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Tablets are awesome. Tablets are also awkward to hold and use because of their size. In order to address this first world problem, there exists the HandStand. This case, available for both of the currently available models of the iPad, features a hand strap on the back to allow for one hand to securely hold the iPad while the other is free to use it. This is great for walking around with the iPad, or for holding it up to display to someone else.
The HandStand works well as a keyboard prop due to its design. This makes it easy to put the iPad on a desk and start typing on it, or to just easily see what is being displayed on the screen, though it isn’t usable as a video stand. The case is very easily usable in any orientation, and can be rotated while holding it. The case provides a good grip while using it; I never felt like I was going to drop the iPad while it was in my hand.
The problem with the HandStand is that by using it, the user is limited to explicitly one-handed usage of the iPad. This can limit what apps are usable while the hand is in the grip portion. This is far better used when with a specific use where having to have the iPad in one hand is best, not for everyday usage. But then, using it is a pain. Literally. See, the iPad is not all that heavy, but combined with the additional weight of the HandStand itself, and with all the weight being put on the hand and wrist, it becomes very quickly uncomfortable to use. When using it to show the iPad to someone else, but it’s more comfortable, but for self usage? It’s just uncomfortable. As well, the case makes pressing the lock and volume buttons difficult to press because of the rubber covering the buttons. This is 2011; why is it so difficult to make a case that doesn’t add unnecessary difficulty to using the buttons on devices? The iPad 2 version of the HandStand appears to offer direct access to the buttons.
I find the limited utility of the HandStand and the discomfort it causes while using it makes this a product I can’t recommend. This seems like a good idea at first, but unless it becomes more comfortable to use, the awkwardness of holding the iPad without this case is still superior.
Here at 148apps.com we’re big fans of the iKlip and its ability to hold iPads and iPhone/iPod Touches (courtesy of the iKlip Mini) – now the manufacturer IK Multimedia has come up with another great tool.
Debuting at last week’s Summer 2011 NAMM show, it’s called the iRig MIDI and it provides iOS device users with the ability to connect MIDI keyboards, drum machines, drum pads and pedal boards, amongst others, to their device. There’s even the addition of a micro USB port that can connect to any standard USB power supply source thus ensuring that the iOS device can stay fully powered during sessions. iRIG Midi crucially ensures that users can use their instruments with apps such as the all mighty GarageBand.
As well as that, bundled with the device is IK’s new SampleTank app which is the mobile version of the software of the same name. It offers 20 studio-quality insert effects that can be applied to each individual instrument along with a master reverb-delay effect.
On paper, iRig MIDI looks to be an ideal tool for any musician who enjoys using their iOS device to create music.
iRig MIDI is coming soon and will be priced at $69.99.
It’s not everyday that we write about hardware on 148Apps. So when we do, you know it’s about something awesome.
Today, Sonos, one our favorite iOS friendly audio hardware makers have released a new, smaller device, the Play3. It’s the little brother to the fantastic S5, now called the Play5 that we reviewed last year. This smaller version has 3 speakers instead of the 5 found in the Play5. It still maintains the features of the Play5 in that it connects with your home network to stream music from iTunes and a huge variety of online services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, etc.
I had a chance to test out the new Play3 for a few minutes earlier this week. And I’m impressed. It does a great job, in a smaller package, of still sounding great. You can use this in addition to a Play5, on it’s own, or create a stereo pair between two like devices. The Play5 is a great machine that I’ve grown to love. The Play3 will be a great first device for new Sonos users considering it’s retail price of $299. It will also make a good second device to extend your Sonos range into another room.
We hope to be able to bring you a full review of the Play3 in the next couple weeks.
I’ll admit it. I’m old enough to not only remember arcades, but I actually played games in them, back in the day. Well, my day, anyway, which seems to creep ever forward into the twilight of my….well, never mind. I digress.
The ThinkGeek/Ion collaboration iCade iPad arcade cabinet is a thing of beauty. Assembly is a breeze, especially if you’ve struggled for years learning how to use an Ikea-inspired hex bolt wrench and can follow instructional pictograms fairly well. Once set up, the iCade breathes a retro cool like no other. Case in point: the muted 70s style rainbow stripe down the sides, the faux-retro font with the wide “wow” shading behind it, the cleverly styled cut of the cabinet panels, and – goes-without-saying-obviously – a sweetly sized red ball perched mightily atop the joystick (no ‘q’ here, boys).
The hardware. It is hawt. It makes my inner child and outer children squee in delight. There is something primal, almost sexual, about the industrial design of this $99.00 iPad gaming accessory.
And yet, and yet. Like all other infatuations of youth, the beauty can pale after first blush. Sure, it’s GORGEOUS, but what can it do for me? Truth is, through no fault of its own (the API is FREE, developers!), the iCade only has one trick up its sleeve. While that trick is a fairly substantive one, bringing a HUGE amount of the Atari arcade ouvre to an iCade-enabled gaming room, the initial excitement does indeed wane after some exposure.
The problem, as with any gaming platform, lies with third-party developer support. Atari’s Greatest Hits is the only “game” in town here, with a mind-numbing 100 titles to choose from, in 25 different “packs.” Seriously, though, while Tempest is obviously the best arcade game ever made, how many games of Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, or Casino do we need? And, while it can be argued that Breakout does indeed deserve its own 4 game pack, I’m fairly certain that Quadrun was no one’s favorite.
Pointing fingers at the third party developers is one thing, but remember that pointing one finger at someone else implies pointing four of them back at yourself. Right? The iCade has an impressive eight buttons, only three of which seem to do much of anything at any time. Just not the same three. The joystick is a memory-inducing talisman worthy of Proust’s madeleine cake, no doubt, but it is limited to eight directions – this is no analog stick for fine adjustments.
While $100 will be defined by potential purchasers within their own concept of disposable income, it seems a worthy amount for such a well-designed piece of hardware. It makes an instant conversation piece in any room. Hopefully, the presence of a free API will bring developers of more modern arcade “hits” to the table, and perhaps encourage Atari to fine tune it’s massive library of classic games.
Until then, this is a purchase best made when money is not an issue, and playing older Atari arcade games is worth the expense. Of course, a buy can be justified on purely nostalgic and decorative grounds, which of course is why many of my friends of a certain age pre-ordered this baby as soon as it became a reality. It is available at ThinkGeek right now, with no back-order foolishness.
UPDATE: The following games also have iCade support baked right in!
Price: $19.99 for VocaLive, $59.99 for iRig Mic
Version Reviewed: 1.0
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The iRig Mic is quite a piece of hardware. As a microphone, it’s a solid instrument with a condenser-electret unidirectional capsule, which basically means a good mic for low cost that also filters out background noise. This is good on stage, where the vocal mic shouldn’t be picking up the instruments behind it, as well as for podcasting in less than ideal conditions. There is also a three level sensitivity switch, allowing the microphone to be used in a variety of situations and environments.
Connecting the iRig Mic is chimp simple: simply plug in the iRig’s 1/8″ jack into the headphone port, then connect headphones or an external speaker/amplifier/PA system to the tip of the iRig as well. And, done. Simply set the level switch best suited to the vocal style and environment noise level, and it’s ready to go.
