Tag Archives: Apple

Apple from innovator to patent hawk, result the IPhone 4S+, oh sorry its called the IPhone 5


Apple in almost all its new product launches heralded along with its software “improvements” hardware that would take the smartphone and tablet “mass market” industry a step forward. Against fast growing competition they sustained it with the IPhone 4, the IPad2, the IPhone 4S and then to a lesser degree the IPad3.

On the two areas emphasized

  •  Mass market is key, as there would always be a a few niche products specially in the Japanese market that would be far ahead of hardware that Apple would feature on their devices
  • Improvements in software, is a very sensitive topic as Apple’s marketing up managed to successfully reinvent the wheels with so many features that actually have been on phones sold world wide, but somewhat rare in the US, a market where “smart phones” actually only got picked up very much later thanks to Apple. The world had already got used to Video calling (Nokia had this many many years ago) and Skype did this on most smartphones prior to Apple reinventing it and calling it FaceTime. Some of the new highly touted software features for messaging has been with Nokia phones for years, and people outside the US consider this normal features

While not an Apple fan by a mile, the way Apple have pushed the market to adapt smartphones has been phenomenal, and more importantly how they took the tablet market when others who really invented the concept just went nowhere is an indication of how Apple’s marketing drives consumers. Which is why i own after much thought got an IPad1 and subsequently an IPad2, which i consider a formidable reader, though iTunes limitations are frustrating.

However the arrival of Android from Google for the first time brought a platform that evolved faster than what Apple had faced previously with Symbian and Windows Phone. Android must have been a gift from heaven for the OEM Chinese phone market that previously had obscure operating systems powering their phones, and the growing threat of ZTE and Huawei indicates how the Android has enabled these manufacturers to grow exponentially.

Apple’s key suppliers Samsung learnt quickly and started their own products, just like ASUS learnt from being OEM for HP/Compaq in the PC market, and it seems the speed of growth has not gone well with Apple, with Samsung now becoming the World No 1 for phones surpassing the long time king Nokia, and now the key competitor for Apple in the smartphone market.

However amidst all this Apple always managed to use its control over vendors to bring products that had hardware that pushed things ahead. The GPU was always the industry best, the processing along with the software optimizations made it one of the fastest, and though late into the camera market, again they managed to top this only second to the Nokia products that sadly had more camera than smartphone in them due to the slower paced development of Symbian.

When the Galaxy S3 was released, and along with it the HTC One X, and some very promising products from Sony Xperia, and after a long time Nokia with their new Lumia Windows 8 Phone series, the world waited for Apple to bring something totally unique with the IPhone 5 launch.

But what a surprise, what a let down, the IPhone 5 had Apple fans wondering why they had to upgrade their IPhone 4/4S, and spec to spec the Android and Windows Phone 8 products stood tall for the first time. Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Sony designers and engineers must have slept soundly, though i do hope they don’t go to sleep for too long.  Apple really should have called this the IPhone 4S+, or 4S Advance, but i forgot they can’t because that maybe Samsung or HTC copyright!

  • The Camera, same as the 4S but smaller sensor. However the Galaxy S3, HTC One X, Nokia PureView 808 and possibly the Lumia 920/920 have already gone far ahead in this area.
  • The Screen, 1136×640. The “Retina” in the IPhone ruled, the 4S with no improvement still remained competitive. The new screen just helps it compete, as the S3 and Nokia screens are offering more pixels (1280×720/800) and super quality screens and the new screen maybe better but its not ground breaking. Sony and HTC not going the AMOLED way offer excellent LCD based units. 4″, bigger but the industry has moved to around a 4.5-4.7″ for touch based phones. However this is one area i feel Apple is more closer to what a smartphone should be, as based on my usage a 4″-4.2″ is the best for single handed usage. However the 16:9 form factor makes the phone too narrow, and the older chubbier format is far better on usability
  • The Processor and Graphics, 2X the performance of the 4S, but the quad-core Samsung chip, the dual/quad-core Krait and quad-core Tegra3 processors already do this. Seemingly Apple maybe basing their products on the A15/Krait processor, if so this is the same platform the rival are using, innovation nah. Even the almost $200 quad-core smartphone from China may match this if not now, within a few months!

So what remains is the iOS, the super closed platform that builds around the hardware, that drives developers to develop software simply because people in the developed countries buy apps by the dozen, 90% of which they will never use, but just buy because its popular or because its on discount!

This explains why Apple went to its utmost to get the ruling in court against Samsung its most competitive rival who is not just making competing phones, but has finally started to innovate on the software aspect and are now producing products that surpass what Apple markets.

Apple just like what Microsoft managed to work out with almost all leading Android phone manufactures wants a patent cost for each device from the Android phones, and it knows if it wins one case it can then take on the rest.

