After a day of Dell Venue 11 Pro testing and Windows 10 tablet testing I finally had time to watch Apple’s WWDC keynote. You’re probably ahead of me already in terms of general Apple news (Apple Music was the highlight) but I wanted to highlight some IOS 9 features here on UMPCPortal. It’s a step in the right direction, and a sign that Apple might be working towards wider form-factor support. IOS 9 will include a slide-in secondary app window, a video-overlay mode, keyboard shortcuts for text editing, cursor control via an on-screen touchpad and, for the iPad Air 2, splitview mode.
The iPad 3 is expected to be unveiled by Apple in the next few months. I decided to sit down and come up with a little wish list of the iPad 3. This might be somewhat different from other lists that you see out there because I don’t actually own an iPad. In fact, I don’t own any tablet at all.
When the original iPad launched, I picked one up, and although I could appreciate the device, I found that I wasn’t using it as much as I would like (here’s my review). It simply didn’t fit into my daily routine. If I was out and about, my iPhone was a better tool for quick access to information and a more convenient on-the-go media player. If I was at home, my computer was a more productive tool for web-work and browsing. There wasn’t room for a third-device in my life. So, I ended up getting rid of it, and I haven’t been compelled to buy a new tablet (whether it be Android and iOS) since, despite testing a number of them.
So what would it take for me to pick up an iPad 3? Here’s a wish list for improvements and features that might tempt me into adding a third device:
Retina display (but not if it’s going to double the cost of the iPad 3)
Faster – You might think this should go in the obvious section, but what I’m talking about here is relative speed. Despite being much larger, the iPad 2 is roughly as powerful as the iPhone 4S. Presumably the iPad 3 will be as powerful as the iPhone 5. I’m hoping for an iPad 3 that makes use of all the extra space and really gives me a significant boost in processing capability over the current-gen iPhone model. If they have to bring down the battery life from 10 hours to 8 to achieve this, that’s fine with me.
4G LTE option – Again, this could fit someone’s definition of obvious, but the key here is the practicality of it. If this were a ‘wish list’ in the sense that I’m wishing for stuff that will never happen, then I may as well not bother. The question of 4G LTE in Apple devices one of battery life, competitive pressure, and coverage. Right now, 4G LTE radios drain batteries more rapidly than their 3G counterparts. In my opinion, this is why Apple has so far shied away from including 4G LTE in any of its products even while competitors have been doing so for quite some time. 4G LTE is also still in the rollout phase in the U.S.. As consumer demand and expectation of 4G LTE in products rises, 4G LTE radio efficiency continues to increase, and coverage as well. Apple is likely watching these three factors and will find the optimal intersection of them to launch 4G LTE in their products. Let’s also not forget that AT&T is now rolling out 4G LTE which means that two largest U.S. carriers now support the option. I do expect Apple to offer 4G LTE on the iPad 3, you can read more about that here.
NFC – Near Field Communications seems like one of those buzz-words that has been around for years but doesn’t actually mean anything. To the average consumer, it doesn’t mean anything at this point. I doubt most Nexus S owners know that their device even has the feature. However, if Apple was to release it’s next round of devices (including computers) with NFC hardware, it could really help the technology take off. Given the prevalence of iOS devices (here in the U.S.), NFC on all of them would be great for sharing photos and apps, transferring content back and forth from iPhone to iPad, and functioning as a digital Wallet of sorts.
Wireless Charging – People have been talking about this one for years, and that’s probably because the idea is really awesome. I would love nothing more than to have a bedside table with an inductive top, upon which I could set down an iPad 3 and have it charge without having to run any cords. The iPad is a good fit as a sofa surfer or bedside companion — having an inductive charger on your coffee table or next to your bed would be convenient, and would make the iPad 3 stand out front competitors. This sort of feature is easy to ‘wow’ customers that come into an Apple store (because it’s so simple) and that makes it an easy sell if Apple wants to charge extra for a wireless charging station.
More Ports – Sometimes Apple seems to let its aesthetic sense get in the way of adding truly useful stuff to its products. I mean, you can buy an SD card adapter for the existing iPad, but why not build a slot right in? The iPad is one of the best devices for sharing photos with friends and family on the couch (way better than having people crowd around a computer screen), and being able to load photos onto the iPad 3 through an SD card slot (without the adapter!) would save you from buying the $30 adapter and having to remember to carry it with you! A USB port would open up a lot of possibilities as well.
LED notification light – Speaking of aesthetic sense getting in the way of features — I really wish Apple would man-up and add a notification LED to the iPad 3 (and the iPhone for that matter). Having to click the home button and glance at the screen every time you are checking for notifications is a bother. I shouldn’t have to check my iPad 3 for notifications, the iPad 3 should tell me with a little light! Almost all of Apple’s competing devices have such a light, and Apple could easily hide it in the bezel so it would be unseen until needed.
7″ Model – Yes, I know it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see a 7″ iPad 3, but it is possible (in the sense that it would be possible to fit the components into that form-factor). Though Steve Jobs railed against any tablets smaller than 10″, many pundits have expressed the desire for a 7″ iPad, and the 7″ Android tablet market is healthy. Our own Chippy swears by the 7″ form factor and in my own testing I’ve found it more versatile and relevant to my own work style than a 10″ tablet.
Built-in Stand – I always loved how Nokia included a built-in stand on their internet-tablet series of devices, and I’d love to see one on the iPad 3. This is unlikely for Apple given their extreme emphasis on aesthetics, but I know they could come up with a solution that is ‘sexy’ enough even to fit their standards. Their Smart Cover is clever, but I’d prefer something less intrusive and more rigid.
Non-aluminum Back – I’ve got a theory: Apple knows that aluminum scratches easily, and that’s exactly why they’ve used it on the back of many of their devices; an iPod Touch has a shiny mirror-like aluminum back when it’s brand new, after a year or two of good use, the back will be so scratched that it’s hardly a mirror any more. Even though the device still works just fine, the scuffed back makes the product feel like it’s old and outdated… wouldn’t a shiny new iPod Touch of the latest generation be a great solution to that problem? This is planned-aesthetic-obsolescence. So yeah, I that the back of the iPad 3 is not aluminum. When I owned the original iPad, I hated setting it down on a hard surface on its bare back because I knew it was prone to scratches (that’s one of the reasons I made the iPad Booksafe case). Even worse was when a friend would slide the iPad on its back across the table to get it closer to them. That scraping noise is the sound of nightmares when it’s coming from a > $499 gadget!
