Apple Launch Event (23 Oct) – 13" Macbook Pro & iPad Mini

New Macbook Pro. New iPad Mini. Apple Fans! Stay tuned to 23 October 2012. The upcoming event has primarily focused on the iPad Mini but Apple would also likely unveil a refresh to the current Macbook Pro series. The new MacBook Pro 13″ with a Retina screen of resolution up to 2560 x 1600, is expected to be launched in end October and we have leaked photos to back up the claim. The retina resolution is typically used for 30″ inch displays and now compressed to fit a 13″ laptop screen. I can imagine Tim Cook come 23 Oct, waxing lyrical on how brilliant and revolutionary the new screen will be.

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Ask Siri: The Movie Critic / Reviewer

Siri has been ‘upgraded’ to now give her opinions on movies. She has quite a bit to say for quite a number of classic movies. Is it useful? Probably not, but it’s something fun to mess around when you are bored. Just like Google Now, there are some responses inserted that aren’t very useful (like asking it to do a barrel roll). It is just a fun Easter Egg for movie fans and geeks, but also a step in the right direction for a smarter Siri. I like how Siri pulls out Rotten Tomato reviews for movies at the same time and also provides a link to the movie trailer. Now, that could be useful! Read More

The New iPad Mini – Singapore

Quite a number of pictures and mock-up videos of the iPad Mini have appeared. Seems like information leaks by Apple for upcoming devices are getting more common or it could just be a market strategy. Through unnamed sources from Apple and rumours from the tech blogging world, it is likely that Apple would do another launch event, keynote-style event for the iPad Mini on the 17 Oct and the iPad Mini would likely go on sale a week later. Possibly, units will be sold in Singapore from November.

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iPhone 5 Launch Event! As it unfolds

12 September was the Apple Launch Event and there were some interesting announcements  with the most anticipated one being the iPhone 5 launch!

iPhone -> Phil Schiller starts sharing the new iPhone and its called the iPhone 5 (no surprises here). It’s made entirely of glass and aluminium, and its confirmed to look exactly like the leaked photos.Its a refining of the iPhone 4S and subtly improves quite a number of key aspects of the iPhone, processing, speed, weight, camera which are all quite important features to what makes a great phone even greater. Yet, there’s no new innovative breakthrough for the iPhone 5 this time around. With all the pre-launch leaks, all the specifications and changes were already expected.

Summary of H/W Changes:

  • 4 inch 16:9 ratio screen
  • 44% more color saturation than the iPhone 4S
  • Weighing in at on 112 grams! Wow. Thinnest iPhone at 7.6mm.
  •  Game Center to produce one of the coolest new features: time-shifted multiplayer
  • New Apple A6 processor is 2x faster with both CPU and graphics
  • Improved Wi-Fi
  • Comes with 4G LTE
  • 10 hours video playback, 40 hours music playback, 225 hours of standby
  • 8 hours of LTE browsing, 10 hours of WiFi
  • 8 hours of 3G talk time and 3G browsing
  • Improved Camera – Backside illumination, hybrid ID filter, five-element lens, f/2.4 aperture. SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL lens cover (no more scratches)
  • New Connector is called Lightning – improved durability, can be plugged in in either direction
  • Good thing is an adaptor is available if you would want to re-use your current accessories
That’s it for the Hardware. At least iPhone users get a 4″ screen now which should help somewhat with the jealousy over Samsung humongous displays. The new iPhone 5 Retina display has a 326ppi, with a resolution of 1136 x 640. Closer to a 16:9 ratio than before, the iPhone 5 is now better for viewing films on, with 44% better colour saturation, with improvements to reduce glare in sunlight. With the wider screen aspect ratio, the default apple apps have been updated to support the new format but apps that have not been updated would run in letterbox mode, i.e. with black borders at the edges. The homescreen displays 5 row of apps instead of the current 4, thanks to the wider screen. The game demo looked pretty good and the new iPhone processor should be pretty impressive. The new camera photos look great as well and would appeal to many who only carry around a mobile phone camera as opposed to a standalone camera. No NFC though, so no mobile payment or using it to replace your EZlink card.

iOS6 improvements:

  • Turn by Turn navigation but no details on whether it would be available in Singapore yet.
  • Facebook / Twitter integration
  • all new iSight camera, killer Panorama feature
  • improved SIRI

Nothing really new that Google / Android already have!

Pricing wise, its going to be the same as the iPhone 4S in US and we are expecting Singtel, M1 and Starhub to do the same. As confirmed, pre-order on Friday and sales of the iPhone5 would begin from 21 Sep. 

Expected pricing for iPhone 5 (16gb)

In summary, this feels like another upgrade to the iPhone 4S with really nothing revolutionary. If you are a current apple user and already well invested into their eco-system like apps, the Apple iPhone 5 is a worthy upgrade. The overall improvements makes for a very polished phone with good features all around. Yet, if you compare it to a Samsung SGS3 or HTC One X, the iPhone 5 is no longer a clear winner and they actually had to differentiate themselves this time around. What might be interesting would be to compare the camera of the iPhone 5 vs that of the Samsung SGS3. So are you bored of the iPhone? Android has started to increase its market share and with the new iPhone 5 not offering anything amazing, I would expect more people to consider switching over to the other camp.

