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Tag Archives: Apple

Does Apple's latest iPod update offer enough?

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Late last week, Apple unveiled its latest update to its wildly popular iPod line, with new models of the iPod Shuffle, Nano and Touch versions. The iPod “Classic”, based around the same kind of form factor that the original iPod had nine years ago, didn’t get a refresh, but it didn’t get removed from the product lineup either. That’s probably just a matter of time, though — and it’s been a long time since Apple particularly seemed to care about the Classic.

Then again, it’s debatable that Apple’s not that interested in the low-end iPod market either. Sure, they’d still like your cash, that being the basis of any successful business, and there’s still a market for entry level players. But whether the new iPods are particularly worth chasing up, especially if you’re upgrading from an existing iPod is an interesting question. Let’s look at the iPod lines as they now stand.

I’ve never quite seen the point of the iPod Shuffle. Yes, I do understand that it plays music and works with iTunes. It’s just that, iPod branding aside, it’s never done much that other flash based players without screens didn’t do much cheaper. The new Shuffle returns buttons to the face of the player, but that’s something that Apple only got rid of with the revision before the last one!

Then there’s the Nano. The new screens look kind of cute, i’ll grant you, but this is a real tradeoff of functionality. In return for the new looks-like-an-iPhone style screen display, Apple’s ripped out the camera and the ability to play back video on the Nano completely. It’s just a music player, starting at $199, which isn’t that much cheaper than the entry level Touch.

The Touch, I will admit, has had a very nice looking makeover, grabbing the screen that makes the iPhone 4 look so good along with simple cameras on both sides, giving it access to Apple’s FaceTime video calling capability and HD video recording at 720P. It’s a nice bit of kit, but it’s not Apple’s entry level any more. It’s also rather carefully priced against the iPhone 4, which it shares a lot of functionality with.

It seems pretty clear to me that the Touch is the market that Apple wants to shift consumers towards. There’s more money to be made for Apple that way, as it gets a fixed percentage of the App sales for everything that goes onto an iPod Touch, whereas it only gets a percentage of the music sales on an iPod Shuffle or Nano if you buy your music through iTunes. Rip your own CDs — a perfectly legal activity in Australia — and Apple gets nothing.

What do you think? Are the new models enough to get you to upgrade, or will that wait until your existing player dies?


Making The Most Of Your Printer

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At a recent launch I attended in Hong Kong (disclaimer: HP paid for my plane fare and accommodation), HP launched a new range of printers with an interesting addition, namely e-mail addresses for each printer. The idea is pretty simple. If you’ve got a device capable of emailing, you can send files to the printer. This skips the need for drivers, or even a PC at all, as it’s technically capable of taking email from connected devices such as smart phones or tablets like Apple’s iPad.

It’s a neat idea in a field that doesn’t see too many genuinely interesting ideas. Putting it simply, printing is sadly boring stuff, and something that most of us don’t care about a jot up until the printer jams or runs out of ink or toner. A printer’s job is a mundane one, and one that it doesn’t get a jot of credit for. For most consumers, the choice in buying a printer often seems to come down to whatever model is the cheapest on the shop floor. Often that’s astonishingly cheap. I’ve seen plenty of last year’s model printers on shop floors for less than fifty bucks, which on first glance seems like a steal.

Often, however, it’s anything but. There’s nothing wrong with the older technology per se, but what can trap printer buyers is both the cost of the ink and the quality of the output. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to discover that cheaper printers often have worse print quality, especially for things like photo or colour printing.  One of the more interesting figures to come out of the launch I attended was that HP estimates that the era of printers being used for Word Processing predominantly is coming to an end. I’m certain that this doesn’t mean that the humble small office laser should expect a gold watch any time soon, but at a consumer level, things are shifting towards photo and web printing. Once you move from printing characters to how much of a character Uncle Trevor is, the quality of the output becomes a lot more important.

The ink/toner question is the other big “trap” in printer pricing. Buy a cheap printer, and it’s almost certain that the replacement cost for a full set of inks will be greater than the cost of the printer itself. Most (but not all) vendors have moved beyond including half-filled “starter” ink packs with printers, but it’s not environmentally friendly to junk a working printer just to get cheaper inks with a new one. Where you can save money here is in buying the bulk ink cartridges most vendors offer. Look for inks labelled as “XL” or “High Yield” or similar. You’ll pay a bit more for the inks upfront, but when they go through twice as many pages, the cost per page drops, not to mention the number of times you have to go to the shops to get new inks.


iPad vs Kindle

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On the surface, Apple’s soon to be released iPad and Amazon’s already available Kindle appear to service the same market: eBook readers.

