Joe Wilcox

I need your advice! Should I get basic cable or keep the cord cut?

Neko Cat and TV

In July, connected TV service went dark in the Wilcox household, as we pulled the plug on AT&T U-verse and switched to Cox Internet. That reduced our monthly bill from about $130 to $59.99 exactly; there are no taxes or surcharges applied to the Net. Now Cox tempts with a compelling offer: Add local channels and HBO or STARZ, with no-cost HD set-top box for another $9.99 month. Installation is free, and there is no contract. Price is good for 12 months. Should we?

Cox promises 44 channels, plus either of the premium channels (I want HBO). But, realistically, that means 10, since we only watch HD, plus the "Game of Thrones" channel. We already receive five over the air using a Mohu Leaf 50 HDTV antenna, which I have to review.

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Apple shouldn't sell iPad like toothpaste

toothpaste

Sarah Perez makes the point before I could (oh lazy me): "Apple announces too many iPads". That's the most sensible take on tablets launched last week, and over the weekend copycat stories started posting. Strange thing, there's nothing new about iPad configuration complexity. The number of base SKUs, while way too many, increases by just two.

I first harped on Apple's "too many problem", following iPad mini's introduction two years ago, observing: "It's a crowded lineup, with overlapping features and prices not seen from Apple since the early- to mid-1990s". Crowded is understatement. The mini jacked up the number of basic configurations from eight to 14. However, when looking at all available SKUs, including two colors and carrier-specific models, the number jumped to 54.

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If Samsung stumbles, will Android fall down?

tipping fall down

The world's largest smartphone manufacturer is troubled. Overnight, Samsung warned that its third-quarter operating profit could fall as much as 61.8 percent because of weakness in its largest division, mobile, from which phones account for about 60 percent of company profits. Smartphone shipments are up slightly, but the money they generate is down substantially.

For Google, the news is a mixed blessing. In April 2012, I warned that "Google has lost control of Android" -- Samsung's dominance with customized versions of the mobile operating system being major reason. Big G effectively responded by separating core apps and services from Android, spreading them out across versions, and better unifying the user experience. Still, Samsung's TouchWiz UI is the main way tens of millions of people experience Android every day. The South Korean company's problems could eventually be good for Google, but will they benefit Android or pull it down?

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iPhone 6: an honest review

iPhone 6

I preordered Apple's new smartphone on September 12, and it wasn't easy. Few months back, I went "Microsoft All-In" for the summer, purchasing the Nokia Lumia Icon on contract from Verizon. So I didn't qualify for the discounted, upgrade price. But when there's a will, there's a way -- and a generous family member helps make something special happen.

My iPhone 6 review begins with such disclaimer. Like iPad Air, I paid for the device. Apple didn't send me a review unit, but I did ask, and I am not on the preferred list of writers who get early access to "iDevices" and who presumably are more likely to rave. Such qualification is necessary, because iPhone 6 is an exceptionally satisfying handset, and I don't want to be mislabeled fanboy for stating such. That's a brash conclusion coming from someone abandoning a competing smartphone with better specs and satisfying user experience.

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8 reasons why Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus 'bendgate' is a good thing

iPhone 6 Plus bends

The newest Apple "gate" is upon us. Many users complain that their new iPhones bend in the pants. Flexible display is a compelling technology, when designed that way. Surely, Apple doesn't want customers, ah, adapting iPhone 6 and 6 Plus designs in their pockets. Someone call the lawyers! But wait, who sues whom? Apple for buyers violating its design patents, or users complaining the handsets are flawed? Oh, these legal quagmires are treacherous!

Personally, I'd like to do a gallery showing of bent iPhones as art. Maybe I can open a museum of pop culture here in San Diego. My point: There are some unseen benefits to Apple's apparent iPhone fiasco. Here, I present eight -- and surely there are many more. Please decorate our comment gallery with your additions.

