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Archive for July, 2010

InnoPocket launched HexaPose Stand for Apple iPad

July 29th, 2010 No comments

InnoPocket launched HexaPose Stand for Apple iPadInnoPocket have launched HexaPose Stand for Apple iPad. The HexaPose Stand is made of solid aluminum and tough polycarbonate with a chic design tailor-made for the Apple iPad. It comes with a rotatable pivot which can allow you to freely rotate your iPad horizontally or vertically. The pivot can also be adjusted 3 ways for different viewing angles for surfing, reading, gaming or movie viewing. HexaPose Stand is the perfect gadget for your iPad if you use iPad at home just as your PC. It makes your iPad look like an iMac.

Features

  • Clip-on, sleek looking table and desktop stand for your iPad
  • Solid and strong aluminum base
  • Precision molded polycarbonate frame to hold the iPad securely
  • Hold iPad in both landscape and portrait orientation
  • Multiple viewing angles for surfing, reading or movie viewing
  • Cutout gives access to iPad’s dock connector for charging and syncing

MSRP: US$49.99

About InnoPocket

Founded in 1999, InnoPocket designs and manufactures a complete line of custom cases for laptop, PDA, smartphones, MP3 players and gaming devices.


GadgetMETER’s Take

This would be great for a keyboard and desktop solution as well.

Contact
InnoPocket
Website: http://www.innopocket.com

Philadelphia Apple Store Grand Opening on Walnut Street Friday, July 30

July 27th, 2010 1 comment
Apple Store in Philadelphia on Walnut Street

After years of rumors, Apple will finally open an Apple Store in Philadelphia on Walnut Street! I walk by here almost every day. It’s amazing how Apple can keep its store openings and product releases so secret.

Apple will hold the grand opening celebration for Apple Store Walnut Street in Philadelphia on Friday, July 30, 2010 at 5pm ED

Address: Apple Store Walnut Street
1607 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Apple Store Walnut Street is the best place to learn about all the latest products from Apple, including the new iPhone 4 featuring FaceTime, which makes the dream of video calling a reality, and Apple’s stunning new Retina display, the highest resolution display ever built into a phone. Customers can experience Apple’s entire product line hands-on including the magical new iPad that lets users browse the web, read and send email, enjoy and share photos, watch videos, listen to music, play games, read ebooks and much more. Visitors to the store can also try the updated MacBook and MacBook Pro with the NVIDIA processor for up to 80 percent faster graphics, and the incredibly popular iPod touch with access to more than 225,000 apps offered on the revolutionary App Store.

Every Apple Retail Store offers a range of free services designed to help customers get the most out of their Apple products, including face-to-face support and advice at the Genius Bar, hands-on workshops and special programs for kids. Customers who buy a Mac®at the Apple Retail Store or Apple’s Online Store can also join the popular One to One program. For just $99, owners of a new Mac get Personal Setup to customize their computer and transfer files from their old Mac or PC, plus a year of Personal Training sessions and Personal Project support on a wide range of topics, from getting started on a Mac to advancing their digital photography or moviemaking skills.

Read more…

Jaybird Releases the SB2

July 15th, 2010 1 comment

IMG_0019[1]Jaybird is one of my favorite companies and not just because they send me free stuff to try out.  If you recall, I had written a review of the Jaybird SB1 Bluetooth headphones a while ago.  The SB1’s had been purchased with my own funds so I felt free to be as critical as I wanted to be.  However, I found few flaws with the SB1’s and they have been my day-to-day headphones ever since.  I use them on average at least 2 hours a day Monday thru Friday during my commute, so I think I can say fairly that I’d have had a chance to find any flaws in them by now, and I really haven’t.

Well Jaybird recently released the SB2’s, the next generation of the SB1’s and they were kind enough to send me a pair to review.  I want to make clear that these phones were provided gratis, so keep that in mind while you read my review.  I like to believe that I’m objective enough to say a product sucks even if they send me a free evaluation unit, but I haven’t really faced that situation yet.  (I have been given free iPhone/iPad apps for review and I’ve passed up writing reviews in some cases where I thought the app was just bad, but even those cases are few and far between).

I received the headphones on a Friday (delivered in person by the lovely young lady in the packaging, naturally) and I’ve been using them ever since to really try them out in comparison to the SB1’s.  The headphones come in (relatively speaking) minimal packaging and the box it was shipped in was big enough to hold the headphones but not a lot bigger.  I’ve gotten a bit sensitive to companies that ship their products in way oversized boxes and/or packaging (Amazon, I’m looking at YOU), so it was nice to see some attention paid to minimizing waste.  In fact, one of my complaints about the SB1’s was the large amount of packaging that surrounded the headphones themselves.  Jaybird addressed this nicely in the SB2.

