Posted in Advice, tagged apple, bargains, Black Friday, Christmas and holiday season, Friday, Gift card, gift cards, iMac, ipad, iphone, ipod, itunes, online shopping, Shopping on November 29, 2013 |
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You’ve likely already been inundated with ads for various Black Friday specials. Just about any gadget or device you could imagine will be on sale this Friday at a variety of retailers, both online and traditional outlets.
While some of these deals really are outstanding (the various discounts on the latest iPad models stand out in particular- if you’ve been waiting to get a new iPad now is definitely the time) but for those of you that aren’t fixated on a particular gift (and this IS the best time of the holiday season to start Christmas shopping) or are just looking for a good value for yourself, consider one of the various deals on iTunes cards.
I know, I know- a gift card? To a media store? Yes- the iTunes Store has the largest and most complete library of music, movies, television, and books online, and an iTunes card allows the receiver to tailor the gift to their particular tastes. Very few out there can accurately predict what another will love when it comes to media, and this takes the guesswork out of the equation. Best of all, there are some fantastic deals on the cards. Many retailers are offering a higher face value for the card than the purchase price- $40 for a $50 card, for instance.
If you really have your heart set on a new Apple device then consider the Apple online or retail outlets- Apple is running a promotion offering various gift cards with the purchase of a device instead of traditional discounts on the price of the purchase.
As for me, I refuse to brave the crowds on Friday. Any shopping I do will be via my preferred method- at my desk in front of my iMac. There are more deals to be had this year than in recent memory, so if you don’t see what you’d like don’t settle- the extra shopping just may net you the deal you’re looking for.
Quick update: apparently European Apple customers will be getting traditional discounts instead of the iTunes gift card offers that US customers have been offered per several news outlets Friday morning.
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The naming scheme of the latest iPad models have caused a bit of pontification in punditry. The full sized iPad is no longer just numerically named, it’s been dubbed the iPad Air. Apple explained the designation by noting the extreme thinness and lightness of the new iPad, much like Apple’s MacBook Air laptop lineup. But because of this comparison some have taken it a step further- could the designation of Air mean that there will be a matching Pro model as there is in the MacBook lineup?
Bringing some validity to the question are the reports that Apple may be bringing a larger 12.9 inch iPad (dubbed by some as the iPad Max). There isn’t much to the rumor other than the idea that it would simply be an iPad with more screen real estate- enticing enough for some, but simply making a large screen iPad doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The cost would likely be close to that of the 11 inch MacBook Air; the only differentiating factor would be iOS versus OSX. The iPad has a wealth of Bluetooth keyboards that can be used- some even hold the iPad in clamshell mode making it appear to be a thin laptop. The larger iPad would almost certainly sport a Retina display, better than the 11 inch Air’s 1366 by 768 resolution, but would lack the full operating system’s ability to properly multitask.
To date other attempts at making tablet forms run a desktop operating system haven’t been very successful. Microsoft’s first generation of Surface tablets have been widely judged to be a commercial failure, and the second generation haven’t been widely embraced despite a huge advertising and product placement push. Third party manufacturers have tried to create new product hybrids to take advantage of Windows 8′s touch screen support, but again they haven’t been successful enough to create a new market niche. From laptops that have a detachable tablet screen, to laptops that follow older ideas of flipping or rotating the screen.
It’s not common knowledge, but there IS a tablet that sports a full installation of OSX. Modbook provides a service as much as a product- it’s Modbook Pro is a reconfigured MacBook Pro, not an original creation (thereby not violating Apple’s terms of service). The Modbook Pro’s interface is based on a Wacom pressure-sensitive stylus, but still sports just about all of the features of a proper laptop- input slots like USB, a DVD drive, and the ability to boot to Windows via Bootcamp. The Modbook Pro is a fascinating device, but it’s not an iPad replacement due to it’s thickness and weight; the device is a fringe device developed for specific users.
OSX has incorporated some of the touch-based design of iOS. The Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse has allowed Apple to incorporate the multitouch gestures of iOS, and things like Full Screen App mode and Launchpad have given OSX a very iOS feel. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to envision a device like an iPad Pro that harnesses Apple’s engineering might coupled with the software trends in its dual operating systems to try to do what Microsoft hasn’t been able to.
Apple is known for product testing a number of devices and configurations that never make it to market. The larger iPad could easily be yet another such a device. For Apple to release a product to market, it has to offer some unique value to both customers and the organization. They have some devices that overlap (the 13 inch MacBook Air and 13 inch MacBook Pro, for instance) but the devices have enough difference to not cannibalize sales. Should an iPad Pro be in the future I’d wager that it will be something other than just a larger version of what we already have.