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If iPhone 6 or 6 Plus bends, it's YOUR fault

finger point pointing accuse accusation

Aluminum is a soft metal. Anyone who has used tinfoil to wrap up food should know this. As such, there are ways you really shouldn't handle a personal device made of the metal. Front or back pocket is a no-no without a case, at least. Better: Not at all -- or use a plastic phone made by Motorola, Nokia, or Samsung.

That's my short response to colleague Mihaita Bamburic's analysis: "If your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus bends, it's Apple's fault" He is "inclined to believe that Apple did not thoroughly test its new devices, based on my engineering background". You read that right. Mihaita may be a prolific writer, but his real profession is engineering. I trust his judgment but nevertheless disagree. If iPhone 6 or 6 Plus bends, it's your fault.

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Pricey Macs and cheap Chromebooks squeeze Windows in the middle

Squeeze

No one likes to be in the middle seat on airplanes, right? It's a metaphor appropriate for retail -- and the place where Windows sits in NPD's final assessment of U.S. 2014 back-to-school sales growth. Chromebook continued a nearly two-year unit-sales surge, while Macs made last-minute gains, and Windows PCs survived only by aggressive tactics that pulled down average selling prices. For Microsoft and its partners, the strategy cut market share losses but at great hidden costs.

Back-to-school 2013 was a bloodbath, with unit sales through U.S. channels dropping by 2.5 percent annually -- a loss that pulled down overall PC sales during first half of last year. For 2014, sales are up about 3 percent overall, or 3.5 percent for notebooks and flat for desktops.

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Product rumors are Apple's best friend

secrets shock surprise man woman

Apple's longstanding perchant for secrecy is legendary. It's also a myth. Granted, the company has a strict no-comment policy about future products, which isn't so much about keeping information from seeping out but controlling who disseminates it. Something else: Secrets are impossible to keep when a company produces physical products overseas and depends on so many third-party suppliers. Controlled leaks, or strictly managing those that aren't, lets Apple maximize marketing advantage.

The value cannot be understated, because Apple's business model in 2014 isn't much different from 2001 or 1995: Reselling to the same core group of loyal customers. The Mac faithful mattered when the company struggled to survive against the Intel-Microsoft duopoly and made the majority of profits from selling computers. Cofounder Steve Jobs wisely chose to expand into new product categories -- iPod (2001), iTunes Music Store (2004), iPhone (2007), iPad (2010) -- that freed Apple from monopoly bondage. But the core philosophy of selling to loyal customers, even while trying to grow their numbers, remains the same.

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10 things you should know before buying iPhone 6 or 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Launch day is over, and now the weekend warriors descend on Apple and cellular carrier stores looking to buy iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Expect mayhem everywhere. Not since 2010 has there been such long lines for or insanity about a new "i" device. I expected nutsville, even with preorder option, but nothing like this.

To be honest, the frenzy defies logic and there must be some kind of mob mentality driving it. I am reminded of Windows 95's nearly 20 years ago. Some people will point to past iPhone launches as being as big or bigger. No. iPhone 4 was the last gigantic debut weekend, before Apple started taking preorders, a mechanism that shifted sales away from the big day. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are much larger when factoring in those 4 million first 24-hour preorders (and others) ahead of September 19 store openings.

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You can buy the past from Apple, or the future from Motorola

Woman Telephone Old Phone Talking

Moto X should be one of the most hotly-demanded smartphones on the planet. But Motorola lacks Apple's skill cultivating core groups of bloggers and journalists who swoon ecstatically and influence others to do the same. For example, I thought Stephen Fry's outrageously over-the-top adjective-rich iPhone 6 review was hilarious until reading The Register's parody, which is almost believably genuine.

Motorola bets on voice interaction over touch, making Moto X more like a device from Star Trek than the early 21st Century. Touch is oh-so 1980s -- what Apple pitched with the Macintosh 30 years ago -- whereas touchless is the next big thing. For people queuing up for iPhone 6 on September 19, welcome to the past. You should consider second version Moto X, which is available for preorder, if reaching to the future.