The only small issue I have with the iRig Mic is the thin cord. For podcasters, this is a non-issue. The cord is solid enough for everyday podcasting use. As a stage mic, however, the cord isn’t going to cut it. It’s too thin to hold up to much live music, in my opinion, and as such won’t get too much use in that environment. Which is a shame, as the app I tested it with is really great, and could definitely be used on stage. My advice to IK Multimedia? Make an iRig Mic adapter, one that allows vocalists to plug in a standard microphone XLR cable to an iPhone or iPad, much like the iRig guitar adaptor does for instrumentalists.
The vocal processing app that I tested the iRig mic with, VocaLive, is a stunning piece of software, however. With 12 vocal effects that can be arranged in 3-effect chains, this is a vocalist’s dream come true. While not quite the powerhouse something like a TC Helicon, VocaLive works as well as that type of dedicated box. The effects are clean, not muddy, and display a surprising lack of lag between the vocal performance and the effect itself. Twelve effects are plenty to play with, and singers can even import their own iPod songs for backing tracks. Recording is simple and intuitive, as well, with a cute mix tape interface when saving any performance. All works well and as advertised, though the voice cancel feature of the backing track import had varying success, depending on the source music. This is a fairly advanced feature, so even just having it there is a plus. VocaLive works with the built in microphone and even Apple’s headphones with the mic, but the iRig really kicks things up a notch to something a singer might, in fact, use on stage, even with the above stated fragility issue.
Bottom line, the combination of the iRig mic and VocaLive voice processing software bring a powerful set of software and hardware tools to any vocalist’s toolbox, whether they are creating the next musical hit or podcasting from their mother’s basement. At $19.99, the price of the VocaLive app may seems stee as compared to other iOS apps, but considering its power and flexibility matches that of a $300 – $600 dedicated device, it’s quite a deal. The iRic mic, at $59.99, brings a solid stage mic with good quality to the iOS world.
148Apps editor, Rob LeFebvre, was quite impressed with his time with the iKlip back in April. It provided him with a great way to attach a first generation iPad to a microphone stand, thus making it easy to consult for everything from speeches to lyrics or music sheets.
Now, IK Multimedia has announced the release of the iKlip for the iPad 2. It’s a similar device but geared towards the iPad 2 by offering a new mounting kit that sets to be just as effective but aimed at the new slimmer build of the iPad 2. It also works around the new back-facing camera on the iPad 2 ensuring that it never gets in the way of using it. As before, users can position the iPad to either portrait or landscape orientation. It’s worth noting that the new iKlip adaptors still allow for users to use it with the iPad 1 ensuring it works well for everyone.
The iKlip is available now for $39.99/€29.99 (excluding tax) from the IK online store as well as select music and electronic retailers across the world.
Any users who have already got an older version of the iKlip and require the iPad 2 adaptors can pick them up for $9.99/€7.99. Users who purchased the iKlip after May 1st 2011 can claim the iPad 2 adaptors for free by providing a proof of purchase to IK Multimedia.
In one of the smaller announcements today, Apple announced that iOS 5 on the iPad 2 will support a feature called AirPlay mirroring. This feature is something that I’ve been telling people would eventually come to the iOS world and basically backdoor Apple into the console market.
If you aren’t familiar with HDMI mirroring on the iPad, it’s a feature that lets you plug in an cable into a special adapter on your iPad 2 and display your screen on an HDTV. This feature is great for use in classrooms and has even seen some play in games as well with Firemint using this feature to allow 1080p output on your TV from their Real Racing 2 HD via mirroring. But, you are tethered to the TV with a cable.
So, what’s AirPlay mirroring then, you ask? According to Apple, “AirPlay® Mirroring to wirelessly display everything you do on your iPad 2 right on your HDTV through Apple TV®.” To me, that means with an iPad 2, you’ll be able to do that mirroring without a cable. That means anything you see on your iPad 2, you will be able to see on an Apple TV. Let that sink in and then think using that feature for games.
This means that any game you play on your iPad 2, you’ll be able to play on your TV, wirelessly. Yes, wirelessly. You launch Angry Birds on your iPad 2 and the Angry Birds screen will show up on your TV. Boom, instant game console with $0.99 game downloads.
To control the game, you would use the iOS device as the controller. The Apple TV becomes the cheapest console out there at $99 with the largest game library at nearly 100,000 games. Your iPad 2 becomes your controller, albeit a very expensive one. We can assume that this feature will also be available in the next iPhone and iPod touch, once their processors and memory are upgraded and on parity with the iPad 2.
Let’s wrap that all up together, and it means that you can consider the Apple TV to be firmly in the game console market now. This is huge! I can’t stress enough how much of a game changer this is for the gaming world.
Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft should be worried. They have all been rather slow to adopt downloadable games, now Apple has gone and made it easy and cheap. If Apple does to the console market what they have done to the mobile software market, they should be very worried. The Apple TV, which started out as Steve Jobs hobby, could turn out to be the most popular home game and entertainment console around.
The foxl V2 Bluetooth from soundmatters is a little device that you may have never heard of. It’s a Bluetooth speaker device with both fantastic high fidelity wireless music playback and great speakerphone options.
I first saw it at Macworld Expo earlier this year and was rather impressed. It had good sound quality even in the crowded and loud conference hall. We got a chance to take one for a drive, and it’s even better than expected.
Why you’d want it: audio speakers. There are two main functions for the foxl. The first is as a wired or wireless speaker system. It puts out an amazing amount of sound for a tiny little device. It’s only about the size of a three pack of golf balls. Using Bluetooth for convenience is a great, wireless way to listen to music. Though note that it does compress the music some and you will lose a bit of dynamic range in the music. The wireless freedom can’t really be beat and the slight loss in fidelity is worth it for the convenience.
Once you’ve paired the foxl, to use it as a set of wireless speakers it’s as simple as turning it on and selecting it in the audio output selector (AirPlay box) in any music app that supports it. You also have the option of doing a direct connection for wired audio playback.
Why you’d want it – wireless speakerphone. The other main feature of the foxl is as a Bluetooth speakerphone. This is where it really shines. The sound of the speaker and quality of the microphone are top notch. In the few times I’ve used it the sound is great and callers report that I sound loud and clear.
How it performs: Overall, the foxl Bluetooth performs quite well. Comparing it to the Jambox from Jawbone, it’s a bit smaller and louder, particularly in the bass end of the audio spectrum. The price is also very similar – in the sub-$200 range. This won’t replace a dock speaker system, but for travel and convenience, the foxl Bluetooth is fantastic.
foxl V2 Bluetooth Features
* Highest-fidelity resolution with pocket-sized portability
* Connect to any music source via standard audio cable
* Up to 8 hours battery life, output wattage increases when wall-powered
* Lithium-ion BassBattery™ re-chargable via USB or wall charger
* Output for optional powered subwoofer 25-30′ Bluetooth range with improved sound quality
* Automatically connects for instant wireless streaming
* Built-in “Business-quality” wireless hands-free microphones for speakerphone/conferencing
* Including speaker one-touch reject/answer/end calls functions
You can pick up the foxl v2 on Amazon and other usual places for around $199 for the Bluetooth model or $169 for the model without Bluetooth.
If there was one reason I’ve heard more than any others about why someone bought an Android or Blackberry phone over the iPhone, it’s that the person doesn’t like to type on touchscreens. Regardless of my argument that after a few weeks, I ended up typing MUCH faster on the iPhone’s onscreen than on my old Blackberry, people often opt for a physical keyboard.
The NUU MiniKey is by no means the only physical keyboard case for the iPhone (there’s a flip-out one available at ThinkGeek and another popular one by BoxWave), but it has a few interesting features and sturdy-looking design (though it looks like it may almost double the thickness of the iPhone).
