Sony’s latest Android tablet is a worthy successor to the Xperia Z, with unique features, an incredibly thin and light design and a gorgeous screen. But battery life is not as good as it could be.
The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet ($529 16GB) is a remarkably thin and light device. At 426 grams, the Z2 is significantly lighter than the comparably equipped Apple iPad Air (469 grams) even though it has larger overall dimensions.
The chassis exterior is coated in a rubberized finish on the back and uses edge-to-edge scratch-resistant glass on the front. The sides (what little there are of them) is finished in a metal-look plastic material. Unlike the iPad, there is no metal shell.
Although this results in an amazingly light device, the problem with this design is that the Xperia Z2 gets all of its rigidity from the internal framework and the glass screen itself. Which it to say, you can actually flex the tablet without exerting much pressure at all. I suppose this isn’t necessarily an issue of quality – I wasn’t able to come even close to damaging it through normal use—but it doesn’t give you a tremendous feeling of confidence.
iOS 6 is now officially available for downloading to your favourite iOS device, and for the most part it’s a worthy upgrade to Apple’s mobile operating system.
I’m still a little peeved by the elimination of the Google-powered Maps app, especially the super-convenient Street View option which, for now, remains a Google exclusive.
But what Apple takes away on the one hand, they also give with the other. Case in point: Inserting photos and videos into emails.
In past revisions of iOS, adding a photo or video to an email required you to know that you wanted to include one first – before composing your message. You needed to start in the Photos app, and then select the appropriate photos or video from your collection and then choose to share them via email.
The files would “fly” into a new email window and you could begin the somewhat tedious task of trying to arrange your text around these inline elements.
It wasn’t a bad system if all you wanted was to blast off a few pics to a friend, but if you actually wanted to describe a situation using multiple photos, with text in between, it lacked the kind of flexibility that other email systems offer.
But with iOS 6, all this has changed – and for the better.
Now, when you want to include photos or video, you don’t have to pre-plan.
Simply start composing a new email, then, when you get to the spot where you want to insert your file, simply tap-and-hold on the screen – the same way you would if you were going to copy/paste some text, and look at the dialog box that pops up.
You’ll notice that there is a small arrow to the right of the displayed options. Tap that arrow once, and you’ll see the brand new “Insert Photo or Video” option.
Tapping it takes you straight to your Photos app, where you can select your item (just one – no multi-select is available). Once chosen, the item gets dropped into your message, exactly where you tapped.
Here’s a fact that blew me away when I read it: The London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first Olympics since the launch of the iPad.
Think about that for a moment. If you own an iPad, or any tablet for that matter, you know how much it has changed your media consumption habits. Everything from how often you surf the web, check email, log on to Facebook or Twitter or watch YouTube – every one of these activities has become (for better or worse) a bigger part of your life.
And given that the Summer Games are taking place in London, England – a land that is at least 5 hours ahead for Canadians (8 if you live on the west coast) – there’s a good chance that the live coverage of events will be happening when you aren’t in front of your TV. That thought is bound to have Olympics junkies wondering how they’re going to get their fix throughout the day.
Fear not, my friends, Sync has you covered. Here is everything you need to know to stay on top of all the action whether you’re at home, at work or somewhere in between – even on vacation.
Let’s face it, all of that exciting sports action deserves the best possible screen and that is still (until something better comes along) your HDTV. Regardless which satellite or cable company you subscribe to (or even if you’re using free over-the-air) you’ll be able to catch the games on the official Canadian broadcasters: CTV, TSN, Omni and Omni2, SportsNet, OLN, RDS and RDS2 and V-Tele. If you can receive these in HD, you’ll enjoy crystal-clear image and sound.
If however, you are a Bell TV subscriber, there are two more features worth noting: Satellite subscribers can access a special channel known as the “Mosaic” – a screen that features 5 of the channels that are currently broadcasting events live from the Games. You can see each feed in real time in order to decide which you want to watch – or simply leave it on that channel and enjoy them all. If you have Fibe TV, the same channel will be interactive – use your Fibe TV remote to highlight the channel you want from the Mosaic and jump to it directly.
The next best place to catch the Games is your PC or laptop. Heading over to CTVOlympics.ca will give you the most comprehensive view of the Olympics along with scheduling, athlete profiles, contests, photos and interviews. Watching on your PC’s screen won’t always live up to the full-HD broadcast quality you can get from cable or satellite, but if you’re on the road and have Wi-Fi access, it’s definitely the next-best thing.
