It’s 2011. In my opinion, disc based media should have died out years ago. It’s an unfortunate truth that one company cannot kill physical media alone. A few companies have made strides in the past few years to eliminate our dependence on disc based media; some focusing on streaming content while others focus on digital downloads. Both show promise, but both are crippled by regulations set by the entertainment industry.
In May 2011, Wired reported “Netflix accounts for 22.2 percent of all U.S. broadband traffic compared to BitTorrent’s 21.6 percent share. And at peak times, Netflix hits 30 percent of all traffic…” It's not surprising to see that when a company offers content that is commercial free and fairly priced that people are willing to pay for it rather then resorting to pirating their material. Currently, Netflix has the best streaming service available; offering thousands of TV Series and Movies for as low as $8 dollars a month. While Netflix may offer an excellent selection of Movies and TV Series, it's still not a complete solution for ditching physical media. The majority of content available on Netflix is still marked as “Disc Only” which forces the consumer to deal with old-fashioned discs. I feel that this limitation is a combination of entertainment industry limitations and Netflix lack of motivation to improve on such a great service.
Hulu offers a similar service to Netflix. Hulu is an online streaming service that has both free and premium packages. As expected; the free service gives access to a subset of Hulu’s total content, which is also ad supported. Hulu offers a premium membership that allows access to current season episodes (which Netflix does not offer). In theory, this service should compliment Netflix well. I have trouble saying anything positive about Hulu due to the fact that their “Premium” membership still includes commercials in their streaming content. Paying a premium for access to content should not also include commercials. For this reason alone, I can't justify supporting Hulu with a premium membership. I don't believe Hulu will ever become a true competitor to Netflix until the ads are removed from premium content.
Amazon VOD offers their Prime Members unlimited free streaming of select titles. Prime costs around $80 dollars yearly. In my opinion, their collection of prime titles falls short of being worth the yearly premium. Amazon advertises “Unlimited instant streaming of 6,000 movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime” which is inaccurate. Sorting by Prime eligible content yields only 2,549 results. It appears that Amazon VOD is considering each individual TV episode as part of their 6000 total. I find this to be a terrible business practice by Amazon. They are overselling a service that just isn’t that great. In theory, if Amazon were to release their entire VOD collection to Prime members (free streaming) – then it would turn into a Netflix competitor overnight.
As it stands right now, Netflix is miles ahead of any other streaming competition and each day continues to move ahead further. While this is great for Netflix, I feel that other companies are hesitant to make major leaps forward because they (most likely) still fall behind Netflix in terms of service and content.
Services such as Amazon and iTunes both offer unique features that could potentially compete with Netflix. Unlike Netflix, Amazon VOD has an option to download a DRM digital copy of the media to a computer or portable device. In theory, this service could be a real competitor to Netflix because offers a solution to view material offline or on the go that Netflix currently does not offer. Unfortunately, both Amazon and iTunes fail when it comes to pricing. Individual episodes of TV Series can be purchased for (on average) $1.99 (SD), or $2.99 (HD) from Amazon or iTunes. Amazon offers season passes, which can be purchased for a discount. Unfortunately, both are grossly overpriced.
Lets take a look at an example by comparing Fringe Season 1 in High Definition to Amazon VOD, iTunes, or Physical Media (Blu Ray). Fringe Season 1 can be purchased digitally from iTunes for ~$60. If episodes are purchased individually from Amazon, episodes will total $60 as well. Amazon also offers a bulk pricing option for $35.On the other hand, Fringe Season 1 can be purchased on a physical Blu Ray disc for $20. The physical media also contains extensive special feature material that is otherwise unavailable on digital downloads. Why would anyone want to pay an additional $15 (or $40 from iTunes) for something that contains fewer features then the physical media? If Netflix can manage to offer thousands of Movies and TV Series for pennies a day, anyone reasonably sized company should also be able to offer digital downloads for less then the cost of its associated physical media. I would be happy to pay a reasonable price for physical download capabilities. Ditch the DRM and charge a flat rate of $10 dollars per season for any TV Series and I would be a lifetime customer.
It shocks me that anyone is willing to purchase digital media for such an inflated price. It seems that consumers automatically believe that digital downloads would be cheaper without comparing prices elsewhere. I would love to support other services such as Amazon VOD and iTunes; unfortunately, due to the inflated pricing I still find myself purchasing physical media more then digital media.
It's important to note that services such as iTunes and Amazon VOD can not completely be blamed for the over inflation of content. The entertainment industry is taking advantage of their customers. I fear that until consumers realize how badly they are being scammed this terrible trend of overpriced digital media will never end. Competition between streaming services and digital download services needs to gain momentum. Competition between content providers will force the entertainment industry to lower prices for their content.
I mentioned in my initial iOS5 Beta impressions post that battery life seemed to take a bit of a hit with the latest beta. The day after the post, I decided to give the battery life a real world test. I was able to fully drain the battery in a 12 hour period under normal use. On iOS4; my definition of "normal use" would get me thorough a 16 hour cycle with around 35%-40% battery life remaining. Only making it 12 hours on iOS5 before my battery was completely drained would not be acceptable.
I found that turning off Location Services (Settings>General>Location Servies) for Weather and Reminders (and whatever else you don't need activated) appears to drastically increase battery life on iOS5. I was able to go through a 16 hour day with roughly 25% of my battery life remaining. While this is 10% lower then on iOS4, I consider it acceptable due to the new feature set and considering this is still a beta release.
