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.

Sprint brings Free Wi-Fi Calling to iPhone

Sprint logoWhen I got my first cell phone in 1995, I opted for a plan that included a whopping 60 minutes of monthly airtime. Back then, cell phones were still looked at as “emergency contact devices” by most people. But much has changed in the last two decades. Today, cell phones are ubiquitous and there’s an expectation that we can use them wherever we go. And for the most part, this is true. However, there are still some challenges when it comes to finding a cellular signal, and smaller carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile have had to adapt their coverage systems to fill in the gaps where their towers can’t reach.

Wi-Fi calling has been a regular feature on most T-Mobile handsets for years. This service allows customers to make standard voice calls over Wi-Fi when the cellular network is out of range. And now, Sprint is bringing a similar service to its iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s-wielding customers. Over the next week, Sprint’s iPhone customers will receive a software update that allows them to initiate high-quality voice calls over Wi-Fi. This enhances and expands Sprint’s coverage and connectivity options. The service is as easy to use as Bluetooth – there is a simple setting to turn it on and off. Calls made over Wi-Fi won’t have any impact on a user’s voice or data plan, making those calls virtually free.

Sprint customers will now be able to take advantage of millions of Wi-Fi networks to talk and use data even when cellular coverage may be limited. This will definitely make a difference in office buildings and other places with cellular network challenges. Customers traveling internationally can also use Wi-Fi calling to enjoy free calls from over 200 countries back to the U.S.

When I recently got back into the cell phone game with an iPhone 6 Plus, I didn’t even consider Sprint as an option, mainly due to the company’s lack of overall coverage. Upgrades like this will definitely make the carrier more attractive in the future.

Todoist Celebrates Version 10 of its iOS App with iPhone and Apple Watch Giveaway

Todoist LogoOver the last year or so, it became pretty obvious to me that I needed to step up my game in terms of personal productivity. Like a lot of people, I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and figured I’d try and implement that methodology to the best of my abilities. I looked for apps that would help me in this pursuit and I tried out a few different ones. The app I found that I like the best is Todoist, a to-do list and task management system that runs on most platforms.

This week, Todoist announced it would be releasing version 10 of its iOS app:

Since late last year, our team of developers and designers have been busy studying the intricacies of just how our community adds and manages tasks on-the-go. Armed with these insights, they got to work crafting several powerful new features, each designed to make staying productive an effortless experience. We believe that this is the most intuitive task manager for iOS– one that will continue to help people like you achieve truly amazing things.

Here’s a rundown of some of the features found in the latest version of Todoist:

Intelligent input: Type important task information like due dates, labels, and priorities directly into the task field on your iOS device. The intelligent in-line adding will recognize, highlight and immediately sort out and properly categorize all the details for you.

Quick add: There are two new ways to quickly add tasks to your Todoist projects. Add tasks to any list by simply clicking the red circle in any task view or project. Any items you add with this quick add option will instantly appear at the bottom of your list/project. You can also use your index finger and thumb to pull two tasks apart– this action lets you quickly add one or multiple items right then and there.

Start and end dates: Todoist will be able to handle extreme due dates, no matter how eccentric they get. For example, you could create a task to “run two miles with Carrie every thursday at 6am starting April 2nd and ending October 12th.” The scheduling possibilities are endless.

Expandable/collapsable list views: This feature makes it easier to manage and visualize complex projects. Now, you’ll be able to indent and reorder tasks and sub-projects by simply using the “long press” tap action and moving the task to its correct place. Hide less imperative tasks to get a full overview of your project by collapsing sub-tasks and sub-projects.

Multi-task editing: Increase efficiency by editing two or more to-dos at the same time. Need to change all the dates in your marathon project? No problem– just select all the items that need to be modified and tap on the calendar icon to select a new date.

This new version of Todoist also offers a variety of themes so you can customize the app’s appearance to fit your own personal style. Also, Todoist is running a giveaway contest in connection with the release of this app update. Lucky winners will receive either an iPhone 6 or an Apple Watch. You need to be a Todoist in order to win. Follow the link at the top of this article for more information on how to enter the contest.

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?

I Just Wanted To Give You My Money, T-Mobile…

T-mobile logoI’ve been in the market for a couple of smartphones. Specifically, one iPhone 6 Plus for myself and one iPhone 6 for my wife (and fellow GNC contributor) Jen. I was all set to purchase the new phones from T-Mobile earlier this week. But the utter failure of T-Mobile’s website lead me to buying from a competitor instead.

When I logged on to the T-Mobile site, I was immediately greeted with this message:

T-Mobile website browser warning

 

I was using the latest version of Safari on an iMac running the latest version of OS X. And yeah, I get it. Safari is often a bit of a thorn in the side of web developers. But, come on. It’s 2015. Macs are everywhere and many Mac users (including me) prefer to use Safari. Upon seeing this message, I knew I was in for trouble. But I carried on, anyway. I closed the browser warning message and clicked the “Shop” link at the top of the T-Mobile site.