Moving on, the new iTunes. Nothing much except for a simplified interface.

iPod Nano  -> New redesigned – 2.5″ display. Looks like the old candy bar nano crossed with an iPod touch, with a touch interface, a home button and controls at the side.It comes with Bluetooth so you can use it with your wireless bluetooth headsets or integrate with Nike+ receivers. What were they thinking?

iPod Touch -> The new iPod Touch is only 6.1 mm thick and looks like the new iPhone 5 (i.e. longer screen). Slower than the iPhone 5, uses the iPhone 4S A5 processor. But who’s in the market for an iPod touch? With mobile phones getting so feature rich, do we still need an iPod Touch-like device that can only function as a media player? Significantly, with a 5 megapixel camera with backside illumination. Shockingly, they actually announce the ability to add a loop to the iPod Touch as a feature. This basically just copied ideas from Nokia generations ago. Anyway, with this and the multi-colour iPods, I guess they are targeting the iPod Touch at the younger generations, as a portable gaming device.

iPad -> Apple had 62% market share last year for tablets, this year so far it’s at 68%.  More impressively, Apple sold “more iPads than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC line,” which is a little nuts when you think about it. So despite the Nexus 7 launch, Apple iPad still had an increase in Tablet market share. Impressive.

But that’s all! No iPad mini announcement. The iPad release cycle is approximately March but rumours are floating that Apple is gearing up to launch a new model, the iPad Mini to assert even more dominance in the tablet market. We are anticipating that news in October.

iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, 3GS, new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod touch all are getting iOS 6 next Wednesday, 19 Sep.

Kindle Fire HD vs Nexus 7: Value for money?

Amazon has just launched a new, larger version of its Kindle Fire tablet with a high-definition display, in a move by the retail giant to take on the Apple iPad and also a smaller 7 inch to compete it against the Nexus 7. How do they stack up? Value for money? And judging by specs alone, the Kindle Fire HD is the better buy.

7-Inch Kindle Fire HDThe Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire What's changed 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDThe Kindle Fire HD vs Kindle Fire What's changed Google Nexus 7Kindle Fire 2 vs Kindle Fire Whats changed
Display 7-inch LCD IPS 8.9-inch LCD IPS 7-inch LCD IPS
Resolution 1,280 x 800 1,920 x 1,200 1,280 x 800
OS (Skinned) Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.1
CPU Dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP4 4470 Dual-core 1.5GHz TI OMAP4 4470 1.3GHz quad-core
Graphics IT SGX544 IT SGX544 Tegra 3
Memory TBA (likely 1GB) TBA (likely 1GB) 1GB
Storage 16GB, 32GB 16GB, 32GB, 64GB 8GB, 16GB
Front Camera Yes Yes Yes
Rear Camera N/A N/A N/A
Cellular N/A AT&T 4G LTE N/A (3G coming)
WiFi Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth Yes (TBA) Yes (TBA) Yes
Dimensions 193 x 137 x 10.3mm 240 x 160 x 8.8mm 198 x 120 x 10.5mm
Weight (WiFi) 395 grams 567 grams 340 grams
Battery “11 hours” TBA “10 hours”
Ports microUSB, microHDMI microUSB, microHDMI microUSB
Price $199 (16gb), 249 (32gb) 299 (16gb), 349 (32gb) 199 (8gb), 249 (16gb)

Clearly, Amazon is pricing the 7″ Kindle Fire HD aggressively. You get more storage for the Fire HD, better battery life, and HDMI output as well. In terms of playback, the Nexus 7 is only equipped with a mono speaker but the Fire HD is equipped with stereo. Currently, there are no real world experience or results that pitch the Nexus 7 processor vs the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle processor in benchmarks released by Amazon states that it is faster but I would  take the usual marketing releases with a pinch of salt. I would expect the quad core Nexus 7 to better it in other performance tests.

For the Nexus  7, you get a lighter tablet (15% lighter!), better “official” software, without waiting for 3rd party ROM releases. Amazon might be stuck with their proprietary software and limited to applications from their app store. Apparently, their screen saver would display paid advertisements as well. From the get-go, you would not have access to some of Google features like Google Now and Wallet, but this features as of today may not be that important to most of us.  Furthermore, the Kindle Fire HD has no GPS, no gyroscope so maps or location aware apps would not work well. Also no NFC.  Also, the Amazon app store has only 50,000 apps compared to 600,000+ for Google Play. I believe the Kindle Fire is limited to the Amazon App store without loading a custom ROM or rooting it.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ version is actually quite valued for money if you were to compare it against the $499 16gb iPad. Apple boasted about the iPad revolutionary retina screen but now Amazon were able to launch a full HD 1920 x 1200 resolution tablet at $200 cheaper.

End of it all, it all boils down to what you are going to use it for, and which ecosystem you are currently using. The Kindle Fire HD would be the pick if you are going to use your tablet quite a bit as a media device. Although in this case, I would recommend that you just get the 8.9″ version instead. The better screen, larger storage and microHDMI output are useful features. The one huge selling point for the new Fire HD is the micro HDMI. I have that on my Optimus 2X, and it’s a great thing to be able to watch content in my living room or TV full size.

On the other hand, the N7 would be the pick if you value reading and portability as the N7 is more versatile. The 15% weight difference is significant if you are going to be bringing it out frequently and using it for reading. For books, you aren’t limited to Amazon Kindle store and you can still access the Amazon book stores and also other distributors like Barnes and Noble. Google Play also have a pretty well stocked magazine and book library. App and software access is also not restricted. However, it is very likely that the Kindle Fire HD would be rooted and custom ROMs made available and that would  allow full app and software compatibility. Still considering? Don’t forget the possible iPad mini launching in October.