In Apple’s educational event yesterday, the company said that students would get 200 GB iCloud storage for free. I own – let’s see… – seven iOS devices and Macs, and I only get 5 GB.
I get it, iCloud storage is a pain for a lot of people. As I’ve written before, iCloud’s paid tiers are very competitively priced. Here’s how much you need to pay get get different amounts of data on the major cloud storage platforms:
But cloud storage isn’t Apple’s business, and many would argue (including me) that Apple should be able to make their free tier more useful to more people. Whether it’s good enough for some segment of the user base or not, the 5GB iCloud tier is the new 16GB iPhone.
Apple doesn’t have a cloud storage problem as much as they have a problem with what services are tied to that storage. iOS device backups and Apple Photos take up your precious iCloud storage and I don’t think they should. iOS device backups should be free and have zero impact on your Drive storage and should “just work.” iCloud Photo Library should be totally sectioned off from your Drive storage as well, and all photos and videos shot on your iPhone should be saved to the cloud for free1.
The idea that Apple should scale your free iCloud storage based on how many Apple devices you have sounds like madness to me. I’ve seen numerous people ask or this, but it seems like a needlessly complex way to solve a problem that doesn’t need to be that hard.
Then again Apple may just punt and give 100-200GB of free storage to all iCloud accounts and say that’s good enough. I don’t think it is, but it’s the least effort fix they could make.
If Apple was going to make a change like this, I’m not surprised we didn’t see it yesterday. That was an education event and non-education iCloud accounts had nothing to do with their message. I do feel like something is going to change and WWDC is a much more likely time for that to happen.
- Maybe require other photos to be backed up to require a paid upgrade, but saving everything shot on iOS would solve the problem for most people, and the ones who it wouldn’t would likely be more happy to pay a flat fee for unlimited storage rather than a variable fee based on how many photos they’re backing up. ↩
I am not personally an expert on technology in education, but my wife is a high school teacher, and I can at least relay her impressions. She is ain a school that’s all in on Google, both in terms of hardware (kids have Chromebooks, teachers have Windows machines) and software. I showed her Apple’s announcements today and these are her impressions.
The new iPad is the same price as the old one: $299 for education. Each one would need a keyboard case for both usability and protection, so add on another $100 or so. That’s about $399 per student, which compared to their current Chromebooks ($349) ain’t bad.
Her opinion is that the tablet form factor is problematic, mainly because students can barely be trusted to not lose a laptop, let alone a tablet, a case, and a stylus. Also, look at the profile view of an iPad in the new keyboard case Apple showed on stage:
The iPad requires a decent amount of space behind the keyboard to stand up. When kids are using these on small desks, this can be a problem and makes a laptop form factor more appealing. The iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard does a better job at this, but it doesn’t work with the new iPad.
As I’ve said many times, I’d love to see Apple release an iOS device with a laptop form factor. Something like the MacBook or MacBook Air, but with an iPad’s internals.
On Software (the real opportunity)
Apple announced updates to iWork and Classroom, as well as a new service called Schoolwork.
iWork didn’t do much for her. It didn’t appear to be any better than Google’s apps and the collaboration features don’t look as good. The iBooks Author features moving to the iPad didn’t do anything for her though.
Classroom offers functionality that Google doesn’t offer itself, but her school uses a third party service that does most of the same things. Sher believes they pay for this service, so Apple having a free option would equate to a cost savings at the very least. Overall, it looks good, but wouldn’t bring anything game changing in her opinion.
Schoolwork was the biggest addition and the thing that addresses her major concern with Apple’s education offering. Having a way to manage assignments and track progress from a web app is great, but she wants to see more. At first glace, she said it catches up to Google, but doesn’t add anything notable over their existing software.
ClassKit API is the dark horse here. As apps like Kahoot could tap into the Schoolwork service and do some clever stuff. I’ll definitely be looking at this more in the summer when it’s available.
200GB of iCloud storage was a big win though. “That’s basically unlimited, which is perfect.” Her opinion is that students should never have to worry about running out of space and this change will make that true for all students. Easy, and big win.
Ultimately she seemed to think Apple was doing good things, but it wouldn’t be enough for her school to reassess their tech strategy for the 2018-19 school year. The cost is basically a wash1, which frankly is impressive for an Apple product, but the benefits didn’t impress her enough to say “I wish we had that!”
- Pending other costs that aren’t visible to teachers, of course. In terms of hard ware and software though, it’s basically the same for her school. ↩
I audited the tools I’m using to collect user data on BirchTree and have made some decisions on how to trim down what I’m collecting so that even the most privacy-oriented person feels comfortable browsing my site.
DuckDuckGo gives my site a B rating, which is pretty good, but I want to do a little better.
I’m still smitten with Apple’s artwork for their new Tokyo store, so I’ve completed the set of wallpapers, now with all 3 neon signs. And because I think these actually look better on a desktop, those have been updated as well.
It should be expected at this point, but all desktop walls are 5K and all phone walls are 4K. Ad if you have any issues seeing the full res images below, you can download them all here.
Last night I gushed a little about how wonderful the camera on our phones have become in recent years. The phone I have in my pocket these days is either an iPhone 8 Plus or a Google Pixel 2, both of which are widely considered to be best in class, but I wanted to put these up against some other cameras to see how good they really are. Here’s what I’m comparing:
This comparison is by no means an attempt to make any one camera look bad, and obviously this isn’t really a fair fight. I’m just satisfying a curiosity on my end in regards to how far apart brand new phones are compared to budget phones from 1-2 years ago, as well as a regular point-and-shoot.
On a technical level, these photos were all taken with the stock camera apps and had no retouching done after the fact. The image files below are the full-res images, so pardon if they take a minute to load. The only exception is the Nikon camera, which was edited a bit in Lightroom since an unprocessed RAW file is not what anyone actually outputs, so I made some edits to make it look similar in exposure and saturation to the phones on display1.
Here’s the full resolution shot from each camera. This indoor shot is meant to compare the clarity, color accuracy, and natural (non-portrait mode) depth of field form each lens.
Right off the bat we see some striking differences. The Moto and Nextbit phones really look worse than the rest, with the Robin struggling with color and the Moto just producing an incredibly soft image considering this picture was taken directly under a lamp. The Pixel and iPhone shots look pretty good, with the iPhone doing a better job of hiding the flicker of the LED bulb this shot was lit by2. Meanwhile, the Nikon does well with color reproduction and the softest background blur.
Now let’s zoom in a bit to each photo and see what the details look like.
At this point the differences are massive. The Nikon 1 continues to be the best in the bunch, with the iPhone very close behind. The Pixel has a little more noise in the image when you zoom in which I don’t love, but looks fine overall. The Robin looks like you took it into Photoshop and applied the watercolor effect to it and looks like it’s doing this to compensate for an otherwise very noisy image. The Moto just needs to go home though, this is terrible.
Despite this being a single image, I think we get some good information out of this, even if that information it’s that surprising. The iPhone and Pixel cameras are worlds better than those found on the Nextbit Robin and Moto G4. The Robin came out in February 2016 and cost $399 while the Moto G4 came out in May 2016 and cost $199. As expected, phones that are 2 years old and had less-than-flagship specs for their time don’t take great pictures today.
That said, the fact that the iPhone and Pixel do just about as well as the standalone camera is kind of remarkable. It’s exciting to see where we’ll be in a few years.
- It goes without saying that I can do much more with this image than any of the phones since RAW gives me tons more flexibility. ↩
- I’ve noticed this over and over in my shots with the Pixel 2. It seems to always shoot at a shutter speed that syncs well enough with LED refresh rates and makes lighting a bit off. ↩