at least remember that it exists.

I’m generally resistant to Home screen¬†stock app creep but in this case, it¬†seems justified. Maybe it would be an optional download from the App Store or a default app that you can uninstall.¬†It would contain the live streaming service as well as UI to access information about the schedule and past broadcasts for replay.¬†I think when Apple inevitably expands the initiative to include more stations (to use the obvious name, ‘Beats 2’), breaking the service out into a dedicated app makes a lot of sense to streamline the experience. It would also make the Music app less confusing: it could refine the UI with less features to worry about accommodating into one screen.

Moreover, there are some obvious low-hanging fruit opportunities to improve listener interaction with Beats 1. You could have some voting options for the Best Of roundups or add a facility for listener¬†shoutouts directly from the Beats 1 app. Right now, this interaction happens over Twitter but the @Beats1 account only has ~300,000 followers, so it’s not a huge attention driver. Beats 1 includes a Mixtape segment where you can submit songs: there is the space to¬†do these recommendations right within Music. Currently, Beats hosts ask for user participation by sending in iMessages to a special iCloud address. That feels antiquated. Ultimately, these features¬†would drive¬†engagement and increase the Beats 1 audience.

Beats 1 has a lot of shows with famous hosts, but do people know they are on air?

Beats 1 has a lot of shows with famous hosts, but do people know when they are on air?

There’s always marketing to fall back on too.¬†There is a lot of¬†advertising for Apple Music as a service but Beats 1 is generally left alone. I think the idea of a¬†freely available 24/7 radio station is a very compelling idea for prospective¬†iOS customers. Apple should¬†feature it more prominently in its TV commercials as a way to sell iPhones and iPads.¬†When I casually mention Beats 1 to friends or family, they almost universally don’t¬†know it exists. There is an obvious need for more awareness that the radio station exists.

Aside from traditional media marketing, there could also be hooks in the iTunes Store to push Beats 1. Contextually, people who go to listen to an artist usually like following their work and want to hear more of them. This enables some opportunities for Apple to do tasteful in-app marketing.  For instance, searching in iTunes or the Music app for music featuring Drake or Dre would show banners promoting their respective shows on Beats 1. In one tap, you could add a calendar reminder so you remember to tune in when they are on next.

Although this will help drive people to Beats 1, I got the idea from the Proactive suggestions. It is marketing but it isn’t really that¬†intrusive¬†or¬†forced in¬†your face. The Music app already includes ‘Related’ suggestions for other albums to buy ‚ÄĒ this is the same concept but applied to live radio. Naturally, Apple could include a settings toggle to disable the¬†recommendations feature for people who don’t¬†want it.

Finally, you can never beat having more content available for people to listen to. We did a poll a few weeks ago about new stations, and there is clearly demand for diversification into new areas like sports and¬†news coverage … as well as people wanting more specialized music channels for certain genres. Although Beats 1 is advertised as a 24/7 station, it isn’t really true. The schedule is set up¬†on a 12 hour basis, so¬†for the other 12 hours¬†it plays a recording of the last 12 hours.

This is frustrating for me, being based in the UK. If I listen in the afternoon and¬†in the following morning, I am likely to hear the same¬†shows repeated.¬†Apple has done well in getting a huge roster of¬†well-known talent on board with shows (including famous names like Elton John¬†and Pharrell Williams)¬†but they need to fulfil their promise of it being a truly ‘always-on’ station.

In summary, Beats 1 as a concept is great. I was skeptical back when Apple running a 7-day radio station was just a rumor. It was a pretty crazy move, but I think they’ve proven it’s a valid idea.¬†It needs some work on the software¬†side and the production side to make it really shine and motivate¬†users to come back and listen on a regular basis.¬†Let¬†us know your thoughts about Beats 1 in the comments below …


Filed under: Apple Music, iOS, iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: Apple Music, Beats, Beats 1, Music, radio station, zane lowe

For more information about iOS Devices, Tech Industry, and iOS continue reading at 9to5Mac.

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Photo

Benjamin Mayo

January 19th

Apple

Mac

Poll: Do you want a thinner iPhone 7 at the expense of the 3.5mm headphone jack?

iPhone-7-Lightning

If all the recent reports turn out to be true, it looks like Apple might actually ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack for the next-generation iPhone later this year. It’s been a long-time coming, not just since Apple started preparing for the transition with audio over Lightning for headphone makers a couple years back, but also since wireless Bluetooth headphones have become good enough in recent years to replace wired solutions that rely on the 3.5mm jack we’ve used for the last century or so.

