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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple iPhone 5 Keynote Breakdown...(Updated)

Every iPhone user with (or without) a contract upgrade has been waiting for this announcement for a long time. Yes, Apple has unveiled their new iPhone 5. Contrary to rumors suggesting that Apple mobile devices (such as iPhone and iPad) will no longer receive generational numbers, the new iPhone is in fact called the iPhone 5.

Since I own the iPhone 4 and my two-year contract has been up since June 2012 (two years since iPhone 4's release date) I am anxious to get my hands on the new device. So let's get down to business and outline the new iPhone 5 in some serious detail! Just to preface, the iPhone 5 is 7.6mm thick (18% thinner than the 4S) and 112 grams (20% lighter than 4S) - now that is pretty neat! Here is a look at the new iPhone 5.


A (Slightly) Larger Screen

The biggest and most anticipated change to the new iPhone 5 is the 4" screen. We all knew this was coming, especially if you have been following the rumor-mill about Apple manufacturing orders. This is no where near the 4.8" screen on the Samsung Galaxy S III. But really, we wanted a bigger screen that still fits in our pockets, not necessarily a phone that is too big to be comfortably portable.

The new larger retina display is true16:9 panorama (wide screen) with 44% more color saturation and 1136x640 (or 72,320) pixels at 326 ppi. This is a nice upgrade from what we have all been used to, but I know some people will complain that it is not larger. Personally, I would have liked a 4.3" or 4.5" screen, but I'll take the 4" retina.

Of course apps will have to be updated to fit the new screen and until the app designers do so, apps designed for the 3.5" screen will be displayed in letter box format.

4G LTE... Finally...

Yes, we finally get a 4G iPhone. Apple has been WAY behind the curve with this feature as 4G has been around for several years now. The iPhone 5 not only has High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and Duel Cell HSDPA for 3G but it has added Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G connection speeds. The phone can switch automatically between antenna connections and they claim that the phone will always give you the best connection possible via antenna switching.

The iPhone 5 is worth purchasing for this new feature alone. A world phone with 4G LTE no matter where you are. It's not really that impressive due to the fact that most iPhone competitors have has 4G for quite some time and if the iPhone 5 didn't have this update everyone would most likely question how competitive the product would be. But nevertheless 4G comes to iPhone! The antenna is also much smaller on a single chip.

The Wi-Fi is updated as well with 802.11 a/b/g/n with up to 150Mbps speeds! Another nice addition, but no where near groundbreaking.

Hardware... A6 Chip is Awesome!

The iPhone 5 has a new A6 processor which they claim is 2 times faster (specifically, that it loads web pages 2.1 times faster) than the A5. It is still a duel-core chip and Apple has yet to reveal its actual speed. They also claim 2 times faster graphics which are built to "console quality", which I took to mean as good as a PS3 or Xbox 360. There really wasn't much more to say about the A6 chip until just recently. Apple simply didn't make a big deal about it but now we have more information. The chip is a duel-core Coretex AR-15 which is best of the ARM build processors. This is actually a major innovation and explains how Apple was able to get 2x speeds from the chip - an upgrade from AR-9 to Ar-15. This is impressive! Read more here

The battery life is a little more than slightly better. We get 8 hours of 3G talk, 225 hours standby, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 8 hours of LTE browsing, 10 hours of video, and 40 hours of music. To be sure, we will have to see what users get on an average day of use. Right now I charge my iPhone 4 each and every night and only occasionally does my phone die before the day is over. It seems like the new battery life will be pretty similar.

The camera is also slightly better but pretty similar to the iPhone 4S. It is still 8MP iSight but it is smaller with a f/2.4 aperture. The pictures are 3264x2448 (or 7,990,272) pixels and the camera has 40% faster photo capture. It also has spatial noise reduction, precision lens alignment, and sapphire crystal construction (no more scratches to the lens). But the fact remains the camera update is nothing to get all that excited about - although the panorama mode is pretty awesome. The video feature is still 1080p and the front facing camera is now 720p. Plus, Facetime is 30% less blurry and can be used over cellular - that is a great upgrade! 

The microphones are now at the bottom, front, and back; the speaker is supposed to be smaller and better sounding with a change from three to five transducers; and the earpiece is noise cancelling on both sending and receiving ends. The new iPhone also has something called "wide-band audio" which is supposed to use more of the spectrum bandwidth and a better high-fidelity VoIP. These are also nice upgrades.