IMG_0022[1]The headphones come with a minimum amount of accessories – a set of very simple instructions, the USB-based charging plug, and two pairs of replacement foam pads arrived along with the bright red (and I mean BRIGHT) SB2’s.  It was really nice to see the extra foam pads included – one of my dings on the SB1’s was the fact that those foam pads looked like they could wear with time, and without them, the headphones are kind of painful to wear.  I haven’t had any issues with them in all my wearings, but I tend to be very gentle on my equipment.  They’ve fallen off a couple times but I just re-seated them and they were fine.  Still, it’s good to see companies thinking about the long term use of their products.

I did a quick size comparison between the SB1’s and the SB2’s as well.  They are identically sized, in both thickness and shape.  In fact you really can’t tell them apart.  The big improvements come on the inside in the Bluetooth firmware, specifically the addition of apt-X.  apt-X, when paired with a compatible transmitter, provides CD-quality audio via the Bluetooth stream.  Since I am not an audiophile and since the iPhone 4 does not have apt-X built in (heck, we can’t even get Apple to give us skip forward/back controls via Bluetooth), I wasn’t able to test this part of the SB2’s.  Jaybird does sell a slim dongle that plugs into the dock port of the iPhone that will provide the transmission portion of the apt-X signal, but I don’t like adding dongles to the iPhone.  They almost always don’t work well with the wide variety of cases and protective gear, and the new iPhone is not a device I want to leave naked.

IMG_0032[1]IMG_0033[1]In terms of sound, the SB2’s sound just as good as the SB1’s.  I did notice that Jaybird made a slight tweak to the volume controls, because I was able to drop the volume down to a level lower than I had experienced on the SB1’s.  This was the other minor ding I had for Jaybird concerning the SB1’s – they didn’t seem to have a low volume that was really low.

I wasn’t able to test the microphone capabilities of the SB2 vs. the SB1.  I know with the SB1 I had some slight issues with pickup under windy conditions, but I have yet to use a set of Bluetooth headphones that didn’t have this problem, so that’s not something I would necessarily ding Jaybird for anyways.

The other improvement that I was able to find, and one I’ll be keeping an eye on for the longer term, is that the earpads are much stiffer when extending or retracting.  This is good – in my SB1’s, the right earpad was starting to become very loose through the daily wear and tear of extending and retracting it to fit my head.  I am hoping the SB2’s will not suffer that issue.  The SB2’s seem to be a bit “stickier” to my head as well, though I’m not sure if that’s actual or if it’s just perception because they’re new.  I will have to see what happens when the SB2’s are on my head as I am on the weight bench.

Overall, I strongly recommend the Jaybird SB2.  They’ve addressed the few minor shortcomings I had with the SB1’s, and the inclusion of apt-X will mean better sound for apt-X equipped devices.  At $99, they are in the middle range for Bluetooth headphones, and I’m sure that you will be able to find them for less online.  I’m planning to switch to the SB2’s for my day-to-day use, and am looking forward to the many stares I’m going to get as I walk to work in my business suit sporting a set of cherry red headphones shining off the reflected light of my shaved head.

By the way, all these pics were taken using the iPhone 4’s camera.  Note the significant yellowing in the bottom two pictures?  That’s a beige surface I’m shooting down onto.  Part of the issue might be bounceback of light from that surface, since the yellowing isn’t apparent in the top two pictures.  Interesting…

Jaybird SB2 Bluetooth Headphones

Apple vs. Google

July 14th, 2010 2 comments

It’s pretty apparent that many of the “core” apps on the iPhone are not powered by Apple.  Outside of the iPod app and the Phone app, most of the other high use apps (YouTube, Maps, Search) are powered by frenemy Google.  Well that really hasn’t escaped Apple’s notice and they’re going to do something about it, probably starting with the Maps application.  Last year, Apple purchased Placebase, a startup focusing on mapping.  Today the rumormill has them buying Poly9, a company that makes a lightweight Earth viewing tool very similar to Google Earth.  (The site is completely inaccessible right now, though how much of it is due to traffic and how much due to my own firewall issues, I’m not sure.)