Amazon’s Kindle is available in two varieties. There’s the smaller screen US$259 6″ (15cm) Kindle, and the larger US$489 9.7″ (25cm) Kindle DX. Both have the same feature set, so the US$230 price difference just buys you more screen real estate. I’ve listed the prices there in US dollars because that’s what Amazon will charge you for them even though you’re shipping them to Australia. As such, depending on how the currency conversion goes, the price of the Kindle may fluctuate on a daily basis.

The local iPad prices have finally been set in stone. Pricing for the WiFi-only models starts at $629 (16GB), $759 (32GB) or $879 (64GB), while the 3G and GPS equipped version costs $799 (16GB), $928 (32GB) or $1,049 (64GB). As yet, unlike the iPhone, no carrier has said they’ll sell the iPad on a phone-style contract basis, but data plans have popped up starting at $20 for a 30 day expiry period. That’ll get you 1GB of usage from Telstra and 2GB from Optus. At the time of writing, Vodafone had yet to commit pricing, but it’s not a great stretch to suggest they’ll fall somewhere in line with Telstra and Optus anyway.

In the Kindle’s favour, the cost of the device includes lifetime wireless data access for browsing and buying books from Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Pick a title, and pretty much anywhere in Australia it’ll be sent to your Kindle for quick and easy reading. In the US, the Kindle also offers limited web browsing, and will shortly offer Twitter and Facebook compatibility, but the “International” model doesn’t offer web browsing, so it seems unlikely we’ll get Twitter or Facebook either. The Kindle uses an e-ink solution that mimics the look of real paper — to a certain extent — and uses very little power. Charge your Kindle up, and it’ll last a number of weeks.

The iPad, on the other hand, uses a more traditional LCD display, as you’d find in a notebook or netbook. This has the downside that power consumption is much higher, but it’s readable by itself without any external light source. It’s also a much more capable device, somewhat akin to — but not quite like — a notebook or netbook. It doesn’t come with free lifetime data, but then what you can do with that data is far more wide reaching.

The iPad is somewhat akin to an iPod Touch with a touch of Frankenstein to it, and as such most iPod Touch/iPhone Apps will run on it, save those that need phone or camera functionality. It’s a more complete device in that it’ll handle a lot of simple computing tasks, but only one at a time. Like the iPod Touch/iPhone, there’s no multi-tasking capability out of the box, although the promised 4.0 iPhone software update due later this year may deal with some of those woes.

The iPad’s likely to be more expensive than the Kindle for the foreseeable future, although the difference between the Kindle DX and iPad 16GB isn’t that great after currency conversion and GST are taken into consideration. The Kindle hits the eBook market quite hard and with focus, and if all you’re after is an eBook reader, it’s the one to beat in single use terms. There are plenty of competitors in the wings. The iPad’s an eBook reader, but also quite a bit more, and it’s priced somewhat accordingly.


Remember when tech did one thing well?

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Well, forget about it. It’s abundantly clear that, for better or worse, tech gear is going to be loaded with as many features as possible, whether or not they serve a useful purpose. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, but there’s no shortage of multi-purpose devices.

The most obvious upcoming example of this would have to be Apple’s iPad, but here in Australia we’ll have to wait a while to properly assess how well or poorly it handles the multi-function job of ebook reader, music player, web browser and portable Street Fighter IV machine. Apple announced mid-April that the originally touted “late April” release date was going to slip to late May, because it had sold so well in the US. We’re even meant to be happy about this. The official statement from Apple reads:

“We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason – the iPad is a runaway success in the US thus far.”

Yeah, whatever. Some companies are just plain weird.

The iPad isn’t the only converged device on the block, however. The most obvious tech area where converged devices play is in home modems and routers. The combination of router and modem’s something that most vendors have offered for some time, and there’s an emerging trend to add even more functionality to the router, including USB ports for sharing printers or files, VoIP compatibility and even inbuilt displays to give to an instant health check of your network and Internet connection.

Telstra’s also just taken the wraps off its latest converged device, the T-Hub. Looking rather like an iPad on steroids, it combines a DECT wireless phone and base station with a Tablet-style device that can be used for making calls, keeping up with social media contacts, texting and photo display.

It’s a neat idea, and it’s certainly capable of a lot more than a standard phone handset is, but at the same time, it encapsulates the dangers of converged devices. Yes, it’ll do a lot. But it’s limited only to Telstra customers who also have BigPond accounts. It’s limited to the applications that Telstra’s got pre-loaded onto it, and naturally Telstra applications predominate. Quite how well it’ll handle complex Web pages, such as those with forms or Flash is entirely unclear.

Finally — and this is the real catch of a converged tech device — it’s a putting all your eggs in one basket style device. If it goes awry, as tech is wont to do, then there goes your phone line. Your photo frame. Your easy Net tablet.