Innovation has now been unleashed and HTC and Sony both who are extremely talented in developing truly good looking phones (compare any Xperia to an IPhone, the IPhone looks like an outdated brick) are definitely are focusing, and Sony’s break away from Ericsson has unleashed a whole serious of exciting phones.

What is most interesting is that Nokia a company that has amazing cameras coupled with proper lenses in their phones along with great designs may have the Operating System with Windows Phone 8, and I truly hope Microsoft does not let them down as they did with Windows Phone 7, if not Nokia must move with Android as they have long dumped a true jewel in Meego which only got featured in the design trend setter the great N9.

So for the next few years we may not see Apple as what Steve Jobs portrayed, but see Apple “innovating” more in the courtrooms rather than in their products and services…. What a change… Apple fans start looking elsewhere, there are true great devices with very good operating systems which are far more open (yeah you can copy stuff from your PCs easily, they have SD cards for transfers and storage expansion, they are far cheaper, they have far superior cameras, etc, etc), and don’t worry all the apps you need you will find in the Android and Windows market. It’s the hard core users such as gamer’s who may still want to hang around, but that too may change.. Oh yes it will….

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Apple IPad vs Samsung Galaxy Tablet comparison


Not an easy topic, and i am sure fanboys from both groups will hotly dispute any negatives that you point out.  Frankly speaking the decision between either is very dependent on the user, since both are very capable (and expensive) devices.  So lets take me give my view on various aspects of usage,

Size and Handling : If we were to say the Galaxy being considered as a overgrown gorilla phone 🙂 is fairly a valid statement considering the Touch UI still has to much phone it in than a true tablet.  However the overgrown gorilla phone is definitely more light and carry friendly compared to the whale like IPad 🙂  Though the larger IPad screen definitely is a superb magazine reader, the fact remains that currently it is tad to heavy for long periods of use, as the balance is simply not there.  The Galaxy tab in comparison is a lot more balanced and ideal for this purpose, though a slightly larger screen would have made this perfect (hint- LG with their 8.9″ G-slate/Optimus Pad may have the ideal solution assuming they have perfected the balance of the device).  Do note that both run the same resolution, so there is no difference in the pixel sizes, though the upcoming range of tablets are all set to boost the pixel size (though the IPad2 rumored specs say the screen res will remain the same, though nothing wrong with the current no of pixels!)

Expansion:  The IPad currently comes in 3 different capacities 16/32/64GB and this is important, as you need to decide how much space you really want, since you cannot load and play content from any external media such an SD card or USB stick.   The Galaxy in comparison has an microUSB slot built-in that supports upto 32GB microSD cards.  So in addition to the built-in 16/32GB memory you can expand it.  However note the issue, even if you expand the Galaxy its going to top off at 64GB, so while the flexibility is there you really don’t get any additional space.  However the advantage is that you can load and play media from any microSD card, so you can have multiple cards, or use cards from your friends to play content, which is gives it the advantage.

Communication: The IPad 3G version comes with the ability to use an microSIM that means you can connect to net without the need of an WIFI router.  While most reviews talk about the fact that the WIFI is faster, this will be applicable for countries where WIFI is freely available.

However for most asian countries this will not hold true, and 3G is more important and accessible.  In my country (Sri Lanka) the speeds on the 3G connections can average around 1-2Mbps, and for the same price you only get 1Mbps on fixed lines, so 3G is a better alternative.  The Galaxy too supports 3G and though both the IPad and Galaxy Tab offer high speed supports you may find that your provider will not be able to provide sustained speeds at these levels.  However the place where the Galaxy out does the IPad is again in the area of BlueTooth, as its has the newer spec, and also has no restrictions.  The BT on the Galaxy Tab is just like any phone (not Apple!) so you can transfer files, explorer, etc unlike the rather limited voice only and limited device connectivity supported by the Apple BlueTooth support on the IPad.

Camera and Communication: Not really a comparison, as the IPad gets slammed big time as it does not even have a front facing camera though it ports a mic to allow voice calls.  While having a normal camera may not be essential for a Tablet, the front facing camera i think is fundamental considering the price of these devices, and that these are pitched as the mobile devices you may have with you.  The Galaxy front cam allows the video calls, and since its a normal phone you can use it for standard video calls over 3G as well.  The back camera is a 3.2 MP pixel and is of average quality, but surprisingly the flash that is included is very powerful and does very well indoors.  However i would have liked a bit more mega pixels in the camera, since you may need to take photos of white boards or books and here the mega pixel is important and 3 MP has insufficient detail for this purpose.

However not everything is sweet, as the most popular call software Skype is poorly implemented on Android, and is also now not available for many devices and regions, while this issue is not there with the Ipad/Apple iOS or for that matter even Symbian!  While Fring is available, the lack of a proper skype implementation i think takes the home advantage of the front camera.

