Posts Tagged ‘ipod’

iPod nano Review

Posted: September 11, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod
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When you take your first look at the new iPod nano, you’re bound to say to yourself: “This looks like an iPod shuffle with a screen;” well, because it more or less is. Sure, it has a few unique features and is a bit larger than the new shuffle, but the designs are undeniably similar. Both have a square design with rounded edges, brushed metal aluminum casing, the same clipping mechanism, and even similar buttons on top. The nano measures in at roughly 1.48 inches tall, 1.61 inches wide and only 0.35 inches thick. With that little real estate to work with, it’s a wonder that Apple was able to squeeze a 1.54-inch TFT multitouch display into the iPod nano at all.

As small as it looks, the inch and a half display is actually more than enough to work with, and swiping through menus and selecting items is fairly simple. The interface is unique to the iPod nano but based partly on the menus used on the iPod touch and iPhone. The main interface is organized into pages of four icons, each acting as shortcut to music menus, such as artists and genius mixes, as well as other functions like photos, FM radio, and settings. The screen is surprisingly responsive, though getting used of the new control style does take some time to get used to. In the absence of a dedicated home button, the iPod nano requires users to tap and hold the center of the screen to return to the main screen, or swipe from left to right to return to the previous page.


Perhaps the coolest use of gesture control in the iPod nano, however, is the pinch to rotate function. The device lacks a dedicated accelerometer, which is the chip found in the iPod touch and the iPhone that detects the tilt of the screen and rotates it accordingly. Subsequently, Apple has made it so users can ‘pinch’ the image on screen with two fingers and rotate it themselves. Since the nano doesn’t play videos or browse the web, there really isn’t much need to rotate the screen, but for sheer wow-factor, the pinch to rotate feature is pretty cool.

Performance wise, the battery life, audio quality, and FM receiver function remain pretty true to last year’s model. The battery is still capable of delivering roughly 24 hours of playback, though the total battery life gets lower the more you play with the screen and what brightness you set it to. Audio is still top notch, and the FM receiver is a handy add-on, allowing users to tag songs they hear on the radio so that they can purchase them the next time they connect to iTunes.

But our experience wasn’t entirely spent marveling at gesture controls and the new compact design; we actually had a few issues with the iPod nano, namely that it does away with some of the most biggest selling points of last year’s model – video recording and video playback. By shrinking the device down and swapping to small multitouch display, they’ve eliminated a user’s ability to store and play video content, but also taken out the built-in camera. While they may not have been the most popular features of the previous model, they certainly contributed to the utility and value of the device, and as a result, we would have expected to see the iPod nano offered at a lower price. Unfortunately, Apple left the pricing structure intact, charging $149 for the 8GB model, and $179 for the 16GB version, and for the feature set, we found ourselves having a hard time justifying the cost to consumers.


Still, there are a few key demographics that may want to check out the new nano, specifically athletes and music lovers on-the-go. Up until now, the iPod shuffle has been the go-to device for active users, but the lack of a screen to navigate menus and songs can be a turn off to some. With smaller dimensions and an integrated clip, the new nano may be a nice alternative. The added storage capacity over the shuffle may also be alluring to some, providing space for several thousand more songs.

Overall, the iPod nano is a tough sell in our book. The old design provided more versatility and acted as a nice intermediate step between the shuffle and the iPod touch. This design, however, doesn’t bridge the gap quite as well. It may be useful for some, but for the cash, we’d rather have last year’s model. (ign)

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It seems more than a little odd to us that Apple hasn’t bothered to make FaceTime compatible with its own longstanding desktop video chat service, iChat, but we’ve at least supposed that it’s an inevitability with whatever upcoming Mac OS X update or software bundle that Apple deems appropriate. Now Mac4Ever, who was spot on with a pile of rumors last year, but hasn’t succeeded with its recent prediction of an iLife ’11 launch in August, is saying that Apple is prepping FaceTime both for Mac and PC. We don’t know if that means building a whole copy of iChat for Windows, or just making FaceTime compatible with some existing PC video chat service, but it would certainly improve the odds of us ever finding a legitimate use for FaceTime. (engadget)

Apple iPod touch Review

Posted: September 10, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod
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The iPod touch hasn’t changed much over the last few years; while there have been a number of small performance and aesthetic improvements, the overall design and feature set have remained unchanged. Consumers have paid no mind, of course, and despite only receiving minor upgrades since it launched in 2007, the iPod touch has proven to be one of the most successful models in Apple’s iPod lineup.