That’s not to say it’s a bad buy per se. It’s worth balancing the convenience of a converged device — fewer boxes to manage, a single interface to deal with — against the issues that it may introduce if things go wrong, or if you work out that there’s a feature that it doesn’t do as well as a dedicated device may have.


iPhone vs Android

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The iPhone and the G1 phone (with Android operating system) are two mobile phones that have grown rapidly in popularity as well as in rivalry over recent years. The phones are similar to one another in that they push the envelope of mobile and touch screen technology. Both phones offer users not only the ability to make phone calls on the go, but also to make use of a host of useful applications and other features on their mobile phones.

The iPhone and its operating system has been available for a few years now and was developed and launched by Apple, Inc. The Android operating system on the other hand was developed by Google. Google then worked closely with High Tech Computer Corporation (HTCC) to develop the actual G1 phone and it’s hardware.

When it comes to priorities in development, mobile technology continues to be given a very high priority. This is simply because people throughout the world continue to rely more and more heavily on mobile technology. Mobile phones are not just used to make phone calls but increasingly they are being used to connect to the Internet on the go. Whether people are using this to find maps and directions, or to update their status on a social networking web site, mobile phone makers are obligated to provide this technology.

The main feature of both the Android operating system (OS) and the iPhone is the ability to surf the Internet. Both of these phones come with a wide screen and with WIFI capabilities, giving users the option to browse the Internet at leisure. Browsing speeds are reasonable and provide people with great convenience.

The iPhone is highly popular. When it first came out, it offered features that were considered revolutionary for the mobile phone in so many ways. Other phone makers are beginning to catch up but generally speaking they are not there yet. The iPhone is navigated primarily through touch screen technology. Users dial numbers through touching the screen, they send text messages and operate the various applications that the iPhone contains all through screen touch.

From reviewing both the G1 and the iPhone, I would say that the Google G1 does have some advantages over the iPhone however it does not fully surpass the iPhone or its technology. Definitely the keyboard that comes with the G1 is an advantage. Although the iPhone’s touch screen keyboard is fun and new, people are still quite conditioned to using a keyboard when operating computers and I believe that using a keyboard will still be their preference over touch screen technology for some time to come.

The G1 gives its owners access to the battery so that they are free to swap a fresh battery in at will. Although this seems like a fairly basic feature it is not the case with the Apple iPhone. iPhone users have to send their phones to Apple to have their phones replaced and therefore swapping batteries in and out while on the go is not an option. At present, the Android cannot compete with the iPhone’s media player. The iPhone has simply taken the mobile media player to another level and it will take the Android some time to compete with it. Lastly, the design of the iPhone is much slimmer than that of the Android. Slim is always more ideal than bulky. Users want devices that require the least amount of space in a pocket or hand bag.


Considering a Mac?

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Mac computers are the popular computers made by Apple Inc. The Mac brand has been on the market for many years now. It has a long history of competition with IBM and Microsoft corporations. In fact, it was one of the first ever personal computer brands in existence. The Mac computer has evolved in the design of its hardware as well as in the advances of its software. Mac is one of the most distinct brands in personal computing.

Apple provides a huge range of Mac desktop and laptop computers. More recently they offer small netbook-like computers as well. The Mac that you choose will basically come down to your purpose for buying the computer and how you will use the computer on a daily basis. Some of the most popular models are Mac Pro, Mac Mini, the MacBook, the iMac and the MacBook Air. The MacBook Air is a fairly new model. It is tiny in comparison to your average laptop and it is described as being ultrathin and ultraportable with a processor that pushes the limits.

The important thing to know about a Mac computer is that a Mac is a Mac. Unlike PCs, Mac computers are only made by Apple. When you purchase a Mac laptop or desktop, you can know that all parts and all aspects of that computer were developed and manufactured by Mac. PCs are a lot different. You can have a PC monitor, keyboard and tower all created by completely different companies and they will all work together mostly without problems. Only you can judge which of these set ups you prefer and which is more beneficial to you as a computer owner. If you want brand integrity and assurance about who is behind the product you are using then Mac is the company to buy from.

Apple retail stores exist in major cities all around the world. If you have an opportunity to visit one of these stores they can provide you with a great opportunity to test and check out the Mac that you are thinking of buying. Most Apple stores are highly interactive and allow you to actually use and play around with the display equipment provided in the store. In addition to this, Apple has a great web site that is very resourceful and full of well laid out information that is easy to find.

As with all purchases, ask around and talk to people that are already using a Mac computer to find out what type of experience they have had using it. Ultimately you have to make the decision for yourself because you will be the one using it on a daily basis. However, if a product has a reputation for having flaws or errors, it is great to learn of this before buying rather than after you have spent huge amounts of money.


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