*Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of the Apple Card or for anyone to take on revolving lines of credit. With that said, Apple is getting into the credit card game. There has been an Apple Rewards Visa for years (most recently offered through Barclay’s Bank), but with the new Apple Card, the world’s most beloved technology company is taking a much greater degree of control over the process. Let’s start with some basic facts. Credit is being granted to customers through Goldman Sachs. Yes, you read that right. They are not merely an institutional investment bank anymore. Goldman has branched into consumer finance in recent years by offering high yield savings accounts and personal loans through its Marcus brand. The Apple Card card is a Mastercard. Apple designed the physical card, which, apparently has a very nice titanium feel to it. Apple was very involved in the entire process. In fact they are saying the Apple Card is “offered by us, not banks.” Security is the highest priority. There will be no printed number on the card, no expiration date, and no 3 digit code. There will be no signature on the card. You can still use it in stores via the chip readers. On your iPhone, iPad or Mac, you will be able to use the card with any merchant that accepts Apple Pay. So yes, the card will only be relevant for online shopping for those of you who have one or more of those devices. Interest rates range from pretty good for those of you who have high credit scores, to very average for those with lower scores. A check of your Trans Union credit report is required for approval (for those of you who may have a credit freeze in place), but reports have come out that credit scores as low as 620 are getting approved. Never have I read this much “buzz” in my life about a new credit card on the market. Customers will be able to accumulate rewards for purchases with Apple. Let’s see how successful Apple is with this venture. On one hand, I don’t think they want to encourage irresponsible debt, but they are also doing things with this instrument that other banks are not. It’s a unique card. The application has been opened up to a limited audience at this time (via the Wallet app) with general availability coming soon.
This event has already been reported in the mainstream media, usually in snippets and soundbites. Clients have already asked me to clarify the confusion. I wanted to break their “state of the state” address into a very specific focus for you — 1) What it means for your Macs, 2) What it means for your iPhones / iPads, and 3) What it means for iTunes. Feel free to print this out or save this e-mail or share with your Mac / iOS using friends. This info will still be valid in the fall and ongoing.
Apple held their WWDC keynote address on Monday. Aside from a new Mac Pro desktop (which is intended for designers, people in video production, and engineers — users outside my typical client demographic), this event was all about software. Like clockwork, Apple is coming out with a brand new version of iOS and macOS. These are the BIG annual upgrades that I often tell you about. They will be available in the late summer / early fall. These will be known as iOS 13 and macOS 10.15. Apple is essentially “forking off” the software for the iPad and calling it iPadOS. This will be coming out in the fall for existing, compatible iPads as well. As I told one client today, ALL OF THE NEW SOFTWARE WILL BE FREE. These new editions of the respective operating systems offer guidance as to which Macs and iOS devices will no longer be supported.
A lot of things right now might not be as good as they used to be — perhaps it’s taxes due, the cost of a trip to the Red Sox game, or the tolls going over the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. This sad tale also extends to the technology services and products we use.
The starting price of an iPhone is now $749. It used to be $649 not that long ago. The starting price of the Mac Book Air is $1199, but used to be $999 for the 2017 model. Verizon and ATT are charging more for cell phone service, but they are giving you “unlimited,” right? Are prices going up because there are fewer sales or is the technology incorporated simply better, justifying an increase in cost? It may be a little of both.
Most of my clients are Comcast / Xfinity customers. One thing is for sure — the deals they are offering are not as good as they used to be. They are feeling the crunch by having more and more of us cancel services and go with Internet only. However they want to keep ARPU (average revenue per user) the same. Therefore, the price of Internet only has increased (as a standard price — new customer offers are still low) and the cable company is clinging for dear life for those who have 2 or 3 services. Once the $10 broadcast TV fee (local channels) and $8 sports channel fee (for those of you who have them) are tacked on — it becomes a losing battle. The phone company can be good in certain areas where they have fiber or VDSL internet, but you can be certain that they aren’t eager to maintain the old copper lines anymore. Watch out! Some experiences I have had with Frontier, on behalf of clients lately, have been “teeth pulling” ordeals. Overseas “customer service”? I don’t even want to get started with that today.
