Tag Archive | "ipod"

Why I’d buy the rumoured 6″ Apple Tablet.

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None of the Apple Tablet rumours up until now had interested me. A 9”, 10” or 12” slate just doesn’t excite but he latest rumour from Business Week does.

Apple has developed prototypes of two different tablet machines—one that resembles a large-sized iPod and boasts a 6-inch screen….Apple’s tablet may cost as little as $679, Doherty says. Then there’s the Apple software mystique. “Apple has a real opportunity to take the magic of the iPhone interface and give that more real estate to do the tasks,” Kay says. “It’s an iPhone, but bigger. It’s something that you know, but bigger.”

For fun I’m going to assume it has the hardware and software I previously talked about in my iPod Plus predictions article.

Hardware:

  • CPU: 800Mhz Cortex A8. Proven. Available. 2-4 times processing power improvement. ARM and partners would put a lot of effort into this to showcase their new products into new segments. Update: It’s already used in the iPhone 3GS.
  • GPS module and an electronic compass (needed for auto and pedestrian navigation)
  • Enlarge the battery to 150% and make it removable. (Due to increased usage model)
  • Data-only 3G module. Unlocked.  (No voice to avoid it cutting across partner products and to ease a global rollout through carrier deals.)
  • Improve video and 3D co-processing to enable a step-change in capability in these areas.  (HD 720P and re-stimulate the existing developers to enhance their games and make 2nd versions)
  • Screen/TV output (digital)
  • Mid-range built-in webcam
  • Good storage. 16GB-64GB storage options.
  • Include an FM transmitter and receiver. (In-car use)
  • Weigh no more than 300gm. Challenging but possible.

Software wish-list is here.

I currently use three devices regularly. My N82 (for email and RSS reading) my Viliv X70 (for lazy-boy surfing, navigation, online video and some IM and social networking) and my Fujitsu Loox U/B50N (for much the same as the X70 but it’s the one I take when I leave the house just in case I need to do more typing. I use online applications for blogging and word processing) A 6” iPod Touch would probably replace both the X70 AND the Loox.

  • Lighter and smaller than both the UMPCs I use regularly.
  • Better on-screen keyboard than X70. Comparable with Loox keyboard input speed.
  • Research purposes
  • More fun than an XP-based device
  • Easy Access to TV, Video, Podcasts via iTunes
  • Games
  • New scenarios such as augmented reality and other location services
  • More stylish
  • Use as coffee-table newspaper/digital frame
  • Navigation capability (probably at a cost though)
  • Video playback around the house (flash is important here and a potential show-stopper)
  • Ebook reading / Online reading
  • Potentially longer battery life

A 6” Tablet wouldn’t really be a traditional productivity-focused device like a ultra mobile PC is but more of a high-end MID. Much more personal and using leading edge Web2.0 methods to get things done. It would really suit the way I work and given 3G and multitasking, $700

Risks and problems:

  • Flash
  • Keyboard
  • Browsing Speed
  • Multitasking
  • Cost in Europe
  • New MID products being launched

We’ve discussed this before and many of you had some excellent comments. Bluetooth stack was a common worry along with keyboard and the browser which some of you think should support plug-ins as well as flash. Some of you wanted remote desktop support too. We’ve talked about resolution. 1024×600 or 800×480? 800×480 would be OK for me. How do you feel now that the iPhone 3GS is out and there are other products on the market? Would you prefer an Android-based device?

Fingers crossed for a September surprise.

Bluetooth audio adapter for your iPhone/iPod on Woot today — $9.99

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“But Ben, my iPhone already has Bluetooth!”, I’m sure you are saying right now. Thanks to Apple, you can barely use it for anything, and support for A2DP audio streaming and AVRCP is definitely not included. Luckily there are ways around this. Take the wiRevo Stereo Bluetooth Adapter for iPod and iPhone, which you can buy today on Woot.com’s Yahoo partner site, sellout.woot.com. For anyone who has managed to avoid hearing what Woot is, it is the most famous deal-per-day site on the interwebs. They offer one item per day with a limited stock, and when it sells out, it is gone for good (translation: if you want one of these, buy quick!).

The wiRevo Stereo Bluetooth Adapter for iPod and iPhone supports A2DP and AVRCP, which roughly means that you’ll be able to listen to good quality stereo music through a pair of Bluetooth headphones. There is also a pass-through for your power adapter which means that you can charge your iPhone/iPod while the adapter is plugged in. It is sad that Apple couldn’t build this functionality directly into the iPhone’s bluetooth stack, but $9.99 isn’t a bad deal if you want to remedy Apple’s flaws, and an even better deal if you have an iPod that doesn’t have Bluetooth to start with. I’m not sure exactly which generations of iPod this works with so I’ll leave that little mystery up to you before purchasing it. Seems like this same accessory is selling for around $39 elsewhere on the internets.