The Death of the 30-Pin and Birth of the 8-Pin Connector

As most Apple iPhone users I have acquired a lot of accessories for my devices over time. I have owned an iPhone since 3G. I have 4 docking stations, a car audio receiver with the 30-pin connector built-in, over 10 spare 30-pin to USB cords, several car chargers, and several travel and home chargers. Now most of these have a USB connector so that I can use them with the new smaller 8-pin Lightning, but I will still need to continue to transfer the single Lighting to USB cord from charger to charger. of course, Apple is selling a Lighting to 30-pin adapter FOR $29.99! That is outrageous and means that if I want all 4 docks to work with my new iPhone it will cost me about $120 before tax. It is going to take a long time to acquire all the new accessories I have for the 30-pin for the 8-pin. I don't even think the phone comes with an adapter in the box.

The new connector is digital and it is reversible - and probably faster - but it is still a massive inconvenience. I am not happy about this transition. Why is this such a big deal? Well I use my iPhone for pretty much everything music related in my life. I listen to my Sirius radio on it in the morning while I get ready for work. I purchased a special dock just for the bathroom! There goes $29.99. I use my iPhone as my alarm and yes I purchased a dock for the bedroom - another $29.99. Wait, I also have a dock in my office - $29.99. And a dock in the kitchen - $29.99. Will I actually buy adapters for all these docks? Nope. I will most likely just use my (now Wi-Fi only) 3G and 4 devices on the old docks and begin looking for a new one with Lightning. I will also need a new travel charger and I can go on and on - not to mention my just purchased iPad uses the 30-pin connector - so now when I travel I will need to carry two types of charging cords with me. I am not a fan of the new connector and I will not be a fan of it until my transition is complete. Thanks for letting me vent... :) Anyway, in the end the smaller connector will bring good things to updated devices; it is only in the short-term that this will be rather annoying.

Select Software Updates to Note

The new 3D Apple Maps is awesome! The aerial view and turn-by-turn directions are great updates. However, it looks like walking, subway, and public transportation directions that we had with Google Maps will be left of the iOS 6 update. I hope Apple gets on that soon because I used those features a lot and will be sad to see them go.

The notification center is improved, Siri has received more abilities and sports updates, and iCloud Tabs lets you access any open tabs on any device. Mail received a new VIP feature - which is nice - and with Photo Stream your friends get notified when you have taken pictures. There are over 200 new features in iOS 6 most of which were revealed at WWDC. 

Passbook But No NFC...

Passbook is a new feature in iOS 6 that collects information such as coupons, boarding passes, and gift cards into one place on the iPhone. This will allow the user to pay for a cup of coffee or use a gift card at their favorite store by using one's iPhone. But it still has no Near Field Communication (NFC) capability. NFC gives the phone the ability to establish radio communication with other phones in close proximity (easily trading contact information). This technology can also be used to make purchases with your phone by simply connecting to a point of sale communicator. This technology could literally make the iPhone your wallet, letting users change between credit, debit, and gift cards right from an application! I was really hoping for a contact-less payment system with the new iPhone but possibly we will get this in a year or two. 

Price and Release Date

The 16GB is $200, the 32GB is $300, and the 64GB is $400. It comes in both black and white - which are actually a type of two-tone design. 

We can begin to pre-order the phone on Friday, September 14th and the official release date is Friday, September 21st! iOS 6 can be downloaded on Wednesday, September 19th. The $29.99 Lightning to 30-Pin adapter is available to pre-order now, but it is already back-ordered into October. 

The keynote also gave us a new look at the new iTunes, iPod Nano, and iPod Touch - which are some pretty nice upgrades. 

Some (More) Thoughts on the New Release

This release was no longer kind of lame in my opinion. The iPhone 5 has some really nice updates and I can definitely say "completely redesigned". The phone has a slightly screen with a  much better processor,  slightly better camera, better battery life, an annoying new connector, late arriving 4G LTE, and a new iOS with some cool but minimal updates. Nevertheless, the processor is the most important part of the phone because it makes everything else possible. With the A6 the experience should be fast... very fast!