But after three years, the iPod touch was long overdue for a significant upgrade; and earlier this month Apple announced the new and improved iPod touch, which brings many of the most popular features of the new iPhone 4 to the platform, including a powerful A4 processor, a built-in gyroscope, a high-resolution retina display, and, at long last, built-in cameras. With the gap between Apple’s two strongest products narrower than ever before, is there any reason to buy an iPod touch?

The answer is and has always been: to avoid expensive monthly service fees. As it turns out, that is more than enough reason to pique the interest of consumers, and subsequently why the new iPod touch is the greatest iPod to date.

If you’ve used an iPod touch before, seen it in stores, or even watched an ad on TV, the new iPod touch should be plenty familiar. It looks, feels, and functions just like every preceding model, but with a few noteworthy improvements, which in the interest of time, we’ll focus exclusively on.

First off, let’s start with the stars of the show; the built-in cameras. Users have been clamoring for Apple to add a built-in camera to the iPod touch for years, and now the company has added not just one, but two cameras to device. On the front users will find a VGA camera that is capable of both still photography and video recording, though its primary purpose is to enable Apple’s FaceTime video conferencing. The front-facing camera has a maximum resolution of 640×480 for both still photography and video, and a maximum framerate of 30 frames per second. The rear camera, however, is capable of higher resolution photos and HD video, with 1280×720 (720p) resolution videos and 960×720 photos.


While the front-facing camera is comparable to that of the iPhone 4, the rear camera’s quality for still photography is inferior in terms of maximum resolution, coming in at roughly 1 megapixel, while the iPhone 4 is capable of taking 2592×1936 resolution images, or 5 megapixels. The rear camera also lacks a built-in flash, limiting its functionality for dark photography and video recording. Nevertheless, the iPod touch is still capable of taking decent looking photos and video, and while we wouldn’t consider it a replacement to a point-and-shoot, it does provide a nice level of supplemental functionality.

There is also the highly-touted retina display, which boasts a 960×640 LCD display and a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. As a result, the new iPod touch features incredibly smooth and detailed menus, game graphics, photos, and video playback. The performance of the iPod touch’s retina display is nearly identical to that of the iPhone 4 – incredible color range, bright, and vibrant, but lacking in one key area – viewing angle. The iPhone 4’s retina display incorporates in-plane switching (IPS) technology, which provides it with a viewing angle of nearly 180 degrees, the iPod touch does not. Without IPS, the iPod touch’s viewing angle is much narrower, giving the display varying degrees of a blueish tint when not viewed head-on. While this effect is common for most standard LCDs, as well as the previous iPod touchs, it is somewhat of a disappointing omission. But again, costs had to be cut somewhere in order to maintain the player’s previous MSRP.

In terms of design, the iPod touch maintains the same build materials and shape as the previous model, but trims down the total thickness to just 7.2 millimeters. One of our biggest qualms with the iPod touch design of the last two generations was the stainless steel backing, which is prone to smudges and scuffs, as well as being incredibly hard to grip, and unfortunately, these issues are present in the current model as well. Of course, most users will want to place a protective case on their $229 or more investment, but without one, the iPod touch is pretty vulnerable to damage.

Under the hood, Apple has given the iPod touch a nice performance boost with the A4 processor and new built-in gyroscope. While the benefits of the gyroscope are still limited due to the fact that so very few games and applications support it currently, the A4 processor makes the device slightly faster than its predecessors. Since the iPod touch runs iOS 4.1, a lot of processing power is devoted to multitasking and other new features, not to mention running the retina display; subsequently the observable speed improvements are small.

At the unveiling of the iPod touch, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that the iPod touch has surpassed both Nintendo and Sony as the highest selling mobile gaming platform, and with the new hardware improvements like the A4 processor, retina display, and gyroscope, the latest model is uniquely prepared to take on richer, more complex games; like the type promised by Epic’s The Citadel. If you’re into iPod touch gaming, the latest model may be a worthy upgrade for gaming applications alone.

But there is also FaceTime, which could appeal to social butterflies on-the-go. For those unfamiliar, FaceTime is Apple’s proprietary mobile video conferencing app, which allows iPhone 4 and now iPod touch users to video chat with one another over a Wi-Fi connection using the built-in cameras. The iPod touch version of FaceTime is much like the iPhone 4’s, save for the fact that instead of being tied to a phone number its linked to your email address. FaceTime on the iPod touch works with other iPod touchs, as well as the iPhone 4, which turns it into a video phone of sorts, though constrained by the availability of Wi-Fi. When paired with apps like Skype and mobile hotspot technology from providers like Sprint and Verizon, the iPod touch could actually be a powerful communication tool.