Apple is no stranger to being first to ditch old technologies while ushering in the new (think floppy drive, optical drives, and everything on the new 12-inch MacBook, as a few examples), but how do you feel about this particular transition? 

Removing the headphone jack is thought to allow for an overall thinner profile for the device, but it’s unclear exactly how Apple plans on presenting the change that will inevitably be a big topic of conversation if an iPhone without a headphone jack ultimately launches. In fact, Apple fans are already voicing their concern with a new petition gathering over 200,000 signatures from those against Apple’s reported plans.

It’s likely Apple¬†will have a few partners showing off some slick new Lightning/Bluetooth headphones if it does introduce an iPhone without a headphone jack. It’s already been working with partners over the last year through its MFi program and adding products to its retail channels. We also reported this week that Apple is developing¬†revamped, cord-free Beats with a charging case,¬†and¬†Apple will likely bundle some new Bluetooth and/or Lightning EarPods (or AirPods)¬†to get you started.

But, really, will a thinner iPhone 7 be worth having to upgrade your headphones or buy an adapter to use over Lightning? 


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: 3.5mm jack, Beats, Bluetooth, heaphones, iPhone, iPhone 7, Lightning, Wireless

Continue reading more about iOS Devices, iPhone, and Bluetooth at 9to5Mac.

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Photo

Jordan Kahn

January 11th

Apple

Mac

Apple developing revamped, cord-free Beats with charging case ahead of iPhone 7

hint

With its resources from the 2014 acquisition of headphone maker Beats Electronics, Apple is prototyping a completely new set of Bluetooth earphones with the potential of launching the accessory alongside the iPhone 7 this fall. The new earphones are said to be completely wireless, which is to say that they do not even have a cable connecting the left and right ear pieces. Sources say that the headphones are similar in concept to the Motorola Hint headset (pictured above) and Bragi’s new Dash headphones that were shown at CES this week.

It‚Äôs expected that the in-development accessory will include a noise-cancelling microphone system, enabling phone calls and communication with Siri even without Apple‚Äôs prior in-line microphone and remote. In order to fit inside of the user’s ear, Apple will likely develop different sized ear sleeves for the hardware, similar to the approach used by Motorola and Bragi. Bragi’s headphones include a built-in button to answer calls, so Apple’s could have a control for managing calls and activating Siri.

The headphones are planned to be a premium alternative to a new version of the EarPods, and are highly likely to be sold separately from the iPhone 7; a comparable model from Bragi will retail for $300. As has been previously rumored, sources confirm that the iPhone 7 will not include a standard headphone jack and will instead require headphones to connect via the Lightning connector or wirelessly over Bluetooth. The ability for headphones to connect over Lightning has been included in iOS since 2014, and new EarPods will support this.

The latest version of the new wireless Apple/Beats headphones in development do not include any ports for charging, in contrast to the mini-USB port on the current wireless Beats. Instead, the new headphones are likely to come with a carrying case that doubles as a rechargeable battery to juice up the headphones when they are not in use. Apple first tested the battery case waters last month with an iPhone 6 battery case. While Apple hopes to launch the new earphones this fall, the hardware is still in development and could be delayed by battery life concerns. As the design requires twin wireless chips and separate batteries, sub-4-hour battery life without use of the case would be expected.

The iPhone 7 is likely to debut this fall, but sources say that Apple has not yet finalized the design of the handset. Case makers tell us that Apple is currently testing three different designs for the iPhone 7, including a completely new, thinner look as well as a backup design that looks substantially like the iPhone 6s. Since 2014, the Apple-owned Beats division has released Apple Music as well as minor updates to existing headphone lines, so this new wireless pair will mark the first major hardware launch of the merged companies.


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: Apple, Beats, Bluetooth, headphones, iPhone 7, Lightning, Thinner, Wireless

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Photo

Mark Gurman

January 8th

Apple

Mac

Amazon/Best Buy just dropped $100 off the new Apple Beats Lightning Pill II+ ($117-138/ea)

ML4M2-large-ren-top

From 9to5Toys:

Amazon and Best Buy offer the Beats Pill II + in Black (Best Buy also offers White) for $137.99 with free shipping. That’s the lowest price we’ve seen on Apple’s new Bluetooth speaker by quite a bit (it was discounted $30 to $200 on Black Friday). It comes with soft carrying case, 1.5m Lightning to USB-A charging cable and 12.5W PSU.

