If you received an iPad or an iPad mini for Christmas, the chances are you’ve already downloaded a fair few apps and are enjoying playing around with your new tablet. To help get you started, Apple’s created a "New to the App Store?" section which offers a curated selection of the best apps. There’s an "Essentials App Collections" area too, and you can also explore the "App Store Best of 2012".
Even with all this help from Apple you’ll still be faced with a somewhat bewildering array of choices, so to simplify things further, here’s a list of ten apps (paid and free) that I think are essential.
Tim Cook smiled as he pulled up the blankets and shook his toes against the cool sheets. Christmas Eve had come and the last Apple Store closed. Preliminary sales were gangbusters. Wall Street analysts betrayed him with lowered share price targets and projections iPad and iPhone sales slowed. But he knew! Cook laughed and kicked his legs under the covers. The best fourth quarter for sure! Occasional giggles broke the silence until at last -- long last -- sleep became him.
But briefly, for rattling chains startled Apple's CEO from slumber. Chunk. Chunk. Chunk. The clanking grew louder and an ominous dragging sound with it. A frightening wail followed. Pain. Great pain! Then through the wall pushed out an apparition. Ghastly yellow eyes squinted behind a face sullen, sunken and seemingly familiar. Tattered black turtle neck and blue jeans -- the uniform worn by his predecessor and mentor. Realization pierced Cook, and he felt a burning hot fire in his solar plexus. Steve Jobs!
Apple's newest iPad and mainstream Android tablets couldn't be more different in the display department -- the former embraces a more conservative 4:3 format while the latter prefer the multimedia-oriented widescreen panels. However, French consumer electronics company Archos deviates from the norm with the 97 Titanium HD, an Android tablet with an iPad 4-like display.
The 97 Titanium HD tablet features a 9.7-inch IPS display with 10 point multitouch and a resolution of up to 2048 x 1536. Power comes from a 1.6GHz dual-core processor based on the A9 architecture, a quad-core Mali 400 MP4 graphics card and 1GB of RAM, a combination similar to the one found in the original Samsung Galaxy Note. The tablet also sports 8GB of internal memory, alongside a microSD card slot that can extend the storage capacity by a further 64GB. What about the software?
Arriving far too late to influence any gift buying for Christmas, here’s my review of Surface with Windows RT. The tardiness of the review isn’t really my fault. Microsoft only put its device in proper shops in the UK last Friday, and I wanted to include the shopping experience as part of the article (even though I didn’t actually spend my own money -- a friend purchased the tablet I’m reviewing).
Before we get into the review, I need to preface it by saying the following: I love Apple’s iPad. I bought an iPad 2 as soon as it was released and replaced it with the new 4th gen model a month or so ago. And even though I use Windows 8 daily, I really don’t like the new OS all that much. So, inevitably, I’m going to hate Surface, right? Absolutely loath it. Well, that’s what I thought. But surprisingly I like it. I like it a lot.
For more than a decade I've quipped: "In business perception is everything". For some brands, this axiom is truer than for others. Apple leads the list, much to its determent. For more than a month now, I've read speculative stories from all quarters trying to figure out why the company's stock tailspins. Some people blame the fiscal cliff, others taxes. Meanwhile, the anti-Apple crowd delights in rumors iPhone sales are slowing and the mini cannibalizes iPad 4 sales. There's an aura of doom that I can only describe as the anti-reality distortion field.
Earlier today, Apple shares briefly dipped below $500, a low not seen since around Valentine's Day. Bloggers are beside themselves posting about this catastrophe -- or so they see it. I laugh, because they are a large part of the company's falling stock price problem. All these stories contribute to negative perceptions that feed the frenzy. That's one part of the answer to how someone nicked an artery and Apple bled about $200 per share, or 27 percent decline, from September's $705.07 record high. These bloggers were, and still are, detached from reality -- like analysts covering the company. Just two months ago, the Apple Fan Club gloated about projections of $1,000 a share. Now they run around like street people holding signs "The World Ends Dec. 21!" as shares slip and analyst cut back projections.
The original iPad didn't excite me very much. In fact, I was confused what to do with it. Over time, I ended up using the iPad 2, and recently its successor. I’ve also tried the Blackberry PlayBook, the HP TouchPad, and more recently Google Nexus 7.
But, for the first time in a long time, I was very excited to get a tablet -- the new Microsoft Surface. I think Windows RT had a lot to do with it, and the touchscreen aspect.
The "Microsoft tablet is a failure meme" was old from the start. Every day there's some new blog based on rumor or innuendo assuring everyone who pays attention that Surface is doomed and sales are this side of worse than terrible. There is so much nonsense punditry, I don't know where to start. DigiTimes has unnamed channel sources saying Microsoft cut orders for the tablet by half. The report got widespread attention, despite the publication's record for getting this kind of story wrong. Along come the analysts. DFG slashed shipment estimates to between 500,000 and 600,000 from between 1 million to 2 million. Number was way too high to start. Now Tim Worstall, a Fellow at Adam Smith Institute, whines that Surface RT is way overpriced. It's not.