I am sure some people will disagree but I still think the last few major keynotes have been minor compared to say, the iPhone 4 or iPad 2 releases. I know the hardcore Apple followers will rave about this new device being a breakthrough (and it is) - but just look at the Samsung Galaxy S III or some of the other smartphones on the market. Many of them have had may of the iPhone 5 specifications for quite some time now - not to mention, super-large screens, NFC, and a very capable Android OS. However, the big difference-maker with iPhone 5 will be the A6 chip - this will deliver performance on multiple levels and really make the iPhone 5 better than any other iPhone (possibly "phone") on the market today (as of right now). Outside of all the other minor upgrades, this is the one to get excited about!

I will be upgrading to the iPhone 5 and I am excited to be getting a new device but I am still not as impressed with Apple as I have been in the past (outside of the processor). Listen, I know that they will sell more iPhone 5 devices than then any of their previous releases. I know their market share will continue to grow. I know that this device will probably be rated the number one smartphone in the country by various tech websites. This may all happen. But I still think that this was lackluster "redesign", especially in regards to NFC and the Lightning dock connector.

Maybe once the phone is in my hand I will change my perception. Nevertheless, I am excited about the iPhone 5 release! Friday can't come fast enough! (UPDATE: - Yes I have Pre-Ordered!)

Friday, July 27, 2012

New MacBook Pro Retina... Worth It?

Is the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display worth the cash? There was a lot of talk about what a powerhouse the new MacBook Pro Retina was after the Keynote in June. But the question remains, is the price tag worth the technology?

I have spoken about this topic before and highlighted the massive price difference and little hardware different between top-of-the-line Mac and PC laptops here. In my opinion it is quite striking that Apple charges such a premium for their (very nice) design and (also very nice) operating system. I just don't think the price difference is worth the (very nice) design and software advantages of Apple products.

Introduce the $2199 (base model) new MacBook Pro Retina. There is no doubt that the new Retina Display with a 15.4-inch, LED, IPS technology, 2880-by-1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch screen is amazing! There is nothing like it and once software catches up it will be one of the greatest display experiences ever! But I think that is where the innovation (other than the design of the bezel) ends.

The i7 2.3GHz processor can be found in a number of reasonably priced PCs, 8GB of RAM is pretty standard as well, as are NVIDIA 1GB graphics cards in higher end (but still lower priced PCs). Moreover, many Ultra Books have the solid state flash hard drives as well - and I don't know about you, but I fill up 256GB of space rather quickly (not to mention the enormous price jump to $2799 when you move up to 512GB). Just to mention one Ultra Book that has these features and more see the Sony Model: SVS1511HGXB Vaio which actually has a 2GB dedicated video card by NVIDIA for around $1800. 

The point is that the new MacBook Pro has similar specs to my 1-year old HP Laptop. Of course the display is better and the design is very tight and the OS is great (although Windows 8 will be something to contend with - although many people may disagree). But the bottom line is that while the new Pro is powerful it is just beginning to catch up with PC specs, while the price is still very much inflated - not to mention the super ridiculously high pricing of the MacBook Air and non-Retina Pros! 

So the bottom-line is as follows: The MacBook Pro Retina is the best laptop that Apple as ever placed on the market and it is finally just as powerful as machines in the PC world (that have been around for a while) but the price is still way to high. If you have a lot of disposable income then the machine is a great purchase. If you are on a budget but still want a powerful laptop, wait until Windows 8 is released and buy a top-of-the-line PC for about a thousand (or more) dollars less. 

As a side note, I would really like to see a $600 to $750 Apple laptop that will compete with similar PCs (and please don't tell me that's the iPad). I understand that Apple likes to keep their product lines priced high to keep exclusivity (or a cult-like mindset) among its die-hard consumers that will pay almost anything to acquire their newest products. I also understand that Apple puts more money into their R&D than other companies and thus has to keep prices high enough to support that overhead. But realistically, if Apple wants to chip away at the PC market more than they are (and maybe they don't, what do I know?) they will have to sell a reasonably priced machine. I would definitely buy a reasonable priced Mac simply because I am curious. There are a lot of consumers out there on the edge between Mac and PC (especially today) and all it would take is a smaller price difference to tip the scales in favor of Apple. 

