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iPad 2 vs. Kindle Fire vs. Xoom & Others: A Tablet Buyers Guide

Entertaining the idea of getting (or giving) a tablet computer this holiday? Why not? Tablets like the iPad 2 will be the hottest hi-tech gift this holiday season. Tablets give you the world on a platter, compressing all the processing muscle of a laptop computer into a handy-dandy slate that you can hold in your hand — and which is light and portable enough to take anywhere.


Santa’s not the only one putting smiles on faces this Christmas; the iPad 2 will again light up the holiday.

The real question is which tablet computer is right for you? Apple’s iPad 2 is the market leader but other tablets have come along that solidly compete with it. It’s debatable if these contenders match the iPad’s grace and power. Still, these other devices may prove attractive to consumers since they are priced well below the iPad.

We’ve evaluated the leading tablets and have a side-by-side tablet-comparison chart below for your holiday shopping, but we’ve also listed our picks in order of preference:

1. iPad 2
 
Pros: Apple’s iPad 2 expands upon the original iPad in several ways. For starters, it has two cameras for FaceTime (video chat) and HD video recording. It’s powered by Apple’s dual-core A5 chip and features a 10-hour battery life. The latest iOS 5 adds more than 200 new software features. With the iPad 2 you also have access to Apple’s iCloud. Apple’s App Store showcases games and productivity. Apple has also added more apps (some 140,000 in all) to the store, making it the largest library of content for any tablet. It’s the market leader — and our top pick — for a reason. The interface is graceful, intuitive, easy to use and beautiful. If you’ve never owned an Apple product, this one will make you a lifelong fan.

Cons: The iPad 3 is scheduled for release next year.

Overall Dimensions: 9.50 inches (height) x 7.31 inches (width) x 0.34 inches (depth)
Weight: 1.33 pounds
Display: 9.7-inch diagonal LED-backlit glossy widescreen
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels; 132 pixels per inch
Screen Display: Multi-Touch display with In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology. Screen treated with fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
Manufacturer: Apple, Inc.
MSRP: $499—$829

2. Kindle Fire

Pros: Incredibly compact (small enough to slip in a purse), the Kindle Fire is as small as its price. Enhanced with Amazon Silk, a “split browser” that divides the tablet’s web-browsing chores between the tablet and the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), the Kindle Fire boasts its own dual-core processor. And since it’s made by Amazon, it’s backed with an incredible amount of content,  including 18 million movies, TV shows, apps, games, songs, books, newspapers, magazines and more (with comics provided by DC Comics). The Kindle Fire offers 8 GB of internal storage; Amazon figures that’s enough for some 80 apps plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books.

Cons: No camera for video chat or taking pictures.

Overall Dimensions: 7.50 inches (h) x 4.7 inches (w) x 0.45 inches (d)
Weight: 14.6 ounces
Display: 7-inch diagonal
Display Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels; 169 pixels per inch
Display Screen: Multi-Touch display with IPS technology and anti-reflective treatment
Manufacturer: Amazon
MSRP: $199

3. Nook

Pros: When you’re the world’s largest bookstore, it’s assumed that content won’t be in short supply and Barnes & Noble estimates its book holdings at more than 2.5 million titles. And at 16 GB of internal memory, the Nook Tablet has twice as much storage as its closest competitor, the Kindle Fire. (We still like Kindle Fire’s resemblence to the iPad.) The Nook Tablet also contains a microSD card slot that offers extra storage, which is noticeably lacking in other tablets, like the iPad 2. Interested in the Nook Tablet for reading purposes? You’ll be happy to know the adjustable fonts customize your reading experience (eight text sizes and six font styles). In addition to what B&N calls the largest digital collection of newspapers and magazines, the Nook Tablet is the tablet home of Marvel Comics.

Cons: No camera for video chat or taking pictures. Interface is sometimes clunky.