If you have an iPad or an Android tablet, you can download the free CTV Olympics app that essentially replicates the CTVOlympics.ca experience within a native app. You’ll find that navigating between the features and videos is easier than using the web-based version on a touch screen. Again, as long as you have Wi-Fi connectivity, you’re good to go.
Use Bell Mobile TV
If you find yourself outside of Wi-Fi reception, and you own a Bell smartphone, the Bell Mobile TV application is the only way to access live streams from the Games when on a 3G or LTE network connection. The Mobile TV subscription costs $5/month for 10 hours of streaming, with $1/hour thereafter. It costs more than free, obviously, but if you’re camping or even just taking the train home at night, it’s a great way to get caught up on the action. The app gives you access to all of the channels that are offering live coverage, plus an on-demand section for grabbing highlight videos from your favourite events.
Bell has created a custom app on Facebook called the Bell London 2012 Scheduler and it’s an interactive service that lets you find the events you want to watch or follow, receive reminder emails before the events starts, plus you can update your status automatically so your friends know what you’re watching. Better yet, if your friends use the app, you’ll be able to see who else is planning to watch at the same time – making it easier to plan group watching sessions whether online or, y’know, in real life.
Okay so this really doesn’t have much to do with the games themselves but it is pretty fun: Bell has created a free iOS and Android app called “Make It Epic” (look for this to launch shortly) which lets you shoot a short video of your friends engaged in the activity of your choice (anything from making breakfast to attempting a complex skateboard trick) and then isolate a portion of the video for the “Epic” treatment. Epic in this case means a super slo-motion effect accompanied by the Chariots of Fire theme. The results can be surprisingly hilarious. You can then share your creation using all of the typical choices including Facebook, Twitter, email etc.
Speculation that Apple might release a smaller version of their category-dominating iPad has been swirling for years. After all, nearly every one of Apple’s competitors have released sub-10″ models and while they haven’t achieved anywhere near the iPad’s success, they have been selling. The belief was that Apple would want to address the emerging threat from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both of whom released $200 7-inch tablets last year. New, lower pricing on the BlackBerry PlayBook was giving RIM’s embattled tablet some new life too.
But two factors argued against an iPad-mini: First, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that the Amazon/B&N products hadn’t dampened people’s enthusiasm for the iPad at all – a fact that was illustrated by the very strong opening sales numbers for the new 3rd generation iPad. Second, when Steve Jobs was reporting on the success of the original iPad, he claimed that the new crop of 7″ tablets would be “dead on arrival.” He hated them: ““7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad.” Apple had spent a lot of R&D on coming up with the size and shape of both the iPad and the iPhone, and there was a growing sense that the company wasn’t going to abandon those formulas in favour of a me-too strategy.
Things, however, inevitably change.
Steve Jobs, the man who was known as much for his stubbornness as for his visionary role in the industry, is now silent and any influence he still wields at Apple is mostly cultural in nature. For the next few years, it’s a good bet that Apple will follow the course he laid out. But he can no longer shout-down ideas he doesn’t like and that means Apple is a different company when it comes to new product development.
While Tim Cook and his management team continue to adjust to an Apple sans-Steve, they must also grapple with another situation: despite Apple integrating iBooks into iOS and even developing an authoring platform for publishers to create rich and dynamic textbooks for the iPad, iBooks has so far failed to become Apple’s next iTunes.
This has got to be a sore point for the company. With very few exceptions, most notably their anaemic Ping social network built into iTunes, Apple’s product offerings tend to do very well with consumers. So why has iBooks foundered? A simple explanation would be that Amazon and B&N (and Kobo here in Canada) are too strong, too entrenched and too good at e-books. Apple has always succeeded by bringing something new to the game, or finding a simplification to a process or gadget that was overly complex (even when others didn’t realize how complex they were). But Amazon’s e-book experience is nearly perfect from the point of view of selection, simplicity and price.
That’s one explanation. The other possibility is that the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, for all their magic when it comes to creating mobile experiences that people love, are second-rate e-book reading devices. Even with its extraordinary Retina display, the new iPad is too big, too heavy and much like every other tablet, is backlit – which increases eye-strain for many users. If you were to take a poll amongst people who own both an iPad and an e-ink reader like the Kindle, and ask them which they prefer for reading books, I suspect the answer would be the Kindle – and overwhelmingly so. I’m one of those people and I only reach for my iPad or iPhone when my Kindle isn’t handy.
Which brings us back to why rumours of an iPad mini simply won’t die. When you take the e-books landscape into consideration and then throw in this week’s revelation that Apple has placed a large order for 7.85″ touch-screens, suddenly the speculation becomes plausible. When you further consider that the loudest voice at Apple in opposition to a small tablet is no longer calling the shots, an iPad mini starts to sound like certainty – with only the launch date remaining to be debated.
