Doing the Math on Apple’s New Apple One Bundle

Apple today introduced Apple One, an offer of three different bundles of Apple services. There is an individual plan, a family plain, and, in countries that offer Apple News+, a premium plan. (That’s the US, Canada, Australia, and UK.)

Here are the services available in the bundle:

  • Apple Music
  • Apple TV+
  • Apple Arcade
  • Apple News+
  • Apple Fitness
  • iCloud storage

The family plan, which provides Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, and 200GB iCloud storage is a great deal: at $20 a month, you can share it with up to five other people, which means that, with a family of six (or a group of friends), it comes to $3.33 per month.

The individual plan can be good for some people, if they use Apple Music and at least one other service, and if the 50GB iCloud storage is enough. But for me, the math doesn’t work out.

I currently pay for Apple Music annually; that’s $100, or $8.25 per month. I also pay $3 a month for 200GB iCloud storage; the 50GB in the Apple One bundle isn’t enough. And I may continue to pay for Apple TV+, after the free period runs out early next year. To get the additional iCloud storage, I’d have to pay $18 a month.

If I stay with my annual Apple Music plan, add Apple TV+, and continue to pay for the iClouds storage, that’ll only cost me $16.25 per month. I have no reason to want to pay for Apple Arcade, so the bundle is more expensive. Even if I was paying monthly for Apple Music, I’d be paying $18 a month whether it’s a bundle or individual services, and, while I don’t know how it will work in the future, it might not be that easy to drop the bundle and return to individual subscriptions.

My other option would be to pay for the premium bundle. To be honest, while I don’t think Apple News+ is worth the $10 monthly price, I’d be willing to pay, say, $5 a month. With the premium bundle I’d save on the $3 iCloud storage fee, because it comes with 2TB storage (of which I really have no need). And I don’t think Fitness+ will be for me. So I’d pay $30 a month for extra services I don’t need.

I don’t know why Apple doesn’t have more options for the individual bundle, such as offering one which includes Apple News+. Apple will most likely tweak these bundles over time, and perhaps offer annual pricing for them. (Apple Music, Arcade, and Fitness+ currently offer annual prices; News+ and TV+ do not.) It’s in Apple’s interest to get more individuals into the prorgam.

But in the meantime, if you have two or more people wanting these services, either family plan is a no-brainer.

The Zen of Everything Podcast, Episode 35: The Zen Master’s Dance

Jundo as a new book out: The Zen Master’s Dance, A Guide to Understanding Dogen and Who You Are in the Universe. He and Kirk discuss Dogen, the book, and how to dance.

Find out more, including show notes for each episode, at the Zen of Everything website and at Treeleaf Zendo.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode #159: Will Quantum Computing Change Computer Security?

Quantum computing is just around the corner, and it will affect the way computer security works. Strong passwords and encryption will be cracked, and we’ll need new ways to secure our data and identity. We also discuss complaints against Apple’s coming anti-tracking protection in iOS, and we revisit the suggestions that Apple may build its own search engine.

Subscribe to The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

How Quantum Computing Will Affect Computer Security and Passwords

One of the key elements in securing or data and our identities is the use of strong passwords. Using passwords that can’t be guessed—unlike the perennial favorites 123456 or password—helps ensure that hackers and cybercriminals can’t access your computer, mobile device, or websites where you’ve created accounts, and can’t steal your identity to pretend to be you, or empty your bank account.

Simple passwords can be cracked using brute force; this is where an attacker uses tools that try every possible password until the correct one is found. This generally done using a dictionary attack, where an attacker will try known passwords and words until they find the one that unlocks an account. There are databases available on the internet that contain personal names as well as dictionary and slang words, in scores of languages, along with passwords found in data breaches, and more. One such database that I found through a simple web search contains 1.4 billion entries.

But many people use unique, random passwords, such as m3*9V-jh&3W (which I just generated with my password manager), and these passwords are generally not found in databases—unless you use them for multiple websites, and one of those sites has been breached. (This is why you should never reuse the same password for more than one account.) Cracking this sort of password requires much more computing power. Estimates vary, but, as an example, cracking the password above would take a couple hundred thousand years using a standard computer, or a few years using a supercomputer or botnet.