Better yet, grab 2 and the price for each drops to just $117/ea at Best Buy. 

 

Note Amazon might take a 1-2 days for processing but both promise to deliver in time for Christmas.

 

 

Screenshot 2015-12-20 19.08.48

Screenshot 2015-12-20 19.55.45

 


Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: Beats, Beats Pill II+, Bluetooth Speaker

For more information about iOS Devices, Beats, and Bluetooth Speaker continue reading at 9to5Mac.

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Photo

9to5 Staff

December 21st

Apple

Mac

Shop Apple’s holiday gift guide, save up to $350: great 9to5 deals on every device + accessory

applestorediscounts

Every year, Apple puts together a beautiful-looking holiday gift guide on Apple.com, packed with the latest iOS devices, Macs, and accessories people would love to receive as gifts. The hitch is that Apple’s prices are almost always full retail, with no discounting, so it’s easy to spend anywhere from $5 to $300 more per item than if you shopped around.

This year, 9to5Toys and 9to5Mac have¬†done the bargain hunting¬†for you. We’ve found savings on virtually every item on Apple’s holiday shopping list, which this year is organized into 6 sections: Gaming, Photography, Music, Fitness, Learning and Travel. Using the links below, you can save up to¬†$350 on a new 12″ MacBook, between $20 and $80 on many third-party accessories, and up to $130 on a pair of Beats headphones

Gaming

Apple’s Gifts for¬†Gamers page is fairly heavy on apps this year, all of which can only be purchased through the iOS App Store. We’ve provided links to save on Apple hardware, several major accessories, and high-value alternatives.

apple-tv-4th-generation copy

 

apple-iphone-6s

Photography

Apple’s Gifts for Photographers page¬†offers everything from add-on camera lenses and microphones to apps and carrying cases. Only one item in here is an Apple Store-exclusive bundle, and there are a couple of apps, too; everything else can be had at a savings.

 

apple macbook

Music

Apple’s Gifts for Music Lovers page notably leaves out any mention of iPods — amazing, right? — to focus on Beats, Bose, and B&O audio accessories. We found an awesome 12″ Retina MacBook deal for this section, as well.

apple watch

Fitness

Apple’s Gifts for Fitness Enthusiasts page leans heavily on the Apple Watch, accessories, and apps this year. We found some nice savings on the Apple Watch and Beats audio gear, plus some other bonuses.

ipad_air_2_mock_up_silver

Learning

Apple’s Gifts for Learners page is heavy on science education tools and toys. If you’re interested in saving money on an iPad or MacBook, this is a good section; apps are inexpensive but not discounted.

ipad mini 3

Travel

More From This Author

Check out more of my¬†reviews, How-To guides and editorials¬†for 9to5Mac¬†here!¬†I’ve published¬†a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users, as well as a¬†last-minute holiday gift guide for Apple fans, a¬†great holiday gift guide for iPhone users, a¬†detailed holiday gift guide for Mac users, and¬†a separate holiday gift guide for Apple photographers.


Filed under: Apple TV, Apple Watch, Buying Guides, iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: Accessories, Apple gift guide, Apple TV, Beats, discounts, gift guide, Gifts, iPad, iPhone, IPod Touch, Mac, Shopping

Check out 9to5Mac for more breaking coverage of iOS Devices, iPhone, and iPad.

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Photo

Jeremy Horwitz

December 18th

Apple

Mac

9to5Mac Holiday Gift Guide: Chance’s wish list & picks for every budget

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 11.59.59 AM

Earlier this month I broke down all of the gifts you should get for the Apple lover in your life that loves entertainment. Items in that guide ranged from speakers to game controllers to headphones to TVs and more. In this guide, however, I’m going to breakdown some of my personal favorites on the market right now that I use everyday, as well as some items that are on my own wish list this year. These items are all gifts that any tech lover in your life would love to receive this holiday season…

The prices of items in this guide range from perfect for the those shopping on a budget to those wanting to spoil that special someone in their life with something a bit more expensive…