The MiniKey has navigation keys to allow easier movement between characters than using the magnifying glass on the touchscreen. Like most cellphone keyboards, the MiniKey has function keys to allow quicker typing of symbols and numbers. Something I haven’t seen on other iPhone keyboards is backlighting. While it isn’t helpful to a skilled typist like myself who doesn’t need to look at the keys, other more novice typists may need to see what keys they are pressing. The MiniKey is also compatible with the Mac keyboard shortcuts like Command+C for copy and Command+V for paste. And finally, it has a key to toggle between the physical and onscreen keyboard. I assume this key simply turns the keyboard on and off (which would be great to save battery life).
The NUU MiniKey is selling for $79.99 on Amazon (free shipping). This won’t appeal to those of us that trust that Apple knows best and if we needed a physical keyboard they would have given us one. But to anyone who is on the fence between iPhones and other phones, accessories like this may be the deciding factor.
While the iPad can definitely be used to write (emails, blogging, etc), it isn’t necessarily ideal for writing more than short posts and emails. One solution would be to grab the iPad Keyboard Dock or a bluetooth keyboard. But the obvious problem with buying one of those is (1) the price and (2) it’s just something else to carry around. Inventor Cliff Thier came up with a solution that doesn’t involve carrying around another largish gadget.
The iKeyboard isn’t on the market yet. It’s one of those Kickstarter projects that will be funded and put into production only if a certain amount is pledged ($4000 in this case). The iKeyboard would attach to the iPad and create a sensation of touch-typing by providing tactile feedback similar to that of a real keyboard. The iKeyboard is light-weight – much lighter than carrying around a bluetooth keyboard. It seems that it will be cheaper than a bluetooth keyboard considering people that pledge over $30 will receive a first-generation iKeyboard (hopefully meaning that the product will be around $30).
Thier, along with industrial design firm IDEAZ, seem dedicated to making an experience akin to a real keyboard experience,
The designers at IDEAZ have managed to match the force required to depress a key on the iKeyboard to the force needed to depress a key on an Apple keyboard. They’ve also succeeded in making the iKeyboard’s keys travel a distance equal to that of Apple keys. We now have a fully functional prototype that works pretty well.
At the time I’m writing this, $14,376 has already been pledged to the iKeyboard. Looks like we’ll be seeing an iKeyboard in the near future. But there are still solid reasons to pledge. $30 or more will reward the pledger with the first-generation product and $50 or more will get the first and second-generation (when it comes out). Both increments will be asked to participate in providing feedback to create a better second-generation product. Interesting in supporting iKeyboard?
When devices that supported AirPlay started showing up at CES this year it left Sonos at a bit of a disadvantage. Airplay requires special hardware for it to be supported in a consumer device and the Sonos devices didn’t have that chip. But that’s not the end of the story.
The engineers at Sonos put their heads together to find a way to make AirPlay work on Sonos devices like the S5 which we looked and loved at last year. It’s a bit of software and a bit of hardware. But if you have an Apple AirPort the you have all the hardware you need.
To make AirPlay work on the Sonos, you connect an AirPort Express directly to your Sonos S5, both the Ethernet and audio cable. Once connected and configured properly, when you play something on the AirPort via AirPlay, the Sonos will pick it up and switch to play the audio from that device automatically. Boom, instant AirPlay.
Ok, it’s a bit of a kludge, but damn, it works great.
Finally, the white iPhone 4 is to be released! Tomorrow in fact. How exciting. Patient iPhone fans have been waiting for their beloved white version since the release of the iPhone 4 last summer. Now you’ve got a choice. Go with the sleek standard black color or the shiny and sexy new white edition. I daren’t be too positive about the lovely white version, my black iPhone 4 might get upset.
The launch is set to hit a number of territories starting with the US and UK tomorrow with much of Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan to follow shortly.
In the US a suggested retail price of $199 has been given for the 16B model and $299 for the 32GB model alongside a 2 year contract through the Apple Store at Apple’s retail stores, AT&T and Verizon Wireless stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers.
In the UK, O2 and Three have confirmed they’ll be stocking it in their stores and online for Pay Monthly customers. Tariffs will be the same as the Black iPhone with O2′s offers starting from £21.50 a month (with an upfront cost of £304.99) and Three’s starting at £25 a month with an upfront cost of £229.
Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone have yet to confirm their launch details but we’ll be sure to keep you informed.
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The Breffo Spiderpodium is a goofy little bit of industrial design that solves many problems I never thought I had. I initially dismissed this alien looking thing as yet another gadget that was long on looks and short on actual application. I was mistaken, however, as this may be the sweetest piece of kit for the iPhone I’ve used in a good while.
Spider analogies aside, the podium comes flat in its packaging, full of potential. Once opened, it bends all wacky and fun, reminding me of my favorite Gumby and Pokey figures from childhood. The first thing I did, of course, was make a little animal out of it.
(not actually my car)
Then, I wrapped my iPhone in its loving little arms and placed it in my car, nestled into the center dashboard air vents. And instantly fell in love. Here was my car clock, weather, compass, and maps application front and center, raised up to its rightful position for ease of access and viewing. Suddenly, my old Subaru was a high tech wonderland, GPS-enabled and, with an easily acquired tape deck adapter, able to stream any music from Rdio or Slacker at my command. Even better? It doesn’t matter what case my iPhone is currently in; whether it wears the minimal and clear Belkin plastic or the heavily functional Mophie Juice Pack, it can remain front and center in my car (and in my heart) at all times.
(not my bike, either)
But wait, there’s more. The Breffo Spiderpodium is a chameleon of the best kind, morphing into an iPhone holder across numerous environments and activities throughout my day. I’ve securely attached my iphone to my bike, my computer monitor and the treadmill at the gym, not to mention set it up at work on my desk for FaceTime and Skype calls. It’s brilliant in its simple solution to the very many iphone standing needs I have throughout each day. Personally, I can see owning several of these babies, leaving one in each place I spend a significant amount of time at. One at work for videoconferencing, one by the bed for alarms and nighttime music, and one for my travel bag, ready in an instant for watching videos, attaching to cars and bikes and such. Brilliant!
The quality of this amazing device is deceptively good. At first glance, it would seem as if after multiple bends, the Breffo Spiderpodium would break or loosen. I’ve used mine for several weeks now with nary a lessening of quality or solidity. I continue to find new uses for it and look forward to a long relationship with this little alien.
Touch screen gaming will always be looking for ways to best offer controls that are as close to physical controls as possible – look at the Xperia Play, which is all about offering physical game controls on a phone. We’ve seen devices like the Joystick-It pop up recently, and another similar mechanism for physical controls on a touch screen is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. The Fling works by way of having 2 suction cups that stick to the bezel of the iPad, and a joystick mechanism in the middle. It is slightly raised, so touching it presses it against the screen. This is what makes it more useful than the Joystick-It – this registers a center point on the screen, which properly allows virtual floating joysticks to work, as you can move from a consistent center point defined by the joystick, and you get analog movement.
