Is Apple so great if you're outside the US?
Filed under: Shopping & Deals
4G or not 4G
The new generation iPad launched earlier this year with a load of new features. Retina display means crystal-sharp images, better than you'd get on a high definition television. Reading books and magazines on it is a much more comfortable experience than before (and it wasn't bad then). And of course it has 4G, the next generation faster network - which is going to launch later this year in the UK, following some successful experiments by some of the mobile companies.
Except these experiments were for the British version of 4G. Apple is not going to support this. It also doesn't support 4G networks in Australia and has changed its advertising in different territories so the 4G claim is played down. There have been more complaints and this month the Advertising Standards Authority confirmed it was still investigating.
Remember when the iPad first launched to such clamour in March a couple of years ago? And the excitement when you could sync all your music through iCloud immediately the company announced it was available?
No, you might think you do but actually we got those things a couple of months after America. In the case of iCloud and music syncing this was more to do with contracts than technology but even so - Apple is a global company, you might expect or hope its announcements would be global. Encouragingly the latest iPad came out universally at the same time.
The much-talked-about voice control function for the iPhone 4S really is very good. It's happy with many accents, which when you think about it is tricky - just consider that a Glaswegian's 'R' will sound nothing like mine, a northerner's 'u' is not the same sound at all. Unless you've been brought up to recognise they're the same thing, you wouldn't know.
So from that point of view Siri does pretty damned well. What's less brilliant is its database. The BBC's Watchdog identified this a couple of weeks ago, when people complained they'd asked their phone where there was a garage nearby and it basically said it wasn't familiar with that part of the US. Apple, by way of response, said it had never claimed Siri would work completely outside America.
Well, no. But satnav apps can download local information. It would be good to have a fully functioning Siri or better warnings in the advertising.
Let's just point to a couple of prices on Apple's various websites. The iPod Touch is available from £169 in the UK. That's about $273 according to Expedia.com as I write. Of course currency fluctuates and Apple can't adjust its foreign pricing every minute of the day, but the American price is $199. $74 (£45.71) difference? Granted there are import duties to pay and we pay them very highly over here but that's not far from a third of the price all over again.
This is of course far from unique to Apple. It's just that since their prices are high in the first place, we'll notice more.
All of which leads to the question of what's going to happen to the Apple television product due out later this year, always assuming the rumour mill is getting it right. OK, it'll video conference - with the addition of a camera I can do that with my Panasonic Blu-Ray player. It'll have YouTube - woo hoo, so has the existing Apple TV set top box.
What I'd like - and what you can get from some smart TVs in the UK already - is BBC iPlayer, maybe LoveFilm and a few other streaming services (which I already have on the TV through my PS3, something from another international company, you'll note). If they can do a deal with Sky as well, better still.
I'm not confident, though. The precedents so far seem to suggest that if it's down to an international deal it's not going to happen for a while. And all the stuff I'm going to want from the new super-whizzy TV later this year is pretty localised to the UK.
I still like the technology. Apple has a knack of taking stuff other people are already doing - music players, music phones - and making them easier and more of a pleasure to use. I'm certain it'll do it again with the TV. I just think we may end up paying a load more than our American counterparts and getting many fewer programmes.