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.
We got an email this afternoon from Soonleader, a Chinese accessory maker that they’ve already started producing some cases for the next generation iPhone. You know, the one that hasn’t even been officially announced yet. In their note, they mention that they have taken a molding of the next generation iPhone. We can only assume that molding is from the one of many that have seemingly escaped the usual Apple tight security.
Here are a couple pictures of the new cases. They seem to have all of the ports in the right places for the pictures we’ve seen so far. Check the Soonleader site for more pictures.
While we already knowa lotabout the next iPhone. I’m pretty sure there are some things we do not know yet. Those things will likely be revealed next Monday at the WWDC Keynote. And immediately after I’m sure we will be deluged with case designs and accessories from other manufacturers.
After the media circus surrounding Gizmodo and its potentially lost/stolen iPhone 4G prototype last month, it seems there’s another iPhone 4G in the wild. Possibly not a prototype this time.
Mac Rumors has been provided with a link to a Vietnamese forum, Taoviet.vn, where more pictures of the new iPhone have been posted. According to a Mac Rumors’ source, the device was purchased in the USA along with an iPad. The device is shown from a number of new angles and a teardown of the product is also shown.
A video of the device has been posted to YouTube (see below).
Little new information has been provided by these pictures, however the iPhone’s casing shows that it’s a 16GB model, whereas Gizmodo’s featured XXXGB on the back.
The casing appears more polished on this version with no screws found near the dock connector, suggesting that this is a near finished product. However, in the photos and video, the phone appears to be running some kind of diagnostic firmware and doesn’t look like it responds to presses on the home button. In the teardown images, what looks like a processor with Apple branding can also bee seen.
This new information is set against the sad backdrop of yet another suicide at Hon Hai Group in China where Apple’s iPhones are manufactured. This is the sixth death at Hon Hai this year and follows Hon Hai’s suspension of a member of its security team after a worker killed himself when an iPhone prototype was lost.
After Jason Chen, Gizmodo’s editor, had his home raided by police and his computers and other items taken as part of an ongoing investigation, this Vietnamese poster is playing a risky game. It also brings into question whether or not the “found it in a bar” story from Gizmodo (and its mystery iPhone seller) is likely to hold up now that two iPhone 4G models have surfaced.
Either people are being extremely careless with these valuable prototypes and two have been “lost” by Apple employees in the US or a more serious crime has been committed. This might also explain the shock and awe of the raid on Jason Chen’s house should the police have reason to believe that the Gizmodo iPhone was part of a wider theft.
Either way, our advice to the Vietnamese man in the video above – don’t include your face in footage of you holding a potentially stolen product, it never ends well.
UPDATE:Pre-orders are now available for international iPad models and accessories via Apple’s online stores.
After a long wait, Apple has announced details of the launch and pricing for iPads outside of the US. On Friday, May 28, iPads will go on sale in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Pre-orders will open on Monday, May 10.
Although the press release is ambiguous, it appears that both the Wi-Fi and 3G models will be available on this date and not staggered as with the US launch.
Only the UK prices have been unveiled so far and, as expected, they are not mere conversions of the US dollar price. Prices start at £429 (inc. VAT) for the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad, £499 for the 32GB model and £599 for the 64GB iPad. Wi-Fi and 3G iPads will be priced at £529, £599 and £699 respectively for the 16, 32 and 64GB models. Prices for iPad accessories are expected to be announced at launch. iPad accessories are also available for pre-order via Apple’s online stores.
At £429 for the cheapest iPad compared to $499 in the US, there is a significant markup for the European market which could have expected a price of around £338 for a straight USD to GBP conversion. Apple claims that the higher cost abroad is due to higher taxes and shipping costs with all UK prices including VAT.
Apple has also announced that it plans to sell the iPad in Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July with prices to follow.
The original international iPad launch was pushed back last month after Apple experienced a “surprisingly strong US demand” that saw the company sell over one million units in just 28 days. This lead many in the UK and other countries to purchase the device via eBay and other services providing a way to ship iPads from the US. While a dedicated iPad App Store doesn’t yet exist in the UK, a number of iPad apps are available if searched for.
Should both Wi-Fi and 3G models go on sale at the same time in the UK and other countries it will be interesting to see the demand for each type device with as many as three networks providing data plans for the 3G model in the UK.
Since the iPad announcement a few weeks ago, a number of big giant questions marks have popped up about the device. There are so many fundemental things that just don’t seem to connect. So much that we don’t know.