Music On The [MID] Move

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I’ve been having a look (or should that be listen) to the music capabilities of the BenQ S6 MID device. With a stereo headphone socket and a music player as part of the built in software, the device can be used as a portable music player.

But is it any good?

A good music player needs to have a couple of areas where it has to perform. The audio quality, the navigation of music on the device, and transferring music from another computer.

Audio quality output is good, the speakers on the device happily fill my kitchen and taking it outside there’s enough volume to listen comfortably when in the park. It’s when you start listening on headphones that there’s a problem. The headphone socket (which also carries the microphone socket as well) is only a 2.5mm jack socket. The standard size on pretty much any consumer device is 3.5mm, and my favourite headphones (including my custom moulded monitors) are all that size. While you can get adaptors, I fail to see any design reasons to go for the smaller jack plug that benefits the end user.

Looking through your music on the device is not a pleasant task. Although all my MP3 files have the correct ID3 tags, with the artist, album, track numbers and album art, the S6 does not use any of that information. Once you open the media application and start navigating music, you are using the directory structure and filenames of the MP3 files, with little option to search through the meta-information.

The controls only show up on the screen when you tap the play icon next to a media file – this places the controls over the the screen for a few seconds before disappearing again. It’s not at all intuitive. What’s more, once you switch away from the media player, there are no on-screen controls you can pop up to control the music.

Finally, transferring music to the device. I had to resort to using a blue tooth transfer from my PC to get a connection to the memory card or internal memory of the S6. While I know many people will be able to do this, it is not a consumer ready solution.

Compare the hoops you have to jump through when compared to the iPod Touch and iTunes, the ease of controlling the music, and searching through with your eyes or filters, and you realise that the BenQ has some work to do to make the S6 acceptable as a music player.

Marmot iTouch Multi gloves mini-review and video demo

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I’ve been on vacation for the last week doing some snowboarding in Colorado, but it wasn’t all play. I’ve been doing an accessory review for you, our good readers. For the last week, I’ve been testing the Marmot iTouch Multi gloves for use with capacitive touchscreens.

What Are They?

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The iTouch Multi gloves from Marmot are gloves that have a special tip on the index-finger and thumb that allow one to use capacitive touch devices that normally only work with bare fingers. I bought mine at a local ski/snowboard shop for only $35. These gloves aren’t thick (or water-resistant) enough for use as dedicated skiing/snowboarding gloves, but they work great as liners for larger gloves or for stand-alone gloves in brisk weather.

How do they work?

On both gloves are pads on the index-finger and thumb that have a special material that activate the capacitive touch device. The material helps transfer the field that you fingers’ naturally generate which acts to disrupt a field created by a capacitive touchscreen, thus locating the region that the screen has been touched. It seems that these gloves are rather new, as I can’t even locate them on Marmot’s site, so I unfortunately don’t know the exact origin of the material. The special material is flexible, and it goes over top of the regular glove material, so you thumb and index-finger stay just as warm as your other fingers.

How do they perform?

 

I’m pretty impressed with the gloves. They work about as well as I expected them to. I bought these gloves with the desire to be able to operate the basic functions of my iPhone 3G in the cold without having to remove my gloves. I also wanted them to function as a liner for larger gloves so that I could take my outer gloves off while snowboarding and be able to use my phone on the slopes without my hands freezing off.

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The special material on the index-finger and thumb work well to initiate touchscreen input. Of course it isn’t the surface of your real finger, so it is hard to be as accurate as normal, but as long as you are careful, it is possible to touch right where you are trying to. Sometimes it is easiest to use the side of the glove tip where it comes to more of a point to hit exactly what you want. The gloves make it easy to answer and place phone calls without taking your gloves off. Though it might take more time, you can also respond to text messages. When returning texts, it is only practical to type with one finger; you won’t be typing with two thumbs like you might normally.

I only have two issues with these gloves. The first of which is grip. The gloves are covered on the palm side with little rubbery grips that look just like the red logo on the index-finger. While they probably assist your grip somewhat, holding the iPhone is still analogous to holding a wet bar of a soap. Ok that might be a bit of an overstatement, but I would recommend being very careful while holding your electronic device. For me, holding and typing with the same hand was totally out of the question. While I was on the ski lifts, I would hold my iPhone firmly with one hand and use the other to navigate, any other way would just be asking to lose your iPhone to the snow 30 feet under you. Stopping to answer a call on the slopes wasn’t much of an issue. All I had to do was take off my outer glove and slide the slider to answer. I was able to talk on the phone without completely taking off my gloves, which is very nice when you are out in the cold.