In order to maximize iOS5 battery life during beta, I would also recommend completely disabling iCloud if it's not being used.
For an unknown reason, Vanilla2 does not allow HTML in Inbox conversations. As far as I can tell, this issue has existed since the release of Vanilla2 last year. This bug has remained at least until the latest revision of Vanilla - 188.8.131.52. This solution can be easily fixed by modifying one line:
On or around Line 36, change
After the change, HTML will render properly in Inbox Conversations.
I've had iOS5 Beta1 installed on my iPhone 4 for over 24 hours now. I decided to start fresh with iOS5 and not load my iOS4 backups (I am coming from a Jailbroken iOS4, I didn't want to take the chance of some JB settings producing unexpected results with iOS5 Beta). After about a half hour of transferring pictures, contacts, and mail accounts back to my phone, I was ready to start testing.
- Stability: I am extremely impressed with the overall stability of iOS5 Beta 1. Last year when Apple released the iOS4 beta; using it as a primary OS was completely out of the question. This time around, it appears that Apple has spent more time concentrating on stability for initial beta release. I consider iOS5 Beta stable enough to use on a daily basis (which I am planning on doing). The only Application I have come across that doesn't seem to function properly is Netflix. While it is disappointing, it is to be expected with beta released. It is certainly not a deal breaker when it comes to keeping the beta on my phone.
- iMessage: iMessage is my favorite feature in iOS5. The look and feel of iMessage is nearly identical to the existing SMS app on iOS4 devices. My friend (@remococco) also installed the iOS5 beta yesterday as well. As soon as he installed it, iMessage automatically switched our conversation from an SMS conversation to an iMessage conversation. To differentiate between SMS and iMessage conversations, iMessage color codes outgoing messages; SMS are green and iMessage are blue. iMessage shows when my message is delivered and read by @remococco and also shows when he is typing a response. Picture messages over iMessage also seem to work flawlessly. I haven't been able to test group iMessage functionality yet. As of right now, I plan on calcelling my SMS plan on my iPhone when iOS5 is released to the public. I plan on directing all non iOS friends to my Google Voice number. This has the potential to save $240 yearly on my AT&T bill. I believe this trend will continue forcing AT&T and other phone customers to drastically change their SMS rates (which is LONG overdue).
Notifications:Notifications no longer suck. The pull down menu provides easy access to Weather, Mail, iMessage, and Phone notifications. One feature that I find really handy is notifications on the lock screen; If an iMessage notification comes through when the phone is locked, simply slide a finger across the message and the phone will unlock displaying the message. Apple did a great job with automatically converting existing third party app notifications. For example, my Prowl and Words With Friends notifications automatically appeared on the Notifications pull down menu with no additional configuration needed on my end. This is definitely a plus; developers do not have to have their apps available on release day in order to utilize the new notification functions. I can't wait to see what developers will do to take advantage of the new notification widgets.
- Keyboard Shortcuts: The ability to add words and shortcuts to the dictionary is now possible. Going into Settings > General > Keyboard now provides a way to link shortcuts for a given phrase. For example; I have the shortcut "wu" setup to automatically turn into the phrase "what's up". I haven't had a chance to extensivly test this feature out, but it seems like it will be very useful in the future.
Lockscreen Camera:Need to take a picture fast? Easy - when your phone is locked, double tap the home button and a camera button will appear. This feature eluded me until @remococco figured out how to activate the lock screen camera.
The biggest issue with iOS5 right now is iCloud. It seems like there is some real black magic going on behind the scenes. Somewhere along the lines of setting up iCloud on my iPhone; I received a warning box that said I should use my MobileMe login credentials to fully utilize iCoud. [NOTE: My MobileMe account has been inactive for well over a year]. It accepted the expired MobileMe credentials and iCloud seems to be storing my contacts. I can also receive email to my @me.com address again. The issue is, if I try logging into me.com with my credentials, It will only allow me access to Find My iPhone, not my mail, or contacts to verify they have indeed backed up to the cloud successfully. As far as I can tell, there is no web interface to verify that the information has backed up successfully to the cloud. Until there is some sort of web interface available to verify syncing is actually occurring, I won't be using iCloud for anything other then Contacts.
In my experience, battery life has seemingly taken a bit of a hit. This really isn't very surprising given all of Apples new features included in the beta. Yesterday I got about 6 hours into the day and my phone was already at 50%. Normally by lunch, I am hovering somewhere around 75%. I hope that the battery life will improve through beta releases before the GM release.
The above YouTube clip is probably one of the best fan-made trailers for a series I have seen in a long while. I believe a Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover episode or movie would be brilliant. Too bad it looks like it'll never become a reality:
Last year, Moffat told the New York Times:
“I think everyone who’s passing me in the streets is suggesting that at the moment. I think there are problems of doing that, because then you would say that Sherlock Holmes lives in the same world as the Doctor, and there are Daleks and all sorts of things. If a Sherlock Holmes story depends on time travel being impossible, it’s quite hard if he’s a personal friend of the Doctor’s, isn’t it?”
In the article, Moffat does bring up a valid concern regarding a Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover. The only way I can see a crossover episode working is if it was made for as a Children in Need special where the content in the episode was specifically stated as non-canon.