I could go on (coffee maker, fly swatter, teleporter, etc.), but I think I’ll be lucky if even one of the items on this list comes to be. The inclusion of any of them would make me more tempted to reevaluate the possible inclusion of a third device into my life. Maybe I’m just a hard sell. Sorry, Apple.
And for the rest of you, what’s on your iPad 3 wish list? Or are you like me and have no place for a third device in your life?
At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me that, by the summer, there would be a dozen different Android tablets available for order from reliable, first tier manufacturers, I would have told you to get outta town. We were likely all desensitized to the constant stream of news that seemingly had the same message: “Company X announced the Y Tablet today. It features blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. No information was released on a launch date or pricing.” It had gotten to the point that I immediately went to the bottom of any announcement of a tablet-device, and if it had the standard blurb about no launch date or word on pricing, I did not read the article.
Flash-forward to the present. That standard blurb I mentioned above is something that we are seeing several times a day now. The difference is that with each instance of an announcement, there is a level ofÂ confidenceÂ that we are actually reading a press statement about a device that will be delivered to the market and will not just become vaporware. A year ago, this was not the case. I regarded almost every announcement of an Android tablet as aÂ veritableÂ Chupacabra that I wouldÂ neverÂ actually see. Now, launch events for tablets and the equally interesting Android OS updates are major media events, commanding the undivided attention of the journalists in attendance, and the readers reading the live-blogs in real time or catching up on the ensuing hands-on later in the day. Keeping up with the state of the tablet market is now almost a hobby in and of itself.
As we head into the closing month of this watershed year in the tablet industry, with still more compelling Android tablets promised to hit retail before we turn the corner into 2012, I have been reflecting on the past year and pondering what is yet to come. I have a few ideas of what the recent past has meant, and what the future might hold. Not convinced that there is any way that I could possibly have all of the answers, I engaged my fellow editors and contributors from Carrypad in a dialogue on the topic. We each took a shot at answering three key questions that we felt were critical things to consider and might very well define the picture of the Android tablet market today. Each writer answered the questions in-the-blind, unaware of the answers from the others. Please join us in this dialogue and post your thoughts on our perspectives, as well as your own original thoughts on this subject in the comments below.
Many pundits talk about the belief that there is no tablet market, there is just an iPad market, and the other manufacturers are just flailing, trying to tread water in a marketplace that does not exist. Are they right? If not, what do Google and its hardware partners need to do in order to compete for consumer dollars and a place as the the second or third screen in users’ personal computing kits?
Ben: Apple definitely created an iPad market, not a tablet market. You can see this easily with many of the capacitive-only Windows slates that are trying to pull a “me too” move, but are absolutely failing when it comes to user adoption. Trying to shoe-horn a touch (finger only) keyboardless experience onto a Windows machine is just silly. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for Android, but at the moment, Google has a product for geeks, while Apple has a product for everyone (including geeks). I often look at it this way: iOS and Android are comparable, but Android needs heavy customization out of the box to be brought up to the level of iOS usability. Because of this, the iPad dominates the mainstream (probably more so in the US than other places). There’s also something to be said about app-quality and system stability. The competition between the iPad and Android tablets is absolutely healthy for consumers, and it’s great to see the wide range of computing-styles that are offered by Android devices. If the iPad was the only game in town, they’d stagnate (in some regards they have), but thanks to Android, Apple has to be ever vigilant, and vice-versa.
Damian: There has been a tablet market, although small, for many years before the iPad. Many of the readers of Carrypad will have had windows tablets since the old days of Windows XP Tablet Edition, which was officially released in 2001. The tablet market then was mostly a business or enterprise market and you’d have to credit the iPad with launching the mass scale consumer tablet market for an easy to use consumption device. The iPad dominates the consumer consumption market but Android tablets are gaining ground. Both still can’t quite make it as an enterprise device and the first one that cracks that will have an advantage. With rumours of Microsoft Office being developed for the consumer tablet OS’s this might be the tipping point. I think adding a stylus that works well changes the equation considerably and a well implemented, pen driven solution (ideally running Office) that allows users to create, in a common, accessible format, will boost the Android tablet market share.
Jerry:Â I don’t think these guys (the pundits) are right. There are some 6 million plus Android tablet devices in operation, and that constitutes a market to me. It took a long time for Android to gain traction in the smartphone market, with the G1 being just interesting, but things really started taking off with the arrival of the original Droid on Verizon. For Google and its partners to push more adoption, I am not sure if the saturation tactic that was has worked in the smartphone market is going to work for tablets. I think general consumers will be compelled by more content. Android has a great hook with its one-sourceÂ approach to aggregating access to all content mediums via your single Google account. But they need a better library in Google books, a music source for procuring music (Blast it! I drafted this before the Google Music launch), and further integration with Google TV. It would be a huge plus if I could be watching an episode of a show on my tablet, and then have my stopping place synced with a GoogleTV device to continue watching the content from the same place… and for there to be worthwhile, current TV content.
Chippy: In terms of tablets there really is only an iPad market at the moment. Android tablets remain a niche, rather geeky option. The reason has nothing to do with hardware design or OS, it’s to do with the apps. There simply aren’t enough devices out there to justify any serious large-screen/fragments-enabled quality developement work. By my estimate there are between 10 and 15 million Android tablet devices out there. Some 5″, some 7″ and some 10″ devices, some running Android 2.x and some 3.x. The effort required to make a quality app across this fragmented product base is too big for the potential returns. For this to change, the number of fragments-enabled devices out there needs to grow considerably. ICS will help slowly during 2012 but for Android to stimulate major development work, soon, it needs a breakthrough product. The Kindle Fire could have been that product but with its 2.x OS it won’t stimulate the important use of fragments. 2012 looks like another difficult year for Android tablet apps.