The Fling design is great – the mechanism is transparent, so you can see around where you have placed the joystick. Tons of games work great with the Fling as well – Super Mega Worm‘s d-pad works wonderfully with the Fling – about as well as one could hope. Archetype HD‘s movement controls work great, making you feel like you’re playing an actual console game about as much as possible. Dual-stick shooters are incredible – you move and fire with remarkable precision. Your high scores on Age of Zombies are no longer safe if I’m your Game Center friend. Max Adventure is a revelation with the Fling, feeling smoother than the game has any right to be. Red Nova’s movement is great with the Fling, as well. Also, it’s easier to stick the Fling and get it stable on the iPad thanks to the Fling’s bag that also serves as a microfiber cloth to clean the screen. It is exceptionally convenient, and helps make the Fling remarkably stable.
Not all games will work perfectly with the Fling – some games’ joysticks will be too large, so you may not move as fast as you want in some games. Games with swiping controls won’t work with the Fling – because of the way the joystick works, it snaps back to the center point, so moving the joystick in a direction returns it to the center, so it registers as a swipe in the direction you swiped in, and then in the reverse direction, so it won’t work properly. If you want to play Silverfish with the Fling, use the d-pad controls. Aiming in Archetype HD didn’t quite work properly due to this mechanism as well. Fixed controls are a trickier proposition, as you have to position them exactly correctly to play them properly, so Gun Bros. might be a challenge. The joysticks also have very stiff resistance – this may be part of the engineering of the device, but it is stiffer than most controllers’ joysticks.
Is the Fling useful? Yes, very. It makes playing games with virtual joysticks much easier, and the games that work properly with it are wonderful. Is it necessary? Maybe not, and there are a few problems with it, so it’s not perfect. However, there’s plenty of times when the Fling just feels like an ingenious solution, and well worth checking out. If you play a lot of games with virtual joysticks, this may be what you’ve been looking for.
The Fling Joystick is currently available for $19.95 for one unit, and $29.94 for two.
The iPad 2 is thinner (by 0.16”), lighter (by 130g) and smaller (by 0.03m H and 0.04m W) in comparison to its first generation counterpart. Along with that comes an all new, custom-designed Apple A5 dual-core processor churning out 1GHz of power, the inclusion of two cameras and a three-axis gyroscope. Screen and battery life remain identical. So when iFixit took on the challenge of tearing down the iPad 2, what else was there to be found? Let’s find out.
“Prior to starting the teardown, we guessed that the glass front panel was no longer held in place by tabs. We were correct. The new tapered edge on the iPad 2 prevents any kind of tabs from being used; instead, Apple engineers used generous helpings of adhesive to keep the front glass in place” writes Miroslav Djuric, Director of Technical Communication at iFixit. “Consequently,” he warns, “the front panel is very difficult to remove – it’s nearly impossible to open the iPad 2 without shattering the glass.” In terms of screen replacement, the iPad 1’s tab-equipped assembly made it a whole lot easier for a self-repair job. It looks like the same job on an iPad 2 is now a near impossibility.
Once the team were able to remove the glass, it was noted that both the LCD and glass thickness were smaller in comparison to iPad 1. Whilst this does provide a number of advantages, notably the reduced thickness and weight of the device, it may reduce its overall durability. “We’ll see in due time if the percentage of folks with broken iPad 2 front glass is dramatically different than that of the original iPad” writes Miroslav.
What wasn’t mentioned in the keynote address – or in the current technical specifications page of iPad 2 – is that the device contains 512MB of RAM, double the amount of iPad 1. This should do wonders when it comes to more powerful applications like iMovie and Garageband, the latter of which frequently leaves you waiting as it “optimizes performance” on iPad 1.
Overall, iPad 2 is as different underneath as it is on the surface: subtle differences, significant changes. Here’s a teardown video, along with select screenshots, for your enjoyment:
130g lightness refers to iPad 1 3G (80g if referring to iPad 1 Wi-Fi). Dimensions and weight courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Pioneer VSX-1021 is a $549 receiver that works great with an iOS device via AirPlay, Bluetooth, and with a direct connection via the front panel USB port. This really is the iPhone and iPad owners perfect receiver. Not only can you connect via the direct connection and control your music playback via the receiver, you can also stream music from your device via Bluetooth, and AirPlay.
Pioneer have also created a couple interesting apps that interface with this new receiver. First up, iControlAV2, a universal app. This app lets you throw away the remote and completely control the receiver from your iOS device. Every aspect of the receiver can be controlled. From simple things like switching inputs and the volume, to complex tasks like renaming the inputs and configuring the sound for the room. Take a look at the screenshots below for an idea of the polish of this app.
Next up is a party app called Air Jam. This app lets up to four iOS devices create and control a playlist assembled from the music on the devices. The music is then streamed to the VSX-1021 via Bluetooth. A couple shots are below.
Here’s a quick rundown on some of the features that set the VSX-1021 apart from some other receivers and make it a true iOS users dream.
Partial Pioneer VSX-1021 features:
- 7.1 Channel
- Front panel USB port for connection to iPod, iPhone, iPad
- Playback of audio / video from enabled apps
- iOS device charging, including iPad
- AirPlay enabled
- DLNA enabled
- Internet Radio with vTuner
- App Enabled with iControlAV2 and Air Jam apps
- 5 HDMI inputs
The Pioneer VSX-1020 should be available later this month at most major retailers and Amazon.
Virtual d-pads and joysticks are one of the most ballyhooed subjects on iOS, as they are often cited as one of the biggest slights against touch screen gaming. One of the first solutions to attempt to improve controls on touch screens, especially tablet devices, is the JOYSTICK-IT from ThinkGeek. The JOYSTICK-IT works by having a single suction cup on the bottom in the center that attaches to the screen, and then you tilt that around on the touch screen to simulate a real joystick. Now, the JOYSTICK-IT comes with some basic instructions printed on the box that it comes with, but there are two that it should come with. One, the joysticks will not work properly with floating controls that readjust themselves based on where you put your finger down. Due to the design, they cannot create a center point for these floating controls, and they will mess up and be inaccurate. Second, your screen needs to be as clean as possible. Using a moist microfiber cloth on both your screen and the suction cups of the joysticks should do the trick. Otherwise, the joysticks will easily come off and slide around the screen. Just a word of warning – these will technically work with the iPhone/iPod touch, but they obscure so much screen space that it’s not practical usage.
Games with fixed firing joysticks work wonderfully with the JOYSTICK-IT. Games like Gun Bros., Etolis Arena, and Infinity Field feel remarkably natural with the the joystick, and you will notice an accuracy improvement while playing the game. Games with fixed digital joysticks also work well, such as Namco’s various Pac-Man games. Sega’s Genesis games running in 2X mode work really well with the JOYSTICK-IT; the best part is that the d-pad in 2X mode is just slightly larger than the footprint of the JOYSTICK-IT, so you can see in which direction you’re specifically pushing in.
The problem with the JOYSTICK-IT is its limited utility. Because it only works well with non-analog inputs, this means that you can only use it on a particular subset of games. If you like playing dual-stick shooters with floating joysticks, this won’t work for them, because the joystick cannot define a center point. For example, Max Adventure only works if you place the joysticks down after you start playing and only if you can manage to keep an end of a joystick down all the time, otherwise you’ll lose the center point, and the next time you press down, your firing or movement will be inaccurate, as it will define a new center point based in where you touched.
There’s just too many ifs, ands, and buts to properly recommend the JOYSTICK-IT, because of its design limiting the number of games it works with. For games with simulated digital inputs or 360 degree firing controls, you will notice an accuracy increase that for serious gamers, it may be worth picking up a single JOYSTICK-IT to check it out, though casual gamers will likely not find this to be a worthwhile investment. If you have any games that you’re curious to see how they work with the JOYSTICK-IT, leave a comment or send me an email and I will let you know how it works.
