Tag Archives: iOS 5

iPhone 4S Review

It turns out we did not get our fabled iPhone 5, but we did get a new device from Apple last week, the iPhone 4S.  As usual, I received my device on day one and am prepared to review it.

Design

The iPhone 4 had an impressive design with glass and on the front and back and a stainless steel band holding everything in, and the iPhone 4S maintains that design.  The 3.5 inch retina display remains as well.  Again, those hoping for the iPhone 5 might be disappointed, but the 4S looks great, especially in white.

Hardware

What is new with the 4S is the internals.  Apple’s dual core A5 chip (from the iPad 2) is paired with 512MB of RAM.  Apple claims the A5 will improve performance by up to 2X for daily tasks and up to 7X for graphic rich games.  The iPhone 4S is quicker at launch apps, loading apps, and just about everything else.

Another major change internally is the antenna.  There was a lot of controversy surrounding the iPhone 4’s antenna.  So much that Apple provided free cases to iPhone 4 customers experiencing a drop in network connectivity.  Apple has supposedly fixed this issue by allowing the phone to switch seamlessly between two antennas built into the phone.  So far, tests have indicted this system has worked.

Camera 

Apple is very proud of the fact that the iPhone 4 is the most popular camera on Flickr and they have upgraded the camera for the 4S. The sensor is increased from 5MP to 8MP, but the real story is in the CMOS sensor from Sony.  The backlit sensor allows in more light making the images crisper in low-light situations.  In addition, Apple has added an additional lens into the design allowing for more accurate color depiction.  All these features, along with the new  f/2.4 aperture (improved from the old phone’s f/2.8) make for a great camera.

In addition, the camera now takes 1080p video and, paired with iOS 5, includes many new built in photo editing options.

iOS 5

The latest release of iOS improves greatly on what Apple has already created, and addresses many of the concerns put forth by those in the tech world.  The creation of Notification Center is certainly one of the greatest features in iOS 5.  Notification Center is similar to that on an Android device and makes it easy to keep track of everything you missed.

Other features such as: iMessage, Newsstand, Reminders, Twitter integration, and mail improvement are just a few of the over 200 new features in iOS 5.  Perhaps one of the greatest new features is the fact that Apple has made their devices truly wireless.  It is not longer necessary to sync your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to iTunes for backups and updates.  Syncing can be done over WiFi and the OS is now updated over-the-air via delta updates.

Overall, iOS 5 is a very solid OS.  There were some download issues when it was released last week (my iPhone 4 was bricked for a few hours), but that was largely due to the amount of traffic on Apple’s servers.  It has been reported that 1/3 of all iOS devices are now running iOS 5.  It hasn’t even been out a week yet!

iCloud

A major new feature of iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion is iCloud.  iCloud allows the user to wirelessly sync photos, calendars, contacts, bookmarks, documents, books, mail, and iTunes between all your Apple devices without the need to sync.  It is all done automatically and it works very well.  For example, I downloaded an iBook yesterday to my iPad, it automatically downloaded it to iTunes and to my iPhone.  I also added an appointment to my calendar on my iPhone and it automatically added it to my calendars on my iPad and MacBook Pro.  As Steve Jobs said in June, it just works.

All these features are also accessible from iCloud.com if you are not on an iCloud enabled device.  Users can also signup for a free .me email address if they choose.  Perhaps the most amazing part of iCloud is the price, FREE.  iCloud is free to all iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion users.  I believe this is going to start a trend in the tech world as cloud services become more and more popular.

Siri 

Perhaps the greatest, and most fun, feature of the iPhone 4S is Siri.  I am sure you have seen all the articles about Siri’s attitude and snappy remarks, but she really is helpful.  She can send email and texts, set reminders and appointments, make phone calls, play music, search the web, and just about anything else you might need.  She does so, as she says, humbly.  Siri is remarkably smooth for a beta and there are few times that she misunderstands.

Yes, Siri is fun to ask off the wall questions, but she is very useful and I think will only get better with time. I believe that Apple will eventually share Siri’s APIs with developers and we will see voice integration with 3rd party apps and that will truly make Siri the master of everything.

Impressions 

I have to admit that at first I was a little disappointed by the announcement of the iPhone 4S on October 4, but after using it for a few days, you begin to realize that Apple still has the complete package.  Having used Android phones, most recently the Samsung Galaxy S II, there appears to be an inherent cheapness to the feeling of the chassis of many phones.  The iPhone 4S, like the iPhone 4, feels very strong and durable, despite being made from glass.  The other issue with many phones is the disconnect between the hardware and software, but with Apple, both are made by the same people to ensure they work together seamlessly.  The iPhone 4S is a strong smartphone with great overall features, but other devices, such as the Motorola Droid RAZR, are thinner and have larger displays.  Apple is on par with the current market, after all, Apple did sell 4 million over the weekend, but a major redesign in 2012 will be required if they do not want to fall behind the crowd.