Being able to take calls on your Tablet is something i feel is not that vital, since you would need to carry a mobile in addition to your tablet as the tablet cannot be carried for all events.   Hence while this is an advantage, I think its not vital and would be fine without it.  If samsung could have done this and reduced the price of the Galaxy tab i am sure the number of devices sold would have been far greater.

PDF support:  I included this as a separate criteria as i felt it was important, and maybe its just me as i read a lot of material in PDF format.  Here while the Android platform has many PDF readers the PDF reader on the IPad is far smoother and better implemented.  You notice that you can flip through pages (and the page is rendered) much faster on the IPad, and also the loading time for a PDF is significantly better on the IPad.  In addition the zoom feature is a lot smoother on the IPad, and hopefully the HoneyComb Android upgrade will improve this on the Galaxy Tab (and other Android tablets).   And again here is where i felt the 7″ form factor being insufficient specially for magazines, and the IPad 9.7″ screen a lot more suited as you could read the content with no zoom needs.

Microsoft Office support:  Again since these tablets are more than simple ebook readers, you will end up having to view and possibly edit MS office documents. Here there is not built-in product provided by Apple on the IPad, while Samsung bundles software that allows you to view and edit documents, so definitely something that again makes the Galaxy a better option.

Multimedia: I covered this in my individual review, as here the Galaxy wins as it supports more formats natively including Divx/Xvid than the IPad.  The Galaxy form factor also makes it use the full space for wide screen content, while the IPad will have the two black streaks that reduces the effectiveness of the larger screen space.

—- to be continued

Apple IPad – Hands on


The same contact who gave me the Samsung Galaxy tab also gave me a 1 day evaluation loan of his Apple IPad, as he senses i was keen on getting a tablet.  While i had several fleeting experiences using the IPad this was the first time i had a complete experience, and coming just a few days after trying out the Galaxy tablet also ensured i had a good idea of what the non-Apple tablet products offered. Note that my comments are mainly using the IPad as a ebook reader and portable computing, and not as a gaming platform where i am sure the IPad may have a far superior set of games available than the Androids (for now). Though the IPad got was the 3G version i could not try out the 3G or the wireless since i did not have a microSIM, and my trusty router gave me trouble.   My attempts at using the X10 as a router failed as i found all the apps on the Android market for using the phone as a hotspot required the device to be rooted.

Positives

  • The larger screen definitely made it an ideal magazine reader as you could manage to read a magazine without any need for a zoom.
  • The PDF reader was able to flip through pages with practically no lag which is very impressive, since you sometimes have a lag even on your desktop
  • Built-in mic useful for skype video calls

Negatives

  • No SD card slot or ability to play video and content from a memory card even with the camera kit which has a SD slot.  All content has to be copied to the on-board memory (which is why you have to decide the capacity you want in th IPad as there is no going back).
  • The lock on file transfer is so tight that even the bluetooth is purely only for voice, and has no support for any file transfers.  Considering we are used to transferring files through BT using our phones (non Apple phones atleast!) this was very limiting.
  • Limitations in syncing on multiple computers – The Ipad already had a load of applications installed, however i could not install any new apps without loosing all that was there, since iTunes sync detects that you have set it up with another desktop and disallows any additions without erasing all existing apps. Another high security feature of the Apple to avoid people misusing the licenses on apps i guess :).  However it does seem to allow upto 5 computers to officially registered for syncing, though the restriction still limits the flexibility you need.
  • No DivX support (officially) – You cannot import DivX videos into iTunes and transfer to iPad directly.  You have to convert DivX videos to iPad compatible videos or purchase an app such as CineXPlayer/OPlayer HD or stream divx content through apps like AirVideo.  The third party DivX players though have many limitations, where some files may not be playable.
  • No front facing camera – Sadly paying $500+ for an IPad just for the ebook reader seems criminal, when other pure ebook readers sell for less and have much longer battery life, albeit that most of these are eInk implementations (grayscale only, bar the Barnes and Noble Nook Color which however seems more tablet than ebook reader!).   However the IPad not having a front facing camera for video calls seems a criminal omission (Bet Stevey J wanted to sell the next gen IPad with the camera, and suddenly now finds that omission is hitting him hard as all the Android devices are featuring cameras and even dual 3D cameras to lure clients away from the IPad).
  • Micro SIM.  Possibly another move by apple to allow their telecom partners to make things harder for the users to use the device with other providers.  Thankfully a simple modification to the normal SIM makes it a Micro SIM to overcome this rather stupid decision.  See http://www.techradar.com/news/computing/apple/how-to-make-your-own-ipad-or-iphone-4-micro-sim-681020 in case you want to DIY.
  • No official headset with mic for IPad – unusually though the device has a built-in mic, the headset accessory with a mic is not available officially and you have to try and find an unit that will do this job