iPad Mini And Other Stories

Aaaand I’m back to Apple products after a couple months of self-convincing that anything else, namely the Surface RT, could compete. I made the EXACT same mistake a couple years ago when I decided to put my iPhone 3G down to pick up the HTC Thunderbolt. I wanted to see what else was out there and the prospect of 4G was very exciting. My mother and I wanted to switch from AT&T to Verizon and I convinced her to try out the Thunderbolt as an introductory phone. The HTC Thunderbolt was such a dismal failure in my opinion (and in Mom’s opinion, too!). I had to recharge it twice a day and Android was just so awful compared to iOS. I felt so bad for putting mummy dearest through the constant cursing at the ThunderDOLT (as she called it) that I sold mine on eBay and bought a couple second-hand iPhone 4’s (not 4S) to make her (and me) happy again.

Obviously, the iPad Mini is just a smaller version of the regular iPad with exactly the same apps and functions. I don’t know what it was, but I never really liked the way the regular iPad felt; it’s kinda heavy and the rounder edges just don’t sit right with me. The Mini’s edges are more square which feel nicer to hold and looks better, too. It’s also super light and can easily be held and used with one hand. I am also a huge fan of more screen and less bezel. The bezels on the Mini’s side are much narrower which gives it a really smart and cool look.

I have no problem with transitioning to the Lightning connector. Actually, I have one problem. I heard rumors that Apple have made it impossible for third parties to produce their own Lightning connectors, thus restricting us to buying solely from Apple and its partners (such as Best Buy and Walmart). This is somewhat understandable, but quite “evil-monopoly-corporation” if you ask me. But otherwise, I have both the old and new now. Those who complain that they won’t be able to charge their iDevices at their friend’s place because they don’t have a Lightning connector *yet*, fear not. Pretty soon, all households will have a Lightning connector merely due to the fact that Apple has such a huge customer base and many, many Apple fans will own an iDevice that use a Lightning connector soon enough.

BUT, many have devices that work with Apple’s old 30-pin connector, such as speaker docks etc. This indeed puts those who own such devices between a rock and a hard place. Apple have priced the Lightning-to-30-pin adapter at a criminal $30. What is this, a dollar a pin?? Not cool, Apple, not cool. But then again, Apple is Apple and iFans are iFans, and despite that price tag for an adapter, we will (somewhat grudgingly) shell out to make our iCompatible Devices work with what we have until we upgrade.

Back to the Mini. Some are wary of its non-retina, lower resolution screen. But I don’t think that should be an issue; it still looks great. I’m not sure why people make a fuss about how letters aren’t as sharp on non-retina screens. Does it really make a difference in the reading quality? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I am a quality freak and I want the highest possible resolution and quality when I watch videos etc. But by no means will my Mini be my primary video watching tool. That would be my TV or laptop. And if you’re a video quality freak, you wouldn’t likely use your iPad, retina or not, to watch Planet Earth in HD.

Windows RT – Stands For “Rather Terrible”

I wanted to love it. I was a strong advocate for it. Yet, the Microsoft Surface is losing favor with me. To be more specific, I am referring to the Surface’s OS, Windows RT. Many say this is surprising because software is what Microsoft’s does. But have we already forgotten the Vista fiasco? I can safely say, and many will agree, that the design and hardware quality far exceeds the software.

I like the gestures and ways to navigate my way around the RT. And having MS Office is pretty cool. Other than that, it’s awful. Enough is enough and it’s time for me to pull back the self-imposed veil and see clearly what is in front of me. What Microsoft has released is a rushed and unfinished product, much like Vista (some may argue that Windows 7 is simply a finished version of Vista). What is Windows RT? What does RT even stand for? Most say it means RunTime, but what does that even mean? There’s already a WinRT out there, and Microsoft already had a “Surface” which was basically huge tablet with four legs…you know what, I’m not even going to bother, it’s too confusing.

I am annoyed that Microsoft sold me me this beautiful tablet with an OS that is incompatible with regular Windows apps and software. Incompatibility within Windows’ own products is simply unforgivable. Imagine needing to switch shoes between the sidewalk and crossing a street because the sidewalk shoes weren’t “compatible” with the street. Total compatibility with Microsoft products would really set it apart against the competition. It’s going to take more than a fancy keyboard cover to set it apart because keyboard covers for iPad are popping up like whack-a-moles. I am also annoyed with myself. I knew about this before buying, but I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. How wrong I was.

Windows RT is dressed almost identically like Windows 8, therefore you’d think it would function like Windows 8. But no. For example, we’re told RT supports flash *for Microsoft approved sites* which feels like 3 sites. On about 99.9% of flash sites I visit, I am told I have an outdated version of flash and the site graciously offers me to update to the latest version. But I can’t install the latest version. So what’s the point of directing me to the regular websites? That should be RT’s tag line – “RT. What’s The Point?” I’d rather be directed to the mobile version of the site. So, realistically, it doesn’t really have flash. I might as well just use my laptop to roam the internet. And can someone explain to me why Outlook or Media Player is not supported?