Overall Dimensions: 8.1 inches (h) x 5.0 inches (w) x 0.48 inches (d)
Weight: 14.1 ounces
Display: 7-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels; 169 pixels per inch
Screen Display: VividView Touchscreen, fully laminated for remarkable clarity and reduced reflection and glare-read indoors or outside
Manufacturer: Barnes & Noble
MSRP: $249

4. TIE: Xoom / Galaxy Tab
Xoom

Pros: Sporting a hefty 10.1-inch display, the Xoom is able to take advantage of hundreds of thousands of apps from the Android Market. Through Google eBooks, the Xoom is able to draw upon a library that ups the ante at more than 3 million titles. To enable video-chat capabilities, the Xoom has front and rear-facing cameras. It’s powered by Google’s Android and has plenty of horsepower. A MicroSD card slot allows for addition storage or moving your media, and it performs more than adequately.

Cons: At 1.6 pounds it’s one of the heaviest tablets out there. Google’s operating system has stability issues and it has other issues like images displaying properly in the Gallery viewer. An added insult, almost all of the Android games in the Android app store aren’t optimized to run on the tablet. (FAIL!)

Overall Dimensions: 9.81 inches (h) x 6.61 inches (w) x 0.51 inches (d)
Weight: 1.6 pounds
Display: 10.1-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels; 150 pixels per inch
Manufacturer: Motorola
MSRP: $499

Galaxy Tab

Pros: Like the Xoom, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 also boasts a 10.1-inch diagonal screen. Samsung claims faster and more stable online connection thanks to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 having both HSPA+ and Wi-Fi access. Also on-board: front- and rear-facing cameras that support video chat functions. Also powered by the Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) platform, which Samsung claims allows quicker processing times because the platform excels at multi-tasking. And speaking of multi-tasking, the Mini Apps used with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 let you perform multiple key functions while working with other applications. It is one of the thinnest Honeycomb tablets available and it comes packaged with earbuds(!).

Cons: The App selection is subpar. During our tests, even with a full Wi-Fi signal the online video playback had issues.

Overall Dimensions: 7.48 inches (h) x 4.74 inches (w) x 0.47 inches (d)
Weight: 13.6 ounces
Display: 10.1-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels
Manufacturer: Samsung
MSRP: $499—$629

5. Kobo Vox

Pros: Love to read? The Kobo Vox has a library that exceeds 2.2 million books.The Kobo Vox is focused on the reading experience and Kobo claims a total library of more than 2.2 million books, as well as more than a million free titles. Magazine content is supplied via thousands of popular magazines from Zinio and newspapers from around the world. Kobo is marketing the Vox as a “free reader,” meaning that once you purchase a Kobo Books title, the user/owner can then enjoy it on any opened reading device. Should you need more external stimulation, the Vox offers unlimited web browsing and open access to Android 2.3, including more than 15,000 apps. It’s a new entry to the tablet world.

Cons: It’s a cheap alternative to the big boys by a relatively unknown tablet maker, which could make for technical-support nightmares. Kobo’s books are more expensive than Amazon’s.

Overall Dimensions: 7.57 inches (h) x 5.06 inches (w) x 0.53 inches (d)
Weight: 14.2 ounces
Display: 7-inch diagonal
Screen Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels; 150 pixels per inch
Screen Display: Multi-touch screen optimized for reading outdoors. Features extra-wide viewing that its makers say is ideal for shared reading.
Manufacturer: Kobo, Inc.
MSRP: $199

Side-by-Side Comparison

Apps Make the Tablets
In the end, it comes down to two things: a good operating system and (just as important, if not more so) apps. Making apps for the iPad isn’t easy but it is fun. Creative app developers are really driving tablets. Ultimately, buyers should decide which applications or what they intend to do on the device first, then find the tablet that fits their needs.

Bottom line: If you already own Apple products, like the iPhone 4S, you will probably want to get the iPad, mainly because of the App Store, iTunes and iCloud support. If you prefer the Android operating system then the Xoom might be best for you. If you want a much cheaper tablet that kind of feels like an iPad,  then Amazon’s Kindle Fire is your best bet. Whatever you choose, one thing is for certain: you’ll most likely be giving or getting a tablet this holiday season.