But what will happen when quantum computers become more common? These passwords could be cracked in minutes, or even seconds.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

The Next Track, Episode #195 – Timo Andres: Making Home Videos and the Creative Process

We last spoke with composer and pianist Timo Andres early in the lockdown, after he made a series of videos for a recital program that had been cancelled at Carnegie Hall. Over the past few months, Andres has refined the art of filming himself at the piano, and uses both audio and video recording as part of his creative process.

Help support The Next Track by making regular donations via Patreon. We’re ad-free and self-sustaining so your support is what keeps us going. Thanks!

Support The Next Track.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 79: Professional Retouching with Lisa Carney

In Episode 78, we talked about everyday photo retouching, such as removing dust spots and objects from your images. Now, we’re shifting to the big leagues, talking to professional retoucher Lisa Carney about the art and business at this level. You may never look at a movie or TV ad the same way again.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode #158: 5G Is Here: What Does This Mean for You?

Josh and Kirk discuss 5G: what it is, how it works, and how fast it is. Is it worth getting a new iPhone 12 for 5G? Also, we look at another case of Apple notarizing malware, and a new RAT that started out on Windows and is now threatening the Mac.

Subscribe to The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

What Is 5G, How Does It Work, and How Fast Is It?

While phones supporting the new 5G cellular standard have been available since early 2019, Apple’s recent announcement of the new iPhone 12, which supports 5G, is the biggest step yet toward developing this standard. With any new data protocol, there’s a chicken and egg situation: there needs to be both infrastructure and devices capable of supporting the standard, and the iPhone 12 will accelerate the installation of new compatible hardware.

But what exactly is 5G? Is it much better than 4G? How does it work? And is it really as fast as Apple suggests?

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Apple Watch Band Review: California Poppy Leather Link and Atlantic Blue Braided Solo Loop

I’ve got an Apple Watch band jones. Over the past few years, I’ve found it enjoyable to have a range of bands in different colors and materials. Almost all my bands are original Apple products, because when I’ve tried third-party bands, they just aren’t as good.

Last year, I was quite excited about the Meyer Lemon Leather Loop Band, because I tend to like colors that stand out against my wrist and the watch. I’m not that interested in stodgy colors like black and brown, and my favorite bands are red, blue, and new yellow(ish), though I still like the original Milanese Loop that I bought early in the life of the Apple Watch.

So this year, I have two new bands: one leather, and one of the new solo loop claspless bands. Let’s start with the California Poppy Leather Link. If you look at my review of the Meyer Lemon Leather Loop Band, you’ll note that my initial appreciation of the band was tempered over time as it showed wear. While it’s very comfortable, and easy to adjust, it’s not a leather designed to last.

The new leather link band is different in a couple of ways. The leather itself is more finished; the previous model’s leather was more like suede, and the new leather has a smoother finish. This should wear better over time.

It’s also a lot easier to put on: with the previous model, you had to slip the end of the band through the loop, but now the band is in two parts, and one overlaps magnetically to the other. It’s easy to put on, and easy to adjust, and the magnets are very strong; perhaps they should have called this a MagSafe band.

California poppy

The magnets are much wider than the previous model, which makes this band a bit stiff, though it should probably loosen up over time. It’s also quite heavy: at 44g, it’s almost as heavy as my stainless steel Apple Watch (47g). But it feels good, it has heft, and if you wear it a bit loose like I do, it doesn’t move around as much as a sport band.

And the color is nice: it’s not a bright yellow, but the color is sort of between that of a lemon and an orange; it goes well with my gold stainless steel watch.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Braided Solo Loop. This new type of band has no clasp, and you have to size it correctly. Given the current situation, many people won’t want to go to Apple Stores to try them on, so sizing as difficult. Some people find that after sizing it using Apple’s tool, the band they got was too large, others too small. I initially ordered one that was too tight and returned it, and since I had to go to an Apple Store to pick up my watch, I tried on various sizes, and settled on the right one. (For me, it’s the largest: size 12.)

Again, it depends on how you like to wear a watch band. Some like to wear bands fairly snug, others fairly loose. I’m generally in the latter camp, but with this band, I want it to fit just exactly right. For me, it should not be loose enough so the watch moves around, nor should it be tight enough to leave a mark on my wrist.

