iTunes Match vs Spotify

iTunes Match vs Spotify

iTunes Match icons have started appearing on iDevices in recent days, suggesting that the service will soon be launched in the United States.

The big question for users is whether Apple’s cloud music service will be worth the $24.99 per year or whether you’re better off paying rival Spotify’s annual fee of $60.

iTunes Match – your music, online

Once you’ve paid your $24.99, iTunes Match will scan your iDevice or laptop for music and then see whether those songs are already pre-loaded on Apple’s iCloud servers. There are more than 20 million songs already on iCloud and so the chances are that almost all of your music will already be pre-loaded.

For the songs that are already in the iCloud system there is no need to upload your own music, iTunes Match will simply credit your iCloud account with those songs. The great thing about this service is that the songs will be available in DRM free 256Kbps quality – even if the songs that you originally had on your computer were of a lower quality such as 128Kbps format. iTunes Match also doesn’t care whether your music library consists of ripped CDs and legitimately purchased MP3 or whether you’ve downloaded them illegally. (Not that any of you would, right?) Music stored in iCloud also doesn’t count towards your 5GB of free storage.

If you have an esoteric music collection and have discovered some music that Apple is yet to get its hands on, then you just have to upload only those particular songs. This means that it will be a much quicker process to create your iCloud library than if you had to upload your entire music collection from scratch.

The music industry, ever mindful of the bottom line, has made murmurings about the fact that the iTunes Match system allows you to effectively “launder” your illegal MP3 collections. Once you’ve set up your music collection in iCloud in 256Kbps “legal” form, you are then able to download that music again to up to ten computers or iDevices. This means that you end up with clean and legal versions of any illegally downloaded content that you put through the iTunes Match system. The record labels do though receive part of the $24.99 annual fee from Apple for music that is stored on the iCloud for each user and the general industry consensus seems to be that it’s better to make some money from content that was originally illegally downloaded, however little.

The main downside of iTunes Match compared to its competitors is that you are in effect paying $24.99 every year simply to access music that you already possess. Sure, it provides an easy way of storing and moving your music across multiple iDevices but you could achieve that by just syncing your computer with each device over Wi-Fi. Apple does seem this time to have left something in the market for its competitors to target.

Spotify – all music, online

Spotify is a completely different type of music service to iTunes Match as is essentially a music streaming service which allows you to stream songs to computers or mobile devices such as iPads, iphones and Android phones.

With Spotify you’re not restricted to the music that you already own but instead have access to a huge library of more than ten million songs. This allows you to chance upon old music that you haven’t discovered before and also to listen to brand new music without having to purchase it.

The key difference then between iTunes Match and Spotify is that iTunes Match only allows you to upload your existing music to the cloud whereas Spotify allows you to stream a vast library of music from the cloud.

Spotify has three different pricing options:

1. A free account allows you to stream but not download music for 10 hours a month with occasional adverts playing between songs. This means that you can listen occassionally to both brand new tracks and old favourites without paying a cent.

2. The $4.99 per month Unlimited plan allows you to stream unlimited music each month with no time limit and no adverts. You can’t however download music and listen to it offline, you can only stream from the internet. This is fine if you always have an internet connectino but does mean that you won’t be able to use Spotify when you’re travelling on planes or subway trains. You can however still purchase songs individually to download in the same way as you can with iTunes.

3. The Premium account costing $9.99 per month also allows you to download music to the spotify app for offline listening. This means that if you travel to work by subway with no internet connection then you can still listen to the music that you’ve pre-downloaded onto Spotify’s desktop or mobile app. As long as you maintain your spotify account you are able to listen to the music that you’ve downloaded. Terminating your account means that you lose access to everything you’ve downloaded.

With a Premium account, music can be streamed to both computers and mobile devices – including Apple and Android devices with a Blackberry app coming soon

There’s also no need to spend time uploading music to Spotify, the tracks are already there waiting to be discovered.

Spotify’s focus is on allowing you listen to a huge breadth of music rather than concentrating on the music you already own. As such it doesn’t provide some of the other features that iTunes Match offers such as uploading your own music to the cloud and providing you with legal copies of music that you may have illegally downloaded.

