eXtensions - Sunday 11 February 2024

Sunday Comment: EU-mandated side-loading; Grey Market Vision Pro and Smuggling; Next iPad Pro Maybe not as High-priced as Rumored; More new Films

By Graham K. Rogers


There were updates to Apple operating systems this week, but a PR note looks towards iOS 17.4 and the advent of side-loading in the EU. Now that Vision Pro is in the hands of real users, there is much positive feedback. YouTube relents and will now make an app for the device; Netflix remains silent. The iPad Pro may not be as dear as some rumors insisted. New films keep arriving (where are the cameras?) and some CatLABS 80 II were delivered to me this week.

This week Apple released updates to several of the operating systems: macOS, iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS. Sonoma was an easy install, but the updates to the iPhone and iPad mini took a bot of effort and I ended up restarting the devices. When I tried the update to the iPad Pro, that installed with no problem at all. The updates were to cover some security problems and should be installed as soon as possible.

I was interested to see that Apple had released information about its next major release of iOS 17 (17.4). This time there are expected to be important changes, particularly for those in the EU which has insisted that Apple open up its infrastructure and allow users to access other ways to buy apps: side-loading. I have mentioned this before, but if that is ever available here, I will not avail myself of it. Even though there is the occasional problem, I far prefer the security that Apple's walled garden provides.

The press release that Apple put out, as reported by Joe Rossignol (MacRumors) has information about the App Store changes as well as "Apple Podcasts transcripts, SharePlay for the HomePod, and new emoji". The article includes a number of other changes to come.

Apple Store, Central World
Apple Store, Central World

In Thailand, although there are (now) two official Apple stores, as well as the online store, for many years there has been a franchise system, with the retail outlets called, iStudio. Many of these are run by locally companies, such as Copperwired and Com7. Recently the Copperwired iStudio in Siam Paragon, a major mall in the Siam area of Bangkok, closed as the company opened a new store one floor down, close to a main escalator. This week, I was going up to floor 4 by the other main escalator and saw that the iStudio on floor 3 had been reopened: one for the tourists, one for the locals? There is another iStudio outlet in the electrical goods section on floor 4 of the Paragon Department store and I have had some good service from there too. All three were busy this week with the Chinese New Year.

iStudio, Siam Paragon
iStudio, Siam Paragon Floor 2

Vision Pro is still picking up lots of headlines and most of these are positive. Now that users are taking delivery, they are reporting their enthusiasm on social media, usually including some interesting videos. With the figure of 200,000 units allegedly sold, it was clear that some of the units had gone to speculative buyers: not for their own use, but for re-sale. I mentioned earlier that Thailand would be a good market as some wealthy users want to be first with the latest toys and this is often the case in Asia, although there are plenty in other regions who like to be first. I had earlier looked on eBay at the availability and the prices, but there is some more information about some of these grey market devices, which may not be usable in some circumstances. Stephen Warwick notes that some of the devices are fetching (or being offered) for $6300: almost twice Apple's price, "notably in Asia". In another article, Stephen Warwick notes that some who have tried to bring the Vision Pro into Germany have fallen foul of Customs, partly because of their own greed.

Like many countries Germany has an import tax. This is 19% (€430) and those bringing the device in are expected to declare it. They pay the tax and everyone is happy. However, some - German authorities have caught 8 - are using the Green channel to avoid paying and if they are caught, not only is there the original tax to pay, there is also a fine and the device could be confiscated as smuggled goods. This would be the case in the UK where the vehicle carrying the contraband (if driven in) could also be confiscated.

Apple Vision Pro Apple Vision Pro

Vision Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

Some sources are speculating on when Vision Pro will become available in China. For example, Tim Hardwick (MacRumors) suggests that this could be available in April or May at the latest. Another positive is that YouTube, has now decided that it would be a good idea after all to develop an app for the device. Like Netflix, which was a bit sniffy about the device, YouTube took a wait and see approach.

They only waited a short while before deciding that this may have some relevance after all. Juli Clover reports in MacRumors that an app is "on the roadmap" The statement used words like "excited" and "supporting" although no definite timeline was given. The article also reports that Apollo developer Christian Selig has produced an interim app, called Juno, that allows YouTube content to be viewed; and of course there is always the Safari browser approach. This is also reported by John-Anthony Disotto (iMore), who notes that "The early success of Vision Pro and the success of Juno will have shown YouTube that there is a market for a visionOS app of the platform."

Last month I was annoyed by a rumor that suggested the next version of the iPad Pro, which is expected to have an OLED screen, would be priced unusually highly, conforming its unique Pro status. I have found that the 11" iPad Pro has changed the way I work, relegating the MacBook Pro to a secondary status: the iPad Pro is used for most of my work, with only a few tasks needing the Mac. There are also some tasks, like running presentations that I prefer on the Mac; and a friend picked up a MacBook Pro last week because Excel is easier to work with on the Mac than the iPad. I find that also with Numbers; and with developing a presentation as well as running one: much easier for me on the Mac. The FTP software I use is also easier on a Mac. The other essential use is the flatbed scanner I have for negatives.

I looked at the rumored figures and decided that it might be possible to move to a vanilla iPad, or iPad Air, but the Pro device is preferable particularly with the folio-type keyboard I use and the Apple Pencil. That combined keyboard and case is expected to be redesigned to be more robust, which will be good. The current one is frayed around the edges with the way I shove it into my bags. Despite that rumored price, I thought the iPad Air would still be my best choice. The current M1 device I have, cost me 27,900 baht. However, and this is not really a surprise, Tim Hardwick on MacRumors, however, notes a more recent rumor suggesting the $1500 price tag for the 11" device is expected to be lower at a more reasonable $959, which would probably be around 36,000 baht or more here.

Hard-working iPad Pro
Hard-working M1 iPad Pro

There have been more rumors about the iPhone with a fold. I really hope Apple does not develop this. Although, being Apple, the problems that have beset other manufacturers of folding smartphones would (one hopes) have been ironed out. Ed Hardy on Cult of Mac, suggests that a pair of these clam-like devices are in development, noting that so far "available components have not been up to making the device the company wants to build? It would not be unlike Apple to produce prototypes, but that does not mean a production version will be made. Some of the specifications that are being considered are quite high and include a screen that can be used without the phone being open.

Over at Wired, an article by Boon Ashworth used the word, "Plotting" in its headline, as if Apple were in some dastardly conspiracy. The content in the short piece hardly holds up the idea of some conspiracy, unless the headline writer mistook the phrase, "an open secret" for a plot.

My comment last week on new films was followed this week by an announcement on the KosmoFoto site about another return. Stephen Dowling tells us that the Chinese Lucky Film company is "re-releasing its SHD400 black-and-white film - and may return to colour film production in the future." Some of the films the company produces are based on Kodak films, Dowling notes. We see also note that Kodak has reduced the price of its Tri-X 35mm film.

Cat LABS 80 II Cat LABS 80 II

Another film recently made available again is Cat LABS 80. I tried some of this about 5 years ago when I was returning to film use and found that it was highly usable, particularly on the sunny days we often have here. I ordered 10 rolls and these arrived this weekend with a slightly different box: black instead of white; and with the film name clearly marked with a II to indicate a second version, run or iteration.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)


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