You feel so restricted with RT, so so restricted. RT is so barren and app-less. Again, what’s the point? The Surface is my first tablet (yes, I know, late to the tablet game) and I wanted a tablet to do the stuff I do on my iPhone like casual web browsing, reading news, games, calendar management, emails etc, just on a bigger screen without having to carry around a fragile laptop. But RT just feels like I’m doing all those things on a ten year old computer. Apps are slow to open and slow to refresh (news and mail to name a couple).

Microsoft should have used its resources to encourage app developers to make apps for RT. It actually looks like RT has many of the  most-used iPad apps found on a few “official lists.” But once I’m done with Skype and the various news apps at home, I’m pretty much done and I have no further reason to keep the Surface in my hands. It hardly has any games at all and therefore lacks entertainment value. For example, let’s take travel. Sure, I can watch movies or listen to music, but what if I want to speed up time by playing games on the subway or on a flight? With interest in films and music exhausted, I have no games to play as I jealously watch iPad owners play “The Walking Dead” or “Need for Speed.” Instead, I’m stuck with Solitaire, Pong or Pinball (to be fair, these are free games offered in the Windows store, but these are the only ones that remotely entice me). Yes, I know, boo hoo, read a book says you. But I didn’t pay $600 to watch iPad owners have all the fun! Of course, games aren’t what everyone use their iPads for. This is merely one example of Windows RT and Surface’s lack of, well, use.

I’d say wait  while for more apps to become available, but Windows/RT is in  a cacth 22. App developers don’t want to waste resources on building apps for tiny number of RT users. At the same time, users don’t want to buy a machine with an OS where the app store looks like Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

Went to the Apple store today and played around with the iPad mini. Replacement in progress.

Google Maps is BACK

Let me start off with these screenshots from my iPhone whilst keeping in mind the address in the search bar and that I live in NYC.

Google Maps - what is expected

Google Maps – what is expected

Apple Maps - wtf??

Apple Maps – wtf??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of those instances when a picture speaks a thousand words. I am so relieved to have Google Maps back; feels like the pre-iOS 6 days where you could rely on the map and search results.

HOWEVER, it is not quite as ying/yang as that. No matter how much I dislike Apple Maps, which is a lot, I want to be fair. The Apple Maps is the default map app on the iPhone and I’m not immediately seeing any way of changing that to Google Maps. This means that if you were to tap on a link of a physical address someone sent you by text or email, Apple Maps will be used. To take the Google Maps screenshot above, I couldn’t tap on the physical address link; I had to type the address into the search bar. This is a huge shame since that Google Maps feature was really great and efficient; it saved time and frustration from switching to the maps app and remembering the address etc. Yet, with Apple Maps, you tap on the physical address link expecting to save time and app switching whilst thinking “oooh, this is so handy!” Instead, I’m taken to one of the millions of 125 West 58th Streets in the USA. Why choose that one, Apple? What is so special in Lubbock, Texas? It doesn’t even LOOK like Lubbock has 58 streets in the whole town/hamlet/abandoned ghost village.

This new Google Maps app looks a little bit different to the one we’re used to, and it doesn’t seem to run quite as smoothly as before on my slightly ageing iPhone 4. But all the essentials are there and in their right place and it won’t take a minute to get used to it. I can get search results based on my location rather than results based on this:

28899+Sebastian+Munster-++Novae+Insulae+XXVI+Nova+Tabula+[1st+Map+of+the+continent+of+America]+1552

The Tabtop Revolution

I am really liking these hybrid tabtops/laplets that are emerging. Namely those that have keyboard covers/docks like the HP TouchPad 2, Lenovo ThinkPad 2. I really wouldn’t be surprised if these hybrids become a new norm to replace the traditional laptops, at least for Windows hardware. The only thing that is limiting the growth of these hybrids is getting higher performance laptop components to fit into the tablet part itself. But, as technology continues to improve at blistering speed, it will happen. All the important stuff that runs the computer will be in the tablet portion and the keyboard will merely be a dock that could potentially carry extra battery, RAM, disk space, ports (USB and friends), graphics card, pretty much anything to give the tablet portion extra juice when you want it to be a laptop (for work and games, too!). It’s just that, right now, the components available at a reasonable price point for tablets aren’t yet powerful enough to allow tabtops to replace laptops. Imagine a Surface Pro but for $500 instead of the ridiculous $899 they are asking for it now (ridiculous because you might as well buy an Ultrabook for that price).

Many seem to lament this potential laptop revolution with headlines like “Surface Pro: Overpriced tablet, half an Ultrabook, or yet another Tablet PC?”(1) Why “yet” another Tablet PC? Everyone’s about the Ultrabooks because they’re light and powerful. But one day, you’ll be able to detach the screen from the keyboard on one of these Ultrabooks and use it as a tablet. And what’s that called? A hybrid! A tablet PC!

(1) Ars Technica article headline