Nevertheless, I must say, if had an extra $2199 laying around for a computer, I would love to buy the new Mac... but sadly I don't :)

By the way, this was typed on my new iPad which I think is one of the most innovate devices ever produced, just in case you think I have some grudge against Apple.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fitbit Ultra Review

It has been two weeks since I have purchased and used my new Fitbit Ultra activity tracker. I was all set to buy the Nike + Fuel Band but the Large went out of stock shorty after I wrote my last blog post! One can still purchase the Large Fuel Band on Amazon but for much more than the $149.00 Nike Store price tag. Moreover, I have read a few reviews that argue that the product isn't worth the price - there have also been some reports of it breaking (the clasp mainly). Click here to read the Amazon.com reviews of the Nike + Fuel Band. So I have decided to wait until the next installment of the Fuel Band and purchase its competitor, the Fitbit Ultra seen below.


The Fitbit tracks how many steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed (Fitbit ultra only), an activity score (similar to Nike Fuel) which is represented by a growing flower (kind of cool), and sleep efficiency (Fitbit Ultra Only). Moreover, the website allows you to view all your data and keep a daily food log. The Fitbit comes with a USB base for charging and wireless sync of your data when you are within 15 feet of the base. It also comes with a small plastic clip which can be placed on your belt or clipped to a pocket. Lastly, you receive a sleep wrist-band which holds the Fitbit while you sleep so that it can track your sleep activity. That's what in the box. So here is the rundown. 

Placement



Pros

The Fitbit is small and lightweight. I place mine in my right-hand pants pocket using the external clip that comes with the product. It stays put all day and I never even notice it is there. If you reference the pictures above you can see the many different areas you can place the Fitbit. I do think that I would like the wrist band better, but I am hard pressed to find an issue with wearing the Fitbit. Even the sleep wrist-band is comfortable (see last photo above). 

The Fitbit does a nice job of tracking calories and steps (although see the cons for overestimating steps) and being able to view your information with the very nice OLED display throughout the day is great. It helps to keep me motivated and I like seeing the data from day to day compiled on the website.

The website is very well done. The data is displayed and organized nicely and the wireless sync from the device to the base is fantastic. The food log is pretty good although the database is not as good as Live Strong's Daily Plate. Personally, I use FitDay.com which does a great job of tracking your daily food intake when you add every single food manually - it has a horrible built in database. I began using FitDay prior to discovering Live Strong and have invested a huge amount of time adding my food manually. If you do not have a foot tracker / daily journal yet I suggest starting with Live Strong or if you buy the Fitbit you can begin using their nicely designed website. The pictures below show the Fitbit website dashboard, calories burned over the coarse of the day, and a portion of the daily food log.







The sleep activity tracker in the Fitbit is really interesting. I find it to be a great feature. You place the Fitbit in the wrist-band (which is very comfortable and soft to the touch) and then go to sleep. The device tracks how long it takes for you to fall asleep, how many times you are active during the night, how many steps you take if you wake up (say, to go to the bathroom), how long you were asleep, and how many hours you were in bed. In the end, it gives you a sleep efficiency score which indicates how well you slept. I find the information rather useful and I never realized how many times I tossed and turned throughout the night. I didn't think this feature would be useful at first, but I really like it after using for a few weeks.


The Fitbit is great for running, It has a nice stopwatch feature that you can begin by just holding down the only button on the device for 2 second (this is also how you enter sleep mode as well). Once the timer begins it tracks all of your activity until you end the stopwatch. This activity data is added to the website and the Fitbit will recognized that data as a separate activity. Because the stopwatch mode is also the sleep mode, the Fitbit recognizes when you were sleeping vs. when you are doing an activity. I use this feature whenever I go for a run and it tracks my distance, steps, and calories burned. 

Overall, the device is pretty good and I would recommend it to anyone looking to track their daily activity. However, there are still some problems with the device. Here are the cons.

Cons

The device calculates way too many steps! My biggest pet peeve is when it calculates steps when I am driving! The Fitbit cannot be shut off or placed in an inactivity mode - it calculates everything all day! Thus, when you are driving the Fitbit racks up the calories and the steps inflating your daily goals and statistical information. The Fitbit needs a simple mode (maybe in a firmware update?) where you can tell the device to stop calculating data. It already has an activity mode and a sleep mode, why not an inactivity mode? This is a big problem because the statistics are inaccurate. Moreover, it actually overestimates steps all the time. I am not sure if this is because I have a long stride but it is a serious problem.

