Would You buy a 12 Inch “iPad Pro?”

apple logoCoverage of tech industry rumors has really turned into a cottage industry in recent years. Nothing fuels the rumor mill more than anticipated new products or product updates from Apple. It seems like every time a tech blog gets the tiniest shred of information about a potential new iThing, dozens of websites then kick into overdrive with endless reaction and speculation pieces.

I tend to ignore most of this cruft but one rumored item that’s being tossed around by tech pundits has me somewhat intrigued. That item is the so-called “iPad Pro” (also referred to sometimes as the “iPad Plus”). The iPad Pro is believed to be a 12 or 13-inch iPad. This would be the largest modern iDevice Apple has ever made, eclipsing the size of the iPad Air 2 by about three inches. It’s even been suggested that the iPad Pro will come with a built-in USB port, a first for Apple touchscreen devices.

2015 does seem like the year for the iPad to go Pro. Traditionally, Apple has rolled out new additions to its existing product lines slowly. And while the original iPad has seen a number of upgrades over the years, its overall form factor hasn’t really changed. iPad Mini, the successor to the original iPad has gone thru some iterations of its own, but like the original iPad, its overall size hasn’t changed much since the premier edition. And while the first iPad pretty much ushered in the era of modern tablet computing, competitors have been quick on Apple’s heels to design comparable devices. Walk into any retail store that carries electronics and you’ll see larger-sized tablets running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems. But nothing from Apple.

I’ll admit, I’m usually a sucker for new Apple things. I’ve owned a total of four iPhones over the years, one iPad 2 and one iPad Mini. After a year of living without a cell phone, relying only on my iPad Mini for mobile computing/communication needs, I recently got back into the iPhone game, and its caused me to do some reconsideration on the role of mobile devices in my life. Overall, I find I’m using the Mini less and I’m leaving it at home more often. I’m still using the Mini as part of my audio production toolkit, and it’s nice to have around the house for things like looking up recipes or the occasional game of Flight Control. But for things like e-mail or listening to podcasts, I find I’m using the iPhone more. Given that the Mini is becoming more of a “stay-at-home” device, I don’t really need the smaller form factor, which is incredibly convenient when traveling. That led me to consider swapping the Mini for an iPad Air 2. That’s when I started seeing the iPad Pro speculation.

I’m legally blind, so I tend to prefer larger screens anytime I can get them. In a lot of ways, the iPhone Six Plus is really the first smartphone I’ve had that I can truly use. And while the Six Plus display is unquestionably big at 5.5 inches, the Mini’s display is still bigger, coming in at nearly eight inches. But even with that extra real estate, the Mini is still light and relatively easy to hold in one hand. This is important for me as I have to hold the device relatively close to my face in order to really see what’s on the display. This was really difficult to do with the iPad Air 2, not only because the device was too big to hold in one hand but also because it was kinda heavy. This gives me some pause in ditching the Mini for a larger iPad, as I don’t want to wind up with a device that’s awkward or difficult to use at times when I might need to hold the device in order to see it properly.

Which brings me to the iPad Pro. Apple has made great strides over the years in making its devices thinner and lighter. So while the Pro would still be the largest iPad ever, it may actually weigh less than the iPad 2 I used to have, thus making it a bit more manageable as a handheld device. There’s also an ever-expanding market of third-party stands, mounts and cases that allow mobile devices to be used in different environments while freeing users’ hands from having to hold those devices. If the iPad Pro turns out to be real, a plethora of these accessories will surely flood the market. And it almost goes without saying that a larger-screen iPad would be great for someone like me. I often have to rely on the zoom function built into iOS to see things on my iPad Mini’s screen. A larger screen could make that unnecessary. At the very least, I might not have to zoom in as much to properly see what’s on the display.

And really, display size is just the tip of the iceberg as to how an iPad Pro could be useful to me. All of the current prognostication is placing the potential release of the new device to happen during the fourth quarter of this year. There’s still a lot of time for this particular rumor to turn into digital vapor. For now, I may go out and take a look at some of those other 12-inch tablets on the market, just to get an idea of what the form factor is like. Of course, none of those devices will truly replicate what an iPad Pro will be like, but it’s a start.

iStick Flash Drive at Gadget Show Live

MyiStickFlash drives and smartphones have never really gone well together for the simple reason that full-size USB is only present on desktops and laptops, making it tricky transferring files from PC to phone. Android has a love-hate relationship with SD cards and micro USB OTG is only present on a handful of devices. As for Apple, one of their camera kits is needed to view external USB storage but only handles photos and movies. Whether original Apple connector or newer Lightning, there’s no easy solution.

Fortunately, salvation is at hand for Apple owners with iPhones and iPads equipped with Lightning connectors. The iStick is a flash drive that has both a USB and a Lighting connector with a clever sliding mechanism that pushes out one or other of the connectors. Movies, music and documents can be accessed directly from the iStick without copying the files to the iPhone.