Given that Poly9 provides a solid map and Placebase provides map-centric layering, it seems logical to extrapolate that Apple is building a multilayer mapping client of some sort, whether that be a browser-based solution or an app-based solution (most likely both).  Maps is one of the most essential iPhone apps, one I personally rely on all the time.  The lack of a free turn-by-turn nav solution on the iPhone is a big differentiator between Android and iOS, and Google Maps is still probably one of the most robust mapping solutions available on the web.  Now that Apple has a location-aware advertising solution, they are going to want to supplant the Google-provided Maps data with their own version so that they can integrate iAds into Maps.  I can definitely see Apple providing an iOS update that supplants Google data in the Maps application with Apple’s own home-bought solution.  As of yet, Apple hasn’t bought a company to replace the YouTube app, but that app is pretty junky on the iPhone.

Heck before the iPhone 4 announcement, there was talk that Bing would replace Google as the search provider for iOS.  It didn’t happen but I’m expecting that that’s going to happen next year.  Or Apple is going to buy a search engine (say, Yahoo) and use their own search solution on iOS.  At this point, given how big a platform iAds is expected to become, Apple needs to get as many tendrils into location-sensitive search as possible, and rolling their own, controlled, solutions is a critical necessity.

Google is realizing the potential loss and moving rapidly to address this.  The new HTML5-based YouTube site and the new iPhone/mobile-optimized YouTube URL (m.youtube.com) are Google’s way of fighting back.  I’ve pretty much switched over to that version as my primary access point to YouTube and the default app has been relegated to a folder buried in my last homescreen.  Note that the new mobile-optimized site has a little reminder telling visitors how to add the site to the iPhone’s Home screens so that they appear as just another app.  Google Voice has a similar feature, and Google Mail is evolving rapidly on the web to match feature parity to the default Mail app.

Random thoughts on the i-Devices

July 5th, 2010 No comments

This is a random collection of thoughts around the new iPhone and the now-old iPad.  I’ve had the iPhone coming up on two weeks now, and I feel I’ve had enough real-life experience with it to be able to provide some cogent thoughts.  I’ve been using it in conjunction with my iPad so this post will cover thoughts on both.

On Protection.

Over the long weekend, I did a bunch of tech stuff I’d been meaning to do for some time. Most importantly, I installed a clear protector onto our new iPhones. For the first time, I used the BodyGuardz line of protective sheets rather than the InvisibleShield line. The BodyGuardz are a much better value. For $25 you get two sets of protective sheets that fully cover the iPhone’s front, back, and sides. Installing them was relatively straightforward but it conclusively proved why I would never be a surgeon.

There is a level of mental comfort in having these shields on our phones. But to cover up that amazing screen with anything is just a darn shame. No film application is ever perfect, and any bubbles are incredibly annoying. The liquid applicator they provide does create a thin glaze under the film which detracts from the beauty of the iPhone’s screen when it’s off. On the plus side, it does give a little bit more tactile grip to the iPhone. I also think it helps a bit with the attenuation issues people have been suffering when they touch the sides. The side films seem designed to exactly fit the phone but it is exceedingly difficult to apply them so that they run the full length properly. I ended up overlapping the antenna gaps just slightly, which seemed to act as a non-conductive layer between my fingers and the band. I don’t know if this is an intended benefit or not, but it’s relatively cheap to try out if you’re having major issues. I personally haven’t noticed a huge problem with attenuation or service interruption but that could just be me.

For now, I’m planning to keep these on the phone, at least until the cases I ordered come in. This phone is never going to be outside a case anyways so I may decide to remove the front film to let the gorgeous screen shine through.

And if anyone has a good case recommendation for the iPad, could they please contact me?  All the cases I’ve tried out so far suck.  I don’t want a sleeve and I don’t want a backside-only protector.  I need something that I can use on a desk as well as on the sofa, and it needs to support the iPad in portrait and landscape modes.  I like the Apple case, but it’s just a little too cheap-looking for me and I’d ideally love a case that has a latchable/securable front protector.

UPDATE (7/14/2010): I’ve had the Bodyguardz film on the iPhone for about a week now, and the glaze underneath has vanished completely.  The screen protector is still visible (you can see where the cutouts are for the speaker and the front facing camera) and it feels like there is more “depth” when hitting the Home button.  I gotta say that I am really liking the Bodyguardz.  I no longer think they interfere with the Retina Display and for all intents and purposes, they’ve disappeared from my perception, which is kind of the point of these things.  I’ve definitely noticed a decline in the number of dropped calls as well, though that needs to be heavily caveated.  First off, I don’t make a ton of calls so I’m not a great sample.  Second, since the issue has been covered to death in every tech blog and news rag, I’ve been more aware of how I hold the phone.  Finally, I could never consistently reproduce the issue, so I may not have been impacted.  Having said all that, I routinely hold the iPhone 4 in my left hand with the antenna gap perilously close to be covered by the base of my thumb and I’m sure I’ve covered that gap on calls, both before and after the film application.  Since I’ve applied the Bodyguardz, I have not had a single dropped call.  Period.  So perhaps the combination of the side protection plus my clumsy application have created a nice little insulated zone around the antenna openings that is helping my calling?  In any case, I’ve become a big fan of these things, and their customer service can’t be beat.  They were prompt to answer my emails about returning my extra films, and they were prompt about issuing me a refund.  Good on ya, guys – keep up the great work.  I am seriously considering buying a set of the iPad 3G protection skins to replace my InvisibleShield cover.  The InvisibleShield just seems to attract more dirt, though that could just be due to the increased surface area.  But definitely something I’m considering in the longer term…