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Posted in News, tagged Coin, credit card, debit card, IndieGoGo, ipad, iphone, Kickstarter, The Coin, YouTube on November 18, 2013 |
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I see a lot of new products during my daily RSS activities. Most are from mainstream providers- the latest and shiniest gadget, the most recent update to laptops and desktops, new niche products. Less common but more interesting are the accessory makers; those secondary manufacturers and brave souls with (what they hope to be) a good idea and some venture capital that strike out into uncharted territory. Some, like TwelveSouth and Grove, make a name for themselves by offering products that improve on an existing ecosystem; creating a synergistic effect by making a product like the iPhone or iPad that much better.
Many of these solo manufacturers were able to bring their products to market thanks to crowd funding outlets like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I’ve gladly supported many campaigns, from iOS accessories like the Une Bobine to multipurpose devices like NuPlug, to fantastic animation like Bee and Puppycat (and if you haven’t seen it, YOU NEED TO). Some never find their way to my feeds, but thankfully reach their funding goals and see another day. The most recent (and very worthy) addition to this list is Coin.
Coin is the perfect juxtaposition of cool tech idea and useful product. Simply put, it offers a single device to take the place of all of your existing debit, credit, and rewards cards (that use a magnetic stripe). A small plug in device similar to what merchants use for point-of-sale transactions scans the data from your card for replication on the Coin card, allowing you to forgo that stack of plastic for the one card to rule them all.
The utility of the Coin is staggeringly obvious, especially given the increasingly cash-free environment we live in. I’ve looked long and hard for suitable card-carrying iPhone cases due to my shortage of pockets in my work scrubs. I’ve gone through many cases (and the Wally, a Kickstarter-funded non case solution). All have offered value, but my search was limited by my need to carry multiple cards- at the very minimum an ID, my debit card, and one credit card. The Coin allows for me to carry my entire financial card library with me, in one convenient and secure package. As the YouTube clip showed, there are mechanisms in place to safeguard your financial information, and limit the use of the Coin when you offer it for payment. While I haven’t been able evaluate it physically yet (it’s still in pre purchase status for early adopters) I’m excited about the possibilities that it offers.
As I’ve stated many times, I’m a sucker for new and cool tech. Anyone that shares a fascination for technology would understand the joy of being able to partake in something new. That enjoyment is exponentially compounded when that new tech actually lives up to its billing, much like the iPhone did. While the Coin won’t serve to be the multitasker that the iPhone has grown to be, it may very well change my daily routine and needs.
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Posted in Opinion, tagged accessories, apple, Bluetooth, Handhelds, headphone jack, ios, ipad, iphone, Smartphones, TUAW, Universal Serial Bus on November 12, 2013 |
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Some thoughts on a recent article at TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) discussing the wide variety of contemporary accessories that iOS devices (specifically the iPhone) that use the headphone jack as the portal of interaction with your device. I have to admit, when pondering accessories that require input into an iOS device the sole physical portal that I (or most people) consider is the data sync port- that flat slot for Apple’s formerly iconic 30 pin connector on older devices, or the tiny jack used by newer Lighting cables. Apple has had a few adaptors for the data port for quite some time; for instance the misleadingly named camera adaptor has long been used for a variety of uses thanks to its USB port and SD card slot. Most accessory makers interact with iOS devices the way that Apple likely thinks is most appropriate- wirelessly via Bluetooth or wifi.
But for those inventive few that prefer a hardware connection there’s another option- the headphone jack. It has quietly acted as a means of interaction since the iPhone 3GS, allowing users to first play/pause/skip audio tracks and answer phone calls (and act as a microphone). As with most useful tools those with imagination will find new and inventive uses for it, as the TUAW article shows- from a laser pointer to a “smart” thermometer that via an accompanying app will provide more than just temperature. These various accessories use the audio port as both a means of input and external control of other devices.
As many medical device have become more computer based it’s easy to imagine devices like the iOS ecosystem providing even more broad functionality via hardware accessories. The ultrasound equipment that I use for cardiac and vascular imaging are essentially just specialized PCs; they run Windows XP embedded and have the same software that their accompanying PC reading stations use. The only differentiating factor is the specialized input hardware. In a similar vein my primary care physician has forgone the traditional EKG cart for a laptop with a specialized input accessory and software; the functionality is identical but the now digital platform can provide a great deal more flexibility while being more cost effective. The power afforded by an iPhone or iPad has grown exponentially since their introduction; given the right input hardware and app development they could likely be used as lower cost components for many everyday devices used in healthcare.
So let’s hear it for the visionaries that see the potential in devices like the iOS lineup. Their inventiveness might benefit you more than you realize.