Obviously no one can confirm that an iPad mini is coming. Nonetheless, here are some observations on what such a product could feature:
- Roughly 7″ Retina display. The retina-level pixel density is key, especially if Apple hopes to make a bigger dent in e-reading.
- Front and rear cameras, but with specs to match the new iPad, not the iPhone 4S.
- 4G LTE as the cellular option.
- Between 6 and 14 oz (168 and 392 grams): the lower amount is the weight of Amazon’s Kindle, whereas the higher amount is the Kindle Fire. It’s probably unrealistic for an LCD-based tablet to ever come in at 6 oz, but Apple should definitely aim to beat the Fire which by all accounts is a twin to RIM’s PlayBook.
- Thin design – with a smaller screen, the battery can be shrunk as well. It may only lose a few millimetres but it will be the thinnest iPad yet.
- A5 processor from the iPad 2. Keeping an iPad mini as cheap to build as possible will critical for Apple if they’re going up against $200 tablets. The newer A5X chip from the new iPad would offer better graphics performance, but unless the Retina display on the mini requires it, it’s not a must-have.
- Starting price: The new iPad is $519, the iPad 2 is $419. So the logical price for an iPad mini is $319 (all prices in $US for simplicity). That’s still way more than a Kindle Fire, but it would be the cheapest iPad to-date. And though it would likely squeeze Apple’s margins to a new low, if the device succeeds in kicking Apple’s iBooks into high gear, they could easily justify the price.
You’ll notice that I’ve omitted any new technology from the specs list. That’s because I don’t think Apple has to offer anything new in order for an iPad mini to be a roaring success. The current feature set of new iPad isn’t the best in the tablet world (still no SD card slots or USB ports, no HDMI out, no replaceable batteries, no quad-core CPU). Doesn’t matter. Even without these features, the iPad outsells the tablets that have them by a ridiculous amount. An iPad mini doesn’t need them either.
An iPad mini really only needs to do one thing: Give everyone who was thinking of buying a Kindle, Kindle Fire, Nook or PlayBook (or any other 7″ tablet) a reason to stop, take a deep breath, and then buy Apple’s product instead.
There’s only one possible down-side for Apple: cannibalization of iPad sales. A worst-case scenario for Apple would be if all (or many) prospective iPad buyers decided to buy minis instead. Going from a high-margin model to a lower-margin model would hurt the company a lot. But if Tim Cook was correct (that Kindle Fires an the other small/cheap tablets haven’t hurt iPad sales), and if an iPad mini successfully attracts people who would have otherwise bought those devices, Apple could expand their reach significantly rather than water it down. There was some speculation that when Apple launched the Mac Mini it would have a chilling effect on sales of iMacs. After all, why buy an expensive all-in-one when you could have the same computer running on the monitor and keyboard/mouse you already own? It never happened. Sales of both Mac Minis and iMacs grew after the Mac Mini launched.
So Sync reader, what do you think of a smaller, cheaper iPad? Is it just the tablet you’ve been waiting for, or simply another i-device that you’ll take a pass on?
The new iPad is already on sale. In Australia, that is. And while the enthusiasm for the product was lessened by the fact that the Aussie’s 4G network isn’t quite ready to play with the iPad, people still lined up for the latest “magical and revolutionary” device from Apple.
In fact, if pre-order numbers are to be believed, this may well be the most successful iPad ever. But before you get all carried away by the hype, check out our own Marc Saltzman‘s video review of the new iPad. He’s had a week to play with it and here’s what he thinks…
Now, if you’re still wondering if this device is worth the $519 entry price, we’ve taken the liberty of rounding up some of the web’s leading reviewers so you can take a survey of the various opinions (spoiler alert: it’s all about the display)
The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg)
It has the most spectacular display I have ever seen in a mobile device. The company squeezed four times the pixels into the same physical space as on the iPad 2 and claims the new iPad’s screen has a million more pixels than an HDTV. All I know is that text is much sharper, and photos look richer.
The Verge (Joshua Topolsky)
Yes, this display is outrageous. It’s stunning. It’s incredible. I’m not being hyperbolic or exaggerative when I say it is easily the most beautiful computer display I have ever looked at.
TechCrunch (MG Siegler)
What we have is a 9.7-inch slab of aluminum and glass that when illuminated, becomes an absolutely stunning display of light and color.
New York Times (David Pogue)
If you’re in the market for a tablet, here’s the bright side: For the same price as before, you can now get an updated iPad that’s still better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals.
