Why I Will Buy an iPad Mini

[Update: Ordered 32GB Wifi version and it will be here Nov 2nd.]

On Friday I will order an iPad Mini. Here’s why:

I’m an Apple fan. I’ll admit it. I have a little white Apple sticker on my car. I am typing on a MacBook Pro. I have an iPhone 5. My son has an iPod Nano with a watch case. My wife has an iPod Nano (older generation), We have an iPod Touch. I have an iPad 1 (64GB, 3G). I like Apple products. Obviously, we don’t buy everything they make, but we do choose them for many of our electronic desires.

I like the quality of their stuff. There is a reason that Mac computers cost more, and still sell well. There’s a reason that iPads and iPhones sell so well. The interface is great, the quality is great. Their products do what most people want and need. And they do it without complications.

Someone mentioned this to me yesterday, and it is so very true. Apple announces a product, and then delivers it a few weeks later. They don’t talk about prototypes and what they will hopefully deliver, they just deliver. The iPad mini is announced and I will own one the first week of November.

I’m cheap. I like technology, but I am not rich. I can’t buy the latest greatest everything. I still use an iPad 1. I got that device when I worked at a church. They bought it for me. And I got the biggest, baddest version available. When I left, the 3rd gen iPad was already out and they let me take the iPad 1 with me. Which is good because I wasn’t going to be able to upgrade myself. I can’t just drop $600 on a tablet.

In fact, in order to finance the purchase of the iPad Mini, I’m selling the iPad 1 and some other stuff. I’m giving up the screen size, but look at what I’m getting.

The iPad Mini either meets or surpasses the iPad 2’s tech specs. It has cameras, faster processing, runs iOS6 and all my apps. Even Siri. My iPad 1 is discontinued and can’t update to iOS6. I get a lot, and give up a little size. Which I actually like.

I want the form factor and my apps. I own a Nook Tablet. Actually, now I’m selling it. When I first got it I was sure I would be using it all the time. I really liked the smaller size (compared to my iPad) and was just sure it would be my new favorite tablet. And while I did carry it around for a while, I went back to my iPad. I wasn’t a huge fan of the interface. I could read all the same books using my Nook app on the iOS devices. (and read iBooks and Kindle as well) Forget typing on the thing. Not because it’s small, I type on my iPhone all the time. The keyboard just didn’t work very well for me. I had planned to use Evernote on the Nook, but couldn’t get past the keyboard.

I wanted to carry a smaller tablet. I ended up using my iPhone more. I didn’t want to lose my apps. I didn’t want to adjust to a new interface.

So now, the iPad Mini comes out. I won’t buy the 3G version. I have used 3G on my iPad a total of 3 times in the years I’ve owned it. I expected to use it all the time, but I just don’t need it. And because of cost, I won’t get the 64GB version.

I wish the iPad Mini had come in starting at $299. Would have loved $249. But when the specs were as good or better than the iPad 2 which is priced $70 more, I get the price. The $329 price settles in the range of Apple products nicely. New iPod Touch is $299. Larger iPad Mini is $329. iPad 2 is $399.

The only way it could have been in the $200-249 range is if they severely reduced the capability of the device, and made it out of cheaper material. Think about it, if they had released a bulkier, cheaper made 7″ tablet, people would be complaining about how poor the product was. They would rightly be pointing out that this isn’t the brand that Apple has built. People want Apple quality. And now that they have it, some pundits and blogs are complaining about the price tag.

I learned something about shopping a long time ago: If you can’t tell the difference between products, buy the cheaper one. If you can, by the better one.

I have (soon “had”) a cheaper 7″ tablet. I don’t use it. The Apple products are better. So now, I will buy a better small tablet. And I will be making a significant upgrade from my iPad 1. I haven’t been this hyped about a new Apple product since the iPad first came out.

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Streaming the Game

This year for the first time ever the Superbowl was officially streamed by the network broadcasting it. You could watch the stream from any computer, iPad, or Verizon iPhone. The stream showcased multiple camera angles and it’s own set of advertisements.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it sort of is.

A major sporting event was available online, complete with ad revenue and bonus content at the same time as the live broadcast of the event. I’m interested to know how many people streamed it, and how it was received. If this was successful, we will continue to see broader streaming offerings from the networks. It’s easy to start with a game the this, since the audience is so large. You could do the same thing with the Oscars. This was just one broadcast, but more will follow.

Small and Cheap, But Is It The Right One? My Nook Tablet Review

We recently got a Nook Tablet.

I had wanted to pick up either the Nook Tablet or the Kindle Fire. I looked at a lot of previews and reviews, and two things drove me toward the Nook tablet. One was the poor/mixed reviews of the Fire. The other was the paper specs on the Nook Tablet. It has twice the processing power, RAM, and storage with an expansion slot. Even after it became known that the internal storage of the Nook limited user content to just 1GB, the expansion slot more than made up for it.

So we got it and have been playing with it for a few weeks.

I find myself wondering if we made a mistake. I know I can always root the thing and turn it into a basic android tablet, but I’d like to keep it as a Nook device. My concerns isn’t about the performance, really, but about something else.

Yes, it needs more apps. Like a lot more. And it needs more free apps. I know the selection will grow, but man. Still, I was able to load Evernote on there so, it’s not all bad. And Hulu Plus and Netflix have been getting a work out. I like the crossword app as well. All the apps work great. Just need more of them.

Text input is a lot different. It’s mostly a QWERTY keyboard, but some of the non-letter keys are located in odd spots. I’m still not used to it,,and I make typos all the time.

Video playback is great. Really great. Netflix and Hulu Plus look amazing, and both have decent interfaces. Watching your own video is more complicated. It takes a bit of navigating to get to them. I’ve tested a few file types, and was able to get a 720p .mp4 to play without trouble.

Of course, reading a book is great. The 7 inch size is really the right size for an e-reader. Lighter than my iPad and bigger than my iPod Touch or iPhone. Some people have said that trying to read magazines and comics leaves a bit to be desired on the smaller screen, but I haven’t tried that yet.

But those are not the things that make me think I may have made a mistake. No, I may have made a mistake because I think Amazon is going to win the low end tablet competition. When shopping for the tablets, most employees did not know anything about the Nook Tablet, and while they may have been mistaken about the Fire, at leas they knew something about it. In store displays are very telling. target and Walmart still does not have a Nook Tablet on display. One store still have the Nook Color listed at $250, instead of the new $200 price. Best Buy did have the Tablet, but had two Kindle Fires o display in very prominent floor space.

Barnes and Noble just isn’t getting the play that the Fire is. Amazon was first to announce and first to market with their device. If attention is any indication of success the Nook Tablet is barely a spark compared to the Kindle Fire. I don’t know how much Amazon spent on promotion, but Barnes and Noble obviously hasn’t spent enough. They are not getting the push the Fire is getting.

I hope the Nook Tablet stays around. I think I’m keeping the one we have. Every time I think of returning it, I see another poor review of the Fire. I’m not saying the Fire is a bad device, just that it’s no better than the Nook Tablet unless you are heavily invested in the Amazon media world (Prime, music store, etc…) If by some chance I end up with a discontinued tablet, I’ll root it and run regular Android software on it. The faster processor and larger memory will be better for that. I’m hoping an update frees up some of the internal memory and we start seeing more apps become available.

Flixster/Ultrviolet Review: Maybe it Will Get Better?

[Update: The new iOS 5.0 version of the Flixster app allows downloading to your device, so you can view movies offline. Flixster listens. Now for 3G streaming… and Airplay.]

A few weeks ago I bought Green Lantern on Blu Ray. It’s packaging claimed it came with a digital copy, and on further inspection it was a new sort of digital copy that uses a couple of companies to deliver streaming movies.

I really like digital copies. I use my Apple TV to stream movies from my iOS devices to my TV, and even use an iPod Touch to watch movies on a small TV in the car on long trips. My iPad is almost always filled with video. If a movie comes with a digital copy, I download it. If not, I try to handbrake it. Digital copies are generally a little smaller, look great, and even have nice cover art. Now, they are DRM’d to iTunes, which isn’t great, but since most of my device can handle that it’s normally not an issue.

When I saw this new Ultraviolet/Flixster digital copies I was intrigued. There are iOS apps for the service, and you can stream the video instead of having to load it onto your device. You can download the files as well.

So I started the process of getting my copy. First I had to sign up for Flixster, then in the registration process I was taken to a portal to sign up for Ultrviolet. I spent about 20 minutes trying to complete the registration. I was stuck at the password creation portal. Something was wrong. I finally left the registration. turns out that ultraviolet has a different criteria for passwords than Flixster. The one I was trying to use wasn’t setting off any warnings in the Flixster portal registration, but Ultraviolet wouldn’t let it complete. I signed up on the Ultraviolet site, and went back with that login info to complete my Flixster set up.

I could stream my movie. I went ahead and downloaded the apps and even downloaded the file of the movie itself onto my computer. I logged into the app on my iOS devices and I could view my movies. So far so good.

I soon discovered that there ae a couple of issues with the service, though. I can stream the movies on my devices, but only in a wifi signal. I cannot watch the movie on my iPhone over 3G. well, that was annoying since the main selling point was that i could stream the video instead of having to load it onto my device.

I thought, OK, I’ll just load it. Then I discovered you cannot load the movie file onto your iOS device. It can only be played on the computer. Now I’m annoyed.

I won’t be able to use my movie outside of a wifi network on any portable device. Want to watch the movie on a plane? Nope. Let your kids watch one while diving down the road? No way.

With the iTunes digital copy, I may have to load the file onto my device, but I can watch it anywhere. So, I took the DVD and handbraked the movie. I am not a fan of the Flixster/Ultraviolet digital copy.

The one redeeming thing? Their social media team is very responsive. They have an active twitter, and they pointed me toward their developer feature email. I sent an email asking for what I would consider basic functions. If you want to be a replacement for iTunes, you have to be able to do at least why they do. If you want to be considered a streaming solution, you must be able to stream over 3G.

In the meantime, I will stream the video when i want at home, but will load my ripped copy when I want to take it out. Maybe they will add these features and make the service better.

56 is Too Young

A little before 8:00 PM tonight I got a text message saying that there were reports that Steve Jobs had died. After battling pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs passed away.

I don’t think we fully realize how big of an impact he had on how we interact with technology. Here is a short list:

The GUI. The MacOS changed how we used computers.

iTunes. Arguably, Apple saved the music industry.

First iMac. No more beige boxes and no more floppy disk.

Final Cut Pro. Helped make video production affordable.

iPod. The walkman of our times.

iPhone. Still seeing the ripples of this device in the market.

App store. Changed how we buy software

iPad. Singlehandedly created a new market.

And maybe Siri? Who knows how this will change things.

I’m sure I’ve overlooked a lot. Job’s influence will be seen for years to come.

He will be missed.

Happy iPhone Announcement Day

In just a few hours Tim Cook will take the stage and announce something about the iPhone. And iCloud. And iOS5.

There are still tons of rumors floating around. I think we will see an iPhone 4S announced. I still have my doubts about any iPhone 5 this year.

It’s almost certain that the new model will have a faster processor and an 8 megapixel camera.

There have been reports of voice control, 1080p video capability and other features.

We will probably see the end of the 3GS, and introduction of an 8GB iPhone 4 at $100 as the base model.

And of course we will get a release date for iOS5 and iCloud and iTunes Match.

I’m looking forward to it.

October 4th Apple Event: My Prediction.

So, every time Apple holds a major event, I like to try to guess what they will announce based on rumors and my guess. This worked great back when Apple announced the iPad (even though I guessed it would be the iSlate) and not so good when I missed most of the stuff about the iPad 2. I don’t have any sources, just like to read the different posts about tech and possibilities from rumor sites. Although not official yet, the date of October 4th is out there. [Edit: Guess it’s Official Oct 4th is on.] If there are any hang ups, things could get put off a bit, but we have been hearing about the Fall announcement for some time. What will Apple Announce?

iOS5: This one is a no brainer. It’s supposed to release in Fall. October is Fall. The interwebz say that the Gold Master of the mobile software is supposed to drop this week. I’d be shocked in iOS5 wasn’t rolled out with this announcement. [Edit: Still no Gold Master of iOS5. There has been some recent comments about some new voice control features. Could be very nice.]

iPhone: This is where the major speculation has been. Since Verizon got the iPhone 4 back in January the “normal” release pattern for new phone handsets has been out of whack. Releasing a new iPhone in the Fall will allow that to coincide with the past iPod release schedule. Just in time for Christmas!

But what will the new iPhone be? There are two threads of rumors. One is a “4S” with minimal design changes, and the other is the iPhone 5, with larger screen, curved back and other improvements.

I think that the most likely scenario is an iPhone 4S release this year. Lots of rumor posts are talking about the lack of parts of the iPhone 5. Normally by now we would have seen China-made-cases-in-every-color made to fit the new body style. There would be blurry pictures floating around of random metals parts. I’ve only really seen a screen cover for a larger screen and larger Home button. There was a case prototype a while back showing a return to a curved back, but that’s about it.

The iPhone 4S on the other hand sounds like a definite. Same processor as the iPad 2, 8 megapixel camera, and probably going up to 64Gb on storage. Those features would also be available in any iPhone 5 model, but the 4S seems more likely. It would also fit the pattern of Apple: 3G to 3GS to 4 to 4S. It could include the ability to capture and edit 1080p video. That would be nice. Oh, and the antenna thing will be fixed.

Another reason you might just see a “slide-grade” rather than the full fledged upgrade to an iPhone 5 is that no Verizon customer will be anywhere close to the end of their contract period. Most would likely opt out of paying the early upgrade fees. If the upgrade is just to a “4S” that’s not as big of a deal because then next year (just a few months short of their January contract date) Apple rolls out the major reform that everyone must have. Everybody’s happy. Verizon might even do what AT&T has done in the past and allow people within a few months of contract end to upgrade without penalty.

So, iPhone 4S with iPad 2 processor, more storage available, and an 8 megapixel camera. iPhone 5 is a longshot.

iPod: It would be right in the cycle for the iPod line up to get a little refresh. The Classic might finally go away as flash storage prices are coming down. What if there were an iPod Classic with Flash memory? Imagine a 256 GB Flash iPod Classic? Pricey, but wow. We could see a 128 GB Touch. Maybe some storage size changes in the Nano and Shuffle.

But, what if that larger screen prototype with the curved back was the new iPod Touch? The current one has a slightly different screen than the iPhone 4. It’s not a lot different but it is different. Imagine a screen slightly larger than the iPhone, but the same Retina resolution, which we have been told by Apple is higher density of pixels than the human eye can see. Why not expand that size a little bit? Better for games and video. the larger size could accommodate larger flash storage as well.

Regardless, I’d love to see at least the current 5 megapixel camera, if not the same 8 megapixel camera come to the iPod Touch.

iCloud with iTunes Match: Now, I am running the beta for iOS5, but not iCloud or iTunes Match, so this is speculation. They will show off the integrated nature of Lion and iOS5 with iCloud. And then roll out the streaming-that’s-not-streaming feature of iTunes Match. Both will be available alongside iOS5.

iPad: I don’t think you will hear anything about the iPad, except bragging about how many iPad 2s have been sold, and maybe a slam or two on the rest of the tablet market.

One more thing… Apple TV? The Apple TV 2 software is ready for an upgrade. I expected Apple to announce that it would be moving toward a more app based OS when they rolled out iOS5. I’d love to see crackle, and other network apps launched. Stream for free with ads for a limited time (like Hulu), or purchase without ads and watch it forever, like you can now. I would expect at the very least the ability to “stream” from your iCloud. There is 8 GB of storage in the Apple TV, they could use it just like the new iTunes match sort-of streaming that has been talked about. I would not be surprised if they only allowed you to stream videos you purchased through iTunes, in order to appease the studios, but I’ve gotten quite a few digital copies off Blu rays, so that would be fine with me, as a start.

There might be more. None of these are big shockers. The Apple TV one may be a bit out there for today’s market. There has been some talk of an actual TV screen with a built in Apple TV. That would be interesting, but there has not been much chatter about it. The only thing that’s definite is the iOS5 rollout with iCloud and iTunes Match.

Summer of Discontent: Running iOS5 Beta

I jumped in. A friend of a friend is a developer for iOS, and he had a couple extra device spots for a beta tester, so I signed up. I upgraded my iPhone 4 and iPad (original) to the iOS5 beta. It took me all of half a second to decide to do it.

The Dangers:
Now, a few days in, I can tell you I will never be so fast to jump in again. At least with my iPad. I just need to know the apps on there work. I lost several apps that are key to my work flow. I don’t have to have most of them on my iPhone, but I use them on the iPad daily. I don’t blame the app developers (And I for sure don’t go post negative reviews on the app store about it!), they should not have to support a beta software. That’s why it’s a beta. I should have updated one and not the other. But I wanted to play with iMessage and sync docs back and forth through iCloud.

But my iPad isn’t a toy. I use it for work. Suddenly key apps did not work. I know that they will work again, but for now I’m out of luck. I am waiting eagerly for the next version of the beta, hoping it magically fixes these important-to-me apps. Take it from me, rushing headlong into beta testing is not smart.

Now running it on my iPhone, that is another story.

The Cool Factor:
There is something narciisiticlly nice about being the center of attention. People gather around as you demonstrate the features they have been hearing about in the newest version of iOS. They cannot get this new thing for months, but they want it and you have it. There are enough parts of the new beta working that you can show it off, but just be sure not to expect glitch free bragging. Invariably, something will drop. That’s OK, this is a beta. It’s not supposed to be perfect. And it is cool.

Useful:
One of the reasons I wanted to do this is to use the features mentioned in the keynote. iOS5 is going to be amazing. I would go on about how cool it is, but I don’t want to say too much.

The NDA:
The Non Disclosure Agreement is pretty intense. I don’t blame Apple. Beta software isn’t perfect, and no company wants people complaining about what may or may not be working. So, I won’t be talking much about it, even though some blogs feel free to say plenty.

In the meantime I eagerly await the next version of the beta, in hopes that my summer won’t be completely jacked up by my impetuousness. I’d roll my iPad back, if I could. But, in the meantime I wait, and use alternative apps to get my work done. Oh, and enjoy a great new iOS from Apple.

Post WWDC Keynote

So the other day I told you what I would like to have seen in the WWDC Keynote. Now that it is over and the dust has settled, I wanted to touch on what was revealed.

Lion:
No huge surprises, except the price. Wow, $29.99 for all authorized computers. Very nice. Only 4GB? Is that an upgrade only or is it an entire system size? I love Spaces, so I figure I’m going to like Mission Control even more. I am ready. let’s do this. I just hope my production applications don’t get too broken. Not out until July.

iOS5:
Notifications and reminders are awesome. Not customizable very much, but the location reminder thing is going to save me a lot of headaches. Sync over wifi is also going to be very nice. Nothing about needing a time capsule, which makes sense. Delta upgrades are going to be huge for people who use large apps, like Infinity Blade and navigation apps with map data. Wireless mirroring to the Apple TV will be huge. Fall release.

iCloud:
The option to back up over the cloud, and even go without a PC completely is appealing.

Where is the actual music streaming? I am glad I can store stuff in the cloud, and I get that most people would over run their data limit pretty fast and the carriers would be screaming. But I’d sure like at least wifi streaming. My hope was to have streaming access to my music (and video!) without having to store it on my local device. Handy that I can be out around town and download a song, but I still like the Amazon stream when I want feature better.

Without actual streaming, I don’t think I will have a huge use for iTunes Match. I’m trying to get my head around the benefit, except that I won’t have to store music on my computer? Also, what happened if I let my iTunes Match service lapse? Do I lose access to that music? I’m guessing this is just another part of the whole ‘Post PC” world thing.

5GBs of free storage is cool, but you can run through that fast enough. Even though actual apps don’t count against it, app data does. So my GPS app’s 1.8 GB of map data is a big chunk of that 5GB.

iTunes in the Cloud beta is available for everyone right now. And all of your iOS device store apps have been updated with “purchased” sections where you can already download any song or app you have bought before. Just upgrade to iTunes 10.3.

No Hardware:
I was surprised that there was absolutely no hardware mentions. Maybe we will see a new iPhone closer to fall when Apple normally updates the iPod lineup?

Overall, much of what people expected was revealed. Some things were a surprise. I am eager to get my hands on Lion and iOS5.

Amazon Cloud Player Works With iOS Devices

A few days ago several reports surfaced that Amazon had quietly upgraded the functionality of its cloud player, and now all iOS devices could use it.

I have been playing with it for a while. It streams about the same over 3G as it does over wifi, for me. There is a small lag time between tracks, but nothing you can’t handle. As the article linked above says, the controls are not designed for a small screen, so iPod/iPhone users will be scrolling a bit. You can see and use your playlists, at least the ones on top of you list of playlists (since I cannot get mine to scroll down).

This isn’t anywhere as nice as an app, or even a web app, would be. But it’s a start. As a result, i took most of my music off my 16GB phone to make room for apps and video. If need to hear a certain song that isn’t loaded, I can just use the cloud player. How long will it be before there is a reall app for this? I’ll bet people are working on it right now.