The pundits also say that fragmentation of the Android OS is a key detractor from the product category gaining ground, not only in the tablet market but across smartphones as well. How do you define fragmentation, or do you feel it does not really exist? There is also a discussion of ecosystems and its criticality in the mobile market. How do you define a mobile ecosystem, or do you think this factor does not exist, or is not as relevant as some suggest.
Ben:Â “Fragmentation” is not an issue inherent to Adroid, but rather a desire of Android device manufacturers. Apple only markets one line of phones and one line of tablets, and at any given time, there is only one model that is considered the flagship device. For Android, any number of phone/tablet makers may have comparable devices, so how can they ‘differenatiate’ (aka fragment)Â their devicesÂ to appeal to customers over their competitor’s devices? The answer often comes in adding custom skins, pre-baking in selected applications and services (some of which may be unique to a given device). This means that the specific experience between tablets is somewhat different. Depending upon the hardware, you might not be able to see the same applications in the Android Market because not all applications are supported on all Android tablet hardware. If a non-techie user buys an Android tablet and enjoys using a specific application that comes with it, they may be surprised to find that when they get a new tablet, that application is not available for it. The only way to avoid this issue is for the user to understand the way this ecosystem works, but that can’t be expected of non-techie users. When it comes to the iPad, you can expect the latest iPad to be capable of running every iPad app (and iPhone app for that matter) that’s ever been made. Furthermore, because all apps are made with the top-end hardware in mind, you can expect any app available to run well if you have the current generation of iPad or iPhone.
Damian: I think fragmentation, which I define as multiple hardware manufacturers making different spec’d devices and different implementations of the same OS, is a major factor in consumer uptake of Android tablets, not smartphones. The Android phones need to act as a phone first, then web consumption device, then app using, game playing devices. They usually don’t tend to be used as a consumer of complex media or producer of enterprise content. The phones have different hardware for sure but the manufacturers seemÂ to be doing a good job of making sure their hardware works in most scenarios, i.e. plays all the media formats it needs to, opens pdf’s and documents when attached to email, renders different websites, etc. The tablet space is more complex and the fragmentation hurts it more. Some devices have full sized USB, some devices have SD card slots, some devices have docks, some devices play all of the video formats and some don’t. This is where the split of the manufacturers seems to hurt most. It’s frustrating when one video plays well on your android phone but not on your tablet. Aren’t they both Android? A website looks great on your Android tablet but when you send the link to anther Android tablet it breaks. Sure you can download a new browser which is one of Android’s strengths but it’s also a hassle. If you see something on one iPad it will work on another iPad â€“ that’s the advantage of controlling the whole ecosystem, both hardware and software.
Jerry:Â I do not think fragmentation exists in the way that I hear a lot of other journalists discuss it. I do not agree that that skinning Android is a form of fragmentation, and the discussion about any difference from the baseline version of Android being fragmentation seems to be a very conservative view. I do not think these perspectives are so close to the reality, and I do not classify mods like HTC Sense or skins like TouchWiz as examples of fragmentation. Where we were as recent as a year ago, there were many new phones being sold that were already whole baselines behind. In other words, tablets and phones were being released with Android 1.6 when Froyo was already out: Â that’s an example of fragmentation. More so when those devices were immediatelyÂ abandonedÂ and never saw updates to a 2.x version of Android, that was also an example of fragmentation. It is the analog to Windows XP laptops being sold when Windows 7 was already out, and then those laptops not supportingÂ a path forward to Windows 7. Â Android is open source, and variety in deployments should be expected, just the same as we expect it with LINUX.Â Yes, ecosystems are important.Â I define ecosystems as a collection of hardware, connectivity, and services, without which, the hardware as a standalone device would offer very little value.Â They are obviously important for smartphones, and they are perhaps even more important for tablets. The tablet by itself represents very little functionality. It is only in combination with its network connection, app store or market, and back-end cloud services (email, contacts management, plug-ins to social networks, content availability, and online profiles) that a tablet becomes useful. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has a better fighting chance of being a viable competitor than the Nook Tablet because it brings a kitchen sink of content availability viaÂ its ecosystem and consolidation of that content in one repository channel. The Nook Tablet will have to be configured with several accounts to have access to the same volume of content, and then the content will be available via a spread across multiple channels.
Chippy: Fragmentation is a real issue when it comes to developing apps which, in turn, affect the value of the whole Android product range. ICS is the right step, almost a first step, in removing some of the fragmentation but we must not forget that screen sizes, processing capabilities, and sensors all cost development and testing time and are part of the fragmentation problem. ICS development will remain focused on handsets first until the numbers rise significantly. The screen-size/platform fragmentation will remain in the Android ecosystem so Google has to make it as easy as possible to develop. That means fast, quality dev tools and emulators.
What are your current Android devices of choice (tablets and smartphones)? What is your projected next Android acquisition and why? What are your thoughts on Android Tablets as media consumption devices versus their utility for productivity?
Ben:Â I haven’t yet found an Android smartphone or tablet that has quite cut it for me, but I also feel like I have no need for a tablet at the moment, it is too redundant between my smartphone and laptop. It’s quite possible to get done work on tablets, regardless of the platform, but it really comes down to the applications and how well they run on the hardware.
Damian:Â The Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock is my current tablet but I am in the market to pick up for an Asus Eee Pad Slider. I don’t need the extra battery life the keyboard dock gives me and I don’t want the extra weight either but I love having the ability to use a full keyboard. What I’d like is a touch screen with a full keyboard when I need it without having to carry around a dock or external keyboard and this is what the Slider gives me. I’m also relatively happy with the build quality and Android implementation that Asus did. The Slider has a full sized USB port â€“ killer feature on a tablet. If you want to provide a level of productivity capability at any volume and have a chance in the enterprise market, manufacturers need to make tablets with a keyboard and possibly a stylus â€“ there I’ve said it start the flames :). I run a Motorola Atrix 4G for business and personal use and it is the best phone I have had to date. I sold an iPhone for theÂ Nokia N900 and the Nokia for the Atrix and I have never looked back. Fantastic hardware coupled with a great implementation of Android and cool, very functional accessories make this a very productive and useful phone. I have yet to defeat the phone with any media format or file type and I credit Motorola with doing a great job of implementing Android and a fantastic out of the box Android experience.