Apple is, playing this as they do so well, the masterful marketing machine at Apple is running at full steam. Leaving out some of these details could lead up to a last minute One more thing… announcement by Apple, or could be a spin of the fact that Apple was left a little short on development of the next version of the OS for the device.
Either planned slow release of information or covering up for OS release delays, the result is whetting the appetite of the consumers and increasing the buzz and the demand for the device.
For as long as I can remember cell phones being around I can remember people questioning whether or not they’re safe. The argument has always seemed to center around cell phone radiation, and more recently bluetooth & Wifi waves. The bluetooth and Wifi scares have pretty much dissolved by being labeled as pure conspiracy theories, but the radiation concerns continue to surface every few months. With each study that comes out though it becomes more obvious that we just don’t know the long term risks of RF radiation exposure This article gives a little more insight into the potential jeopardy we’re in while at the same time the FDA is stating that “the available scientific evidence does not demonstrate any adverse health effects associated with the use of mobile phones.” With all of these mixed signals and unknown effects I wonder if the theoretical brain tumors and Alzheimer’s we could contract 20 years down the line is really the number one thing we should be worried about? Continue reading Radiation vs. Germs ~ Which Should Worry You More? »
A stylus? Psh, get rid of it. A physical keyboard? Nah, no need for that either. Tactile feedback is a thing of the past, all we need is a big glass touch screen…right? Well that’s what Apple would have you believe anyway, a theory that is further being cemented with their upcoming release of the iPad. On a basic level it seems to be very true, we’re able to text, surf the web, take photos, all without any physical buttons or keys. What about high level gaming though, is that a different story? If you’d asked me 3 years ago I would’ve said “there’s no way for it to be done. We’re humans, touch is one of our basic senses, we need it.” Over the past several months though with games like N.O.V.A and Need For Speed Shift, or even classic ports like Wolfenstein, I’ve become more of a believer in the future. Not everyone is so ready to give up on game controllers, one such company being iControlPad.
The iControlPad has been in beta testing and undergoing redesigns since last May but as of February 18th the company has stated mass production has begun. The iControlPad can already be used with classic game emulators and the company is seeding a SDK to anyone interested in supporting the device. Two models are to be made, one with a built-in battery pack, one without. Based on early videos and screen shots the controls appear to work flawlessly with no lag at all. Here’s the catch, and it’s a big one, the iControlPad only works on phones that are Jailbroken. I’m not sure exactly why that is since we know iPhone 3.0 does support accessory plugin’s but it’s very clear that it must be Jailbroken. There are a couple of hints on the site that indicate they may be working on standard OS supported version but there certainly aren’t any promises made. All hope is not lost though for those who wish to keep their iPhones pure and sacred, the Game Bone Pro is coming. Continue reading iControlPad Adds Joysticks to Your iPhone…If it’s Jailborken »
Wireless charging stations have been creating a lot of waves over the past few months and were certainly a big focus at CES, but will they ever really take off? Certainly the market is becoming pretty competitive; I can think of 3 companies selling them off the top of my head (Powermat, WildCharge, and CaseMate). While the concept is theoretically very useful and has a cool, futuristic feel to it, they’re all currently hindered by one major factor, they all require a special case. One of the major sell points for these platforms is the idea of reducing the cables needed to charge multiple devices, but is adding a special case any better? First off, each case is an added expense and more than likely all of the devices you own won’t have a case designed for them, i.e. iPod nano, digital camera, extra battery pack, etc. Instead one company, blueLounge, has taken a slightly more practical approach to the cable management situation.
The Refresh ($89.95) charging station was designed to be a catch-all for personal mobile electronics. Constructed with both functionality and style in mind the Refresh comes in 3 different stylish colors (white, pink, and black) with a very modern feel. The rubberized lid prevents devices from sliding around and is large enough to accommodate 3 or more items depending on their size. Concealed below the lid are 6 built in connectors, 2 iPod/iPhone connectors, both a Mini & Micro USB cable, and 2 empty USB sockets to be used as needed. Additional connectors for specific devices can also be bought for $5.95 directly from their site. Each of the cables can reach up around the lower lip of the lid to start charging any of the up to 6 devices. The Refresh is a great addition to any home with numerous mobile devices and cables. Continue reading Wired vs. Wireless Charging »
Choosing a case is one of those important first steps that you take after buying an iPhone. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken too lightly or made too hastily. I’ve seen far too many anxious people run over to the case wall at the Apple Store, get drawn in by the bright colors and cool textures, find the perfect match, and returning it weeks later because they didn’t pay attention to the little things. What are those little things? Well, much like buying a vehicle to drive around small children, safety should be your first priority.