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Posted in Advice, tagged apple, Display size, ios, ipad, iPad Mini, iphone, Mini, Retina, retina display on November 4, 2013 |
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Like a magpie, I’ve fallen prey to my weakness for all things shiny and picked up an iPad Air. I had originally planned on waiting for the new retina iPad Mini, especially since Apple had announced that both the Air and Mini have the same internal components. The curve ball came in the staggered release dates; the Air was available on the first, the Mini will be “later”. While still focused on the Mini, I wanted to check out the Air in my local Apple Store to see what it was like firsthand. I’ve enjoyed all of the iPads I’ve owned (all but the fourth gen ‘New’ iPad) but the iPad 3 I last owned had some drawbacks- while lighter than any laptop, it did get a bit heavy holding it up while watching movies (typically in bed) and the bevelled edge was uncomfortable in hand or resting on my chest.
The Air lived up to the hype of the preliminary reviews: it truly is amazingly light. The device almost feels like an empty display shell; held side by side with the original Mini shows just how light it is- the two feel almost identical. The thinner bezel is another welcome change. The iPad’s screen is unchanged in size and resolution, but the overall size of the device is noticeably smaller. Gone is the bezeled edge, replaced by the more comfortable sides sported by the original Mini (as well as another new feature- stereo speakers located on the bottom of the iPad).
So after some hands on time I opted to pick up the Air. It fills all of the points of my want list- smaller (although not as small as the Mini), lighter, more comfortable, and blazingly fast. The side by side load times for apps between the Air and the original Mini are about as dissimilar as to contemporary devices could be. After focusing so much on the smaller, more single-hand friendly form of the Mini I have to admit that the larger screen size of the Air has some advantages, like watching video while cooking.
Best of all, should the retina Mini prove to be irresistible Apple has a generous return/exchange policy of 30 days; I have the option (although as of right now I seriously doubt I’d exercise it) of exchanging my new Air for one. The ultimate question for the iPad curious s one of screen size and cost: what best suits what you’ll be using the tablet for, and what do you feel comfortable spending. The Air may be ridiculously light, but the Mini will be lighter still and even more suited to one handed use. I’ve grown to enjoy reading books and comics on my iPad, and the larger screen makes the past time a bit more enjoyable. The Mini will be $100 less expensive for a comparable model, making it a more affordable selection. For the truly budget-focused the original Mini and iPad 2 will still be available at $299 for 16 gig of storage (the only version available for both). While not the newest and shiniest, but are still outstanding tablets that are still superior to many non-iOS competitors.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a tablet, now is a good time to shop. No matter what your needs and budget, there’s an iOS device that’ll fit the bill.
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The Apple event has happened, and the new iPads are nigh. As always, with new devices come new accessories!
Apple, possibly spurred by efforts from their competitors, has decided to jump into the accessory market yet again by offering more cases and covers for the various iOS devices. The new iPhone 5c and 5s both have official Apple cases: the leather 5c case and the Croc-inspired 5s case. Not to be outdone, the new iPad Air and iPad Mini both have their own official Apple covers/cases (to be released along with the corresponding iPad).
One of the advantages of iOS devices is the wealth of accessories that are made for them. The new iPads may not be ready to take home, but my friends at MobileFun are ahead of the game with their announcement of a host of new iPad Air cases.
The Air is an enticing product, even for iPad stalwarts. I’ve been planning on transitioning from my older iPad 3 to one of the new retina iPad Minis due to my usage patterns- I use the iPad now strictly for media consumption and browsing instead of productivity, and the size, weight, and form (the sharper bezeled edge of the iPad 3 gets uncomfortable when resting on your chest after a while) but the specs of the Air have made me reconsider. The new Air, like it’s MacBook namesake, is ridiculously thin and light- weighing in at just one pound- and it sports the softer, rounded sides introduced with the first gen iPad Mini. Both models have the new A7 processor and M7 motion co-processor, so the only differentiating factors are size and weight. While the smaller, single-hand-friendly form of the Mini is enticing, a lighter and softer Air will need some hands-on evaluation before I part with some cash.
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Posted in Advice, tagged Bluetooth, Bluetooth headsets, BookBook, Fitbit, Headset (audio), iFrogz, ipad, iphone, iPod touch, Motorola Bluetooth headset on October 21, 2013 |
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Just a quick helpful hint for those of you that enjoy using your iPhone or iPod Touch while exercising. While not necessary, there are a wealth of accessories to not only help you run that extra mile or keep your pace a little longer, they make your iOS device an integral part of your workout. Look no further than dedicated devices like the Fitbit or Nike + for hardware that adds to your device’s ability to track, analyze, and maximize your exercise of choice. Then there are the ancillary devices; neoprene arm bands to hold your device (loosely bouncing around in a pocket is fine for walking, but not for any other task) and Bluetooth headsets to enjoy your content without the hassle of wires.