Another problem with the device is that the display cannot be read in the sunlight and I think this has to do with the blue OLED display. When I am out running on a sunny day, and I go to check the display, I have to hold my hand over the display to read the data. Indoors there is no problem.

Finally, the price is a little high. The Fitbit Ultra costs $99.99! It does cost less than the Nike Fuel Band by $50.00 (and does a lot more) but I still think this price is a little steep for a high-tech pedometer. 

Conclusion

In the end, I recommend the device. It is easy to use and does exactly what it is supposed to do - collect data on your daily activity and sleep. If this is what you want to do, the Fitbit is a great choice. Especially, given that you cannot get the Large Nike Fuel Band and the Jawbone Up has been taken off the market due to mechanical failure.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nike Fuel Band

I am Back!

First, I just want to acknowledge that I have been absent for some time. I have been working on my dissertation and getting a paper ready for a conference and thus time has been scarce. But I am back and I am going to try and get a few blogs out per week - one here and one on my experimental political science blog. Anyway, sorry for the delay.

Nike FuelBand

Since this is an electronics blog I am allowed to write about sports tech. I know it is not as interesting as the newest HD tech or Apple's "New iPad" to some of you... but it is interesting to me.

I am absolutely intrigued by the Nike FuelBand! See some videos here. Essentially, the FuelBand includes a sports tested accellerometer that is able to sense all movement (including tossing and turning in your sleep, running N* miles, and playing basketball) and turn it into calories burned and also Nike "Fuel", which can be compared across individuals. I am not sure exactly how "Fuel" is calculated, however. The device also calculates steps taken per day and can be used as a watch. It costs $149.99.


I already use Nike+ GPS on my iPhone when I run I absolutely love that application. I used to use the Nike+ sensor when I ran with my iPod Nano, but that became unnecessary with my iPhone 4 (the sensor did not work with my iPhone 3G). The Nike+ GPS app tells me the miles I ran, the route, maps the route online (and on my phone), lets me post my runs to Facebook, Twitter, and Path, gives me audio cues when I am running, changes the music to "power" songs when I choose, and tracks my progress writ large. The FuelBand, however, will track calories and steps all day for all activities and link with an iPhone app for increased usability!

The exclamation mark in the last sentence is unnecessary because it's not that huge a feat. So I wonder to myself... why do you want this so badly? Maybe it's the idea that it will "keep me on track" or "force me to see how little progress I am making when I slack off". Nevertheless, I really find this product appealing because it will provide me with data as to how active I am. 

Now if only Nike can create a device which tells me how many calories I consume. I use www.fitday.com to track my calorie intake, but it can be tedious at times. Of course I know the feasibility of this idea is low to nil. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about a new sport tech that has some use... or does it?

*For those of you that do not know, in statistics the letter N is often used as an indicator of the number of subjects, things, or whatever, in your sample. In this case it's miles.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hard Impact iPhone / iPad Cases The Bottom Line

The Tough Case

I love my iPhone and I want to give it the best protection possible. Many of you may be aware of what are often called "Tough Cases" for various smart phone models. There is a huge market for these things! Of course there will always be those people who don't want to add bulk to their device; tough cases are not built for these people. Personally, I want to keep my device in mint condition until the time comes to purchase a new one (which may be this summer with the release of iPhone 5). This post will give you a run-down - of what I think - are the top four "Tough Cases" for the iPhone (some of which are available for other deviuces as well). They are in no particular order, although I will tell you which one(s) I think are the best. I understand that there are hundreds (probably thousands) of cases out there, but I am only interested in cases which cover the entire iPhone for ultimate protection. At the end I will list some notable mentions. Before I present my chosen cases I will give you my criteria for a good case.

What Makes a Good Case?


I think there are four criteria from which to judge the effectiveness of a case:


(1) Protection: The first thing to consider is when looking for a good case is how well it protects the phone (or other device). I think that the device inside the case should be so well protected that when you take it out of the case it looks the same as the day you purchased it - free from nicks, scratches, bruises, or marks of any kind. I don't want dust under my screen (which happened often with my 3G) or nasty pavement scrapes. Simply put, scratch and shock protection are at the forefront of my criteria.