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posted by Phill Powell in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

How Siri Works

iTunes made the record store digital, the iPhone took communication into the space age, and Siri (pronounced Sir-ree) is Apple’s latest step toward our technological future.


Siri, a voice recognition feature that Apple developed for iPhone 4S, allows iPhone users to quickly access information just by asking your phone. 

Science Fiction, Science Fact 
The iPhone 4S is the fastest selling iPhone ever. AT&T reported it activated a million of the devices over a three-day period. And now those million-plus people are asking Siri for weather reports, restaurant recommendations and to text their wife. But did you know that Apple actually created the Siri back in 1987? Really. And then it was called the Knowledge Navigator.

Think of it like the Jetsons’ version of Google. Don’t believe us? See for yourself:

Apple also predicted when the technology would come to market, way back in 1987. Take a close look at the dates in the Knowledge Navigator video; the professor is looking for a paper from 2006, “about five years ago.” The date on the professor’s calendar is September 16. That would make it September 16, 2011. Apple predicted the technology – a natural-language voice assistant (built into a touchscreen Apple device) – but missed the date…but by only a month.

Can You Hear Me Now?
The Star Trek talking computer we grew up with as science fiction is now science fact. Voice recognition is considered the pinnacle of technology control.

But voice-controlled technology represents problems, though. People and their voices are unique, we pronounce words differently, and in many cases, with a regional accent. Apple believes the voice technology it has created is advanced enough to work. And, amusingly, it does.

Apple’s Siri voice recognition, still in beta, is a natural language-based voice assistant built into iOS 5 and at the center of the iPhone 4S features.

People have been putting Siri to the test across the U.S., asking her to “open the pod bay doors.” (See how 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted the future.)

It’s amazing to see what people do with technology and even more amazing to see what developers can do with smartphones these days. App development for iPhone and iPad is big business and consumers keep the demand high for apps and cutting-edge technology, such as Siri.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

iPad, iCloud & App Cards

At the “Let’s Talk iPhone” event on Tuesday, Apple unveiled its next generation iPhone, the iPhone4S, but Apple was also talking about iPads, iCloud and apps, too.


Apple’s iPad pilot program for schools has put iPads in classrooms, in every state in the U.S. new schools are being equipped with iPads according to a recent article in the NYTimes. Photo via NYTimes. 

Apple has been pushing innovation not only in the technology space, but innovating schools and business. Apple’s latest phone features voice recognition and while it’s an incredible technological step, the company is full steam ahead on all fronts.

Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, got a laugh for saying airplane pilots use of iPads makes airplanes more efficient. But it’s true; the FAA approved the use of the device and apps like ForeFlight. Hospitals are testing iPads, too. In fact, 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies are supposedly “testing or deploying” the iPad in their workplaces. And the amount of schools and summer camps using iPads has dramatically increased.

In addition to the new iPhone 4S, the Apple event was a chance for Apple to toot its own horn and talk about these innovations and outreach. And Apple continues to surprise us with its unique train of thought.


Instead of iPhone 5, Apple introduced…Apple Cards???

Digital Goes Analog 
Apple has surpassed 250 million sales of iOS devices. That’s iPads, iPod touches and iPhones. Apps make these devices truly shine. The App Store features some 140,000 for the iPad alone, with more than 500,000 total apps. More than a billion of them are downloaded every month. Leave it to Apple to introduce one that helps you send a greeting or holiday card. The Apple Cards app lets you create paper printed cards – right from your iPhone or iPad.


Cards are sent with a special postal mark barcode – when they’re scanned at the destination, you get a text message the card has arrived.

If no one else was excited about the Apple Cards announcement, we’re sure the Postmaster General is since traditional postal mail use is significantly down. People still prefer to send cards the old fashioned way, however.

High Above the iCloud 
In the future we’ll all be storing docs in the Cloud. Think of anything you save – a document, picture or song. It all goes in the Cloud. Google Docs has done this for some time, so it’s no surprise to see Apple follow suit by promoting iCloud.