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The Problem with Apple’s Newsstand

Apple’s iOS 5 is full of great new features (features I will review in full detail in my review of the iPhone 4S) and one of my favorite was supposed to be Newsstand.  I say “supposed to be” because there is one major flaw in Newsstand.  It is not the fact that it is nearly impossible to put Newsstand into a folder, but it is the price of subscription to some of the publications.  The idea of selling media digitally is to cut down on the costs of printing and postage.  One would think, therefore, that digital editions of magazines and newspapers would be cheaper than their paper counterparts, and some are.  For example, The New York Times can be delivered to your iPad for $20 per month.  That is a $10 savings per month over home delivery costs.  Autoweek’s digital subscription only costs $4.99 for a year subscription, half off a print subscription.  National Geographic charges $19.99 for the Newsstand subscription, the same as print.  Charing the same amount is fine, but some magazines have really gotten it backwards.  Motor Trend is a great example of a poorly conceived pricing structure.  If I subscribed to Motor Trend by mail, I only pay $10.  However, if I want to get it digitally on my iPad it is $19.99.  WHY???  The iPad edition is more interactive and includes videos, yes, but I can get the same videos from their website for FREE. Why should I pay more for a magazine that it not generating the costs of printing and postage?  Motor Trend is not the only magazine doing this, here are a few other examples:

-Popular Mechanics: $12 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

Esquire: $8 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

Golf Magazine: $10 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

Reader’s Digest: $10 by mail, $14.99 on iPad

Vanity Fair: $19.99 by mail, $19.99 on iPad

The New Yorker: $59.99 by mail, $59.99 on iPad

Publishers need to realize that in order for a digital distribution system to work, they are going to need an aggressive pricing strategy.  Charging twice as much for digital over print is ridiculous.  I understand that this is new to many publishers and they are working on pricing, design, etc, but I feel that over time prices will come down.  I do not mind paying for content, but I do mind being screwed.

*I have emailed Motor Trend with my concern and will update this post if they reply, but I doubt they will.

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The Apple iPad 2 Review

After waiting in line at Best Buy yesterday to receive one of the 15 iPad 2s, I can honestly say Apple has not disappointed.  After Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPad last week, many wondered what made this iPad different from the first generation model.  The answer is all in the hardware.

HARDWARE

The iPad 2 had many new hardware features that make it far superior to the previous model.  The most obvious is the body itself.  The iPad 2 is only .34 inches thin and it feels completely different in the hand.  The new flat back makes it feel like a thin book or, more appropriately, like a magazine.  The aluminum back and glass screen make the iPad rigid and it feels incredibly durable.

iPad 2 next to the original iPad

The addition of two cameras also sets the iPad 2 apart from its predecessor.  The front-facing camera is VGA only and is meant for making Facetime video calls.  The rear-facing camera is 720p HD video camera, but when taking pictures, the rear camera is less than 1 megapixel.  The images are okay, but not the greatest quality.  The iPad, however, is too large to be an effective camera.  I have the iPhone 4, which has a 5-megapixel camera with flash.  This serves the purpose when I am on the go.  The cameras do well a video camera and that is their primary purpose.

The other major change to the iPad 2 is on the inside.  Apple’s A5 chip is a 1 GHz dual core processor that has dramatically increased speed of day-to-day operation.  The processor makes iPad 2 nearly twice as fast as the original and nine times faster with graphics.  iBooks (Free) is noticeably quicker.  Games that are heavy on the GPU are noticeably faster and more detailed.  The other major change is the iPad 2 has 512 MB of RAM instead of the previous generations 256 MB.  This allows the iPad to keep more open webpages in its memory as well as operate apps better in the background.  Also added under the hood is a gyroscope that give better control when playing games.

Unchanged on the iPad 2 is the screen.  The 9.7 inch display is unchanged, but still just as rich in detail.  The bezel surrounding the screen remains the same size but now comes in black or white.  Overall, the hardware of the new iPad 2 is what gives it its competitive edge.

SOFTWARE

The iPad 2 came preloaded with Apple’s new iOS 4.3 release.  This came with such improvements as quicker Safari browser, Air Time updates, and the option to use the switch on the side of the iPad for mute or rotate lock functionalities.

iMovie for iPad

There are a few additions to iOS 4.3 that are only found on the iPad 2, however.  The Facetime app is like the one on the iPod Touch and works very well.  There is a camera app like on the iPod and iPhone, but the big story is Photo Booth.  If you have a Mac, you know what Photo Booth is capable of.  It takes funny pictures of you and your friends for you to post all over your Facebook wall, but Photo Booth does more than that.  It shows off the incredible speed of the new A5 processor.

Drums on Garage Band

There are a few other apps Apple has created to take advantage of the iPad 2’s cameras and speed.  The first is iMovie ($4.99).  This is currently available for the iPhone and is a capable app.  It allows you to edit movies you have made with your iPad.  The other app is Garage Band ($4.99).  On the Mac, Garage Band only works with physical instruments, but with the iPad the instruments are virtual.  Whether you play the piano, guitar, or drums, Garage Band has you covered.  They also have “Smart Instruments” for those of us who are not musically inclined.  In addition to instruments, Garage Band allows the user to mix tracks and use the iPad as an amp for several instruments.

Photo Booth

OVERALL

Smart Cover and the iPad 2

iPad 2 is a very solid device and one that I will use every day.  Like the original iPad, the iPad 2 has a wide variety of accessories including Smart Covers ($39 – $69) which use magnets to attach to the iPad and easily lock and unlock the iPad by just closing or opening the cover.  I purchased a grey Smart Cover and it works very well and does not add a lot of bulk to the design.  What is truly amazing is that with the smaller size, new hardware, and added speed, the iPad 2 retains the original iPad’s 10-hour battery life and price point.  I purchased the 32GB black Wi-Fi iPad 2.  Of course, everyone wonders what Apple has in store for the next iPad, as well as this summer’s iOS 5 update, but for now, I have no problem waiting with the iPad 2.

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