From there, I selected a silver iPhone 6 Plus and continued on thru the rate-plan selection process, which went OK. Then, I went to add the second phone and that’s when the process started to fail. When the iPhone 6 screen loaded, it never gave me an option to buy the phone. I was stuck. I went back to my shopping cart to try and resume the process, and after much lag I was eventually given a “Processing Error” page that told me something had gone wrong, to wait a few minutes and try again.

So, I waited a few minutes and tried again with no luck. I waited a few more minutes and made another attempt. Still nothing. I’m not sure how many times I repeated this process before I started getting frustrated. I imagine at this point, most people would’ve given up. I guess I’m stricken with some sort of weird combination of patience and stubbornness. But, the thing is, I really wanted to buy these iPhones from T-Mobile.

[Read more…]

Element Case Turns Your iPhone Into A Pro Camera At CES

Element case poster

There’s no doubt that smartphone cameras have improved immensely in the past few years, but they still haven’t reached the quality of a DSLR. Element Case is partnering with optics company Schneider to transform your iPhone 6 into a photography star.

Jamie spoke to Jeff Sasaki, CEO of Element Case, about Element’s new iPro 6 lens case. The sturdy case protects your phone, and the attachable lenses securely fasten to the case to drastically improve the quality of your iPhone’s camera. The range of interchangeable lenses includes wide-angle, super-wide-angle, macro, fisheye, and telephoto so you can create the perfect image every time. And with the ability to attach a handle and/or tripod, iPhone photography has never been better.

The iPro 6 case and lenses will be released Q2 of 2015 with prices between $100-$300 depending on your chosen lens configuration. For more details, check out the Element Case website.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly.

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On3 PowerCliq Smart Battery Case

PowerCliq LogoCombo battery cases for the Apple iPhone are commonplace from no-name clones to well-known manufacturers whose brand is almost synonymous with the product. On the other hand, combined case, battery and Bluetooth headset packs with smart battery management are really quite rare. In fact, On3‘s PowerCliq is the only one I know of, so watch Don get a hands-on demo from Brad Yasar of On3.

The PowerCliq is a 2700 mAh battery case for the iPhone which has two additional features. The first is a Bluetooth 4.0 headset that slides into the back of the case for both storage and charging. The second is that the charging features of the external battery can be controlled by app on the iPhone. When plugged in, most battery packs simply charge until the smartphone is fully charged and then keep it topped up; there are some schools of thought that suggest this can be detrimental to the long-term performance of the battery.

On the PowerCliq, the app can be used to set a minimum battery level such that the recharging doesn’t kick in until the iPhone’s battery falls to that level and once fully charged, turns off. This larger discharge / charge cycle is supposed to improve the life of the battery.

The PowerCliq is fundraising on Kickstarter with early birds getting in at $88.  Update: since CES, the Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled. There’s a note on Instagram saying that this is to allow for new developments and the campaign will restart soon.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Marshall Electronics Targets Pro Portable Audio

Marshall Electronics LogoSmartphones, and in particular the iPhone, are beginning to replace the video camera for on-the-spot interviews especially when it’s a one person gig. While the video side of the recording is well covered by the iPhone, the audio isn’t, mainly because the camera has to be six feet away from the subject rather than the the six inches preferred by a microphone. Marshall Electronics have been thinking about this problem and Don gets a world exclusive on their newest product from Perry Golstein.

Marshall have been working on a set of portable accessories for the iPhone which connects pro gear for high quality audio recordings. Brand new is a battery-powered pocket-mixer with four audio inputs, headphone monitor and an analogue output. In addition, the mixer has a digital out over USB: connect the mixer to the iPhone via Apple’s camera connector and the audio can be recorded digitally. The mixer will be available later in the year with a target price of $249. Very neat.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Schneider Optics Interchangeable Lenses

Schneider LogoDigital pictures and cameras on smartphones have changed the photography beyond recognition in the last twenty years and the quality of the imagery is such that innovative filmmakers are using iPhones to record footage. One restriction remains and that is the lens itself; there’s only one and it’s fixed in place. There’s no swapping in a macro lens, though Schneider Optics might have a solution. Todd finds out more from Don.

Schneider Optics iPro Lens systems provides a selection of high quality optical lenses for Apple iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy S4, including macro, wide-angle, super wide, tele and fisheye. The system works by fitting the smartphone itself into a case and then mounting the lens onto the case with a bayonet connector to ensure the best possible optical alignment. The smallest offset can lead to aberrations and a loss of picture quality, which the iPro Lens case and lens combination avoids.

The iPro Lens is available now for the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus variant will be on sale shortly. Lenses cost from $39 to $99, the case is $31 and there are kits available too.

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

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