Sonos Play:5

As a huge music fan, the idea of being able to set up a house-wide wireless system for playing music is incredibly appealing. Sure, you can use things like an AirPort Express to make a standard speaker wireless, but there’s no way to play through multiple AirPort Express speakers at once from iOS (only from iTunes). Sonos, however, allows you to create a completely wireless full-home set up, albeit it for a steep price.

sonos-play-5-16-9

Zac took an in-depth look at the Sonos Play:5 earlier this month and praised the sound quality and ease of use that the platform offers. At $499 a unit, however, setting up a full-home system adds up quickly. You can however, pair the the more affordable Play:1 ($199) and Play:3 ($299) with the Play:5 for a multi-room setup. Or, if you went surely with the Play:1 models, you could get a three-room setup for $600, although it would be less powerful than a setup with the Play:3 or Play:5 models.

As for Apple Music support, it launches in beta for Sonos users on December 15th with a public rollout sometime in 2015. You may have to wait a little while before you can stream Apple Music to your Sonos, but having a whole-home wireless setup makes it worth it.

“Hoverboard”

Image via @EBTDBoards

Image via @EBTDBoards

One of the biggest crazes of 2015 has been the release a variety of electric “hoverboards.” While these aren’t the hoverboards that Back to the Future told us we would see by 2015, they’re pretty cool nonetheless. A variety of different models exist across various price points. Some have features like¬†built-in speakers, allowing you to connect your phone and play music through the board itself.

On Amazon, a model with Bluetooth runs $449.99. You’ll get a max speed of around 10mph and battery life of 10 to 15 miles depending on your weight and riding speed. A model¬†without Bluetooth on Amazon runs $388.88¬†with delivery by Christmas. This model features a max speed of 8mph and a distance of 9.5 miles on single charge.

These boards are definitely pricey investments, but make no mistake, they are incredibly fun to ride. It seems trivial at first, but once you actually ride one, you realize how fun it can be. I was insanely skeptical before I tried one myself, but now I think they’re well worth the money if you’re looking for fun.

Eltrochome Archer Vinyl Record Player

Vinyl has made an odd comeback over recent years. Many modern acts are still releasing their music on vinyl and affordable record players have become an insanely popular holiday gift. Personally, I have the Electrohome Archer Vinyl record player ($99.99). It features a beautiful gray and black design inspired by models released in the 1960s. It can play 7, 10, and 12-inch records at 331/3, 45, and 78 RPM.

The Electrohome player features a nice combination of the classic record player technology with some modern features, as well. There’s a USB port for playing MP3s, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack for connecting your iPhone or iPad or a pair of headphones.

If you’re buying someone a record player this holiday season, you might as well throw in a few records too. ¬†You can’t go wrong with the classic Abbey Road album by The Beatles ($18.96 on vinyl). Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd ($27.99 on vinyl) is one of the best albums of all time, especially on vinyl. As for more modern artists, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness by Andrew McMahon ($16.99 on vinyl) is a beautiful album. You also can’t go wrong with A Head Full Of Dreams by Coldplay ($32.38 on vinyl)¬†or 25 by Adele ($22.99 on vinyl).

UDI Quadcopter

udi-u818a-4ch-quadcopter-2-4ghz-ready-to-fly-20

A piece of technology that really intrigues me are drones. It’s such a cool concept to be able to fly a drone with a camera above an area and receive¬†recordings back. I’m not fully¬†familiar with drones, but the UDI U818A ($109.99) seems like a popular option that would be a good way to get my feet wet in the drone category.

The UDI U818 offers 7-9 minutes of flight and remote distance of up to 30 meters. It features a camera, albeit rather low quality, as well as 360 eversion for doing cool flips and rolls, although I envision myself running it into a wall immediately after takeoff.

Higher-end drone options do exist, such as the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite ($302.99), but the UDI U818 seems like the best option for a beginner like me.

Desk Accessories

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.52.59 AM

When I use my 12-inch MacBook on my desk, which I’ll admit is not incredibly often, I always put it on the Rain Design mStand360 ($53.89). This is an all-aluminum stand that really blends in great on a desk full of aluminum Apple gear. The stand is tilted forward, making it easy to see the display and has a swivel base, allowing you to rotate it a full 360 degrees.

The stand also has a hole in the back of it to allow for clean cable management, helping keep your desk even further clutter free. The aluminum build acts as a heat sink as well, preventing your MacBook from overheating. The mStand 360 is compatible with all recent MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models.