Hard vs. Soft Cases
Every great case debate begins with the topic of Hard vs. Soft and which one provides better protection? While there’s no simple answer and it really needs to be taken on a case by case (no pun intended) basis, some conclusions have been reached by the iPhone community. The whole argument behind using a rubber or silicon case for protection comes from the idea of lengthening the time of impact, similar to crumple zones on cars. This was once a valid point when iPod Classics (with mechanical hard drives) ruled the iPod world. Nowadays though the solid-state memory of the iPhone/iPod Touch makes them far more durable and only really susceptible to outer case or screen damage, leaving case debates to the topics of aesthetics, longevity, features, etc.
3D TV is being pushed from all angles and today Sony has pulled the cloth off of its first Blue-ray players officially being labeled as 3D capable. The BDP-S470 player is expected to have a firmware update by mid summer which will support 1080p playback and should be shipping “on or around March 18th” for only $200. iPhone users get an extra bonus as this player can be controlled by the new BD Remote App developed by SONORAN BLUE. The app sports both a simple or full remote view plus a soft keyboard and provides additional disc information. The S470 is just the first of many new devices said to support this remote option including the new BDV-E770W & E570 Home Theatre Systems.
No official word has come down from SONORAN yet but many fans are begging for them to build in PS3 support. If this was done, an iPhone user could pair up with a product like the L5 remote and have a true universal remote capable of competing with a Logitech Harmony.
Years ago with the introduction of the iPod Photo (the first color screen iPod) came a great idea, the ability to add photos directly onto an iPod while on the go. Since SD cards were so expensive for a very small amount of storage space this was huge break through for casual and professional photographers alike. Apple was the first to add support with it’s own SD Card Dock Connector followed by a few 3rd party makers. Slowly the need for the adapter died off as SD Cards became drastically cheaper. zoomMediaPlus has given the concept a rebirth with the release of it’s new product zoomIt for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Paired with it’s free app, also named zoomIt, the SD reader adds new features the vintage versions never could.
The zoomIt app, essentially a file manger, allows you to copy photos and other supported file types, music, movies, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF’s, etc., both to and from an SD card. Any of these can be viewed/listened to through the zoomIt app only photos have the ability to interface with another native app (the camera roll). zoomIt also includes built in support for sharing files via e-mail, Facebook and Flickr and the newest update has added the ability to read write protected SD cards. The reader will be shipping in April for $59.95 but pre-orders are being taken now with a $10 discount.
It’s worth noting though that Apple also announced a similar dock adapter which includes usb support for the iPad at only $30. Currently there’s no telling whether this will work on an iPhone or if the zoomIt will work on the iPad so it may be worth holding out until March when more details will surface before taking the $60 plunge.
Dual Electronics has updated their site promising that the XGPS300 Navigation Cradle for the iPod Touch, originally expected in November ’09, will be shipping later this February. The cradle offers GPS support for all models of the iPod Touch and comes bundled with a Windshield Mount kit and the NavAtlas App all for the price of $179.99. While some critics have taken aim at the price point claiming it to be too steep for a consumer who might as well buy a dedicated standalone GPS unit, there are some features of this that might make the expense a little easier to swallow.
Adding significant value to the deal is the battery pack portion of the cradle which can be switched on and off as necessary. Whether it be to keep the GPS from draining all of the touch’s power or simply as a power boost to keep the it kicking, the XGPS300 is capable of doubling its battery life. Battery pack cases alone usually cost between $60-$100, not to mention that this also means you’re not tethered to your car. Unlike many other standalone GPS units, which get all of their power from the cigarette lighter, this one can be taken hiking, biking, swimming…well maybe not swimming, but you get the idea. Continue reading GPS for an iPod Touch, Coming in February »
Before the smoke has even cleared from the iPad announcement yesterday, some accessory makers are already showing off some new products to go with it. iLuv is amongst the first to unveil a new line of products, full of carrying cases, hard and soft, as well as a few types of screen protectors. Interestingly enough, iLuv has promised these items to be available in February, a bit premature since no one will be able to hold an iPad until March or April, but hey, better early to the game than (insert cliché here). Check out more of their products after the break. Continue reading iLuv Already Showing Off iPad Accessories »
iPad, a name formed from a hybrid between the iPod and a pad of paper, was revealed to the world at a two hour Apple event finishing less than an hour ago. The new touch screen computer is a kind of giant iPod running a custom version of iPhone OS, 3.2, the SDK for which is available now to ADC members.