The actual keyboard on the Zagg mate keyboard is nearly perfect. The keys are real, with a great feel. In addition, the key placements are almost perfect though I would have preferred the standard inverted T for the arrows. They Bluetooth pairing works great as well. But the actual case design is so out of left field. It just doesn’t work well for me.
So let’s start out with the good. This thing has a great keyboard. The keys are small, but that’s fairly easy to get used to. They are very satisfying to use and type on. The keyboard works as you would expect it to. There’s the normal functions that you get with a keyboard connected to the iPad. The standard cut, copy, paste keys are great to have along with the arrow keys with the modifiers for text selection, which is great for power text editors.
When in use the iPad reclines in a recessed ridge in the middle of the device with a little easel in the back to hold it up. The iPad is loose which allows you to use it in any of the four orientations — portrait or landscape mode. This is a nice feature that no other iPad keyboard case I’ve seen has.
The problem I have with this case is that when it’s “closed”, it only covers the glass front of the iPad. The iPad is held in place by a foam gasket inside the unfinished rim of the aluminum base. The problem with this is that the back is left open to damage. I’m not one that obsesses over scratches of my devices. I buy them to use, not to display, so it’s not a huge concern. But it does leave me a little bit uneasy that there’s nothing like a layer of a case to help protect the iPad.
The usage issue is that it’s rather hard to get the iPad out of the device when it’s closed. You need to wedge your finger in the side to pry the two halves apart. It can be a bit difficult if you are in a hurry.
Overall, I really have a love / hate relationship with this keyboard case. The keyboard itself is great, and adds very little weight to the iPad. But, I think the design of the case, and how it sits on the iPad is one that is an interesting and very unique idea that just doesn’t work all that well in practice. The Zagg mate keyboard retails for a cool $99 and is available from a variety of retail locations and from Zagg themselves.
At Macworld this year, we saw a few new iPad cases with something extra, a keyboard. We’re going to take a look at a few of these as we get them in. First up is the Keyfolio from historic peripheral provider Kensington.
The KeyFolio looks like a rather nice faux-leather portfolio for your iPad. The iPad is held in securely by a firm flap at the top yet still gives access to all the needed buttons and ports. On the flap that covers the screen there’s a rubber covered keyboard. While the keys are a bit small, the convenience is really nice to have. Yet I do have a problem with some the of the choices made with this keyboard.
They keyboard uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPad giving you the ability to use this hardware keyboard instead of the soft keyboard on the screen of the iPad. Using an external keyboard does offer you some speed and convenience perks. For one you can use the OSX standard command-C,V,X for cut, copy, paste. In addition for you text warriors, the arrow keys and key modifiers also work for rapid text selection.
This keyboard feels fairly good to type with, though it’s a little odd feeling. The rubber covered keyboard is nice in that it keeps dust, crumbs, hair, etc. from getting below the keys. But it does give it a cheap feel and lacks that satisfying click of a normal keyboard. Actually using the keyboard was convenient and easy. Once the BT is paired, it connected to the iPad quickly when turned on and worked well for typing. No problems in that respect.
The one real issue I have with this device are the decisions made with key placements. For one there’s no right shift key. I don’t miss this that much, but if you use that key it will take you a while to get used to it being missing. My bigger concern is that the quote key, both single and double, has been moved to the lowest row by the space bar. This one I have to go searching for every time I need it.
Overall, if you like the form factor, and can get by the key placements, this is a great case for you. While the case itself is on the heavy side it works really well and I’m enjoying using it. The KeyFolio is available from Kensington directly for $99, and considerably cheaper from other retailers like Amazon.
At Macworld this year, I got a chance to try out the new SRS iWow 3D. It’s an interesting little dongle that fits on your iPhone, iPad, or any iPod, including the touch, that has the 30 pin connector. When you connect it, plug in your headphones to it, and click the on button, it enhances the sound coming from your device in some interesting ways.
I have no idea what’s behind the magic that this little device does. What I do know is that it seems to enhance the sound impressively. The stereo separation seems much greater. The highs brighter, and the bass deeper. Works great with music, but the enhancement when playing videos was even more dramatic.
SRS has also created an iWow 3D app that lets you tailor the sound to your preferences. You can set the output for different devices such as headphone or speakers, and you can increase the treble and base to your preferences.
If the sound is important to you, it may be worth carrying around an extra piece to you. You can pre-order the SRS iWow 3D now from SRS directly.
At 148Apps, we made a decision years ago to not review iPhone cases. There are just too many different cases with too many subtle variations to even try to take an authoritative stab at it. When an exceptionally different case like this comes along, however, we have to take a look. And not, of course, an authoritative review.
The Rokbed from Rokform was sent to us to take a look at and I must say I’m impressed. It’s a pretty formidable looking two piece all aluminum device, you really can’t call it a case, that slides with a very close fit around your iPhone 4. It’s precision milled by a company that’s been making aftermarket racing parts for years. And the precision is impressive but that precision doesn’t come cheap.
I’ve been using this on my iPhone 4 for a little over a week now and I must say I’m really impressed. I originally thought it would add too much weight or bulk to the phone at over an ounce, but I got used to it almost instantly. It’s easy to grab with ridges and valleys in all the right places. None of the ports or buttons are covered, and it still fits perfectly in my iPhone dock (once I removed the tray). And most importantly the aluminum frame doesn’t touch any of the antennas so it shouldn’t interfere with the reception.
One concern might be the headphone jack. While the three sets of headphones that I tried all worked fine, headphones with a large jack might not fit past the ridges.
Overall, I love this “case,” though I think of it more as an exoskeleton. Sounds tougher and more manly that way. It works well and feels very satisfying in the hand. It is very much on the expensive side at $79, but it is also extremely unique and it certainly does catch the eye.
When it comes to iOS gaming, the biggest complaint that continues to come up is the lack of physical controls. While veteran iOS gamers have gotten used to virtual controls, games still often suffer from not having actual physical buttons and joysticks to use. While an iOS device that actually has physical gameplay buttons on it is unlikely to ever appear, some people and manufacturers are looking to provide physical controls to gamers on touchscreen devices, either by facsimile physical joysticks, or through external accessories to provide actual physical controls to games.
First up is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. Designed to simulate an analog joystick on a touch screen, primarily the iPad (it appears to be designed for the wider bezel of the iPad, and might not work as well on the iPhone and iPod touch), that you stick on the iPad screen, and works to simulate a physical controller’s analog joystick. The product claims to leave no residue on the iPad, and to increase your accuracy in games that simulate analog joysticks. You can buy both a single Fling joystick, or buy a 2-pack for dual-stick shooters. The joysticks appear to be designed for iPad-only games, but some games running in 2X mode appear to work, such as Secret of Mana, according to the publicly-edited compatibility list. Some games may not work as well due to the way their joysticks work or how they’re positioned, so it may be a bit of a crapshoot depending on the games you want to play. The Fling is available now, and it will run you $19.99 for a single unit, and $29.99 for a pair.
A second virtual joystick option is the JOYSTICK-IT, exclusively from ThinkGeek. It appears to work similarly to the Fling, simulating a joystick on a touch screen, but it has a different design, more similar to an arcade joystick than a controller thumbpad. However, it still appears to work as an analog joystick for 3D games and dual-stick shooters – it would be curious to see a joystick work to simulate a digital joystick, if it was at all possible. While the JOYSTICk-IT is more expensive than the Fling, running $24.99 for one and $39.99 for a set of two, the shape could be preferable for some people, and give a more arcade-like experience.