Jerry:Â My current kit includes an HTC Evo 3D as my primary smartphone and a Samsung Nexus S 4G as my secondary, both on Sprint. My tablet kit consists of the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 16GB, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 16GB, and the Motorola Xoom 3G. The two phones break even as far as the one of choice. I like the stock Android load on the Nexus, and I prefer the display over the one on the Evo 3D. But I like the Evo for its faster processor and speed, and the availability of the 3D camera. Amongst the tablets, while I like them all, my ThinkPad is the device I carry with me every day and I love the utility of digital inking on it over using a capacitive stylus with the Xoom or Iconia. When I originally drafted this, I thought my next acquisition was going to be a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. I mainly wanted it to replace my iPad, which recently died, withÂ a smaller form-factor option for increased portability. Instead I grabbed a Kindle Fire. It is a lot easier to grab and carry than some of my 10″ devices. I have access to the right amount of my cloud services and content that it makes sense for me to grab it as I head out the door probably about 50% of the time. My initial hour after waking in the AM is spent using the Kindle Fire to read content, communicate with friends, colleagues, and co-workers, and plan out events for the day.
Chippy: 15 minutes before writing this sentence I was given an iPad 2. Let’s see what happens in the following weeks but I’m currently writing this text on the Galaxy Tab 7 and I suspect that my mobile productivity will remain in this 7″ space due to size and ease of thumb-typing. Currently that means an Android-based solution. I don’t use an Android phone because of short battery life and poor cameras. Yes, I was locked-in by a test of a Nokia N8 which I still think is a fantastic cam/phone. I’m currently looking at the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and Galaxy Tab 7.7 as a future upgrade possibility but I may wait for proven Ice Cream Sandwich products first as, to be honest, the Galaxy Tab 7 is still working well for me as a productivity, media consumption, reading and social networking device, despite still running a 2.x build of Android.
Minecraft Pocket Edition was released officially for Android a few weeks back, but Mojang, the company behind the popular indie game, had been ever silent about the iOS version. All we really knew was that they were working on it. Well it seems that Mojang was planning on launching the iOS version at the Minecon event that’s being held today and tomorrow, but they put Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS up on the App Store ahead of time to ensure that it would be readily available at the time of the announcement. They should have known that their ravenous Minecraft fans would spot it in an instant!
Minecon is an event being held in Las Vegas by Mojang this weekend to celebrate the launch of the desktop version of Minecraft. “Launch?”, I hear you say, “but I thought Minecraft already sold over 4 million copies?” And thus the popularity of Minecraft becomes clear. Mojang has indeed sold in excess of 4 million copies of Minecraft prior to the game’s official launch. The game has been in a beta state for many months, seeing slow and continues updates from Mojang, and now what they’re calling the ‘launch’ version of the game is being released at Minecon, today, in fact.
After numerous knockoffs, copy-cats, and fakes that have reached the App Store, the real Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS is now available for download. You can download it right here for $6.99 as a universal app that works on the iPad and iPhone. On Android, Minecraft Pocket Edition has a free demo, and I expect to see a similar demo come to iOS in due time.
Both versions of Minecraft Pocket Edition for Android and iOS are still in the beta stage, Â much like the desktop version once was. Mojang plans to regularly update these versions until they reach a level that they deem worthy of calling the launch version. At the moment, Minecraft Pocket edition doesn’t support the exact same gameplay, and is certainly harder to control through a touchscreen than with a mouse and keyboard, but the charm certainly remains.
If you haven’t played Minecraft before, I would recommend trying the desktop version of the game first. Minecraft Pocket Edition seems, to me, to be more of a ‘you can play it on the go if you can’t get enough of it’ sort of app, rather than an app that works flawlessly on a touchscreen. Not to say it doesn’t run well, but let’s face it, the game was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and that’s how it plays best.
Limited multiplayer support exists in Minecraft Pocket Edition and is thankfully cross-compatible between iOS and Android, but unfortunately the Pocket Editions won’t work with the desktop version. In order to build and explore in the same world with friends, you must be on the same WiFi network.
Don’t know what Minecraft is? Well, it’s tough to explain because it’s a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some, it’s like a virtual lego builder. For others, it’s an unlimited and randomly generated world for exploring. If any video could, this one seems to capture it well:
IÂ rememberÂ when I first started playing Minecraft. I was thankful that there was no iOS version, because I knew I’d get no work done if I could play Minecraft on my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve no longer got any place to hide.
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iOS 5 just launched earlier this month, and based on the popularity of my article the other week, which focused on actual honest-to-goodness iOS 5 tips and tricksÂ beyond the painfully obvious “you can send iMessages!” variety, I’ve created a new list with an additional 12 obscure tips/tricks. Again, a few of these are not iOS 5 exclusive, but most are. If you’re a brand new iPhone 4S user and didn’t know any of these, don’t fret… these are pro tips. My goal here is to have provided experienced iOS users with, at very least, one new thing they didn’t already know about iOS. Did I succeed, or are you some sort of iOS trivia prodigy? Let me know in the comments, and if you’ve got any other off-the-beaten-path iOS 5 tips/tricks, please share them!
12 More iOS 5 Tips/Tricks:
Week Weather View In Notification Center — If you are using the Weather Widget in the iOS 5 notification center, you can swipe it to the right or left to reveal weather for the next 6 days. You’ll be able to see High/Low temps, as well as anticipated conditions (sunny, cloudy, etc). Apple decided not to make it clear that this widget swipes to the side for this additional view, so don’t blame yourself if you missed it, I did initially as well!
Swipe From Camera to Photos — This is a new obscure hidden gesture added in iOS 5; Apple doesn’t make any effort to indicate that it is there (much like #12 on the other iOS 5 tips/tricks post). If you’re in the Camera app, you can swipe to the left to slide the camera away and go to your most recent photo. You can swipe through your photos, and if you swipe back to the front, you can swipe to the camera again to continue snapping photos. This is almost no different from tapping the thumbnail at the bottom left of the app to get to the most recent photo. Oddly enough, you can’t swipe from your most recent photo to the camera if you go through the thumbnail, instead of using the swipe gesture from the camera. Apple, sometimes you are bizarre.