CNET (Donald Bell)
The iPad’s new screen is a stunner. That’s really all you need to know about the new iPad
Though I would be shocked to learn that you haven’t already committed every single iPad rumour to memory, for those who haven’t been glued to their twitter feeds, here’s what we’re likely to get from Apple’s announcement today:
- Higher resolution screen (possibly an iPad version of the iPhone 4/4S Retina Display)
- Faster processor (maybe even Quad-core)
- Faster data connectivity thanks to 4G LTE
- Siri (Apple’s intelligent assistant/voice-recognition software)
- Better front and rear cameras (HD in the front, up to 8MP in the rear)
Those are all very good bets and I fully expect the next iPad to include all of these features.
Good as they are, these improvements are all incremental, not big steps forward. And while they would be sufficient to keep Apple in the driver’s seat as far as the tablet wars go, no one is going buy it if Tim Cook attaches the words “magical” or “revolutionary” to such a device.
But what if Apple does indeed have something magical and revolutionary to announce? The guys over at BGR seem to think that’s exactly what will happen and that it will be a new screen technology which will give the newest iPad a tactile feedback system. Imagine being able to “feel” bumps, vibrations and textures through the screen of your tablet, and that these could all be controlled in real-time to correspond to actions on the display.
Such is the promise of a company called Senseg, which uses a patented process they call “Tixel technology.” It’s an electrostatic process that manipulates the difference in electric charge between the screen and the skin of your finger to fool your sense of touch into thinking it’s experiencing changes in the surface of the display. And according to some still-sketchy reports – Apple has licensed Senseg’s tech.
Wild speculation of this kind has proven completely wrong in the past, and this idea of a screen that could respond to human touch so dynamically may just be another case of wishful thinking. But there’s no question that Senseg’s Tixel tech has Apple written all over it. And if the iPad 3 (HD?) incorporates this tactile tech, it will truly be a product announcement to remember and a boon for Apple’s dominance of the touchscreen market – be it tablet or smartphone.
Details are thin, but AllThingsD writer John Paczkowski is reporting that next iPad will be unveiled next month at a special event in San Francisco and the betting is that the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will be the venue as it has been for previous Apple events.
The launch is expected for the first week of the month, and while no dates have been leaked for retail availability, based on Apple’s track record it’s conceivable that the first units will ship in early April.
In case you haven’t been following the non-stop trail of Apple rumours in recent weeks, check out Marc Saltzman’s post on the all of the features and specs the tech community expects to see in an iPad 3.
Will the next magical and revolutionary device from Cupertino be a must-have gadget? That will really depend on who you are.
As we’ve seen from the progression of Apple’s iPhone models, a certain leap-frog mentality accompanies each successive model. In other words, iPhone 4 owners for the most part didn’t see the iPhone 4S as necessary upgrade, but iPhone 3GS owners and those who had never bought an iPhone before were probably very enticed by the 4S’s features.
It’s very likely that Apple will continue this formula with the iPad 3 – it will have enough new features that an original iPad owner will feel the urge to trade up, but iPad 2 owners won’t feel that their tablet has just been rendered obsolete.
It’s a fine line, but one that Apple walks with unparalleled success.
Here’s the back-story: A few years ago, uber-geeky gadget site ThinkGeek.com ran one of their annual April Fools Day gags – they prominently displayed a product on their homepage called the “iCade” claiming it would turn your Apple iPad into a full-on classic gaming arcade experience.
Naturally the product was completely fictitious, but that didn’t stop tons of fans from writing in and declaring their enthusiasm for such a device.
Within the year, ThinkGeek had partnered with ION Audio, then a company best known for their USB Turntables and the iCade had gone from creative nerd-joke to a real-life product at CES.
We got our hands on the iCade earlier this year and enjoyed it thoroughly.
It wasn’t long before the imitators started to appear and I suppose that got ION thinking that they had indeed stumbled onto a good thing.
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see that at this year’s show, they were showcasing three new iCade products: the Core, the Mobile and the Junior – all of which stick to the essential formula of giving gamers physical controls for their favourite i-devices.
The iCade Core directly attacks Atari’s own iCade-like product, the Atari Arcade which itself undercut the original iCade by almost $50.
The Core is a stripped-down iCade offering all of the functionality with virtually none of the nostalgic style.
The iCade Mobile is easily the most innovative of the three new products, and does a superb job of converting an iPhone or iPod Touch into a Nintendo DS/i. With its full compliment of buttons and a slick turntable feature which lets you alter the orientation of your device, this could be the hardware add-on that convinces iOS game developers to abandon touch-only control schemes for their games, which would inevitably lead to better, more immersive games on a device that has more than enough horsepower to handle them.