Thank you for the music

The two contenders have very different offerings. iTunes Match provides a way for you to store your existing music collection in the iCloud and then access it from a large number of devices. Even for $24.99 a year, you will still have to purchase any new music at the normal price from iTunes.

Spotify, by contrast, charges more at $60 per annum but allows you to listen to a vast selection of music from the world’s leading record labels and you don’t have to pay extra to listen to new music.

My personal choice would be Spotify but you can bet that, with Apple’s brand reach and its tight integration into iTunes and iCloud, iTunes Match will be a great success.

iPhone Gloves

touchscreen glovesBack in the day, cellphones came with square plastic things on them called buttons. Then the iPhone arrived and touchscreens replaced buttons on almost all smartphones.

The great advantage of touchscreens is that the screen size can be far larger when a physical keyboard is no longer needed. Just compare the screen size on a qwerty Blackberry to an iPhone or Android touchscreen if you need convincing.

The downside of most touchscreens is that they need your fingers to physically touch the screen as they rely on your skin conducting electricity. This means that these “capacitive” touch screens just won’t work when used with gloves. Try sending an emergency text message when you’re stranded in a blizzard and you’ll find that the screen just won’t recognise your touch when wearing even relatively thin gloves. This is because the gloves act as an insulator to your body’s electricity so rendering the device useless.

This is where specialist iPhone gloves come in. They have a thin layer of metal fibres built into the gloves which conduct electricity so that you can use your iPhone, iPad or other touch screen device whilst still keeping your hands from freezing. The perfect solution to a chilly problem.

Where to buy: iPhone Gloves

iOS 5 Review: Tweak or Total Overhaul?

iOS 5 ReviewApple recently released the latest version of its iPhone, iPod and iPad operating system, iOS5. This upgrade, one of the most significant that iPhone and other i-device users have benefitted from, includes some 200 new features some of which might just transform the way you use your device.

In this article, I’ll highlight some of the key features of the new operating system from the perspective of an iPhone 4 user.

How to upgrade to iOS 5

The first thing to note about iOS 5 is that this is a completely free upgrade; with iOS 5 Apple users have the chance to improve their devices without paying a cent.

The easiest way to update your iPhone’s operating system is to connect your phone to your computer and launch iTunes. The upgrade should be offered to you automatically, if not you can just click on your phone’s icon and hit the “Check for Updates” button. The upgrade is compatible with the iphone 3GS and up, the iPod touch 3G and up and both iPad 1 and 2.

This is a major upgrade and will take some time to download and then update on your phone so make sure that you have your laptop plugged in to avoid losing power mid update which means a complete restart.

The other key thing to do before you update is to back up your iPhone within iTunes. That way all of your music, apps and photos will still be there after your operating system is upgraded.

I made the mistake of forgetting to back up my apps which meant that, to my horror, all of my downloaded apps were deleted from my iPhone. Whilst I knew that I could re-download the apps, I thought that I had lost all of my saved game data and would have to start my games from scratch. You can imagine my horror at needing to start Nova 2 again and having to trade in my McLaren for a VW Golf in Real Racing 2. Apple came to my rescue though – once I re-downloaded the apps, my saved data magically reappeared. I’m not sure whether the saved games were still on my phone awaiting the return of the apps or whether the data was automatically uploaded to the iCloud but either way, I was a happy and relieved man..

iMessage

iMessage is a new feature in iOS5 which is sure to win Apple many friends amongst consumers and many enemies amongst mobile network operators. Once you’ve set up iMessaging on your phone and you go to send someone an SMS, the Apple system automatically checks to see whether that person’s mobile is also an iPhone and registered for iMessaging. If it is then the message is send as an instant message rather than an SMS. This means that you save on the SMS cost and the conversation becomes more akin to a Skype IM exchange. You can see when the other person is typing a response to your message and the messages also seem to come through more quickly. Not only that but as imesssage uses data networks you can send them if you have wifi but no mobile signal.

iMessage fills a gap in Apple’s arsenal where previously it was outgunned by Blackberry’s BBM system. Apple’s system trumps BBM as iMessaging seamlessly integrates with the existing SMS messaging system and there’s no need to know the other person’s PIN number.

