When Apple announced last week that they had updated the “new” iPad after just 7 months it caused a small uprising of complaints from some customers. I understand having some frustration since it seems we’ll no longer be able to time our Apple purchases to the unofficial yearly release cycle. But I’d love to ask them this: Were you truly this unhappy with your iPad 3rd generation before the new one was announced? For the past 7 months did you feel the iPad slow, underperforming, unusable? Is it suddenly unusable and underperforming now or does it just feel that way because you know now there is a “faster” one? Perception and marketing are powerful weapons. They are the instruments used today to get us to buy the next new thing and to enlist our friends and neighbors to do the same. Apple has become a master recruiter. Apple says the new one is better. The CPU and GPU are up to twice as fast and to be sure the impressive benchmark numbers prove it. But benchmarks are just numbers and “up to twice as fast” is relative. If I have an a App that takes one second to launch on my iPad now, does it really matter that the new iPad can launch in half a second? I have a new iPad (3rd generation) and I use it daily for tasks like writing, drawing, email, web surfing, and gaming. It doesn’t feel slow, old, or obsolete. The knowledge of a “new” one being out there hasn’t change that for me. Why not? I resolved myself a while ago to the prospect that new technology will hit store shelves faster than they can swipe my credit card. I choose not to worry about it. There will always be something newer, faster, more pixel-fied, and shinier hitting the selves tomorrow. Technology companies are in a feature and specifications arms race and consumer is collateral damage. Our buyers remorse is simply a consequence of their war. Luckily, there is no draft and we get to choose if we want to enter the battlefield. Some will. I’m resolving myself to not participate. I’m choosing to be conscientious objector, getting the best thing I can afford at the time and enjoying that until I decide I want something new. In my opinion not doing that leaves you with just two other choices. Sit around and always wait for the next big thing never being able enjoying what’s available now or join ranks. You CAN achieve technological superiority and stockpile a massive hoard of the latest and greatest technology, but it’ll probably just end with the thermonuclear destruction of your bank account.
I don’t often cover new product releases, but this year when I asked what you wanted me to cover at Macworld the resounding answers was “anything Thunderbolt”. Unfortunately there wasn’t much Thunderbolt on the floor at Macworld but a week earlier, at CES, Elgato had announced they were bring a Thunderbolt SSD (Solid State Drive) to market soon. If you listen to the Maccast you know I am a fan of Elgato’s video products, so it was awesome when I opened my email today and got the news their new SSD drives were now shipping. Technically, according to PR, they are shipping in Europe now and in the US in about a week (see the US doesn’t ALWAYS get stuff first), but who’s splitting hairs? This is “something” Thunderbolt! The new Elgato Thunderbolt™ SSD comes in two sizes. A 120GB version for $429.95 USD and a 240GB version for $699.95 USD. The enclosure is metal and pocketable and, since it’s SSD, there is no fan or moving parts so of course it’s completely silent. Likely though, the biggest deal about the drive is the speed. As you can imagine when you couple the performance of SSD with an advanced interface like Thunderbolt the results are amazing. According to El Ggato’s product page the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD is capable of transfer rates in the range of 270 MB/s1, more than 3 times what you could get with a typical Firewire 800 drive. If you need a portable rugged drive with the fastest possible performance on your Thunderbolt Mac Elgato looks like they have you covered.
1 Transfer rates on a 15″ Macbook Pro 2.2 GHz i7 using QuickBench 4 “Extended Test” (Read)
I have an update to bring you on yesterday’s post about a tent showing up outside the temporary location of the Knox Street Apple Store in Dallas, Texas. Thanks to some guest reporting by David Collins we have been able to confirm that the guy inside the tent is Justin Wagoner. Justin has made a bit of a name for himself online by being first in line for several Apple launches.