Featuring a 9.7” multitouch display for use with all 10 fingers at once, the iPad looks very similar to an iPhone zoomed up to around 300% scale. The same home button adorns the right (or bottom) of the display depending on if you’re using it in horizontal or vertical orientation, and it’s about half an inch thick, dimensions achieved thanks to Apple’s new custom hardware architecture.
In addition to the usual Apple touch screen apps (Music, Photos, Maps, Calendars), all of which have been customized with fairly stunning interfaces in Apple’s reincarnation of the tablet, iWork has been ported to the touch screen ($10 per application – so $30 if you want to make presentations, write documents and edit spreadsheets on the go) complete with brand new interface designs to make the most of touch, and the huge QWERTY keyboard, which appears to be more suitable for using on the lap with two hands than with rhythmic thumb jabbing as we’ve seen from iPhone and similar devices.
Also featured is Apple’s attempt at an eBook reader, which I didn’t hold out too much hope for before launch. Once again Apple have produced a versatile user interface, using finger actions on screen to turn the page and an ‘App Store’ style book shop with best sellers priced at $14.99, and older novels as low as $4.99 in the industry standard ePub format, wrapped, presumably, in custom DRM.
Third party apps were also on display, with Apple setting a ‘two week’ challenge to a small subset of developers, who got to play with the iPad for two weeks prior to the event and create some prototype applications. EA demonstrated racing on the touch screen with Need for Speed, the New York Times showed a version of their paper with built in video clips and NBA showed a new version of their application with live, full screen match highlights – all fairly standard fare. Continue reading Underwhelmed by Apple’s Touch of Creativity »
TechCrunch recently put up an article that showed off some pictures of a “leaked” tablet from a designer named Dustin Curtis. Dustin timed his fakes pretty well, and will probably end up getting quite a few calls for work after this. These in my opinion (and many others) are possibly the best fakes to date. I would not be surprised if this is very close to the actual device itself. With the hype generators going strong leading up to tomorrow’s announcement I’m simply amazed at how much information, speculation and intrigue are being produced around a device that technically does not even exist yet.
Some of you may be asking though, why is there so much hype around this device? For me, my interest levels went through the roof after watching some videos of what the device could be capable of. I believe quite a few of the big industry players in film, games, books, and music have all got early access to the device to create remarkable interactive experiences. Some prototypes, and design concepts have been shown.
*Update Apple Stores are reported to be currently selling them for $69.95, no word yet on if a price fix is in the works or if this is an exclusive deal
Only 7 months after the original press release Belkin’s new TuneCast Auto Live iPhone FM transmitter, which was originally tagged as being the first iPhone 3.0 accessory, is finally shipping. Physically the transmitter doesn’t look any different then many of the other transmitters on the market currently. It charges through the car’s 12-volt lighter outlet and connects through the dock adapter with a control module in between. What makes this one special though is the app, ClearSacn Live, that goes along with it. Not only can users manually control all of the frequencies from the iPhone interface but the ClearScan function uses the iPhone’s GPS locater (apparently this only works with a 3GS) to automatically find the strongest frequency for the best audio quality. The transmitter is retailing for $79.99 and the app is now on the App Store for free.
As a rule, I try not to review iPhone cases, mainly because they are a dime a dozen and really all depend on your own personal taste. Every once in a while though I come across one that offers a little something extra, a flavor thats been missing, one thats just…special. Today that case is the OtterBox Defender. Unlike most other case makers out there OtterBox is known for designing with quality in mind opposed to flooding the market with cheap pieces of junk. The Defender series for the iPhone 3G/3GS is no different and built with one specific quality in mind, to protect.
In a very DEFCON like mentality, this class of cases come with three lines of defense.
1. A hard polycarbonate skeleton that fully encases the phone.
2. An airtight screen protector that protects all of the glass as well as the sensors on the front of the phone.
3. A soft but rugged silicone skin that surrounds the entire phone.
The hard skeleton shell which surrounds the phone contains three windows, two on the back one on the front. The two on the back are there to provide viewing accesses to the Apple logo and more importantly the camera. To date, this is the only case I’ve come across with a protective window for the camera itself. The window on the front is in fact the actual screen protector which is fully attached and sealed on the skeleton. The skeleton itself is designed to recess the screen by about a 1/4 inch, which is important to reduce the risk of cracking the screen if dropped on its face. The recessed screen and protector raise two of my only concerns with the case. The first being that the gap between your face and the screen makes it slightly uncomfortable to talk on, specifically in a noisy place that you need to press the phone harder to your ear in order to hear. The other being that screen protectors get scratched (that’s what they are supposed to do), but having one that is attached to my case means one of two things. Either I have to buy a screen protector for my screen protector, or I have to buy a new case every time the scratches get too bad. Not the end of the world but depending on how long it takes to get marred up it could quickly turn into an expensive proposition at $50 a case. Continue reading The Defender, a Case Built to Protect »
Endgadget is reporting that Apple will have a “Major” announcement ready for the public of their “New Creation” on January 27th at 10am. Now this has been known/speculated for a while, but this is the first time Apple has admitted that a “New Creation” will be unveiled at this event.