If Microsoft's tablet has a sales problem -- and let's strut that I-F again -- distribution is the reason. The product isn't overpriced or flawed. Microsoft only sells Surface through the company store; that's online and (by my count) 66 retail shops. Sixty stores are in the continental United States, five in Canada and another in Puerto Rico. There are only a limited number of places anyone can buy the tablet, which limits how many the company can sell. What matters more is how many Microsoft sells per store. Pundits crying "fail" are nincompoops of the nth degree. If any of them bothered to look at Apple Store, they would understand.
Google unveiled two major iOS app updates with the release of Gmail -- email from Google 2.0 and YouTube for iOS 1.1.0. Gmail 2.0 is completely rebuilt from the ground up, debuting a brand new look and feel, the promise of better performance and a number of major new features.
YouTube for iOS adds native support for both iPhone 5 and iPad, plus the capability of streaming videos via Apple’s AirPlay wireless technology.
The iPad's flagship newspaper is finished. Today News Corp. promised what some of us in the media long hoped for. Big boss Rupert Murdoch will take The Daily out back of the barn and shoot it in the head on December 15, putting the godawful digital rag, its editors and the few readers out of their misery. Thus ends the iPad's big, publishing experiment. In ruins.
What a mess it is, too. News Corp. spent $30 million just to launch The Daily, which debuted in February 2011 on iPad. Apple joined the revelry that made the then less-than-year-old device seemingly legitimate -- a truly compelling platform for digital publishing. But News Corp's. digital newspaper stumbled right at the start. Early users complained about constant crashes and slow updates. The Daily promised ongoing content updates to the app, but they proved to be too much -- even after new versions released. Fundamentally, however, The Daily's failure is about editorial content.
No sooner had Microsoft revealed the cost of self-branded tablets running Windows RT than doomsayers started crying pricing foul. The 64GB model will sell for $899, starting next month, and the 128 gigger for $999. I've seen several blog posts gleefully whack Surface Pro pricing as being way too high. They're wrong, in part by the Apple device comparison they make.
I asked Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, about Surface Pro pricing, whether it's just right, too high or too low. "Interesting question though because most of what I have seen has compared it to the high-end iPad". But Microsoft has higher competitive ambitions: MacBook Air, and even Windows ultrabooks. That's the comparison I make and told Baker so. There, the tablet sits just fine. The company priced Surface RT against iPad. Surface Pro squares against Apple's thin-and-light laptop with 11.6-inch display.
I'm not wrong -- tablets are still incapable of replacing PCs, but I purchased one anyway. Local Black Friday sales got the best of me, and the end result is the iPad 2 that's laying on my couch right now. Before you start calling me names for buying an older product or "betraying the Android army", let me put it like this -- Apple's tablet was cheaper than a Google Nexus 7.
Price is a very strong incentive in any of my buying decisions. Because of it I couldn't even think about purchasing an iPad, as it normally runs for $550 in my area. But that changed when I read the price tag during the Black Friday sale -- it was roughly $285. Suddenly priorities changed and an older, otherwise overpriced, product made sense. I just had to get it, despite what logic may have tried to dictate at the time.
I’ve been thinking about getting a new tablet for a while. Although there’s nothing physically wrong with my iPad 2, I’ve been itching for a bit of new tech in my life and there are some truly excellent choices available this year, including the newer "new" iPad, the iPad mini, Microsoft Surface, and the Google Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. All of which are definitely worth considering.
A friend let me borrow his Nexus 7 for a week, during which time I realized a small tablet was not for me, so that also ruled out the iPad mini. The Nexus 10 looked appealing, and so was on my shortlist. Microsoft Surface I discounted because even though I now use Windows 8 daily, I still don’t really like it and the current lack of great apps for Surface is a bit of a deal breaker. Maybe in the future…
Swiss furniture maker Micasa Lab designs some weird and wacky products. Cocoon 1, for example, is a customizable bubble -- a clear sphere with stackable plastic modules that let you relax, cook, and even wash up afterwards. But my favorite of its designs is the iRock -- a rocking chair that charges iPads.
It works, as you’d expect, by converting the rocking motion into energy, and as you’d probably also expect, it’s no match for just plugging your device into a mains charger. But if rocking’s how you roll, it will give your Apple device a little extra boost while you sit out on your porch reflecting on life (or playing Angry Birds Star Wars).
Two weeks ago Microsoft announced Xbox SmartGlass with app availability on major platforms. Following the initial release, the company introduced an updated version of Xbox SmartGlass for the iPhone and iPad.
Just like with other platforms, Xbox SmartGlass 2.0 for iOS allows Apple-branded smartphones and tablets to connect and interact with an Xbox 360 console. The app can remotely control the game console, using the touchscreen interface, allowing one to resume, rewind or advance content like videos and music.
London’s street lighting has come a long way since the days of gas lamps (although, interesting fact there are still some 1,600 of these old lights in use), but it’s about to be brought bang up to date with the introduction of smart lighting that can be controlled by iPad-wielding engineers.
Following a successful pilot scheme, Westminster City Council has announced that it intends to convert all 14,000 of its electric street lights over the next four years.