Also coming from ThinkGeek and ION Audio is the iCADE. This was originally a joke product from ThinkGeek on April Fool’s Day, but similar to products like the Tauntaun sleeping bag going from joke to real product, the iCADE is soon to be real as well. This lets you dock the iPad into a miniature arcade cabinet, that features an arcade-style joystick and 8 buttons, for any various configuration of games. The iCade connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, and claims to offer support via an API for other apps to support it. iCADE will support Asteroids and other Atari arcade games at launch, though. It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to a device like this, and if it’s allowed, although external game controllers have been theoretically allowable since iOS 3.0, as long as they’re Apple-approved devices, but no company has gotten on releasing one. There’s theoretically no reason why a Bluetooth controller shouldn’t be allowed, as a dock accessory would have to work through its own API as well. The iCADE is still in development, and is “Coming Soon” – but here’s hoping for April 1st just for the sake of irony.
However, most of these control options are designed for the iPad and other tablet devices – for gamers on the iPhone and iPod touch, their physical control options are more limited. One of the most intriguing physical control options for these smaller devices is the iControlPad from Craig Rothwell, who has worked on the Open Pandora handheld. This device communicates over Bluetooth, and offers support with a variety of different protocols, though it will work as a Bluetooth keyboard in its most basic mode, with the d-pad, 4 face buttons, and 2 rear buttons each mapped to a keyboard keypress. The iControlPad isn’t just a gamepad either – it has a built-in 1350 mAh battery that supports a generic USB output so you can charge a variety of phones and devices with it. iControlPad is also future-proof, as it uses a clamp system to support a variety of phones – including iPhone and iPod touch sized devices, and smaller Android phones. A larger clamp set is in the works to support larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy S line.
Unfortunately, the iControlPad might be of limited use for non-jailbroken iOS users. According to Craig Rothwell, one of the designers of the iControlPad, the odds that Apple would allow support for the profiles that support the analog joysticks are low, though if apps can use keyboard input as game commands, the iControlPad could be supported through that. Considering that a device like the iCADE exists and offers similar Bluetooth control, there is a chance that games could actually support it in the legitimate App Store, if Apple approved it, though Craig Rothwell has said before that Apple would not approve apps that support the iControlPad’s API. He and the rest of the iControlPad team have been in touch with some iOS developers about implementing the iControlPad into their apps, though these would likely be jailbroken-only apps. Android apps are more in luck; due to the OS’s less restrictive policies, many apps already support Bluetooth gamepads, and so they would be able to easily support the iControlPad. The iControlPad is currently in production, and the first batch of units should be shipping out in the next month.
It will be interesting to see if any of these devices catch on in any meaningful way, or if they’ll just be devices for gaming enthusiasts looking to simulate the feel of gaming controls on their touch screen devices in any way. As some of these devices start to ship out to customers and as new controller solutions are potentially announced, we’ll have the latest news and impressions of these devices.
If you think about it, iOS devices are capable computers, able to fit into our pockets or assorted bags. With a variety of musical apps and sound outputs available, why not be able to use them to produce music? While apps that use the touchscreen to simulate musical instruments have been made available, there’s been little in the way of support for actual musical instruments in iOS yet. Well, with the addition of support of the CoreMIDI protocol to iOS 4.2, iOS devices now support a variety of MIDI-capable musical instruments. Hooking them up to your device is the next step – enter iConnect MIDI.
This device from iConnectivity allows you to plug in MIDI devices – 2 through 5-pin DIN MIDI ports, and up to 8 through USB hubs plugged in to the USB ports, with support for output through 2 USB ports that support computers and 3rd generation and up (iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 3rd generation) iOS devices, and 2 5-pin DIN MIDI ports. This video shot at the National Association of Music Merchants show shows several keyboards and drum pads hooked up through iConnect MIDI to an iPad and iPod touch, as an attendee and a couple of iConnectivity employees play a song together, all generated by iOS devices hooked up to iConnect MIDI.
iConnect MIDI appears to work with a variety of hardware, given the flexibility of the MIDI interface – it’s just a question of the apps that support the CoreMIDI libraries, and the developers that are willing to make them. iConnect MIDI doesn’t just work with music, either – as this video shows, it can work with remote control of lighting systems too:
Even as a geek whose most musical experience comes from Rock Band, I can appreciate how impressive this looks – this could mean wonders for music creation as more music apps begin to support CoreMIDI and allow for musicians to use their instruments with their iOS devices to help facilitate music creation wherever. iConnectivity have yet to announce a release date or price for iConnect MIDI, but will be showing off the device at Macworld 2011, January 27-29.
Just in time for this holiday season Discovery Bay Games’ has introduced its newest iPad accessory, Duo ($40). By using physical game pieces in conjunction with the virtual interface of the iPad, Duo takes us one more step towards the Tron world of the tomorrow. To be anything more than a paper weight though Duo must be paired up with one of Discovery Bay Games’ specially made apps which currently only includes Yoomi, but more are promised to be coming soon.
Yoomi is a game where players take turns secretly answering questions like “would you prefer to fly to the moon or dive to the bottom of the ocean?” Once answered the other players attempt to guess which response the first chose. It’s a game very reminiscent of Apples to Apples but with a new and fresh feel that the whole family can enjoy. Explaining in writing how the pair works together would be an nightmare, so I’ve included a much more colorful video below to help keep everyone’s attention…you’re welcome. If you’re interested though Yoomi is currently free on the App Store while Duo is being sold exclusively through Toys “R” Us.
4G, up to now, is the mythical double rainbow that AT&T just can’t seem to find. While other carriers are moving to a 4G standard, AT&T hasn’t quite grasped the new technology, meaning that your Apple devices will be stuck in 3G land if you are stuck with AT&T.
There is a solution though, and it comes in a cute little, Magic Mouse-like package. The iSpot, from Clearwire, is a 4G hotspot that connects up to 8 Apple devices (the device is configured to filter based on MAC address, so only Apple devices are allowed) to the 4G network via WiFi. You do have to be in a Clearwire area for it to work well, but if you are, you’ll get blinding 4G speeds that only space men have witnessed.
Unfortunately, unlike the PC version of the same product, the iSpot is unable to fall back to the 3G network if you aren’t in 4G range. So if you happen to live in the Phoenix, AZ metro area like myself, you are out of luck, but next time you go to Amarillo, TX, you’re golden. Needless to say, the coverage is spotty.
Check out the Clearwire website for pricing details, and that wonderful coverage map.
Update: Just for clarification, the iSpot’s (incredibly cheap) service plan is $25 and can only be used with iOS devices. Ars Technica reports that “the iSpot can’t be used to share a connection with a laptop or another non-iOS device unless a Clear rep unlocks it and bumps the service fee to the standard $40 monthly CLEAR Spot 4G plan.”
As iPhone owners may know, it’s far from a perfect device, and its US carrier is far from perfect either. Heading out to one of the biggest celebrations of geek culture, the infamous San Diego Comic-Con, for the first time, I realized how much these issues will come to light when you’re out and about with thousands of your closest fellow geeks, nerds, otaku, et cetera. I came back with 4 important things to remember the next time I or any other iPhone owner heads out to a big trip with their iPhone in tow.