I have a Motorola Bluetooth headset, but at the time it was paired to my iPad, so I decided to go old school. I switched from the Bookbook case to an iFrogz, slipped it into my Arkon iPhone sleeve (easily one of my favorite and most useful accessories) and plugged in some earbuds. Usually being active while listening to your device via earbuds (even those designed not to slip from your ears) is an unfortunate game of how long can you go before something (be it a swinging hand or the lawmower you’re pushing) catches the dangling cord of your earbuds and snatches them (sometimes painfully) from your ears.
The answer is as simple as it gets- eliminate the dangling of the cord. Simply run the cable of your earbuds from your device (in whatever mount or sleeve you use) into the sleeve of your shirt and out of the neck, gathering any extra cable inside the confines of your clothes- no more catching the cable on anything as you move, no more undue tugging on the earbuds making them fall out easier, and much less extraneous noise from the cable dangling and rustling as you move.
Have a simple solution you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the easiest!
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Posted in Advice, tagged apple, Apple Store, Craigslist, Gamestop, ios, ipad, iphone, iPhone 4, Wal Mart on October 17, 2013 |
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I’ve had an iOS device from the moment they were introduced. I picked up my first iPhone a couple months after they were released, and brought home the first gen iPad the day they hit our local Apple Store. Normally being an early adopter has its growing pains, but unlike many other purchases I haven’t regretted getting into the game before most. The iPhone became the cornerstone of my work and personal communication long before iOS was a thing, and my various iPads have always been more than a media consumption device; the iPad 2 was my sole non-desktop productivity tool for two years at work.
As an admitted gadget addict, I have followed the same path I had when I was still building home brewed PCs; as soon as something new and shiny caught my eye I’d sell my current (and still very functional) rig to offset the cost of upgrading. The plan has served me well; with the exception of my iPhone 4 (given to a family member) selling my previous handset has covered the price of buying the new one.
At first selling a used device was primarily done via word of mouth; I’ve got a reputation at work for keeping my devices in top condition and had been able to find a buyer fairly easily. The iPhones were a different matter- most coworkers had already purchased one. I tried eBay for my first iPhone, but the experience was less than stellar. The buyer insisted that the device arrived damaged, and wanted to be compensated. This was complicated by the fact that I had shipped it to the other side of the country and wasn’t able to verify the alleged damage (which wasn’t cosmetic anyway according to the buyer; he just insisted it wouldn’t boot). Fortunately his local Apple Store was able to get it functioning; I suspect he had attempted to Jailbreak it but failed and “bricked” the iPhone, but it’s just an educated guess.
Due to that experience I decided to try one of the official trade-in channels for my next upgrade: Gazelle. The process was very simple; pick your device and tell them the condition, and they make you an offer (and will even provide you packaging to ship your device). After a short period of evaluation if it matches your description they forward you the amount they offered; if the device is evaluated to be other than you described they will make a lower offer that you may either accept or reject (and have your handset mailed back to you). The only downside to this process is that you’ll typically get significantly less money than if you sold it to a third party directly.
Many companies have jumped into the iOS trade-in game; Amazon accepts most devices, Gamestop offers both store credit and cash, Wal Mart will give you a gift card for the value of your phone, and of course Apple will accept your device for store credit (or recycling if it isn’t functioning). While considerably less hassle than direct sale, be sure to do some comparison to get the best offer.
As for me, the timing can be an issue as well. Once the upgraded models are released, many others will employ the same tactic that I have- flooding the market with trade ins, thereby deflating the value. Should you wait and trade one device for another, or sell early to get more value but do without until you can get your hands on the latest and greatest? The question is purely subjective and the answer will differ from person to person.
Apple has confirmed their next event October 22nd, and new iPads are certainly to be one of many product announcements (fingers crossed for a retina-equipped iPad Mini). I’ve accepted the burden of my First World Angst and decided to get maximum value instead of maximum utility (in the economics sense of the term) and sell early. If you’re looking to upgrade, due diligence is needed. Decide on the best route for you (I never considered Craigslist; while popular I just didn’t feel comfortable with the inability to screen buyers and the lack of support that third party retailers offer) and get the most for your well-loved device!
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged apple, home screen, ios, iOS 7, ipad, iphone, personalization, special effects, Upgrade, wallpapers on September 22, 2013 |
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Those that have upgraded to iOS 7 may have already noticed the cool 3D effect Apple has included to the home screen. As you tilt and move your device, the app icons seem to float over the wallpaper image, even revealing some of the image that was ‘hidden’ behind the icon.
Another hidden plus is the ability to use panoramic images shot with the camera as a mobile wallpaper. As your phone moves, the background slides with it to reveal more of the wider image.
While both features are just eye candy (and won’t work on some older iOS devices, like the iPhone 4) it is a welcome bit of fluff. For those of you that would like to know more Cult of Mac has a good article illustrating both parallax wallpapers and panoramic wallpapers.
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