Another thing that won’t be as good as it used to be is Uconn Women’s Basketball. A new deal between their conference, the AAC, and ESPN was signed recently. As of the start of the 2020 season, you will not be able to watch the games on the SNY channel anymore. And if you have Frontier TV, you wont even be able to watch the Mets or Uconn on SNY effective right now (4/16, per Hartford Courant). Frontier said they don’t want to carry the channel anymore. Content is too expensive. I hope it gets resolved. Starting with the 2020 season, many of the Uconn women’s games will be on the ESPN + app. It’s a reasonable $5 per month, but you will need some help to set it up. I am ready when you are ready. You will be able to watch the games on a computer or iPad, but the best way to watch them will be via a streaming box hooked up to your TV (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, or Apple TV). I tend to prefer the Roku because it’s cheap. Once you get get the hang of it, it will be easy to switch between your streaming box and regular TV. However, you will have to learn something new.
And I know something from working with a lot of individuals in the 65+ age bracket — seniors don’t always like change.
It’s not as good as it used to be.
A popular TV show used to run promotional spots saying this week’s episode is “ripped from the headlines.” This update is chock full of valuable info. You may want to print it out for digestion in small bites.
Ripped from the Customer Files
Not Selling Window Dressing
A new client recently approached me and inquired if I could do any maintenance procedures to make the computer a little faster. I DID NOT rush out with little care, acting in an overconfident manner, simply to generate a 1 hour appointment for myself. I gave the client a proper “triage” over the phone. We talked for a half hour. I took a mental note of key facts, the most important being that it was a Toshiba laptop. Toshiba was a big name in the history of laptops and consumer electronics in general. In fact, they were a big seller at Best Buy up until about 6 or 7 years ago. Since that time, I don’t know any clients that have bought them. I don’t see them at the stores. I knew the computer had to be at least 6 years old. In fact it is and possibly a little older. I really put the CARE in VIP Computer Care. On a slow computer, you could certainly back up the data and reinstall the operating system (Windows or Mac). You could replace the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive). Both of those would likely be at least 3 hour jobs. I explained how I thought those would be reasonable on a 3 or 4 year old computer, but I don’t think I would want those done on my 6+ year old computer. A software only solution doesn’t make up for bad or degrading hardware. Solid State Drives have been wonderful for many of my clients but they don’t negate the fact that the rest of the computer is subject to failure. I emphasized that the best thing to do would be to buy a new computer and that in the $500s to $600s, the safest bet is a business class system from the Dell or Lenovo outlet (not sold in stores). At the right time, the client will have me set up this new computer for them.
Rather than try to gain a customer for one visit, I established what I believe can be a long term relationship. It’s my nature; it’s who I am. 🙂
But I was just sending e-mails to a church prayer group!! I worked with a client recently that literally had their Google account temporarily suspended for inappropriate activity. The client is 80 years old!! What were they doing? How bad could it really be? Here are some lessons. A lot of us send group e-mails. You are receiving this message as a part of a group email. With personal accounts especially, inappropriate composition of the message could trigger some red flags. Here are some good tips. With a group e-mail…
1. Put yourself in the To field
2. Put your recipients in the CC or BCC field. (CC if you want everyone to see each other’s addresses, BCC if you want the list of recipients to remain private.) I always send my messages out via BCC.
3. If your list of recipients approaches 50, sent out 2 (or more) emails with distinct groups of contacts
4. Even with these precautions, you may still have an issue with e-mail going into the SPAM folder of the recipients
4a. You may want to consider a paid e-mail address for your business, club, or group (i.e Microsoft / Google) for about $5 per month
4b. You may want to consider an easy to use newsletter e-mailing service like Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp has a free option for small businesses, groups, and non profits.