1. Phones will die. Prepare accordingly.
The iPhone is not a paragon of extensive battery life. Thankfully, the various extended life battery packs that are available can be a lifesaver for the iPhone owner. If you’re heading out to Comic-Con, picking up a couple is a very good idea, as otherwise your phone will die. Some columnists would make it a point to say “you’re hanging out with real people, enjoy their presence,” but we all know sometimes you need to check your tweets, or text someone to figure out what’s going on. Having an actual working phone is better than not having one, and a backup battery will go a long way towards preventing that from happening.
Now, you’ll want to make sure that your backup battery actually works. I had 2 batteries to help charge my iPhone, a 1900 mAh battery, and an 800 mAh battery that was small enough to carry around as a key fob. I hadn’t charged my larger capacity backup battery in months, and a few days before I left, I decided to charge it up, only to discover that I hadn’t used it in so long that it wouldn’t hold a charge. Well, no matter, I still had my 800 mAh backup battery, which charges via mini USB, and I had a mini USB wall charger that I brought along with my camera. But the fool in me failed to make sure said wall charger would work with my backup battery. I sure regretted this when I discovered it wouldn’t charge, and I had no mini USB cable with me as well, somehow. I was at the mercy of my 2 year old iPhone 3G’s stock battery. It suffered at times, to say the least.
For those of you who doubt the capabilities of the iPhone 4 for photo taking and editing, the cover of the September issue of Macworld is made entirely on an iPhone 4.
Macworld’s contributing photographer, Peter Selanger, who has “shot almost every photograph in the pages of the magazine over the past few years”, had apparently been “tinkering with the idea of shooting a Macworld cover with an iPhone for some time”. When he saw that the iPhone 4 was going to have a high-quality 5 megapixel camera, the time became now.
Using only the regular camera (no soldered on lens of any kind) and two apps, Perer was able to make a high quality shot, pretty enough for a cover, of none other than the iPhone 4 itself.
“For the most part, my strategy for photographing the cover didn’t change from how I normally would shoot,” Peter says in a blog post about the process. “I still had my normal set with lots of lights, flags and stands. I did have to change my light source from strobes to tungsten lights because the iPhone can’t sync with studio strobes.”
“The iPhone’s Retina display was truly awesome,” he says. “I was really able to see the detail in the photo as I was shooting. It made me wish Apple produced all its monitors this way. The final photo was dust-free and looked great. I was extremely impressed with the detail that the iPhone was able to capture.”
In case anyone wants to know, Peter used PhotoForge for some minor color correcting and Resize-Photo to make the shot large enough for the magazine cover.
Instead of making people go into Apple Stores, or even worse, submit mail-in rebates, for their free iPhone 4 bumpers or cases (if you don’t know why you’re getting a case, click here), Apple has created an app for the process.
The app tracks your phone by its IMEA, so you can’t get a duplicate case or a second case with someones 3G.
Also, be sure to read the policy on the iTunes page so you get the process done in the correct time frame. Don’t expect to hold off til October and get a case, Apple won’t have it.
It’s a shame that every company isn’t so crafty with its rebates.
Let me set the tone for this article. First, I think the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone ever created. And I think Apple should be proud of it and hold it up as an example of exemplary engineering and design. But it has a small issue that crops up for a certain number of users. That said, Apple has a PR crisis on their hands. They are partially to blame, and this press conference did very little to help their current nightmare.
Apple started off the press conference by showing the following YouTube video. Interesting that they started off with a little bit of humor for something that so many people are so passionate about. Here’s that video.
What’s the problem, Steve?
Next up, Steve Jobs came on stage wearing his usual uniform of acid washed jeans and a black turtleneck, and told the crowd that Apple made a mistake but wants to make their customers happy.
“We’re not perfect. Phones aren’t perfect. We know that, you know that. But we want to make all our users happy. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Apple. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do that.
“We’re going to talk about the problems and the data we’ve got. The iPhone 4 is perhaps the best product we’ve ever made at Apple. We’ve sold well over 3 million since we launched it just over 3 weeks ago. It’s been judged the number one smartphone by a variety of publications (ed. note: including Cosumer Reports) — people seem to like it.
It has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any iPhone, and of any smartphone. However, we started getting some reports about people getting issues with the antenna system. People have been seeing a large drop in bars, and this has been since dubbed antennagate.”
Steve then went on to show video demonstrations of other phones suffering a drop in bars from death grips of their own. This included the Blackberry Bold 9700 dropping from 5 bars to 1, the HTC Droid Eris Android phone going from 4 to 0 bars, and the Samsung Omnia 2 Windows Mobile phone going from 5 bars to 1. “This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren’t perfect.” said Steve Jobs. More details on those test are available on the Apple site.
This wasn’t typical classy Apple. They don’t usually show product faults in others. An interesting PR change from Apple we’ve seen in the last keynote (comparisons with Android), and this one. Apple going on the defensive and not staying on their high ground. I, for one, don’t like it.
But, nevertheless, this is an interesting demonstration. But what they didn’t address is if this drop in bars also had the effect of immediately dropping calls or data connections like is seen in the iPhone 4 under very specific instances.
Again, from Steve Jobs “We screwed up on our algorithm. Again, all smartphones seem to do this — we haven’t figured out our way around the laws of physics. Yet.”
Apple then went on to share some unprecedented data with us on how prolific this problem really is, or in this case isn’t. Of all owners, 0.55% have called AppleCare about the issue. This turns out to be about 16,500 users calling in on the issue. You have to wonder though, how many of those user actually have the problem on a regular basis and how many are calling just because they heard there was a problem.
Return rates are astonishingly low. In the early days of the iPhone 3GS release, AT&T were seeing around a 6% return rate. Pretty low rates for a smartphone. The return rates for the iPhone 4 have been just 1.7% — an amazingly low number.
The final stat shared was drop rates using data pulled directly from AT&T. This is where the iPhone 4 actually has a worse record. According to the records from AT&T, the iPhone 4 has less than 1% more dropped calls per 100 calls. Not a large number. So what, the iPhone 4 drops 98 calls out of 100 and the iPhone 3GS drops 97 out of 100 on AT&T? (that’s humor, folks)
Now the real question — if AT&T can tell the dropped calls, why can’t they automatically credit you for them? Why do you have to call in for each dropped call to get credit? But, back to Apple.
Steve mentioned that he has gotten over 5,000 emails from people saying that their iPhone 4 works fine and can’t figure out the problem. And he re-itterated that Apple cares about all of their users and are not going to stop until every one of them is happy.
And even all this bad press hasn’t hurt the sales of the iPhone 4. They are selling every one that they can make and report this as their most successful product launch ever.
Ok, that’s all good, and falling bars is an issue, true. But it’s not the real issue and Apple failed to really address that the issue was the physical design of the device and some strange body chemistry issues.
Cover up that Achilles heel, but with style.
Apple took a chance with the external antenna design of the iPhone 4. And while in many ways that paid off with an antenna better than any phone ever made — not to mention a pretty striking look — it also exposed a serious weak point. This lower left spot where two antennas meet is the root of the issue. The “spot” is the Achilles heel of the fantastic design of the iPhone 4. And even though Apple failed to specifically say it, for now there’s just one solution. Cover it up. Put a case on your beautiful iPhone 4.
Now the truth is not everyone will need to put a case on their iPhone 4 to insulate it. It depends somewhat on your body chemistry and how you use your phone. But for a certain percentage of users, this is the only workaround. For some people if they touch that spot and bridge those two antennas, you don’t block the signal — it would seem to be impossible to block a signal from a 5 inch long antenna with a 1/4 inch touch from as little as a fingertip. But what you are doing is scrambling something that causes a near instant drop in a call or stoppage of data transfer.