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iPhone 6 is exceptional

iPhone 6

Well, the first iPhone 6 reviews are in, and they are unsurprisingly glowing. Apple's handpicked group of preferred, early reviewers don't disappoint in their enthusiasm. Not that anyone should be surprised by that. But reading them all -- and I did just that last night while waiting at the hospital with my 92 year-old father-in-law -- common observations tell a story about Apple's newest handset. This is one Once Upon a Time that anyone buying gadgets or manufacturing them should listen to. It's a morality tale about putting benefits before features and the fine art of achieving balance.

Among the many missives from Apple's love children: "iPhone 6 Review: It's a Winner" by Walt Mossberg; "Reviewed: iPhone 6 Is a Thin, Sexy Phone with a Killer Camera" by David Pogue; and "iPhone 6 Review: Apple's Cure for Android Envy" by Geoffrey Fowler, among many others. These reviewers really like the device, which by most definitions is exceptional -- and that will surprise fanboys waving around spec sheets and yelling "copycat!".

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iPhone 6 and 6 Plus set sales record, but, hey, Apple can sell 4 million of anything

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Are you one of the 4 million? That's the number of iPhone and iPhone 6 Plus pre-orders during the first 24 hours, according to Apple. We don't have comparative number for iPhone 5s and 5c, as Apple gave a three-day figure of 9 million last year. But in September 2012, iPhone 5 topped 2 million the first day.

In one of the funnier Hitler parody videos, the dictator says: "If Apple sold Jony Ive's gym sweat, millions would also buy that!" (Ive is Apple's chief designer.) The point: Apple can sell millions of anything. CEO Tim Cook brags "record sales" -- and they're nothing to snicker about -- but would you expect anything less?

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Is Apple Watch out of time?

Apple Watch

I am reluctant to criticize unreleased Apple Watch because my analysis about original iPad -- given before seeing it -- was wrong. That said, Android Wear, while seemingly sensible comparison that analysts, bloggers, and journalists make, isn't right. When put in perspective of next-generation wearables, I think Apple Watch should be compared to Google Glass.

Be honest. Which looks more innovative to you? The utility of something you see at eye level that provides real-time, location-based information is much greater than something that demands more responsive -- "Hey, Siri" -- interaction and turns the glance and fingers downward. Granted, Apple Watch delivers alerts, and you feel them, but your attention is always to look away.

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Chromebook is nothing without Android apps

Chromebook Pixel keyboard

Google geeks have speculated for nearly a year about Android and Chrome OS coming together as one operating system. Yesterday's announcement -- that some Android apps can now run on the browser-based platform -- seems to foreshadow a combined future. Make no mistake about what this really means. Chrome OS is an ecosystem with no future because there is little monetization of apps. The platform would be dead if not for the existing and smoothly integrated Google cloud ecosystem.

Android apps inject life into the Chrome OS ecosystem. Free apps can't sustain any platform because developers have no incentive to create them. Android opens a huge spigot of apps -- and some which developers can monetize, more than they do through paid services tacked onto free web apps. BTW, Microsoft should take a cue from Google, by bringing boatloads of Windows Phone apps to its PC operating system.

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My problem with iPhone 6 is big

Apple iPhones

I'm a Mac user again. After two years of using Chromebook as my primary PC and going "Microsoft All-In" for the summer with Nokia Lumia Icon and Surface Pro 3, at the end of August I returned to my first love -- despite my reputation for hating it. I'm not anti-Apple. Fanatics who try to silence me, and other journalists not glowing about the fruit-logo company, just want you to believe that I am, by insisting bias where none exists.

Before Tuesday's splashy media event, I anticipated buying a new iPhone -- to fit into my renewed Mac lifestyle. But the size really bugs me. Last weekend, I asserted that September 9 would start the Tim Cook era -- that it would define where the CEO will take Apple. I used iPod nano as example of a product that defined Steve Jobs' leadership style. But Cook soiled my anticipation that he could be so bold. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are too much me-too devices, and they're not what I expected from the great innovator.

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