Make sure you find a good live blogging stream somewhere as this is going to be huge if the heavily rumored iSlate is what is going to be announced. If this changes things the way people are saying, I believe then we have just seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the app store is. That means a lot more work for us here at 148apps, as things could one day be 1.48million apps!
We’ll be following all the developments as it pertains to the app store, and how the device will use all the old games and apps. It’s not guaranteed that this new device will have backwards compatibility but I believe that it will, due to the crucial nature of that ability would be for launch. Imagine you opening your new device on day one, and having access to 100,000+ applications already tested and working for it.
So far my guesses are this:
1) Price point of $1000
2) Unexpected design
3) Two Models: 32gb 10″, 64gb 11″
4) Will run a modified version of iPhone OS4.
5) Typing will be on screen, and via foldout wireless bluetooth keyboard.
6) We’ll have to learn new gestures, and change the way we interact with touch screens.
I’ve personally never really believed it when someone would tell me that the iPhone’s camera isn’t bad for a phone. After all, I would take picture after picture and the majority would come out, usually with a string of words which I won’t repeat, blurry and unrecognizable. As I hustled around CES last week taking pictures and spilling coffee all over myself, it was actually Chris Hall who so graciously pointed out, in between laughs of course, that it was probably my pitifully shaky hands that was the problem and not the camera itself. As it turns out, he was right, for once, and for the past few days I’ve been using the Blur Tripod and have formed a new opinion regarding my camera phone.
Priced at $14.95, the Blur Tripod is exactly what you think it is, a tripod for an iPhone. A mini tripod to be precise, which stands about 5.5 inches off the ground or up to 8 inches if you extend the legs all the way. The unit itself comes in two separate parts, the legs and the adapter mount. The legs are made of ultra light weight aluminum wich keeps them portable while still remaining fairly durable. The mount is a simple plastic clip which uses a standard 1/4″ 20 thread camera screw size which makes it usable on most any tripod on the market. An extremely nice feature of this tripod is it’s adjustably, it can truly be manipulated to be able to take photos from nearly any angle you would ever need, however it does become a little unstable when shifted too far to one side. A helpful tip I found though is that while unstable for taking photos shifting the mount all of the way to one side can help in another way by doubling as a steady hand grip for shooting video.
In a recent press statement (which I had trouble tracking down), Virgin announced that they will be offering the iPhone in the “coming months” to Canadians (all indications are that it will be in February 2010). Recently here in Canada (Ryan, the author, is from Canada – ed.) we saw the addition of two more iPhone carriers in Bell and Telus but both offered very little in terms of competitive plans against the previous carrier, Rogers. As a consumer I was really hoping this increased competition would see an improvement in the available plans, but it appears that they all have a pact to not even make an effort. All of them offer almost the exact same plans, rates, and contracts with extremely little variation.
In most countries iPhone purchasers have the ability to pick up the devices for $199 on 2 year contracts, but not here in Canada. All 3 carriers offer 3 year contracts only. It also rumoured that Virgin will be offering the same forced 3 year contracts on us consumers. Now, Virgin has been establishing itself as a budget carrier with free phones, cheap plans, and generally the place to go if you are a very light phone user. So how they come at the release of the iPhone on their network should be very interesting. I believe that they have a real chance to steal a significant market share if they offer up something unique and flexible with this famous device. I’d love to see Virgin take a risk in it’s pricing structure and allow a la cart pricing plans, pay as you go data, and 2 year contracts. I’d even be willing to fork over an extra $100 at purchase to get one less year on my contract.
With this addition, we are one of the leading countries in terms of carrier choice for the iPhone, but sadly still behind on pricing and contract options. If Virgin misses this opportunity to steal a decent size of the market, I’ll be sad, because I really want to get one, but no one has provided what I’m looking for.
Admittedly, this has nothing directly to do with iDevices, apps, or developers… but Apple just released a 27″ iMac that every warm blooded human should want in their house. “Oh, my desk isn’t big enough!” Ma’am, buy a new desk.
Just think about how many apps you could view in iTunes, or how easy it would be to use the SDK on such a ginormous screen! Look, I’m reaching for relevance here.