iPad vs. iPhone

I’m fairly sure that if I had gotten the iPhone 4 before my iPad, I would have skipped the first gen iPad in hopes that the second gen would come with a Retina Display. Apple probably knew this, which is why they didn’t pull out the iPad as a “One More Thing” during the iPhone launch.  I still love my iPad but the iPhone is proving good enough for almost everything I need to do when I’m mobile.  I have used the iPhone for navigation, for checking newsfeeds, and for recipes.  It’s perfectly fine as a quick reference device, especially since the Retina Display makes it so much easier to read despite its small screen real estate.  But for consuming books and video, for gaming, and for productivity, the iPad is still the superior device.  Am I glad I have both?  Yes.  Should I have gotten the unlimited data plan for both?  Probably not.  I’m spending $60/mo on data access for the i-Devices, which is a bit much.  I’m seriously considering dropping my unlimited plan on the iPad, except that I’d still like roaming access, so I’d only be saving $5/mo (I refuse to pay for tethering, which is just AT&T saying “please bend over” while holding a very thick broom).  I’m really annoyed that Apple didn’t put a decent GPS chip inside the Wi-Fi only version, since that’s the main reason I went with the 3G iPad.

iPhone Antenna Issues

How to hold an iPhone 4G

One of my best friends is a bigshot at M&M/Mars.  He was once asked to participate on a panel discussion at a telecom conference.  The audience consisted of telecom providers who wanted to know how to best sell into the large enterprise market, especially because things like data and messaging were just starting to become popular.  One of the audience members stood up and asked him what he looks for in a mobile phone.  In response, my friend pulled out his Nokia phone (which was at least 2 generations out of date) and said “I’d like it to work as a phone.”  Tech companies really seem to forget this basic concept – it’s a smart phone.  If it can’t make calls, it’s not a phone, it’s a mobile device.  Apple is being disingenuous when they blame the iPhone‘s attenuation problems on their inability to do math.  Too many people are complaining about a problem making calls, which is humorous if you’re not the one suffering from the problem.  But when you’re trying to call 911 late at night after you’ve witnessed a crime or been in an accident, it’s really not funny.  The bad thing is that I can’t rely on the iPhone as an emergency contact device, issues with AT&T service aside.  When I’m trying to call for an ambulance, I really don’t want to worry about whether I’m levitating the phone correctly to maximize signal strength.

It also means that every time I see one of those Apple videos featuring their internal designers talking earnestly about how hard they tried to create beauty and how magical the i-Device is, I’m going to just laugh and blow them off (even more so than I already do) as self-loving nerds.  No matter how good they think they are and no matter how pretty their end result, I know they failed.  Gizmodo had a great post about just how huge a failure this is on Apple’s part – they’ve fallen so in love with themselves that they are ignoring the fact that good industrial design means that it works, not just that it’s pretty.  If I have to think about how to use a product, something’s wrong, and Apple has only themselves to blame.  They’ve been promoting that mode of thought ever since they released the first iPhone.  Yet now here they are saying, basically, “yes always think about how you’re using your iPhone to make sure you’re not using it wrong”.

Luckily, phone calls are rare and far between in my household, and 90% of my calls are to my fiancée, who is also on AT&T, so those minutes buckets are pretty much unlimited.  I really hope, though, that she’s never stuck late at night on a bus coming home from work and trying to reach me.

iPad’s Video and iPod apps

These apps suck.  Suck suck suck suck suck.  No other way to put it.  Why they are split into two apps rather than the single iPod app that’s provided on the iPhone is beyond me.  There is obviously some higher design principle at work that I am too pedestrian to understand.  But when I can’t skip through a list of video podcasts using the CONTROLS PROVIDED FOR THEM, I consider that a pretty major design flaw.  The only way I can move from one video to the next without picking and choosing each one is if I create a playlist.  That’s just stupid, Apple.  Why should I create a playlist of video podcasts when the Videos app has a podcast section?  And is there any reason why you decided that TV shows don’t need to have any identifying information aside from a still image from the show itself?  Maybe I’d like to, oh I don’t know, see the SHOW’S NAMES?!?!?  You guys are starting to approach Microsoft levels of stupidity with these issues, and I sincerely hope that you fix them in the next version by providing an iPod app, rather than this craptastic Video/Music split function junk.