Apple’s iCloud allows the storage of any file type, and serves up all your media on all your iDevices – MacBook, iPhone and tablet. When you sign up, you get 5GB for your mail and docs, and pay an additional $20/$50/$100 more a year for added storage. Users get unlimited storage for photos and music. Using iCloud allows Apple to see all the music you own, and maybe even if you paid for it or not.

But iCloud does allow you to share your media across your many devices, which could come in handy for work or home.

The Core of Apple 
Apple’s doing what it has always done; revolutionizing technology to make your life easier and more productive. Siri, the voice recognition software for your iPhone 4S, is billed as a personal assistant. The iCloud makes moving your media easier. Apple Cards let you send a mailed greeting card right from your phone. Apple is revolutionizing the way we live our lives. And owning an iPhone or iPad isn’t the only to get involved with the Apple revolution. Learning app development for iDevices is a great way to get started with the Apple iOS, too. You don’t have to work for Apple to change the world.

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posted by Vince Matthews in App Development,Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

Apple’s iPhone 5 Versus Android Smartphone: Which is Better?

Apple is the most recognized brand in the world; Apple’s products, specifically the iPhone, are in high demand. And yet, Android phones have started outselling iPhones in the U.S., according to comScore. Why? Google’s widely distributed Android OS rules the smartphone platform. Several different providers offer several different types of service, alongside Android phones that are offered at many different price points. While Apple selects its providers, and only Apple makes the iPhone.


Apple and Android face off in the Smartphone Wars.

That’s why analysts expect Apple to release more than one type of iPhone to address the problem of market share, making the iPhone even more accessible. In addition to the iPhone 5, Apple is expected to release a cheaper iPhone 4, too.

Possible iPhone 5 features:

  • Memory. More memory, possibly 1GB of memory, which is twice the amount currently offered in the iPhone 4.
  • Higher-resolution. 8-megapixel (the current phones have 5 megapixel’s worth).
  • Near-Field Communication (NFC). Use your Google Wallet.
  • Voice Control. Call home using voice navigation.
  • Graphics. Improved and similar to the graphics silicon used in the iPad 2. Imagination’s PowerVR SGX543.
  • Dual-core Apple A5 chip. A boost in processing performance.
  • 3G. A Qualcomm chipset is expected that supports both CDMA and GSM networks.
  • 4G. Via HSPA+.
  • iCloud. Synching the phone might also be done through Apple’s cloud service.
  • iOS 5. New iOS with iMessage, tabbed browsing and lots more.

 
In addition to the Apple App Store, iTunes and whole host of features, the iPhone has 200 of them powering iOS 5. Also expect the introduction of iCloud to play a part.


A computer-generated graphic of the iPhone 5. 

Everyone wants an iPhone, including T-Mobile customers. CEO Cole Brodman recently shared his disappointment in a letter that explained the company hadn’t been selected as an iPhone provider yet. The Chief Marketing Officer for T-Mobile explained his own frustration with Apple and knew the announcement would make customers unhappy.

Droid Does 
The Android OS and droid phones support 4G. A phone like the Samsung Galaxy S 2 has an incredibly vivid and larger display than the iPhone. Droid phones also have great features. The Motorola Droid Bionic has a dual-core Texas Instruments’ OMAP4 processor. It has proved to be a very popular phone in its own right. While both Apple and Android phones support streaming video and audio apps like Hulu, Netflix and Pandora, Droid phones have better audio output and larger displays than iPhone.

App and game development for Google Android devices has certainly become increasingly popular with more games and apps being released ever day. Still, Apple’s App Store and iTunes are well established, offer more apps, games and overall content and are loved by millions.

Some tech-savvy users might say they want the display and many phone options of the Android platform, while having the support and use of Apple’s App Store and iTunes. Unfortunately, you can’t have both. iPhones and their apps integrate with other Apple devices. For that reason and a few others (including iTunes), for the moment, we’ll hold onto our iPhones and remain in line for the iPhone 5.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments