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.

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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.

WWDC Keynote: What Would I Like?

[Check out my Post WWDC Keynote report.]

On Monday Steve Jobs is scheduled to deliver a keynote during the WWDC, 10 AM PST. (That’s 1:00 Pm EST for us East Coast people.) Apple has indicated that this address will be completely about software. It will be concerning Lion, iOS 5, and the new iCloud service. If I had my way, what would we hear on Monday?

Lion:
Last year Apple lifted the lid on its latest OS, Lion. They showed off a lot of features that had been influenced by the touch interface they pioneered with iOS devices. There are rumors that this will be a very inexpensive upgrade, and may be available through the Mac App Store. I am pretty stoked about the touch integration. I have my track pad ready to go. I just need to not to be so different that it breaks all my production applications.

I think this will be available, in whatever form and price, the same day of the event.

iOS 5:
Apple needs to make a few improvements here. iOS is still a great operating system, but competitors have been gaining.

Supposedly Apple is completely reworking the widgets and notifications system. That is one of the major gripes people I know have about the iPhone. Android users can do all sorts of custom interfaces, but Apple has us in a very tight box. I’m used to that box, but wouldn’t mind a bit of room. I would love the ability to change up the lock screen. A few more options on how notifications work would be great, as well.

I have been hearing rumors about wireless syncing. Someone said it would only be through an Apple Time Capsule, but I cannot imagine Apple making that mistake. Forcing iOS users to buy another device just to get wireless syncing would be a mistake. I’d like to be able to sync my devices to my computer over a wifi network. (Or through a cloud based service?)

Having just gone through this, I’d like for them to address the way you move iOS devices from one machine to another. I just upgraded my laptop, and after syncing my devices and reloading them, all of my folders were gone. I still have not gotten everything back to normal.

We will be waiting a couple of months for this to drop.

iCloud:
This is the big one. I expect this won’t be ready to roll out for a couple of months but it won’t be too long because Apple really has had some pressure put on them by Amazon and Google. Neither of those cloud based streaming services are perfect, but they both offer some nice features. Apple will have to match those, and beat them, quickly.

Unlike Amazon and Google, Apple seems to have landed most (or all) of the major record labels. This should pave the way for Apple to bypass the individual locker file system, so they can store one copy of most songs on a few servers, where we who have purchased the song can stream it. Of course, this would only work with songs we have bought from iTunes. Anything else, from music to pictures to video, would be uploaded and stored by each customer.

I have been hearing a price of $20-25 annually, which is in line with the Amazon price structure. I expect songs bought through iTunes would be available for streaming without hitting whatever storage level you have. This should completely replace Mobile Me. There will be some levels of service that are free (like “Find my Phone”) and that may include a small amount of storage. Probably similar to Amazon’s 5GB level.

At the very least it must be able to do what Amazon and Google can. I am a little excited about the possibility of an integrated iOS Cloud solution. I dropped to a 16GB model iPhone this last upgrade because I have a 64GB iPad. But with my apps and content, I sometimes find storing all my music on the phone difficult. But the interface with the Amazon cloud leaves a lot to be desired. I would love a seamless experience of listening to my music on the phone, whether from files stored locally or stored in the cloud.

And, I would love to be able to stream video from the cloud to my Apple TV. Did I mention I have hundreds of GBs of videos? That ability would push me to buy a much larger storage plan. But, like many Apple services, I doubt this will be available day one.

Speaking of Apple TV:
It’s time to move this device to an app based system. I would love to see a totally new operating system. One that borrows from Roku and boxee’s channel model. One where I can add or delete all sorts of online media content. With Airplay and iCloud as its centerpiece, users could set up Netflix, Hulu Plus, and any number of other channels. I don’t expect Apple to open it up to the extent that Roku has with private channels, but this is definitely a direction I’d like to see.

One More Thing:
Of course there will be one more thing. And I think it will be the long awaited iPhone 5 announcement. (Or will it be the iPhone 4S?) Announced Monday with a fall release date. Delayed by the entrance of Verizon this year, it’s time for the annual upgrade to the iPhone line up. It will be a sort of slide-grade. I think the new model will be 64GB max, with the same processor the iPad 2 uses. I expect an 8 megapixel camera, but probably still 720p video resolution. I don’t think we will see a huge change. Some have suggested a larger display, but that won’t be until the next model. Oh, and the antenna thing will be fixed.

Unless, the old rumors of a smaller iPhone are true. Imagine an iPhone Nano, without much local storage, but tied to your iCloud account? Probably not, but iCloud does open some doors.

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.

Widen Your Perspective: A Photosynth App Review

The other day I discovered the Photosynth app for iOS. Currently free, and from Microsoft, this handy dandy little photo app makes panoramic pics so simple. You just tap the screen, and move the iPhone/iPod/iPad around. The app take pics automatically, and then stitches them together into a virtual view. Inside the app and on Photosynth.net website, you can explore them in quasi virtual reality. Or you can crop a version and post it to Facebook.

Above is an image I quickly took of a rehearsal for our Easter production. It makes the Worship Center look huge. I find that I get best results when I manually capture the images. Sometimes the app gets confused, and needs a bit of help. You can only upload to Facebook or Photosynth from within the app, but the images are saved to your camera roll. So you can leave the app and post at will.

For free, hard to beat this fun little photo app.