Launch Camera Directly from Lock Screen — Apple touted this during their iOS 5 announcement, but people were confused because AppleÂ initiallyÂ demonstrated the camera button button as being directly on the lockscreen. However, the button wasn’t directly on the lockscreen when iOS 5 actually reached consumers. Don’t worry though, they didn’t remove it. Just double-tap the home button while on the lockscreen and you’ll find the button to launch straight to the camera. If you never knew of double tapping on the lockscreen before, you’ll also find playback and volume controls which have existed prior to iOS 5. Nifty.
Lock Camera Exposure and Focus — Prior to iOS 5, Apple relied on third-party apps to implement this sort of functionality, but they’ve finally decided to bake it right in. You can now lock the exposure and focus level within the native camera app by doing a long-press on the screen (as opposed to tapping). Hold it for a second or two and you’ll see the focus square do a little dance. Let go and you’ll find that the focus and exposure have been locked as indicated by the “AE/AF Lock” text at the bottom of the viewfinder. Tap again anywhere on the screen to unlock and return to automatic mode.
Use the Volume-up Button to Take Photos — Another Camera app addition as of iOS 5. When using the native app, you can opt to press the volume-up button to snap a photo. There’s no on-screen indication that this should work, so if you didn’t already know about it, or hear it from someone else, you’d probably only discover it by accident. I feel bad for the developers of the Camera+ app: Apple doesn’t allow third-party applications to rebind hardware buttons, but the developers of Camera+ actually sneaked this same ability passed Apple in their Camera+ app. After reports of this Easter egg found their way to Apple, the app was pulled from the store, only to have Apple include the functionality in their own Camera app as of iOS 5! Never let anyone tell you that Apple isn’t a bully.
Custom Keyboard Phrase Shortcuts — Find yourself regularly typing a specific phrase in SMS, Email, IM, or somewhere else on your iOS device? You can turn that long and commonly typed phrase into something much more manageable with a new iOS 5 feature. For instance, you can have the letters “omw” be replaced automatically with “on my way”. To do this, go into the Settings app > General > Keyboard, and look at the “Shortcuts” section. Tap “Add New Shortcut” to define the phrase and the shortcut text. Next time you type the shortcut text, the phrase will automatically be inserted. Now you can finally stop repeatedly typing out, “Honey, I lit the house on fire, again.”
Custom Vibrations for Contacts — Custom ring tones and text tones have been available prior to iOS 5 but they don’t do you much good if you always have your phone on vibrate. With the latest update, you can assign custom vibrations to specific contacts so that you know who is contacting you even before you get your phone out of your pocket. Unfortunately this only works for calls and not other notifications (SMS, email, etc.). There are a few predefined vibration patterns, and Apple has even included an easy way to create your own vibes. You’ll find this option in the accessibility section, as I’m sure you can imagine how it would be useful for someone who is deaf and blind. To enable custom vibrations, go to the Settings app > General > Accessibility > and turn the “Custom Vibrations” switch to on. Now go to your Contacts app, choose a contact, hit the edit button at the top right, and tap the “vibration” option. Here you can select from pre-defined vibration patterns, or scroll to the bottom and press “Create New Vibration” within which you can tap and hold on the screen to create any pattern you want.
Access the Built-in Dictionary From Any App — Apple originally included a handy “define” functionality in their iBooks app, which allowed you to highlight any word in a book and get a definition. In iOS 5, they have expanded this dictionary to be system-wide. In any app that allows you to highlight words, you can hold your finger on a word to highlight it, then tap the “Define” button that pops up from the resulting menu. Now you’ll finally understand why everyone keeps telling you that your epidermis is showing.
Enable Battery Percentage — This is an old one, but still seems to go unchecked by newbies and experience iOS users alike (probably because it’s hidden in a weird place). Despite the high resolution screen on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPod Touch (4th gen), it seems like the default battery icon only has 3 states: Full, half, and OMG YOUR PHONE IS ABOUT TO DIE. Instead of relying on these imprecise icon stages, wouldn’t it be much nicer to have a handy % indicator? Go to Settings > General > Usage > and flip the “Battery Percentage” switch to on. Voila! No more freaking out when you actually have a solid 20% battery life left.
See Which Apps are Hogging Your Storage — This is a new feature for iOS 5 and it’s particularly handy for when you are crammed for space and can’t decide what apps are worth deleting. Some apps are dubious because they themselves are only small downloads from the App Store, just a few megabytes or so, but then they may download or accumulate hundreds of megs worth of data during their operation. To find out which apps are taking up the most space, go to Settings > General > Usage and note the “Storage” list. You’ll see your applications tallied based on how large they are, and this figure includes accumulated data. Without including accumulated data, I would have thought that Photosynth was a relatively small app at 7MB; turns out it’s now taking up 147MB total! Now I’ll be much more informed about which apps I should delete when space is low and you will too.
Enable Emoji Icon Keyboard for Free — Emoji icons are a standardized list of hundreds of emoticons which are popular on handsets in Japan, but that won’t stop them from being used elsewhere. I’m very confused as to why Apple allows paid apps in the App Store which claim to “install” Emoji icons when they are built into the phone for free. You can easily enable the emoji keyboard by going to Settings > General > Keyboard > International Keyboard > Add New Keyboard > find and tap “Emoji” in the list. Now when you go into any app that uses the keyboard, you can press the globe icon at the bottom left to switch between your standard keyboard and the emoji keyboard, which has all of the icons sorted neatly into categories. If you get tired of the emoji keyboard, remove it by following the same steps, except use the “Edit” button at the top right of the Keyboard menu.
Invert the Screen Colors as a Prank (or because it looks awesome) — With the proliferation of iOS devices, iOS pranking has become a reality among friends. I usually like to take a screenshot of the homescreen and set it as their background, but this particular tip that I’m about to share with you seems perfect for Halloween. This is another accessibility option, and I’m presuming that it helps provide better contrast to those who have exceedingly poor eyesight. It also looks rather cool and will frighten your friends who may think their device is on its way out the door. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > flip the “White on Black” switch. Enjoy.