Braided solo

If you do get it right, you may find, as I have, that it the most comfortable Apple Watch band I’ve every worn. It’s very light – only 12g in my size – and it breathes, so it’s easy to forget. If you have an aluminum Apple Watch, which weighs 30.5g for the 40mm model and 36.5g for the 44mm model, you’ll barely feel the band and watch. With a heavier, stainless steel watch, this band will make it lighter than an aluminum watch with sport loop. (My M/L sport loops weigh 30g.)

At $99, these bands are both expensive, and one could certainly say that they are overpriced, but I find them nice additions to my collection of Apple bands.

The HomePod mini is Apple’s Cheapest Product that Actually Does Something

Apple’s new HomePod is a very interesting device. But it’s overpriced, and when it sounds good, it’s great; but it doesn’t always sound good.

The HomePod mini is not a mini version of the HomePod, but a different device entirely. At the same time, it’s the cheapest Apple device that works on its own. It needs the cloud for Siri, and for Apple Music, of course, but at $99, it’s the least expensive Apple product that is not an accessory.

It’s worth considering this when thinking about what the HomePod mini is for. It’s not for music; it’s for the smart home. Apple is way behind Amazon in the smart speaker / smart home space, and, even though just about every Apple user has Siri in their pocket or on their wrist, having a device in fixed locations in the home may lead to more use of Siri and specifically smart home products.

Note the four key points that Apple presents on its website for the HomePod mini:

  • Room-filling sound.
  • An intelligent assistant.
  • Control your smart home.
  • Private and secure.

I think it’s safe to discount the first; the HomePod mini is really mini: it’s 3.3″ / 84mm tall. That’s a tad more than 1/2 the height of my iPhone 11. It’s not mini, it’s tiny. It will play music, and sound like an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker, but nothing like the HomePod or other good standalone speakers.

Homepod mini tiny

The second point is just another way of saying that it works with Siri. But everyone with an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch already has Siri. Perhaps that’s not enough.

But it’s the third point, “Control your smart home” that is the clincher: this is where Apple is aiming. In the presentation of the HomePod mini, Apple showed a family in a cut-away house on a stage, demonstrating how this device can control the home, and help communicate within the family. (The new Intercom feature is quite interesting.) On the HomePod mini product page, there’s a screenshot of the Home app, with a new Discover tab. This tab is not yet available in the app, and will presumably be added when the HomePod mini is released. It will offer “recommendations on top‑rated accessories that work with HomePod mini, and connect to the Apple Store app for additional details and effortless shopping.”

You can, of course, control your smart home with your iPhone; the HomePod mini is just an interface. But it serves an important purpose: it can be a HomeKit hub, and it is the cheapest device that can serve this purpose. While you don’t need this to control simple smart home devices, you do need it to share your devices across your family, or to control them remotely. Currently, you need either a HomePod, an Apple TV, or an iPad to have a HomeKit hub. The first two devices set themselves up automatically, and you have to turn on specific settings on an iPad for it to work. But the iPad must remain in your home, and not run out of power, in order for it to serve this purpose.

Apple is clearly banking on the smart home as their Next Big Product. While it’s not a “product” as such, and certainly will not rival the iPhone, if Apple can get a large number of users to buy into the smart home idea, there’s lots of money to be made. The smart home needs a killer app to take off; so far, it’s been Amazon’s Alexa, but lots of people don’t trust Amazon. Hence the fourth point: “Private and secure.” I’ve heard from several people already, who are Apple users and have Alexa devices, who are going to buy two or three of these, and ditch Alexa.

Back to the price; $99 is the cost of some of Apple’s watch bands. It’s the cost of the Magic Keyboard. It’s cheaper than the Apple TV. It’s the cheapest product that, on its own, actually does something.

This isn’t to say that it’s cheap; compare it with Amazon’s Echo Dot, which you could get for $19 on Prime Day. That product is a loss-leader to get you into the Alexa platform. Apple would never sell the HomePod mini that cheaply, but perhaps we’ll see it discounted as a bundle with other devices, or why not even for free when you buy, say, a new Mac?

The HomePod mini is a Trojan horse. If Apple succeeds in selling enough of these, they can get a strong foothold in the smart home.