Archives For Apple

3 Weeks With Apple AirPods

Dave Zatz —  February 14, 2017 — 17 Comments

I admit it. I was one of those skeptics who initially mocked the wireless Apple AirPods ($159). But quickly changed my tune upon release.

And, having picked up my own pair of AirPods a few weeks back, I stand by my reassessment. They’re inferior in most ways to the wired Bose QuietComfort earbuds tips and Plantronics Voyager Edge that they replace. Yet the Apple experience, in totality, is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s hard to articulate exactly why, but I’m taking more phone calls and listening to more audio with Apple.

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In a move that probably surprises to no one, I can confirm reports that Echostar subsidiary Sling Media halted Slingbox production last year.

Sling Media, the video place-shifting pioneer, has stopped manufacturing Slingbox units, but will continue to sell Slingboxes that remain still in stock, Satellite Business News reported in its January 6 issue.

In fact, this seems like such an obvious and natural progression given the state of the industry and what I assume have been poor, waning sales, it didn’t even occur to me to blog the development. Of course, Slingbox was Blake Krikorian’s pioneering and liberating technology that brought us TV Everywhere before that phrase had been coined. Yet we always suspected it was something of a transitional approach, with much of that video streaming functionality now offered directly via television providers — originating either from their set-tops or the cloud. Granted, it’s more locked down and ad-infested – but also way more accessible to the general populace.

The Slingbox M1, introduced back in 2014, is effectively the last Slingbox… as it was rebranded the M2 in 2015, featuring no hardware changes but an expanded focus on advertising — part of a last ditch effort to justify the businesses continued existence. Similarly, that Slingbox hardware was intended to be partially repurposed as AirTV… but that was ultimately replaced by a different technical approach and outsourced hardware production.

Fortunately, existing owners have nothing to fear in the short term as Slingbox services will carry-on. Although I wouldn’t hold out hope for much in the way of application enhancements.

So what comes next?

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One of the primary drawbacks of most streamers is a lack of live over-the-air television integration. Sure, you can switch inputs away from your television’s tuner. But wouldn’t a unified interface and guide be cool? Bonus if it comes with universal search. Roku and Terk once went down this path but failed to deliver and Amazon may be working on something. Into the current vacuum, enter: Channel Master’s new Digital TV Hub.This small, single tuner box’s secret is HDMI pass-thru, similar to Xbox One and original Google TV implementations … but with hopefully more interest and appreciation.

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With Apple presenting Sling TV at WWDC this week, it’s safe to say their Apple TV television service remains on hold. Unfortunately, Sling TV still features a problematic interface and doesn’t provide access to “the locals” — like NBC and CBS. Further, while Sony’s PS Vue does include broadcast networks (in some regions) and a 28-day DVR, that service is currently limited to Playstation and Amazon Fire TV hardware. Well, today, Tablo has made good on their CES promise to deliver both live and recorded DVR television to Apple TV.

As a refresher, Tablo is something of a roll-your-own DVR. It’s a small headless box (starting at ~$200, plus service), featuring 2-4 tuners, that you attach a hard drive and an antenna to — with streamers like Roku, Fire TV, and Nvidia Shield delivering the video to your television. Of course, you can also view and manage Tablo from smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…

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The newly released and highly regarded 2016 edition of the Roku Streaming Stick is already on sale for a mere $40. Boasting superior performance, compared to both its predecessor and the competing Amazon Fire TV Stick, this streamer represents an excellent value and is the best all-around streamer for most.

Of course, one size doesn’t fit all. And, for example, those needing Kodi would go for the full-fledged Fire TV, while others deep into Apple’s ecosystem would naturally gravitate to the iTunes-sporting, Airplay-mirroring Apple TV. While not my cup of tea, Chromecast remains an inexpensive option for those willing to control their television experience via a smartphone. Perhaps we’ll learn more about its future capabilities and Android TV this week from Google I/O.

Until recently, my 4th generation app-ified Apple TV hasn’t really been any more or less useful than my Roku 3 and Fire TV. And, for some, its launch without Apple’s rumored television service has been a significant disappointment.

However, I was recently turned on to Channels ($15) – a new app which streams live television from any HDHomeRun network tuner, So you can pipe both linear television and streaming services all through the same input and interface (although, as of yet, without universal Siri search). While this will naturally appeal to cord cutters with an antenna, those very same HDHomeRun OTA models now map clearQAM (for those with providers that still deliver, like FiOS) and, of course, there’s the HDHomeRun Prime for digital cable via CableCARD.

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Apple TV To Enable App Folders

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2016

Given the 3000 “channels” Roku boasts, you’d think the streaming pioneer would provide some sort of sensible organizational structure. Sadly, many owners (such as myself) are left with an unwieldy scrolling grid of providers. Yeah, we can rearrange app placement within the grid.. but there’s no way to isolate by category or viewer. And it’s not like this is a new concept as WDTV brought way more robust presentation, including tabs and folders, to the television… about three years ago.

Well, the “new” Apple TV is poised to leapfrog Roku (and Amazon) when they release tvOS 9.2 in the coming weeks. Beyond a new (and improved) podcast app and Bluetooth keyboard support, Apple will port a variant of their rudimentary mobile OS foldering feature to the big screen.

While I can’t speak to actual folder usage (as the feature is in developer beta), given Apple TV remote control fussiness, advanced app management may not be the most comfortable to implement. Yet, I’m highly confident it’ll be worth the effort and look forward to getting organized on my brand-spanking-new unit. Continue Reading…

By way of Com Hem, an international TiVo partner, the DVR pioneer appears poised to launch smart watch apps for remote control — citing both the Apple Watch and Android Wear platforms. Beyond replicating existing smartphone app functions, like changing channels as while browsing the live guide, TiVo indicates voice control is also on the docket… as alluded to last September.

Initially, these Dick Tracey-esque wrist interactions appear specific to Com Hem TiVo customers (and the apps are saddled with a ‘beta’ designation). Yet, with CES just kicking off, I suspect we could learn more about potential retail customer support within the next 48 hours.

As to other TiVo news from the Vegas trade show, an HBO GO announcement seems like a lock and I’m hopeful we’ll learn more of an OTA-only Bolt solution… with or without “Aereo” branding. Continue Reading…