The Simplicity of the Chromebook
I was with a client recently who uses a Chromebook as her primary computer. Chromebooks are amazing (along with their desktop sister -Chromebox). A Chromebook is a limited computer but the safest one you can buy. Think of what you can do in your computer’s browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari). I am pondering online banking, shopping, e-mailing, searching Google, letter writing, and other tasks. You can do all of those things on a Chromebook. You can’t do anything else. There are no programs. It runs the Chrome browser — that’s it. It’s operating system is called Chrome OS, not Windows or Mac. The Chromebook has graduated beyond those 11 inch $200 devices you may have seen 5 years ago. There are mid range ($500’s) and even high end Chromebooks available now. A Chromebook is a great secondary computer, for example to take some stress off or extend the life of your primary computer. It may be a primary computer for some. There are lots of options out there, but if you are looking to dip your toes, I think this Lenovo model makes an excellent starter Chromebook (amazon link) https://amzn.to/2UN3RoK
So the real story here was that the client’s Chromebook was corrupted. After entering the login password — a wheel on the screen kept spinning and spinning. In plain, English the operating system was messed up. On a Windows or Mac system, resetting the operating system and copying the files back might be a 2 to 3 hour ordeal (or longer if lots of files were involved). How long did resetting the Chromebook take? 5 minutes. No joke!
Free Credit Reports and Credit Freezes
I meet clients all the time who are worried about their credit reports being jeopardized because of security breaches with department stores, utilities local governments, and other entities. You have worked a lifetime of building up that near perfect credit score — why leave anything to chance? I think I mentioned it about a year and a half ago but I can help you obtain your free credit reports (via the only site authorized by the U.S. government) and if need be, place security freeze on all 3 of your credit reports. We can typically accomplish this in a 1 hour session. Please be advised that should you need to apply for credit in the future, you will have to log onto the website of the bureau being checked and unfreeze that credit report for a few days or however long is needed (your lender may also be willing to do this for you also). That process takes all of 5 minutes. I will make sure you have all of the passwords and user names needed to successfully manage your credit freezes. Remember, I do not hold onto customer passwords.
PSA: All of you with a Google account have probably gotten an e-mail from Google recently about the closing of some of their services. I have already advised a couple of clients in a panic over this issue. Please go back and read the e-mail carefully. Your Google account is NOT closing. Your Google + account is closing (Google Plus). Google what? Yeah, most of you probably never knew that Google launched a half baked social network several years back in an attempt to take on Facebook. By default, you also had a Google + account. I thought it was good for sharing photos and longer text posts than were typically the norm on Facebook. It seemed like a great tool for groups. Unfortunately, it never caught fire. Google + is shutting down on April 2nd. Your Google account and Gmail functionality will be just fine.
Browsers and Ad Blockers – Part 2
Taking all Mac and Windows computers into consideration, the Google Chrome browser is by far the most used in the world. Among my Mac using clients, I would say that 50 to 60% of them use Safari as their primary browser. However, even with them, Chrome is still popular. No matter what your browser of choice is, remember that its critical to have a second browser installed on your computer. Your regular browser may become corrupted, infected, or just not work well on certain sites. That second (or even third) browser can be a lifeline.
On your Safari browser, I had no choice but to install the Ad Block Plus ad blocker. On your Firefox or Chrome browsers, I have installed either Ad Block Plus or uBlock Origin. In recent years I have favored uBlock Origin. It was developed by a Canadian programmer named Raymond Hill. It is open source, provided free of charge, with no donations sought. Unfortunately, in recent years, Ad Block Plus has gone on the take — accepting revenue by allowing “acceptable ads”. This option can be turned off, but it left a lot of users with a bad taste in their mouths.
As with the other major browsers, Google Chrome puts out several updates a year which are delivered to you automatically. You have to remember that Google’s primary business is advertising. Frankly, I am surprised that they did not block the ability to limit ads in Chrome a long time ago. That could be changing. In a new version of Chrome, coming out later this year, changes will be made “under the hood” that render uBlock Origin useless. You will either have to stick with the ads or switch to using Ad Block Plus, which may also be rendered less functional but still operational.
These changes to Google Chrome are proposed at this time and not set in stone. Should they become reality, the Firefox browser will remain unaffected in terms of uBlock Origin. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure that you have a browser other than Chrome installed on your computer. After all, having alternate browsers is about more than just one issue. Having options gives you independence and computing stability. Here are links to options beyond Chrome:
Firefox — Firefox.com
Brave (started by former Firefox CEO) — https://brave.com/
Vivaldi (started by the founders of Opera) — https://vivaldi.com/
Find the browser that fits you.