On the plus side, you seem to have fixed the issue with Smart Playlists not being synced when Live Updating is checked.  I think it’s only been about a year now since that issue’s been reported?  So I guess I should expect an iPod app on the iPad when you release iPad 3.0?

UPDATE (7/14/2010) – Yea, Apple, your Video app sucks hairy moose testicles.  What is the sense in showing one sequence of videos on the iPad and a completely different sequence in iTunes?  This weekend I was playing through some TV shows I’d ripped and I realized they were completely out of order on the iPad.  Since I’m a metadata FREAK, I quick checked the iTunes versions to see what I’d screwed up.  Lo and behold, the iTunes list was in correct order.  After much trial and error, I realized that the iPad sorts TV shows using the Track Number while iTunes uses Season and Episode Number.  Can someone tell me how the team that created the Video app thought this was a good idea?  It’s like they decided to remove the Video functionality in the iPod app but just do a half-assed job of it so that they could piss off as many people as possible.  So for those of you trying to figure out why the hell the iPad isn’t sequencing your shows correctly – either fill in both Track Number and Episode Number fields for each show, or just rely on Track Number to do your sorting.  Of course, if you choose the latter, I fully expect that one day Apple will fix this stupidity and then you’ll have to go back and re-enter the Episode Number data so you might as well do both now.

iPad memory issues

I’m running a jailbroken iPad, primarily because I can.  Now I understand that jailbreak tech is really young on the iPad and developers are still trying to figure out how to do it right.  But I’m seriously concerned about the iPad’s lack of RAM.  I think Apple made a bad choice when they went with 256MB in the iPad vs the 512MB in the iPhone 4, because when multitasking comes along, apps are going to be seriously memory constrained.  Apple’s limited implementation of multi-tasking in iOS (a name I predicted here on this blog well before His Jobs-ness announced it) is a lot more memory-efficient than traditional multitaskers a la Backgrounder.  But still  – I see memory leaks all the time running apps like Reeder and TweetDeck under the jailbroken iOS 3.2.  And I’m pretty sure that it’s not due to leaks in the jailbreak code.  TweetDeck reboots itself regularly on the half-hour, even when it’s the only app running on the iPad.  Running it on an unjailbroken iPad, the reboot periods are longer but I know they still were happening.

My guess is that iPad iOS 4.0 is going to be based a lot on iPhone iOS 4.0.  It’s a little aggressive to have the entire code base made common between the two platforms, but it’s inevitable that that will happen.  My guess is iOS 5.0 next year will be the first true common iOS base for all Apple platforms.  They can’t keep doing this multi-version iOS thing forever, especially if they release an iOS for AppleTV and for the Mac.  That would be four different fragments of the same base, which would make Android look like a bamboo shoot in terms of variety.

Multiple users on the iPad

The iPhone is intended to be a single-user device.  No bigs – it’s (marginally) a phone, it’s small, it’s got a fixed identifier (the phone number) attached to it – it’s very personal.  The iPad, for all its “magic”, is a multi-user device.  I’d like to share my iPad with my fiancée and a regular basis and my son has basically adopted the iPad as his own when he’s with us.  I’m totally cool with that, but it means that I’ve removed all my email accounts from the iPad.  I’d like some way to have user profiles and app sharing rules set up so that I can control what others accessing my iPad have access to.  I know user accounts are a big OS overhead issue, and there would be all kinds of complaints that Apple didn’t allow fast switching etc etc.  But basic user-level customization would go a long way to making the iPad a viable family device.  There’s no way I’m buying iPads for every member of the family and it’s stupid for Apple to think that people actually will do this.

And while we’re on the subject, Apple’s lack of controls on their Safari browser means that there is no way to control/limit kids’ access to the Internet.  Apple only allows binary control – either Safari is on or it’s off.  There’s no way to firewall or block access to non-approved sites.  Tools like OpenDNS’s Family Shield are a good start, but it’s relatively easy to circumvent.

So what do you guys think?  Am I way off base?  Spot on?  Comment up any of your complaints or compliments!