So for those iPhone 4 owners that want it, Apple will be giving free cases for iPhone 4s purchased through the end of September. These won’t all be bumpers — and may not be any bumpers at all. Apple says they can’t make enough bumpers to wrap one around every iPhone 4 so they will have a variety of cases that people can choose from. If you have already bought a bumper from Apple, they will refund the cost to you though.
You will be able to go to the Apple web site starting next week to either request your refund or order from a variety of cases.
Proximity sensor fix coming
Another common complaint about the iPhone 4 has to do the the proximity sensor. That’s the sensor that turns off the screen and stops your cheek from pressing buttons when you put the phone up to you ear. Some users are seeing it stay on or flash on and off and this can lead to ending calls or dialing numbers while on a call. Apple says a fix for that will be in the next iOS update.
Does it come in white?
An update on the white iPhone 4. It will begin shipping in late July in limited quantities.
Where do we go from here?
Following the announcements, Apple opened for a little Q&A with the invited press. The questions were pretty standard stuff with most reporters asking the same questions that has just been answered. Apple specifically invites friendly reporters to events where they will have Q&A sessions at, so nothing too hard ball was thrown. The hardest questions were skirted deftly and without the slightest pushback from the attending press. The toughest question came from Ryan Block of the great gadget site, gdgt. He asked specifically about the Achilles heel issue we’ve seen with a single finger stopping instantly the data connection or dropping a call. This was not really answered but the same mantra reiterated that your body can be an effective signal absorber. I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing in this specific case, as I said above. But that was the answer.
Also asked was why Apple is only providing cases through September. And the answer was that they are looking at other options. I think this means that they are looking for ways to really fix the issue. Perhaps a clear coat on the antenna that will insulate it — or an internal solution to fix the issue. So in September I think we’ll see one of two things happen. Either a revision of the iPhone 4 that fixes the problem, or an extension of the free case program. That will also inform what kind of design we will see for the next iPhone. As I’m sure we won’t see the same design unless the issue can be resolved.
Interestingly, when Steve announced the free cases, Apple stock price jumped up about 4 points or around 2%. Almost immedately after it fell back 3 points.
You can hold it like this, or like this, or like this! (Image source: Engadget)
In whole, I think this whole issue says more about Apple as a company. As they grow, and they have grown considerably over the past few years, the family expands. And as that family expands it will grow from from a tight knit group of informed friendly fans to a group that includes people that like to cause trouble and complain just because that is their nature. You know the kind of person I’m talking about. This is the new problem that Apple needs to figure out. But I think their message to those people was pretty clear today. Apple will give you a way to workaround this issue for free. If you don’t like it, they’ll give you all your money back.
And because of those complainers, I’m not sure if this PR nightmare is over. Those complainers want a hard fix, not a workaround. I hope this has at least informed the majority of people to what the problems are and how Apple will answer those problems. But then again, Apple may not have been as honest with their response as they should have been either. So maybe they didn’t help.
Either way, the answer is the same. If you have a problem with the antenna, put a case on it. If that doesn’t work for you, return it.
Now, can we all move on to something else? Some other topic? Can we start talking about the next iPod Touch? What about Apple TV? Anything, not no more antennas!
Want to watch the press conference? Apple has put it up for all to watch. Though it doesn’t contain the Q&A that followed.
Apple have also put up some information on their $100 million dollar antenna testing labs.
Most people who have seen my new iPad react with the same question, “should I get this or the Kindle?” Apple, obviously, intended its iPad to be perceived as much more than an eBook reader. Yet the much publicized launch of the iBookstore, along with the iPad’s slim form factor, have led many consumers to perceive the iPad as an expensive eBook reader.
The Kindle is the Premier eBook Reader
Amazon's Kindle 2
The Kindle was launched solely as an eBook reader and is marketed as such. Jeff Bezos, on introducing the device, said of the Kindle that “it’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.” Amazon has definitely done much of the legwork in improving the acceptability of the eBook as a new medium for written material. Amazon’s true innovation was bringing E-Ink technology to the consumer market, along with doing the technical legwork to simplify the reading experience. At its core, the Kindle is a delivery device – a user purchases a book as they would online and finds it available for reading seconds later.
The reading experience does everything it can to mimic the experience of paper, all of which is aided by E-Ink. The screen is technology’s response to those who complained that they would never be able to read a book on a traditional LCD screen or a laptop. The Kindle itself is merely the size of a large paperback and is lighter than most printed books. The Kindle is Bezos’ effort to translate the book for the digital age, and he has largely succeeded in providing a popular and widely accepted new platform.
The iPad as an eBook Reader
Apple's iPad with iBooks
The iPad has benefited from terrific interest from both book publishers and book retailers. As a consequence we’ve seen innovative new packages like the Vook and traditional books from retailers like B&N, Amazon, and more. While the Kindle has a terrific – and probably the largest – bookstore, the iPad offers more choices for where you get your ebooks.
There’s Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle reading app, B&N’s new iPad reader, and more. The three largest players each offer different solutions to the eBook problem. iBooks tries to mimic the feel of a physical book, utilizing a color UI with beautifully rendered page turns. The Kindle’s UI is black and white and encourages the same type of user interaction as the physical Kindle – a simple tap on the side of the screen changes pages in a fluid transition not as visually distracting as that of iBooks. B&N’s app allows users to choose from dozens of different visual settings but maintains the same fluid page transitions as Amazon’s Kindle app. Only the iBooks app has a store in-app; the others force the reader to go to Safari to purchase books. This is a definite snag in the clear workflow Bezos presented with the original Kindle, but one that I’m sure both B&N and Amazon will surmount in future applications.
The iPad’s reflective LCD screen probably isn’t the best for simply reading a book. It’s a pain in the sun, where it’s nearly impossible to see the text on a page. E-Ink mainly solves this problem with its screen. People who have issues reading for long periods of time on their laptops may wish to reconsider an iPad purchase if it’s intended solely as an eBook reader. While the reading experience is cleaner and more enjoyable, it’s the same experience as the backlit screens most notebooks include. In addition, the iPad’s battery life is rated at 10 hours, enough for most commuters but nowhere near the weeks the Kindle can last for.
The iPad as a Platform: Bigger Than Books
A Vook on the iPad
The key differentiator between the two comes when we move beyond the simple eBook reading features. The Kindle includes a browser, but not one that functions nearly as well as the iPad’s. It’s black and white and renders incredibly slowly due to the E-Ink screen technology. The iPad’s Safari browser is widely regarded as one of the best on a mobile platform.
I’ve always seen the iPad as more than a traditional book reader as well. The Kindle simply translates the book reading experience into the digital age but strives not to completely alter the way we experience books. New features like Amazon’s Popular Highlights add subtle suggestions about the importance of a passage but do not redefine the reading workflow. Cool ideas like the aforementioned Vook change the reading experience by adding videos, multimedia, more information about certain topics (with links) and more. Could the iPad help the form of the written word change? Only time, and developers, will tell.
Those of you struggling with the decision to purchase an iPad or a Kindle might want to do some soul searching. What do you want from your portable device? Just books and nothing more? Buy a Kindle – that’s what it’s meant for. But if you’re looking for a small computer, with thousands of different and innovative new applications that could redefine reading, the iPad is for you.