Another Mac accessory I love is the Sabrent 4 Port USB 3.0 Hub ($14.99). Made out of aluminum, this accessory also looks great with your aluminum Mac gear and goes well with the Mac mini since the USB ports on it are located on the back of the computer, making them hard to access.

For docking my iPhone 6s Plus, I love the HiRise Deluxe in black ($59.99). It’s pricey but it is built really nice and you can tell that it’s worth the price. I don’t usually dock my iPad Pro at my desk, but rather use this Anker stand ($9.99). With an aluminum look, it again blends in nicely with the other Apple gear on my desk. Finally, keeping with the aluminum look trend, I use the Spigen¬†Apple Watch stand ($15.99) for docking and charging my Apple Watch.

iPad Pro Accessories

JPEG image-7F1CBCCDAE09-1 JPEG image-73A4F6765AA7-1 Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.43.45 PM

So far, I’ve only invested in a few iPad Pro accessories. For my case of choice, I switch between the Logitech CREATE ($79.99) and official Apple Smart Case, both of which are decent options. Personally, however, I don’t like using any case with iPad Pro. In my opinion, putting a case on it makes it slightly too heavy for relaxing use. Instead, I’m a fan of the Joli leather sleeve, which I reviewed in detail here.

Another practical case option, which Jeremy reviewed here, is the Urban Armor Gear’s new Composite Case for iPad Pro ($80). The Composite Case includes an aluminum, 3-angle stand for video viewing and typing, plus an Apple Pencil holder.

I’ve yet to get my hands on an Apple Pencil, but it’s at the top of my wish list this holiday season. Zac was lucky enough to get one around launch and praised it. I really think it will make¬†the iPad Pro stand apart from the competition and be a differentiator from the iPad Air 2.

iPhone Accessories

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.54.21 AM

Zac did an excellent job of breaking down a handful of accessories that unlock the full potential of the iPhone. He mentioned things like the Phillips Hue Starter Kit ($229.99) and the iHome Control SmartPlug ($36.76), which allows you to turn on and off home appliances using Siri, the app, and automation. The latter of the two really intrigues me personally. It seems like a great way to introduce yourself or a loved one to the potential of HomeKit. It’s definitely something that’s near the top of my wish list.

As far as iPhone cases go, my personal favorite is the official Apple Leather Case ($49). I feel like it offers the best combination of protection and maintaining of the iPhone’s sleek design. Another option, however, for more extreme users is the LifeProof Fre ($79.55), which is water, snow, dust, and shock proof. It can really help protect that hefty investment you made when purchasing your iPhone.
iphonegiftguide-4

For headphones, my personal favorites are the Beats Studio Wireless ($249.95). I have them in the titanium color option, which really matches the space gray color of my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook. Another option for when you don’t feel like using over-the-ear headphones are the urBeats Earbuds ($89.90), although the JayBird BlueBuds X ($134.49) are another great pair of earbuds and are wireless, as well.

I’m also a huge fan of Apple’s CarPlay system. I got the Pioneer AppRadio 4 ($489.99) installed in my car and could not be happier with it. CarPlay is certainly in its early stages of development, but as time progresses and it becomes more prevalent, it will definiltey improve. The AppRadio 4 is my personal favorite headunit for CarPlay because of its reasonable price and capcitive touchscreen. One thing I noticed in shopping for a headunit was the number of screens that still use resistive touchscreens. Going from a capacitive touchscreen device (like your iPhone) to a resistive touchscreen is not something I would recommend in the slightest.

Apple Watch Accessories

pq-apple-watch

While my Apple Watch isn’t my most used Apple device, there are still some third-party accessories that greatly improve the device. My personal favorite band for the Apple Watch is the Pad&Quill Classic Band in the Whiskey color option ($99.95). The leather Pad&Quill uses is far superior to the leather Apple uses in its own Apple Watch bands. My Pad&Quill band gets the most compliments of any band I wear, followed by Apple’s Milanese Loop ($149).

A variety of affordable watch bands are available, as well, although the quality may very depending on the manufacturer. It’s important to keep in mind that you get what you pay for, so don’t expect a $50 steel band to compare to Apple’s $500 steel band. Nevertheless, the Jelly Comb Stainless Steel Band ($34.99) is a popular alternative to Apple’s steel offering.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 2.51.07 AM

Another popular gift you could give an Apple Watch lover is getting their Watch plated in gold. WatchPlate is one of the more popular offerings for doing this. It will plate an Apple Watch in yellow gold or rose gold for $349. Read Zac’s experience on the process here.