Finally, the iCade Junior – it’s the cheapest of the bunch, but frankly I doubt it will succeed. Awkward to hold and not as satisfying as either the Core or the Mobile from a control-scheme point of view, this member of the iCade line-up is cute, for sure, but little more than a curiosity.
Last week, the buzz was significant. Rumours were flying around concerning what Apple was planning for the 10th anniversary of its first retail store. Some suspected Apple might suprise us with the next iPhone, while others guessed at a massive re-design of the stores themselves.
Today, if you had walked into any Apple store in Canada or the U.S. the world you would have seen the change right before your eyes. And yet, unless you were very familiar with Apple’s usual merchandising, you might have missed it completely.
The clean, wood-veneered tabletops which display the latest gear from Cupertino, now include something new to look at: The Smart Sign.
In effect, the Smart Sign is nothing more than an iPad 2 encased in a lucite block, giving you access to the touch screen and the home button, but nothing else. On the iPad’s screen runs a single app. The app is programmed to give shoppers more information on the product they’re looking at, be it an iPhone, iPod or yes, even an iPad. The concept is bindingly simple, and not even original: select restaurants have been using iPads to enhance the meal and drink ordering routine almost since the device’s debut a year ago.
What makes Apple’s implementation of the Smart Sign different is the way the app is tied into the rest of the Apple Store systems. One of the buttons that is always available at the bottom of the app’s interface is labeled “Specialist.” Tapping this button gives you the option to immediately add yourself to a queue to speak face-to-face with one of the stores many associates. Think of it like that flight attendant button you used to see in every airplane. Except, in this case, when you press the flight attendant button, it tells you where in the queue you are.
Behind the scenes, the store’s system then behaves like taxi dispatch service, sending out a message to the store associates via their customized iPod Touches which dangle around their necks. Associates can then accept the call, at which point the system shows them where in the store the requested originated.
Once you see the whole system in action, you can’t help but wonder, is Apple merely using their own stores as a test-bed for new retails technology before rolling out a similar offering to other retailers, big and small? If you ask an Apple associate they’ll simply smile politely and tell you they have no knowledge of Apple’s plans for the future of Smart Signs. But you can tell they’ve been thinking the same thing. By the way, in case you were thinking you might just buy a bunch of iPads and download the Smart Sign app… sorry, it’s an Apple-only app… for now.
The Smart Sign wasn’t the only improvement Apple stores received this week. They’ve also added a new section – well actually two tabletops – dedicated to a service called “Personal Setup.” It isn’t much to look at. Just a table with a few MacBook Airs tethered to it. But this is where a store associate will take your brand new Apple purchase out of its box and get you up and running on it so you don’t have to spend your first minutes with your new device all alone. The tech-savvy amongst us might very well mock the need for such a service, but it’s really handy even if you do know exactly what you’re doing. It turns out I got a sneak preview of Personal Setup when I bought my iPad last year. When I left the store, my brand new tablet was already synced with my Apple account and I was able to surf, watch YouTube and anything else I wanted to do. Normally, I would have had to do this sync myself at home on my PC. For a device like an iPad or iPod, it’s not a huge time-saver, but imagine going home with an iMac that had already been configured for you by an expert. Now stop chuckling and imagine you’re someone who has hardly ever used a computer, let alone a Mac running OS X. Ah, now you get it :-)
So while neither the Smart Sign nor the Personal Setup are nearly as exciting as say a new iPhone or a brand new addition to the Apple ecosystem, today’s Apple store enhancements might well prove to be yet another way in which Apple has set a standard to which others will one day hold themselves.
The source of the amusement this time round is CrunchGear, who picked up on a thoroughly ridiculous concept: the iPad Tactical Pants.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good set of pants – particularly if they’re festooned with a variety of pockets – but there is practical limit to just how much gear you can reasonably tote around with you before you risk hurting yourself, or worse, your favourite gadgets.
The pair of Tactical Pants pictured above is a model known as “Kitanica.” And as the image shows, trying to pocket your brand new iPad 2 in this $160 garment (and then subsequently performing the ill-advised act of sitting) could easily lead to a $500 replacement bill. Yikes.
But it’s not all bad news for those of you who are determined to keep your tablet pal with you at all times. The team at TacticalPants.com have identified several other models of pants that are better suited to iPad-totage, namely the Genuine Gear variety which appears to offer a somewhat saner side-pocket location.
So with Father’s Day rapidly approaching, you now have one more option to show dear ol’ Dad how much you love/love-to-mock him.