Notification

One of the great annoyances with the old iPhone operating system was that a reminder or text message alert box would always pop up just as you were about to record a new fastest lap in Real Racing 2. You would then have to click on the button before you could get back to the racing. iOS 5 solves that problem by now discretely displaying a small bar at the top of the screen to inform you that you’ve received a message. If you then drag down from the top of the screen the new Notification Center appears. This screen consolidates all of your time sensitive information such as text messages, appointments, reminders and also includes the local weather and stock prices.

The Notification Center and the handling of alerts is one area where Apple was lagging behind Android and Windows Phone but with iOS 5 Apple is back in the game.

Camera software


Apple has really improved the usability of the already excellent camera built into the iPhone 4. Previously if something exciting happened and you wanted to capture it, you would have to click on your iPhone, unlock it, find the camera app and launch it. By that point, the moment would often have passed and you’d end up taking a photo of thin air. Babies won’t wait to take their first steps whilst you fire up your iPhone camera, and now they won’t have to.

With iOS5, you simply double click on the home button and there is a new camera button next to the usual swipe to unlock section. If you click on that button then the camera instantly opens and is ready for photo taking.

As well as reducing the speed to open the camera app, Apple has also decreased the time between taking photos. This allows the iPhone to take photos about as quickly as a normal digital camera so allowing multiple action shots to be taken.

A third improvement to the camera software under iOS 5 is that you can now take photos by clicking on the physical volume up button rather than relying solely on the onscreen button. This allows the phone to be held more naturally like a camera – though you do need to make sure that your fingers don’t block the camera lens at the bottom of the phone.

iCloud

Apple has launched the iCloud service alongside iOS5 and integrated its features into many of the iPhone’s Apps. iCloud gives users 5gb of free online storage which they can use to back up their contacts, calendars, notes, music, videos, photos, apps – the list is endless. If you need more than 5gb then you can purchase an additional 10gb for $20 a year. Whilst $20 isn’t a lot to pay 5gb isn’t exactly generous and lots of users, myself included, will find they need more storage but aren’t necessarily willing to pay for it. On Apple’s party it might have been a better solution to match the icloud storage to that of the device. Those who purchased a 32gb device getting 32gb of storage. As it stands, the limited storage capacity means that many people simply won’t use what could have been a very useful feature.

iCloud with iTunes allows you to purchase a track on your computer and iCloud then automatically downloads that song to your iPhone and your iPad. Photostream with iCloud allows you take a photo on your iPhone and Photostream then automatically uploads that photo to the iCloud and then downloads it to your computer.

iOS 5 also allows you to set up and manage your iPhone without having to ever connect it to a computer. Set up and back up is all processed directly to the iCloud rather than going through iTunes on a computer.

There’s no doubt that iOS 5 is a great leap forward and an essential upgrade for all owners of a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod. Ok, so you weren’t able to line up for a new iPhone 5 yet, but iOS 5 might just make you feel like you got a new phone anyway.

Kindle Fire Vs iPad 2 Face Off

Kindle FireAmazon set the tablet market alight by launching its Kindle Fire Tablet at the market stealing price point of $199. Reportedly shifting around 100,000 units on its first day of release, it seems that the sub-$200 tablet market is ripe for the picking amongst those consumers who balk at the iPad’s $499+ entry price.

The big question, however, is whether it’s worth saving money with the low cost Kindle Fire, or if you’re better off spending the extra $300 on the iPad 2.

We try to answer that question below:

Hardware

The biggest hardware difference between the Kindle Fire and iPad 2 is in their size. For Amazon, the key to a tablet is its portability and the ability to hold it one handed. Amazon have shown this with their previous Kindle e-readers and they’ve maintained that small and light form factor with the Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire has a 7 inch screen which allows it to measure only 7.5″ x 4.7″, roughly the size of a paperback book. The iPad on the other hand has a large 9.7 inch screen, meaning that it measures 9.5″ x 7.31″; too big to slip into your average coat pocket.

The Kindle Fire also trumps the iPad 2 on the all-important issue of weight being 14.6 ozs (414g) compared to the iPad 2’s 1.33 pounds (601g). This is an important consideration for a tablet; tablets are designed to be held in use, unlike a laptop which is normally used on a desk or table.