The Powerocks Stone 3 portable power pack for iPad and Galaxy Tab solves a problem. It’s all very well having a common interface for charging but when people break the specs it becomes less useful. The iPad and Galaxy Tab charge using very high currents through a USB port that excedes the capability of the USB port you’ll find on nearly all laptops and PCs which means you generally have to carry the mains charger around with you. I found a portable power pack at IFA that supplies the correct current to allow full-speed charing on the go and it works. At least with the Galaxy Tab I tested with it.
There’s no European distributor for the Stone 3 yet so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for availability. Alternatively, wait a while becauseÂ I’veÂ got a unit coming from Znex. The Power-Pack IP is said to do the same so i’m looking forward to testing one that’s available right now.
Here’s a video and you’ll find some images below that.
I’ve been trying to use mobile operating systems for productive and full-computing scenarios for years and although things are getting better by the day, there are still major issues to be solved. Even the latest tailored hardware and software solutions are littered with unexpected restrictions, bugs, showstoppers and even costs. As I continue to test devices like the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and iPad I am making a list of functions that I can perform on a desktop operating system but not on a consumer or mobile operating system that you might find in a tablet. You’ll findÂ an early ‘issues’ list here.Â Â I’m largely talking about Android or IOS here.
The issues fall into 3 categories.
Issues that are a result of hardware. This varies between platforms and is also sometimes dependant on drivers and software. E.g. Bluetooth support. Many of these issues are dropping away as ARM platforms evolve, some of these issues are because of the design requirements (battery, size, heat)
Issues that are a result of operating restrictions. Operating systems will evolve but each evolution is taking 6 months to 1 year.
Issues that are there simply because the third party software may not have been written yet.
The latter category is one we can ignore. If tablets or other devices based on mobile operating systems are successful, the software will come. Lets look at the other two categories though.
Video editing software and hardware. While software may exist, the CPU, hardware encoders and possible GPU acceleration may not be in place. The only exception is the ipad2, iphone4 and Ios which use the capabilities of the A4 chip very well. It may be quite a while before generic cross-platform solutions appear.
USB host support. In some cases the platform only supports USB client. This affect many devices people commonly use like webcams, printers, video capture cards and many other device you’ll find in the high-street PC store.
Keyboards on tablets. Arguable that this isn’t neccesary if you’ve already chosen a tablet but we’ll leave it in the list for discussions sake.
High-capacity storage. 100+GB support is often required by those dealing with media.
Other interfaces such as serial (often used for control and data collection) pci-express. USB based solutions can solve this if the drivers are built into the operating system.
Extendable GPUs through docking stations or modules
General processing power (CPU)
Operating system issues
Extended languages and keyboard support
External screen capability. This includes extended desktop and multiple interface support. Also needed in the OS
Drag and drop (of selected text, audio, image, file, video.)
Bluetooth stack. Software is generally the issue here and it’s usually an operating system issue.
Full web experience including mouse-over support. Some third party software may fix this is mouse or other pointer support is provided by the OS.
Multi-user support with associated security mechanisms. Generally a core operating system issue.
Extending device support through installable, pluggable drivers.
Extended IP stack to support routing, multiple.interfaces and other IP features like file sharing protocols. This can be implemented in third party software.
Multiple sound module support for live audio performances with pre-fade. This is also a hardware issue.
3rd party software
For discussions sake, i’ve included a few software issues here.
Offline blogging tools. A third party software issue that will get solved in time. (I’m impressed with the progress of Blogsy on the iPad)
Office suites. Third party issue although core format support, encryption, media handling, drag and drop / copy paste, synchronization support can be due to operating system. Again, IOS is probably leading the way here.
Full feature browsers. (Mouse-over support in the OS could be needed here too)
Software development tools. 3rd party issue that also requires keyboard, mouse and often, external / extended screen support too.
Having listed a bunch of items above, we have to now ask ourselves whether they are important and if they are, are they likely to be fixed. Certainly the web browser issues are serious, the CPU power issues are too where the operating system runs on an ARM design and you have to think carefully about multi-user and expansion through third party devices on USB. That’s a big market! Issues like IP stack, multiple audio modules and extended screen are less important. Third party software issues will solve themselves as devices move into different markets and the customer-based there becomes big enough to support the creation and support of the software. As for the hardware issues, don’t expect 500GB storage soon but do look for alternative storage solutions via local or remote wireless connections.
What about that keyboard though? Is it still an issue? For many operations, it’s a barrier. Tablets are popular now but is there still a desire for a keyboard. I’m sitting in front of a tablet writing this post now only because it’s got a full keyboard attached.
I want a mobile video editing system with blogging client and full browser capabilities. The video encoding hardware on the iPad has shown breakthrough capabilities in iMovie for the price and size . Keyboard input is important though so I would want a robust keyboard solution. Offline blogging tools are required. Full browser too.Â The ipad2 + keyboard isÂ gettingÂ very close to a usable solution for me but it still has showstoppers. Cabled internet for high-speed video upload, full browser with flash, mouse-over, side-by-side windows for drag and drop, external screen, ability to edit non-iPhone videos in iMovie. I’m still a huge proponent of the smartbook and hope that we see more work going into these because that’s where I see most of the gaps being filled for me. Windows 8 could be the stepping stone to an interesting smartbook / convertible / slider design. Like the TX100 perhaps!
What are the ‘gaps’ that you see between a full computing solution and a consumer mobile OS solution.
This is interesting because 4G is one of the only areas where the iPhone and iPad are behind, rather than being ahead of, or at least on-par with, the competition.
For all intents and purposes, let’s consider HSPA+, LTE, and WiMax all ‘4G’ networks, as they’re all capable of delivering speeds that are well beyond earlier 3G connections.
Verizon has now launched three 4G (LTE) smartphones, and is poised to launch at least one more (the Droid Bionic) toward the end of this summer. They also have the 4G enabled Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, as well as the Motorola Xoom which is supposedly going to be the recipient of a 4G hardware upgrade at some point. Additionally, they’ve got a 4G MiFi wireless hotspot and 4G USB modem. [See this article for a roadmap of Verizon’s upcoming 4G smartphones and devices].
AT&T has three 4G (HSPA+) smartphones currently launched, along with a 4G USB modem.