The one big question we had was “Why”? Justin simply said he was on spring break and it would be an adventure. He told us he expected lines to start forming sometime Wednesday and that he set up camp around 9:30 AM Sunday morning (3/6/2011). Another reason we’re guessing Justin is in line for this event is that he doesn’t own an original iPad. Last year when it was released he said he saw the iPad as a luxury accessory, so we asked him about his change of heart for this launch. Justin mentioned that the iPad was an unknown quantity and there just weren’t that many apps specifically designed for it. The iPad’s growing popularity, actually using one at the Apple Store on Knox Street, and the now over 65,000 apps seem to have changed his mind. Justin can now see a real case for the utility of an iPad. Despite his launch day enthusiasm for some Apple products, Justin is a bit more reserved for others. He did not buy the first generation iPhone until a few months after its release.
This will be the 4th iOS product launch event where Justin has been first in line. Whatever his motivation for sure it ends up grabbing attention. For past events Justin has received news coverage from local Dallas news affiliates, CNN, Yahoo!, and others. He also has a web site set up at ijustinofficial.com and is posting updates on twitter, @iJustinOfficial
Special thanks to David Collins for the photos and helping with coverage for this piece
It’s over 4 days before Apple will begin selling the iPad 2 (sales start at 5:00 PM PST this Friday). Apparently hasn’t stopped someone (see picture above) form getting in line early, real early. Maccast listener David sent me this snapshot of a tent apparently already outside a temporary Apple Store location in Texas. The Knox Street Apple store is closed for renovations, so they have set-up shop around the corner on McKinney, Avenue. We don’t know for sure yet, but it’s a good guess that guy inside the tent is famous Apple line sitter Justin Wagoner. Justin if you remember got a lot of press for being first in line for the iPhone 4 days before it went on sale. There have been rumors that initial shipments of iPad 2′s might be lower than Apple had wanted due to supply constraints, but I doubt you’d need to line up now to get one. My guess is Justin just really likes the attention and we’re happy to give him some.
I just received word from a source whose information has proven accurate in the past that Apple is preparing shipments of iLife ’10. With the information I have I’m guessing the product could be announced as early as this week and may start arriving in stores next week. This information comes despite recent rumors from others that books for iLife ’11 are beginning to show up online. The DVDs are apparently branded with the text iLife ’10 and reportedly have four watercolor style icons depicting a camera, a filmstrip, piano keys and a fourth as yet unidentified icon.
The iPhone 4.1 Software update was just released by Apple and after updating my iPhone 4 one of the first features I wanted to try out was HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos. There are many ways to accomplish HDR varying from the simple to the complex. The basics are that you shoot multiple exposures to capture various areas of detail (highlight, mid-range, and shadow). You then take the resulting exposures and use software (in this case the iOS Camera app) to combine the images. The goal is to get a final image that offers a wider range of color and detail than one shot with a single exposure. iOS 4.1 attempts to offer the simplest way to shoot and create HDR photos. Simply pressing an “on/off” toggle switch at the top of the Camera app is all that is required to enable or disable the feature. The app then takes 3 exposures and merges them. Both the standard image and the HDR versions are saved so you can take your pick when you sync the images back to your computer. When shooting in HDR mode it did take a second or two longer to save the images to the camera roll. If taking a rapid sequence of photos is your objective you’ll want to turn this feature off. If you are having trouble capturing shadow or highlight detail in your images though, HDR mode may be a life saver. As with most things Apple does the implementation here is meant to be dead simple. Enable. Shoot. There are no other options or controls and you can’t adjust the exposures. If you need more functionality there are plenty of other 3rd party HDR apps available in the App Store. I’ve only spent 2 minutes with the new feature, but as you can see from my quick shots (Flickr), the results are mixed. Some shots were improved more than others and some common HDR issues, like ghosting, are going to be a problem. Apple isn’t going to revolutionize the HDR trend with this new feature, but at least now we have a second exposure option in iOS.
Listener Gary just emailed me to let me know that he was browsing Amazon and ran across a listing on their French site that looks to be an “iLife ’10 for Dummies” book. The description doesn’t really reveal anything about any new features, but the entry does have a September 23rd, 2010 release. Listings like this do “leak” from time to time and they may or may not be confirmation of a software update. It’s seems logical to assume Apple has been working on an update to the iLife suite. So will we see a new iLife this Fall?
Update: Added HD (720p) version below for comparison.