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My second complaint is build quality. The gloves would probably hold up very well if they were used by themselves. However, a week of being used as liners is already taking its toll. The special pads are already frayed. After prolonged use as liners, it seems like they would degrade fairly quickly. As I said, during stand-alone use, they would probably last much longer.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the gloves, and I feel that they are priced fairly. Any glove makers out there think they have a better pair of capacitive touch enabled gloves? Contact me at Ben [at] umpcportal.com if you would like to have them reviewed.

Why an iPod Plus is more likely than an Apple Netbook.

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ipodplus Following Apple’s moves is a complex but fun and stimulating activity so here’s my take on the big, crazy, risky business of predicting where Apple will move. I think they will move up the Ipod chain rather than down the notebook chain and here’s why.

Netbooks are cheap and in my head, I just can’t get past that simple thought. Apple can’t make a netbook as it would seriously risk de-valuing every other product in their portfolio and, due to the required sales numbers and relative complexity of OS X, could screw their global support operations.  An $899 10″ mini-note is possible, I agree, but despite sizing similarities, it wouldn’t be a netbook would it. Mind you, you can guarantee that every netbook web site will cover it like there’s no tomorrow! I will end that argument against netbooks there but they do play a part as I get to the details of my prediction below.

There are three other options that I see for Apple. The first is one of incremental change. Small improvements all-round. The problem with that is that the last Apple event felt like just the same and losing momentum right now could be an issue. Then again, major production-line investment for a new product could also be risky but given the fact that Apple have plenty of cash and that there are probably production lines out there just begging for a large production run, maybe that’s not the risk it could be.

The second option is some sort of 7″ notebook or tablet. While I, and many of you, like this style of device, we have to be honest and say that the productive ultra-mobility market is probably too niche for Apple. There’s a chance of a simple, slim 7″ iPod touch and a push into e-books, sofa surfing, sofa-gaming and turn-by-turn navigation on the existing iPod Touch hardware and software engine but while interesting and, to me, quite exciting, I don’t see a 7″ Apple tablet happening as again, it could be too niche.

The third option, and more likely in my opinion is a 5″ iPod Plus

Filling the hole that will eventually be left by dwindling MP3 player sales [Yes, Christmas iPod sales are buzzing along but in general, I see the dedicated MP3 player market dropping away over the next few years] providing some of the features of the above, 7″ device, retaining mobility and building on the money-making app audio and video-store is the key which indicates to me that a slightly larger iPod touch with better storage, video, navigation, ebook, web experience and perhaps data-only 3G would be a more attractive and solid base to build on for the future.

Read the full story

iPod Touch gets small upgrades

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medium_2843595561_ae370fbc76_oFear not, ultra mobile PC Portal isn’t going to start reporting on audio player news, instead we’re just mentioning the iPod Touch refresh as it pertains to the MID category.

That being said: Some of you may have followed the Apple event today. In a nutshell, they dropped some new iPods, iPod Nanos, refreshed the iPod Touch, and released iTunes 8. I’m actually pretty disappointed at the minimal updates to the iPod Touch. Oh well, if it aint’ broke, don’t fix it, right? The new iPod Touch is very similar aesthetically to its predecessor. The back is rounded and it is ever so slightly thinner. Nike+ receiver is built in (this is the accessory that you put in your shoe and it feeds running info to your iPod). Probably the biggest change is the built in speaker, and volume buttons on the side (just like the iPhone), no silent switch though.

On a related note, Apple also mentioned the latest 2.1 iPod Touch/iPhone firmware, which will come on the new iPod Touch, is currently available for old iPod Touchs, and will be rolled out to iPhones on Friday. Apple is apparently charging $10 for the update (if you are an iPod Touch owner), unless you are already running 2.0+, in which case the update will be free.

Thanks to Engadget’s live coverage of the event for the info.
Image courtesy of Gizmodo.com

iPod Vending Machine

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Looking for a convenient place to spent a few hundred dollars? Look no further! The iPod vending machine will suck your money away and replace it with a shiny new Apple flavored gadget!

So this may be old news, but it was certainly the first I’ve ever seen. I was recently on vacation for a few days in Colorado. At a large mall in Denver there is a Macy’s which had an iPod vending machine. When I saw it I did a double take then had a quick chuckle when I realized exactly what I was looking at. I actually said the words "Is that an iPod vending machine?". I pulled out my cell for some low quality shots so I could share with you what I saw.

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And there it is, an iPod Vending machine. From headphones to full iPod docks, there was a lot of accessories to choose from. But what is an accessory without the iPod itself? Right from the machine you could buy an iPod Touch, Nano, Shuffle or iPod Classic. There were even multiple colors of Nanos. The only actual iPod player that was missing was the iPhone. The whole machine was controlled through a touch screen terminal on the right. I’m not sure how much money Apple actually makes from these vending machines but it surely is interesting to see how easily you could pick yourself up a full set of Apple devices and accessories. Two more shots below.

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