Sprint has fourteen 4G (WiMax) devices available. They’ve got smartphones, tablets, laptops, mobile hotspots, and USB modems. Though WiMax technically has the capability to support 4G speeds, the research I’ve done has indicated that Sprint’s WiMax is sorely lacking in speed, but I’m still putting it on the list because the tech that supports high speeds is already in place in these devices.
T-Mobile has claims to have twelve 4G (HSPA+) devices. They have 7 smartphones, 2 tablets, 2 USB modems, and a mobile hotspot.
What Form Will Apple 4G Come In?
Because Apple currently makes iPhone 4 and iPad 2 models for both AT&T Verizon, it holds that we’ll continue to see those two carriers supported for upcoming tablets and smartphones from Apple.
For the short term, AT&T is relying on HSPA+ to provide 4G speeds to its line of HSPA+ equipped phones; the company often sticks ‘4G’ to the end of the phone’s name to indicate the additional speed (even if some don’t consider HSPA+ to be ‘4G’ from a technical standpoint). In the long term, AT&T is planning on moving in the LTE direction starting this year.
Verizon jumped directly to 4G in the form of LTE, and they seem to have the best 4G speeds so far.
With the two currently supported carriers either already using LTE or eventually moving to LTE, my best guess is that Apple’s first 4G devices will be LTE compatible rather than WiMax or HSPA+, though as you’ll see below, we might end up with a combination of these.
Why Doesn’t Apple Already Have 4G When Others Do?
The technology for Apple to launch their devices with 4G exists, but I believe two factors have held Apple back so far.
It doesn’t make sense for Apple to fork over additional money for 4G chipsets if the coverage isn’t already there. If Apple launched a 4G (LTE) iPhone 4 when it announced the Verizon iPhone back in January, it wouldn’t have had a big demographic to sell to because a relatively small number of areas where covered at the time. Passing on the price of 4G hardware to all customers, when only a small portion are actually in 4G covered areas, wouldn’t be good for Apple’s bottom line. It made more sense for them to keep the price attractive until 4G LTE sees widespread coverage.
Battery life on existing 4G LTE devices is still much shorter than 3G devices. I’ve been using the HTC Thunderbolt and LG Revolution and both 4G equipped devices from Verizon have had a hard time providing me with usable all day battery life. Battery life is a major concern for Apple, and I know that they aren’t willing to release a device without all day battery life under typical use.
With every release of the iPhone, Apple has increased performance and battery life. Releasing a 4G iPhone before the technology can come down to a reasonable power consumption level wouldn’t be acceptable for Apple.
When Will it Happen?
The real question is not if, but when. Apple has been wildly successful with the iPhone and iPad, even though the market is already brimming with 4G devices, but that won’t last forever.
Ideally, Apple would launch a 4G iPhone and 4G iPad when the two above factors, coverage and battery life, align. Unfortunately, Apple is now being pressured by all of the other 4G devices on the market.
Verizon’s 4G LTE forecast indicates that they hope to have their entire 3G network area covered with 4G LTE coverage by 2013.
AT&T is launching its first 4G LTE coverage areas this year, but the rollout is going to take time, and they’ll most likely be lagging behind Verizon in 4G LTE coverage in 2013.
The iPhone 5 is expected to be released in 2011, and the iPad 3 likely won’t come until 2012. In terms of coverage, the time is not ideal for Apple to launch a 4G iPhone 5 or 4G iPad 3.
I think that Apple would rather wait for two more product generations before releasing 4G devices (so that power consumption can come down and coverage can increase), which would mean 4G LTE compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPad 4, but I doubt that they can wait that long.
An interim HSPA+ iPhone 5 might be more practical for Apple, but it would leave Verizon users in the rain as Verizon has no HSPA+ infrastructure.
A compromise could be for Apple to release a 4G (LTE) iPhone 5 on Verizon and a 4G (HSPA+) iPhone 5 on AT&T. I would expect that release in 2011, but the iPad 3 will likely not be released until 2012. At that time, LTE network coverage should be more favorable for AT&T, and Apple may launch a 4G (LTE) iPad 3 for both networks, then eventually bring LTE to their AT&T iPhone offering with the release of the iPhone 6 in 2012. This is a bit confusing in text, so I’ve put together a timeline (apologies if the large timeline runs off the screen on mobile browsers!):
Some might see the release of a separate HSPA+ and LTE iPhone 5 and iPad 3 as unlikely, but it should be considered as Apple currently has two separate versions of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, one for AT&T’s HSPA 3G network, and one for Verizon’s EVDO 3G network.
Though the LTE coverage is not quite optimal for the upcoming iPhone 5, Apple can’t ignore 4G as it’s starting to be expected from the latest phones (and every major US carrier is pushing the buzz word like their life depends on it). I can’t see Apple releasing the iPhone 5 without 4G, whether that be HSPA+ or LTE.
I would certainly reconsider purchasing the next iPhone if they release it without some form of 4G. How about our readers â€“ does 4G availability influence your smartphone purchasing decisions?
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Okâ€¦ it’s rather unlikely that they even saw my old story, but back in June of 2010, I wrote an article titled ‘I’m dying for Dial Keys on the iPad‘, the gist of which was that Apple should add a split-keyboard to the iPad to make it thumb-typeable. I used Dial Keys, an old ultra mobile PC program, to make a mockup of a split keyboard on the iPad, but it won’t be until nearly a year later, with the coming iOS 5 update, that Apple will add such a keyboard to the iPad.
I remember prior to the announcement of the first-generation iPad, back when it was just rumors and speculation, I was hoping that if Apple released a slate, they’d do something that would improve the typing experience on such a large device.
Apple totally revolutionized touchscreen typing with the original iPhone by equipping it with a much more responsive capacitive touchscreen, and programming a very smart on-screen keyboard (OSK). I wanted Apple to revolutionize large touchscreen typing in the same way that they did on the smartphone, but unfortunately that didn’t happen at launch and we were stuck with a sub-par typing experience on the device (I think I can type faster on my iPhone than on the iPad).