MyiStick Range

Available in a range of capacities from 8 GB (£49) to 128 GB (£199), the iStick colour denotes the capacity and the aluminium body compliments the Apple range. Check out the interview to learn more about the iStick.

Apple Watch Edition is a Mistake

Apple Watch EditionThe Apple Watch Edition is a mistake. There, I’ve said it. Apple fans can leave vitriolic comments below without reading any further.

The Apple Watch Edition is too expensive. Way too expensive. Apple fans can leave additional vitriolic comments below without reading any further.

The Apple Watch Edition will sell plenty. Not record breaking numbers, but well enough. Apple fans….just a sec, hold on…how can it be a mistake, too expensive and still sell? It’s because the problem is not the Watch Edition itself but rather what it represents.

In many ways, Apple and the late Steve Jobs embody the American dream. Although there were setbacks along the way, persistence, hard work and great products from the iMac to the iPod and iPhone led to success, fame and wealth.

On the other hand, Apple was egalitarian. While their beautiful, well-designed products were aspirational, they were also affordable. Not impulse buy affordable but if you too worked hard, saved your pennies, you could afford the Apple product of your dreams. The relationship was reinforced with iPhones and iPads in the hands of celebrities and fashionistas; you could have the same phone as your favourite pop star or actor. In an era of mass-produced mediocrity, you could have something a little special.

And this is why the Watch Edition is a mistake. Apple now has a product which is unaffordable for the vast majority of its fans and owners. There’s now Apple haves and Apple have nots and never wills. What you have is no longer special. The equality of product between the rich and (relatively) poor, the famous and the unknown, has been lost.

That’s why I think the Apple Watch Edition is a mistake. It’s nothing to do with its looks, functionality or value but rather the change in perception of Apple by its supporters.

What do you think? Is the egalitarian nature of Apple’s product line important?

Perfect Bake with Connected Scales at CES

Perfect BakeAlthough the Internet of Things is very much of the moment, sometimes all you need is a connected device. In this case, the device being connected is a set of kitchen scales. Todd and Todd start cooking with Darin Barri and Perfect Bake Scale and App.

Targetted at cooks and bakers, Perfect Bake combines digital scales with a tablet app to make sure that the weight (or more correctly mass) is just right. Connected via the audio jack, scales can weigh in real-time, showing the quantity on the tablet screen. The app has hundreds of recipes and can walk the baker through the steps with mixing times and instructional videos. The scales come with colour-coded preparation bowls to help too and the app can adjust quantities to suit appetite.

There’s an even an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is right, so whatever’s baked, it’s baked perfectly every single time.

The app available for both Android and Apple devices, the Perfect Bake Scale and App is available now for $69.99 from Brookstone. A Bluetooth wireless version will be available later in 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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Jamstik Guitar For Your iPad

Zivix LogoLearning to play a musical instrument is both challenging and rewarding but fitting practice into today’s busy lives can be difficult. Zivix Jamstik – the guitar for iOS – could be the answer. Chris Heille from Zivix shows the two Todds a few riffs.

The Jamstik is 16″ lightweight, portable guitar with six real strings and five frets designed to fit into modern life. It’s also a MIDI guitar controller which wirelessly connects with the iPad, iPhone and Mac. The Jamstik gives you the ability to use all of the nuances of guitar playing to control your favourite music creation iOS apps or Mac software.

Jamstik is a new idea in guitar controllers because it uses infrared light to “see” what your hands are doing in real time. Unlike other MIDI guitar solutions that rely on audio analysis and conversion to MIDI, the Jamstik scans the fretboard to detect what your fretting hand is up to before your picking hand ever hits a string.

If you want to learn the guitar, the included JamTutor iPad app will get you going through the basics of playing guitar without the hassles of tuning, lesson scheduling or expensive guitar teachers.

The Jamstik is available now for $299 from a range of retailers including select Apple stores. If buying direct from jamstik.com, look out for the limited time discount code CES2015JSSAVER.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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Ion Audio Gets The Party Going at CES 2015

Ion Sound Experience

The great thing about Ion Audio is that they concentrate on fun audio products: seriously, who else puts a speaker in plant pot? At CES, Ion has continued in the tradition of fun with two products for two very different environments. Todd listens in with Wendy Fortin, Ion Product Manager.

First up is the Block Party Live, a 50W PA speaker on luggage wheels complete with light show. No really, there’s a light dome on top that projects coloured lights. Music can be streamed via Bluetooth and there’s an Apple and Android app to control the lights. Available now for $199.

Coming inside, the Sound Shine are wireless stereo speakers with built-in LED lighting. Screwed into a standard lamp holder the two speakers can either work as independent mono speakers or can be paired up for stereo sound. As with the Block Party, music is streamed via Bluetooth and both the music and light output can be controlled via an app for both Android and Apple devices. Available in Q1, $69 buys a single lamp and $129 gets a pair.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Rapoo announces new tablet cases for Samsung and iPad at CES

rapoo-caseIf you listen to recent analyst reports then you’ll think tablets are falling out of favor. However, reality seems to state otherwise, as devices continue to be released and sell. And where these exist, so exists a market for accessories, in this case….well, cases. A good case can protect your tablet from harm and even make you more productive by providing a physical keyboard.