But the iPod touch isn’t without significant faults, the most glaring of which is pricing. Apple has maintained the core pricing and storage capacity structure with the new iPod touch, with the 8GB base model featuring an MSRP of $229, the 32GB model for $299, and the 64GB model at $399. The iPod touch is hardly a cheap endeavor, especially if you want a reasonable amount of storage space. There is a huge gap in storage capacity between the 8GB and 32GB model, and we expected to see Apple bump up the base model to 16GBs but maintain the same entry price. Given its expanded functionality as an HD video recorder and its ability to take photos, the measly 8GBs of storage space is certain to fill up faster. As a result, anyone who intends to use the iPod touch heavily will quickly find the 8GB model’s capacity insufficient and may want to consider purchasing the $299 32GB model.

At the end of the day, the utility of the iPod touch is largely dependent on the user, but there is no questioning that it is the most full-featured, high performance iPods to date. It is too familiar to justify the marketing terms Apple generally prefers to use — words like magical, revolutionary, etc. – but it is a pretty outstanding media player all the same. (ign)

Clear iSpot WiMAX hotspot

Posted: August 13, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod
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Overview

  • What’s Good: The price point is very good – for $25, you get unlimited 4G connectivity.
  • What’s Bad: The iSpot doesn’t offer 3G as a backup, so you’re out of luck if you travel outside of a 4G market.
  • The Verdict: The iSpot is targeting a niche demographic, but the price point is low enough that I expect people to jump on it.

Review

Significant strides have been made to lower the price of connectivity over the past few years, and as of late, we’ve seen carriers offer mobile hotspot capabilities through their flagship smartphones.  Instead of paying $60 for mobile broadband service, the casual user can add a $29.99 feature on top of their existing smartphone plan, and experience the benefits of mobile broadband for a cheaper price.

Clear’s iSpot takes the mobile broadband idea to a whole new level.  Marketed specifically as a hotspot for iPad, iPod, and iPhone users, the iSpot is a relatively inexpensive way to offer WiMAX connectivity to devices that wouldn’t otherwise experience next-generation data speeds.  For $25, you get unlimited 4G connectivity – quite the good deal, given that fully functional hotspots run in the $60 range per month.  It’s a niche product, but is the iSpot worth considering by Apple fans?

With a pebble-like design and glossy white exterior, the iSpot resembles a device that Apple would make.  You’ll find a miniUSB charging port (sadly, it’s not microUSB) on the left side of the device, while the power button and dual LED status indicator is on the top of the unit.  The battery slot is located on the bottom of the device, and is covered by a battery door with a handy list of possible LED colors you’ll see during your time with the device (solid red means good WiMAX connectivity, solid blue means Wi-Fi is available, etc.).

You can access the admin control panel by plugging http://192.168.1.1 into the web browser on an iSpot-connected device.  Type in the default password printed on the back of the device (which can be changed), and you’re in.  While logged in, you’re able to see important things like battery status, total number of users on the device, signal strength, and connection uptime.

I tested the iSpot in two areas in Charlotte, and while connectivity speeds were very good, they were often  inconsistent.  The iPhone averaged a rough download speed of 2.2 Kbps and an average upload speed of about  700 Kbps.  As with other WiMAX-equipped devices like the EVO 4G and Overdrive, connectivity seemed to be  across the board.  At times, I would get download speeds of 1.5 Kbps, and other times, it would be 3.5 Kbps.  In  the past, I’ve had better speed numbers in high-density areas like the middle of uptown, so it may have been the  fact that I’m at the edge of Charlotte’s WiMAX coverage.

As those with 4G-enabled devices will attest, WiMAX kills battery life.  Thankfully, the iSpot ships with a gigantic  2,700 mAh battery to handle the workload.  Using it continuously, I was able to get just over four hours of use  out of it, which is right around Clear’s estimates.

If you’re an iPad, iPod, or iPhone user that lives in a WiMAX market and you want the option to browse at 4G speeds while on the go, the iSpot is worth considering.  The downside?  It only works with Apple’s iPortables, so those hoping to score a cheap internet tool are out of luck.  Price-wise, it’s $25 per month for unlimited service with no contract, making it an affordable option for iPod-toting customers that live in 4G-enabled markets, or iPhone users dissatisfied with data connectivity in their area.

It excels at its assigned tasks, but if it was me, I’d lean towards purchasing a phone with mobile hotspot capabilities.  It’s $5 more in most cases, but it offers me the ability to connect any Wi-Fi equipped portable without giving it a second thought.  More importantly, while 4G coverage is expanding at a rapid pace, there’s still a lot of medium and large cities that aren’t covered, making it frustrating if you travel on a regular basis.

(via phonedog)