Wrap Up

The holiday shopping season is quickly wrapping up, so be sure to check¬†out our other gift guides for more picks in¬†iPhone,¬†iPad,¬†Mac,¬†photography,¬†entertainment,¬†audio,¬†hot tech,¬†stocking stuffers, and¬†HomeKit, as well as Benjamin’s personal guide.


Filed under: Buying Guides Tagged: Beats, buying guide, Holiday Gift Guide, iPad, iPhone, Mac

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Photo

Chance Miller

December 11th

Apple

Mac

Review: Beats Pill+ packs portable sound & Lightning charging in an Apple-designed speaker

Beats Pill+

At the start of the week we saw Apple officially pull the plug on Beats Music after using it as the foundation for Apple Music which includes a streaming radio station dubbed Beats 1 as a salute. On the hardware front, Apple is totally marching forward with the headphone and speaker business it acquired after buying Beats for $3 billion a year and a half ago. The first totally new product to come from Apple under the Beats brand is the recently announced Beats Pill+ ($195, reg. $229), a portable Bluetooth speaker that recharges over Lightning like iPhones and iPads.

The Pill+ marks Apple’s first real step back into the speaker business since briefly entering it in with the iPod Hi-Fi from 2006 to 2007; aside from color variations and wireless models, all other Beats hardware has been designed before the Apple move. Still,¬†Apple’s new portable speaker resembles previous versions of Beats¬†hardware more than you might expect from the iPhone maker¬†in 2015. There’s even a companion Pill+ app for both iOS¬†and Android. And¬†even though this is clearly a Beats-branded product and not purely Apple, there’s something for¬†fans¬†of both¬†to like, but is it the best speaker in its class?

Key Details:

  • First new Beats hardware since¬†Apple’s acquisition
  • Wireless playback over Bluetooth, no AirPlay or auto-pairing
  • Solid 60+ feet range
  • 12-hour battery life, charges over Lightning like iPhones
  • Fabric carrying bag + Lightning cable included
  • Companion iOS and Android apps offer more features
  • Includes USB charge out to power iPhones, iPads
  • Available in black or white

Beats Pill+ accessories

The short story is that Pill+ ($195, reg. $229) shares a lot more DNA with the Beats Pill 2.0 ($179, reg. $199) that it replaces than either the recalled Pill XL (was $299) or discontinued iPod Hi-Fi (was $349) speakers. Pill+ is bump up in size and sound from the similarly priced Pill 2.0.

The design has changed from an upward-facing capsule one to a forward-facing body that’s more symmetrical but still clearly pill-shaped. The shape¬†change¬†from Benadryl to Tylenol means those Beats Dude Stands won’t work anymore, and that’s probably okay.

Pill+ is still a pretty small speaker at 8″ x 2.5″ x 2.25″ and 1.65 pounds. Compare that to the old Pill 2.0 at 7.6″ x 2″ x 2″ and 0.7 pounds. Although it’s a bit heavier, the new shape fits well in the hand with the plastic grill on either side of the grippy¬†top and bottom.

The top of Pill+ features an illuminating Beats logo’d button that lets you play and pause tracks. Hold it down to add a second connected device without disconnecting from the first device. Dedicated volume up and volume down toggles are placed on the top right, while a power button/battery status plus LED indicator light are placed on the left.

Out of the back under a flap you’ll find a traditional USB port for the Pill+ charge out feature to power iPhones and iPads, a line-in port for wired playback over a stereo cable, and a standard Lightning port for recharging the built-in battery.

Also included in the packaging, which resembles that of the Apple Watch Sport and feels very much like Apple’s, you’ll find a color matched cloth carrying case and three colored Beats logo stickers. The cloth bag is big enough to carry Pill+ and the included black 12.5W power supply and black Beats-branded 1.5m Lightning cable.

Beats Pill+ Android iPhone

Unlike Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, Mouse 2, and Trackpad 2¬†for Mac, there’s no magical instant pairing process between iPhones and Pill+. Open Settings, look for Pill+ under Bluetooth, and connect to it like similar Bluetooth speakers. There’s no Wi-Fi or NFC radios¬†that enable AirPlay connectivity or instant pairing here; the Apple hardware influence aside¬†from design is limited to the Lightning port.