Once I got the iPad in my hands, I was still wishing for a form of split-keyboard because thumb-typing in portrait required an annoying stretch, and thumb-typing in landscape was near impossible (which meant you couldn’t effectively type without setting the iPad on some surface)
Apple is finally adding a split keyboard to the iPad with the iOS 5 update (coming this fall).
Apple’s implementation is smart because it allows you to place the keyboard anywhere along the screen, which means you place it toward the center to balance the weight of the device.
One of my complaints with the Xoom is that typing in portrait is annoying because the keyboard is at the bottom of the screen, then you’ve got the weight of the rest of the device working as leverage against your hands (this is exacerbated by the 16:9 ratio of the device). Needless to say, holding all that weight while typing with your thumbs is not an ideal experience. Placing the keyboard toward the center of the screen, I thought as I used the Xoom, would make the weight a non-issue.
The split keyboard on the iPad will work in both landscape and portrait modes, and can be split or recombined on-the-fly without having to dig through the Settings app.
Oh Woot. You always catch me with an awesome tech-related deal right when I’m about to head to sleep. Today the masters of the deal-a-day sale, Woot.com, have a refurbished original iPad 64GB WiFi + 3G for an impressive $499.
Data on the iPad is hassle free as you don’t need to sign up for a contract and can purchase data a-la-carte â€“ great for trips when you’re unsure whether or not you’ll have access to WiFi.
If you’re wondering if you should instead go with an iPad 2, all you need to know is that the iPad 2 is thinner, lighter, somewhat faster, has front/rear cameras, and is available with AT&T or Verizon 3G. It’s also more expensive.
The iPad is an undeniably well built tablet that still offers one of the better tablet experiences available on the market.
If this deal pertains to your interests, jump over to Woot.com to snag it before it sells out or vanishes at 12:59AM EST! (I’m calling and early sell-out on this one)
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Sascha joined me in the studio last night for a full-on 3.5hr marathon testing and discussion session with 10 different tablets. The iPad2, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Acer Iconia Tab A500, HTC Flyer, Blackberry Playbook and Samsung Galaxy Tab were the focus of our efforts and we recorded three parts of the live session for you to view below.
The Blackberry Playbook impressed with its smooth UI, video handling and gestures. The Flyer beat the other 7â€ tablets in a browsing test (and is as fast as any Tegra2 + Honeycomb browser I’ve tested.) The Galaxy Tab was crowned the value-for-money king and in the 10â€ category, we couldn’t really find a winner. The iPad2, of course, just sits in a special space all on its own and isn’t truly challenged by the 10â€ Android devices although as Honeycomb and Honeycomb-optimised apps start for mature, that could change., especiall when we look to lightweight hardware like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Anyway, here are the videos. We hope you enjoy them. All products are owned by Sascha or myself.
In Part 1 of this series we put aside the idea of ARM-based video editing based on the requirement for higher levels of CPU processing power and tight coupling of hardware and software. Two very interesting solutions have just appeared that could dovetail together as an ARM-based solutionÂ and possibly enable 720p video editing on-the-go. Even if you haven’t got an iPad2, some new software for the Nokia N8 will enable netbook-level H.264 editing.
Last week Apple launched the iPad2 and it turns out that it’s quite the performer in terms of rendering 720p videos through the iMovie application. Based on the measurements we can only assume it’s got a hardware H.264 encoder that iMovie is using to speed up the encoding process. Because of the CPU and GPU inprovements, the editing process looks smooth too. You won’t be able to do b-roll cutaways but I bet you’ll see that included in the next iMovie release for iOS.
This morning I’ve also learnt about a new camera application for the Nokia N8 which enables 480p H.264 recording and continuous auto-focus. As I write this I’m rendering a titled, cross-faded 480p video taken with the CameraPro N8 application in Windows Live Movie Maker. It was a smooth editing process which might surprise some of you because I’m using a netbook to do it.
Put the two together and, if iMovie can import and work with Nokia N8 videos (they are .mp4 files containing H.264 videos but there are some interesting advanced settings in the CameraPro app that can teak bitrates, codecs and sizes) then you might have the most flexible, ultra-mobile video camera, editing and posting solution yet. The iPad2 weighs 600gm (possibly 630gm for the 3G version) and the Nokia N8 weighs 135gm. That’s an amazing, seriously amazing sub 800gm, 1.7lbs and the total cost of both, with 3G, is under 1000 Euro. 720p-capable, 480p when on-the-go and direct posting to YouTube.
Ongoing and outstanding: Does the iPad2 import videos from the Nokia N8 and can iMovie work with the imported videos without conversion? One would need to connect the N8 via the camera connection kit either via USB or by removing the Micro-SD card, slotting it into an SD card adaptor. I’m waiting to have this confirmed. I’m hoping that this author has the answer soon.
Even if the Nokia N8 files don’t work with the iPad, it enables netbook usage which opens up the user to more software options. Windows Live Movie Maker can handle the 480p files without re-rendering for editing and output a 480p WMV file at a time ratio of 3.24 mins per minute of video rendered. For clips of 5 mins or less, as are many mobile videos, this is acceptable.
Here’s a 480p video posted directly from the N8 to YouTube via Pixelpipe. It was a 92MB upload and the bitrate was just over 3Mbps. It would make sense to try this at 2.5Mbps and via a service that posts direct to the YouTube API to cut down time and failure-points.
Obviously you should watch this in HQ and at full-frame size.
Here’s the same source video edited in Windows Live Movie Maker with titles and crossfades. The output format from Movie Maker is WMV which means there could be some degradation in quality as the file is converted back to H.264 at YouTube. Update: I see some frame-rate and smoothness issues. You too?
I used the Acer Aspire One 522 for this and the rendering time ratio was 3.24:1 (3 mins 15s per minute of video)
As a camera, the N8 just keeps on getting better and with developers continuing to write specialized apps for it you wonder why there aren’t many other good quality internet and app-enabled cameras around. It’s these sort of enhancements that just aren’t possible on closed-firmware dedicated cameras.
I plan to buy a 3G-enabled iPad2 when they become available here in Europe but I’m sure others are going to test out the N8/iPad2 combo beforehand. When they do, I’ll try and link the information in below. If you know of any articles or videos on the subject, please feel free to link them in the comments below (one URL per comment otherwise the comment is held for approval.)