Above is a sample movie I created 100% on the new iPhone 4. I used the iPhone 4′s built in front and rear facing cameras to capture stills and video. I used Apple’s new iMovie for iPhone App to edit and assemble the clips and add the transitions, titles, and audio. Finally the video was exported to the Camera Roll and uploaded directly to YouTube via the device. The whole project took about 2 hours or so to complete and was actually quite simple to put together. As you can see the final results are pretty good, but there is room for improvement. First. I don’t have steady hands and I think a tripod or something to stabilize the phone as I shot the video would have been a great help. As for the audio, I used the built-in “theme” track. In the app there was no indication of the length of the track. When enabled it simply created a green “tack line” under my video timeline and the line extended the full length of my video project. I naturally assumed it was long enough or would loop to cover my whole project. When previewing in edit mode in the app it even played the audio throughout the project. It was only after export that I discovered the track simply faded out at the end, around a minute or so in. There is no option to loop the track and you can only have one such “background” track per project. You can however also include the recorded audio from each clip over the background audio if you choose and it will even auto-duck the background track. Finally, the video exported to the Camera Roll on the iPhone is output at 720p (1280 x 720). Unfortunately, uploading to YouTube directly from the iPhone only yields a maximum resolution of 568 x 320. I assume this is why the YouTube above maxes out at 360p. Even so I think that all of this can be done on a phone. Just so you can get a comparison, I do plan to upload a 720p version polished up in iMovie on my Mac so you can see what the iPhone is fully capable of. Stay tuned.
Here is the 720p version as promised. It is still exactly the same version produced and exported entirely on the iPhone. The only change is a new music track I added in iMovie on the Mac since the iPhone version couldn’t be looped.
Today a bunch of reports started to surface raising concerns that the iPhone 4′s new antenna design may be affecting cellular reception when it’s held in your hand. If true, it would be a major flaw and shocking that Apple would let something like that slip through. I’m picking up my new iPhone 4 in the morning and the news of this issue was putting a major damper on my pre-iPhone 4 excitement. I continued to read report after report and kept hoping to find more info about the cause of the issue. I also hoped to find a possible solution or work around. Luckily I found a piece on MacRumors.com that indicated the issue might not be new and it also might not be as serious as is currently being reported. Check out the video.
So it looks like the “issue” can be replicated on not only the new iPhone 4, but also on a 3G or 3GS iPhone. What remains now is to determine if this is simply a visual issue or if reception is truly being affected. Early reports seem to indicate that calls continue even with the diminished bars on the display which is a good sign. Either way I’m sure these reports will grab Apple’s attention and shed some light on what seem to be a long standing issue. Hopefully we’ll also see an fix issued soon.
At least for some. Starting Sunday many of you emailed me to let me know that Apple had started sending iPhone shipping notices for your pre-ordered iPhone 4′s. One thing I noticed in several of the emails was that the arrival date was noted as June 23rd, a day before the officially announced June 24th date. I figured it was the scenario we had seen in the past where the shipments start, but Apple requests the shipper hold the items until the actual launch date. Well now it’s looking like this time will be different.
Checkout the email being sent out this morning to pre-order customers:
Dear Apple Store Customer,
You recently received a Shipment Notification email from Apple advising you that your iPhone has shipped.
This email is to confirm that your delivery will occur on June 23rd. Although Apple and FedEx tracking information may currently indicate a later date, you can check the FedEx website the morning of the June 23rd to track your package to your doorstep.
In the event that you will not be available to accept delivery on June 23rd, it may be more convenient to use our pre-sign delivery option by visiting our Order Status website at http://www.apple.com/orderstatus.
The Apple Store Team
So I guess that date was correct. What is not clear at this point is why Apple bumped up the date. A logical guess is that there are concerns over the volume of activations and they may be trying to spread the load between at home deliveries and in-store pick-up which will still take place on the 24th.
I’m glad that many of you will be getting your new iPhones a day early, but I do have to mention this will likely create some outcry from those who weren’t able to get their pre-orders through Apple and AT&T’s systems. Either way I expect Thursday and (now) Wednesday will be both exciting and frustrating for Apple fans.