There’s also the companion Beats Pill+ app for iPhones and Android phones, but curiously not iPads. The app does fully function on iPads, just scaled up especially large on iPad Pros which still benefit from dedicated portable speakers. So what exactly does the app do?

Beats Pill+ app 1 Beats Pill+ app 3 Beats Pill+ app 2

Beats Pill+ for iPhone and Android has three main functions: DJ, Stereo, and Amplify. The first feature will likely be the most popular as the next two require having a second Pill+ around. Install the app on one of two connected phones, then enter DJ mode to let Pill+ change between which paired phone is actively playing music. UE recently added a similar ‘Block Party’ feature to their speaker, so this seems to be the thing to do with Bluetooth speakers with apps although I’m not sure how useful it is in practice.

The other two features require a second Pill+ and let you pair them together. Stereo creates left and right channels for playback while Amplify boosts the sound on both speakers together. Pretty cool if you and a friend both have the Pill+ speaker, but I wouldn’t recommend spending $460 to try it out on your own.

The companion app also has a few unadvertised features. You can register the Pill+ to your email address for warranty information, check (and presumably update) the firmware version and serial number of the Pill+, disable the cue sounds that Pill+ makes when powered on and off, and check the battery level of the speaker.

Curiously, the iOS version shows battery level both in the app and with the Notification Center widget in increments of 10, while the Android Pill+ app shows the exact level. Unlike with Apple Music where each app has a dedicated design, the Pill+ app is nearly identical on both platforms.

Beats Pill+ charge out

Battery life on Pill+ is easy to live with and delivers around the promised 12 hours of continuous playback on a single 3 hour charge using the included 12.5W power supply. Pill+ also features the popular charge out feature found on many Bluetooth speakers which lets you connect any USB cable to refuel iPhones, Android phones, and even iPads including the Pro as a backup portable power source. The included Lightning port will not recharge the Apple Pencil, however, although it does fit.

battery widget

You can check¬†Pill+ battery life by pressing its¬†power button to activate the 5 LED indicator or through a paired¬†device. iPhones and iPads can use iOS 9’s new battery widget to check battery life¬†in Notification Center; this also works with other Apple and Beats products like Pencil, Watch, and wireless headphones. Android phones can get a more specific battery level using the companion for whatever reason as mentioned before.

Beats Pill+ iPod Hi-Fi bottom Beats Pill+ iPod Hi-Fi top Beats Pill+ iPod Hi-Fi front

Beats Pill+ & iPod Hi-Fi

Everything else aside, Beats Pill+ is a solid portable speaker and a¬†better product¬†than the Beats Pill 2.0 that it replaces.¬†Pill+ is¬†louder, fuller, and has a few more bells and whistles than the Pill 2.0, but I wouldn’t rush out to upgrade from one to the other unless the new design and Lightning connection really appeal to you. The charging port will obviously appeal more to iPhone owners than Android owners which likely have the same connector as the Pill 2.0 with micro-USB.

While volume is no issue for Pill+, I was especially surprised by the (wait for it) lack of bass (yes, I know, unheard of for Beats). Pill XL was priced $70 higher but had a much larger body; Pill 2.0 was $30 less and similarly sized. Sound-wise, Pill+ is an upgraded Pill 2.0 and not at all a replacement for the recalled Pill XL.

Pill+ doesn’t strike out though. Place Pill+ along a wall and the bass is amplified naturally by the output coming from the rear side for a much better sound.¬†Treble tones are sharp, mids are clear, and deep sounds¬†are distinctive for a speaker its size. It’s also super portable even though it’s a bump up in size¬†from Pill 2.0, but you can find more impressive sounds from similarly or lesser priced Bluetooth speakers.

Pill+ is much easier to recommend at sales prices between $150-$200 than at $230. Apple’s $60¬†iTunes gift card bundle for the next few weeks effectively brings the price to $170 when you factor the credit, but Amazon’s $195 deal¬†is the best 9to5Toys has spotted yet.

Beats Pill+ Jawbone Big Jambox

Jawbone Big Jambox & Beats Pill+

If you like the Apple-inspired white aesthetic¬†but want upgraded sound, Jawbone’s Big Jambox ($209, reg. $299) is an easy recommendation. Both¬†do speakerphone with built-in mics and have Bluetooth range that exceeds the promised 30-60 feet, while Big Jambox is¬†only a step up in size with a noticeable step up in sound. There’s also 3 more hours of battery life, but you trade Lightning for micro-USB and drop the charge out feature.