The iPad and the Kindle are neck and neck when it comes to processing power. Both feature Dual Core processors coupled with 512MB of RAM. The entry level iPad 2 has 16GB of internal storage which is twice that of the Fire’s 8GB but the unlimited online cloud storage that the Fire offers more than makes up for this and frees up space on the device itself.

One feature that the Kindle fire does lack is a camera. Amazon have decided that in a world where every phone has a camera, this is one feature that tablet users can do without. Given that the size of a tablet doesn’t lend itself very easily to taking pictures, this might not be such a great loss. Whilst this means that Facetime won’t be replicated on the Kindle, asking an iPod or iPad user how often they use the Facetime feature might just give you the answer as to how much the camera will be missed.

The lack of microphone and recording ability may be a bigger problem seeing as it rules out the ability to skype, but many users also have a phone and a laptop that can fulfill this purpose perfectly well.

Game players may however miss the gyroscope feature that is lacking on the Kindle and this could be the deal breaker for those that spend their tablet time playing driving games.

 

Software

The Kindle Fire uses a version of Google’s Android operating system which Amazon has radically modified to both simplify it and to closely tie it into Amazon’s online content marketplace.

The iPad 2 features Apple’s standard iPhone, iPod and iPhone operating system iOS. The currrent version, iOS 4, will be replaced any day by iOS 5, which will introduce a range of enhancements and features such as the ability to take photos directly from the lock screen.

It’s impossible to know pre-release just how the Fire’s operating system will work in the real world, but on paper  it looks like a reasonable substitute for iOS5

Theoretically at least, it looks like being a tie between the Kindle Fire and iPad 2 when it comes to content that you can download onto your tablet.  The Kindle Fire, in a bid to complete with Apple’s wildly successful app store, will provide direct access to the vast Amazon marketplace offering hundreds of thousands of ebooks, apps, music, video and games.

Although newer, developers and content providers will be falling over themselves to make their content Kindle Fire compatible to lap up a share of the huge profits this offers. This should ensure that the Amazon App store is able to rival the Apple app store for size and perhaps exceed it when it comes to books.

The Kindle Fire will be loaded with Amazon’s new web browser, Silk, which they claim will cut down on page loading times by using Amazon’s vast collection of servers. Silk will also predict what pages a user will click on next and pre-load those pages to the tablet.

As an example, if you open the New York Times homepage then there is a good chance that you will then click on the lead headline story and so the Silk may pre-load that page such that it launches almost instantly. It remains to be seen how Silk will compare to the iPad’s Safari browser in real world use but Amazon certainly appear to have put their brainpower and technology infrastructure to good use with Silk.

The only software area in which there is clear winner between the Kindle Fire and the iPad 2 is  that the Kindle Fire supports Flash whereas the iPad doesn’t. Apple have publicly and consistently stated that Flash support isn’t an option for the iPad so it’s unlikely that Apple will match this feature in the near future.

The Kindle Fire also has a dual core processor which means that it will have no problem playing graphics heavy Flash games. Whilst the number of websites relying on Flash is slowly declining there’s no doubt that iPad users still miss out on a huge quantity of valuable web content.

Price

Comparing the technical features on the iPad 2 and Kindle Fire is a little like comparing Apples and oranges (sorry, we couldn’t resist) as they have markedly different form factors.

However there’s no doubt that when it comes to price, the Kindle Fire is a clear winner.   Even the cheapest iPad 2 costs $499 which is a huge amount for a device that can’t replace either your mobile phone or your laptop. Kindle Fire’s price of $199 makes it a far easier purchasing decision; there’s no doubt that it would be great to have a small, light device to browse the web, watch videos and play games, it’s just that many people can’t afford to pay too much for it.

Whilst the numerous online claims that Amazon are treating the Kindle Fire as a loss leader and only plan to make money on the apps and content can be taken with a pinch of salt, there is no doubt that as the prices currently stand the Kindle Fire is head and shoulders above the iPad when you look at value for money. For $199, not only will many people want one, they’ll give one to their kids too.