Rapoo, known for mouse and keyboard, is also in this market. And, at CES 2015 the company unveiled a line of new tablet cases that are just waiting for a buyer.

The company starts off with a new line for your Samsung gear (not the watch). “Rapoo’s Keyboard Cases for Samsung Tablets are compatible with the Samsung 8”, 8.4”, 10.1”, 10.5” and Tab Pro 12.2” models. The protective cases feature a unique multi-model case system in a convenient ultra-slim, lightweight design. The Keyboard Case is paired with the tablet in seconds by way of Bluetooth technology. The cases are available in black, gray, red or blue”.

This is followed by a set of iPad cases to protect your Apple investment. “Rapoo offers two variations of its Keyboard Cases for the iPad, both compatible with iPad mini 1, 2 and 3 and iPad Air. The first variation, the Keyboard Case, features the same design, functions and colors as the Samsung tablets, while also providing an auto on/off function to conserve battery. The second variation, the Keyboard Cover for iPad, is dressed with the sleek iOS aluminum housing. The Bluetooth keyboard cover boasts a 4.5 mm ultra-thin design and features special iPad keys”.

All of these new cases are expected to be available in the spring of this year, with prices ranging from $49.99 to $99.99. You can head to the Rapoo site to keep an eye one things.

Capti Narrator Comes To The Desktop

Capti LogoFor most people it’s usually faster to read than it is to listen but there are times when it’s better to listen than it is to read; while driving or at the gym, or even for pleasure to nod off to sleep. If this sounds of interest, take a look at Capti Narrator.

Capti Narrator is a popular app for the iPhone and iPad which takes text and reads it out. It’s sophisticated with features such as playlists and it can read from a range of textual formats (.pdf, .doc, .rtf, .epub, etc.) sourced from a variety of locations – Google Drive, Dropbox, Instapaper, local storage and more.

At this year’s CES, Charmtech Labs LLC has announced Capti Narrator v1.0 for Mac and Windows computers which greatly increases the flexibility of the app. If Capti is installed on more than one device, the playlist can be synchronised via Capti Cloud and seamlessly switched between devices. Capti makes it easy to add webpages to the playlist and it skips ads, menus, and other clutter and reassembles articles spread across multiple pages. Without installing Capti, the Capti Bookmarklet can be added into any web browser on Windows, Mac, or Linux to add webpages to Capti Cloud.

Capti can be downloaded for free from www.captivoice.com.

Gazelle Sells “Previously Enjoyed” Tech

Gazelle LogoGazelle’s trade-in programme for unwanted smartphones, tablets and other gadgets is well known and has featured in GNC before. If ebay doesn’t work for you then Gazelle is a good way to generate a bit of cash from stuff you don’t need any longer.

In addition to buying gadgets, Gazelle are now in the business of selling with “Gazelle Certified Pre-Owned” which offers a small range of gently used phones and tablets. At the moment it’s mostly iDevices, with the iPhone 4 from $159 and the iPad 2 from $249. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is there too at $159 and I imagine they’ll be extending the range of devices over time.

Store

The phones and tablets are graded and are described as “Certified Like New” or “Certified Good”. On the devices I checked over, the condition doesn’t appear to make any difference to the price but I assume that in some instances the price goes up for the like new ones. Gazelle say that all the devices go through a 30 point inspection to ensure the devices are fully functional and back this up with a 30 day no quibble money back guarantee.

I think the prices aren’t too far away from what you’d pay on ebay and Gazelle offers a much better proposition when it comes to getting what you paid for. A previously enjoyed smartphone or tablet can be ideal for a careless child or tough environments such as the kitchen where you might not want to risk your shiny new top-of-the range iPad Air.

Read An eBook Day

Read an ebook dayJust in case you were going to miss it, Thursday is “Read an a eBook Day“, a celebration of modern storytelling. Surprisingly, it’s not sponsored by Amazon on behalf of the Kindle but rather OverDrive whose apps let you borrow library books for free. Yes, for free.

It’s probably one of the best keep secrets in the whole tablet and ereader business. Contrary to what Amazon would  have you believe, you don’t have to buy ebooks from them as there are plenty of up-to-date novels available from your local library. The downside is that transferring books isn’t that slick and you need an ereader that’s not tied in to the Amazon ecosystem. I have a Nook, but ereaders from Sony and Kobo are supported as well, and you need to load the books via a PC rather than downloading across the Net.

If you have tablet, it’s much easier as the OverDrive app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone, as well as for Windows and Mac desktop platforms. Check the appropriate app store or else try OverDrive‘s web site. Once you have the app, all that’s needed is a membership of a library and you can download directly from your library to your tablet.

Instead of “Read an eBook Day”, Thursday should be “Read a Free eBook from your Local Library Day”.