You can also find Pill 2.0 new from $179 and open-box from $129¬†if you’re targeting a Beats speaker without the higher price tag. You lose Lighting and the DJ feature through the app, but you can still pair two Pill 2’s for stereo or louder sound and more colors are offered.

On its own, Pill+ is a solid little speaker and Lightning makes charging it very convenient for iPhone and iPad owners. The look is also a fair balance between Apple and Beats, still edgy but a bit cleaner than past products from the lineup.

My own needs are quite limited but likely common: I just want something reliable that looks good and plays louder than my iPhone or iPad during showers and washing dishes. Pill+ does that for me albeit at a premium price.

I could take or leave the app features, some sort of AirPlay special connection to iPhones would be desired, and dropping NFC that instantly paired past models with Android phones is curious now that iPhones have the radios, but that all leaves room for a more ambitious sequel that could warrant an even higher asking price.

While you can get a better sound for a similar or even lower cost, the convenience of Lightning charging and the fresh look of the Beats Pill+ overall is very appealing to me, especially at lower street prices than Apple’s asking price.

Manufacturer:
Apple/Beats
MSRP / Sale Prices:
$229 / $195 (Amazon)
Compatibility:
iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV

Filed under: Reviews Tagged: Apple, Beats, Beats Pill, Bluetooth, bluetooth speakers, Lightning, portable speakers, speakers

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Photo

Zac Hall

December 4th

Apple

Mac

Apple bundling $60 Apple Music/iTunes gift cards with most Beats headphones and speakers

Beats Pill+ top

Apple’s new Beats Pill+ Bluetooth speaker

Apple may have outsourced Black Friday discounts on its products to other retailers this year, but it’s not staying completely out of the promotion game during the Christmas shopping season. Starting today Apple is bundling $60 gift cards that can be used toward Apple Music memberships with almost all Beats headphones and speakers purchased from Apple for a limited time. The promotion specifically¬†pushes Apple Music memberships as it can pay for almost 6 months of access, but the $60 credit can be used toward iTunes, iBooks, and App Store, and Mac App Store purchases and subscriptions as well.

The offer applies to Beats headphones and speakers purchased from Apple Stores, Apple.com, and 1 (800) MY-APPLE from today, December 3rd, through Monday, December 28th. These are the eligible Beats headphones and speakers that will include $60 Apple Music/iTunes gift cards:

Р Beats Pro Headphones

Р Beats Studio Headphones

Р Beats Studio Wireless Headphones

Р Beats Solo2 Headphones

Р Beats Solo2 Wireless Headphones

Р Beats Powerbeats2 Headphones

Р Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless In-Ear Headphones

Р Beats Tour2 Headphones

Р Beats Pill+ Speaker

The only Beats headphones that appear to be excluded are the $99 urBeats in-ear headphones, including the new rose gold model. The deal does apply to the $129 Tour2 in-ear headphones, however, effectively bringing the price down to $70

It also applies to the recently released Pill+ speaker with Lightning which is the first piece of brand new Beats hardware to come out of Apple, effectively bringing the $229 price to $170 when you factor in the $60 Apple Music/iTunes credit. That’s¬†lower than the best 9to5Toys price spotted at $195 for black and $228 for white. The Pill+ replaced the now discontinued Pill 2.0 (reg. $200) so it’s excluded, but you can still find it from $129 open-boxed and $179 new¬†and in more colors.

Other options like the Bluetooth-connected PowerBeats 2 Wireless headphones that retail for $199 can be found through Amazon for $145-150¬†for certain color options, nearly matching Apple’s deal with more upfront savings.

While the deal can be redeemed over the phone, online, or in stores, it is only limited to those select Beats headphones and speakers. Other headphones and speakers including Apple’s $79 in-ear headphones are excluded.

This isn’t the first time Apple has played with using the popularity of Beats to sell its Apple-branded¬†products and services. Earlier this year, Apple also used its Beats headphones and speakers line to promote Macs during the Back to School promotion.


Filed under: AAPL Company, Apple Music Tagged: Apple Music, Apple Store, Beats, headphones, speakers

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Photo

Zac Hall

December 4th

Apple

Mac
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February 2016
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