(2) Accessibility: The second thing I look at is how well each part of the device can be accessed. I do not want to sacrifice accessibility for protection - although just as some people think you have to sacrifice individual freedoms for greater national defense, sometimes you must sacrifice accessibility for protection. I try to avoid this trade off at all cost. I must be able to easily silence my phone, raise or lower the volume, push the home button, use the headphones jack, charge my phone with the cord or via a dock, and use the speakerphone without audio disruption. One of the worst things with "Tough Cases" is the inability to use a dock with the case on - this drives me insane! Once one of these cases in on the phone I do not want to take it off to use because it prohibits functionality.

(3) Bulk: I want the best protection in the smallest package. Simple as that. I do not want my slim and sleek device to become a brick that I can no longer fit in my pocket. Unfortunately, this criteria is hard to maximize  when you are maximizing protection as well. Just like accessibility there are trade-offs.

(4) Durability: The case itself should be durable enough to keep the device protected without breaking down. I do not want the case to break in the process of protecting the phone, only to force me to purchase a new case. Moreover, when cases break they lose functionality and become cumbersome to use.

Some people may also put price as their number 5 criteria. However, all of the cases I am presenting are under $100.00 - which in my opinion is still way to high for any case - you can make up your own mind based on your budget. Personally, although I know the prices are a little steep, I am willing to pay for better protection, especially because I insist on keeping my phone for two years as a cell and then as long as it will last as an ancillary device (I still use my 3G as an "iPod Touch"). Thus, I use my devices long after their warranty expires.

For the sake of this blog I will use a five star rating system for criteria and give an average for each case in the aggregate.

First-Hand Experience: The "Otter Box Defender Series"


My personal cell phone is an iPhone 4 which I have owned since its release date. I time my iPhone purchases every two years so that I get the major releases and not the "S" releases. I did not own the first iPhone based on AT&T's "Edge" broadband; instead I waited and purchased an iPhone 3G. I passed up the 3GS and purchased the 4. I am hoping the 5th gen release will be another major upgrade. Anyway, my iPhone 4 has been in the Otter Box Defender Series for almost two years now.


I really like this case. The first picture above is the original defender for the iPhone 4. The second picture above is of the 4S Defender case which was "tweaked" a little for the 4S but also fits the 4. I think the 4 case was better than the 4S case because it fit the contours of the phone better - notice the larger hole around the camera allowing more of the phone to be exposed. Nevertheless the differences between the cases are minimal.

(1) Protection (*****): The Otter Box Defender gets a 5 star rating for protection. I have dropped, smashed, accidentally kicked, and bowled my iPhone down concrete over the two years that I have owned it. My phone has taken a beating. I am an avid Geocache participant and I use my iPhone as my GSP device all the time. I take my phone into environments which are not electronics friendly. The Otter box has stood the test of time. When I open my phone it looks like it did the day I bought it. There isn't a scratch on the device. I cannot say the same for the case however, which I will discuss soon. Nevertheless, the Defender did it's job - my phone has been protected from a variety of dangerous drops. Watch the video below to see a guy drop his iPhone inside of an Otter Box off a roof... Don't try this at home :)





(2) Accessibility (****): The Defender has some accessibility issues so it gets 4 out of 5 stars. First of all, forget docking your iPhone on anything. That might be a slight exaggeration, but I have only found a single dock which will accommodate the iPhone inside the case (I will update the post with the model as soon as I find that information). There is simply too much extra bulk for dock connectors to easily fit into the device. The screen protector on the Defender also takes away from the beauty of the device. When the case is off, the screen is vibrant and brilliant. The case dulls that experience. However, there are no responsiveness issues like with other screen protectors on other cases (see below). But the case is also not flush with the device and it sits higher than the screen, which creates a small plastic lip surrounding the screen. This makes it difficult to access the outer parts of the screen. There are times when I want to bring my cursor to the beginning (or end) of a sentence when typing an email and have trouble getting my finger to the edge of the screen to get the cursor in the right position. Other than these (really annoying) issues, everything is accessible. 

(3) Bulk (***): I am going to give the Defender 3 out of 5 stars for bulk. The case adds significant width to the phone. The iPhone 4 is 9.3mm thick,with the case it becomes 16.76mm thick - a whopping 7.3mm thicker or about 170% thicker than the original device. With the clip it becomes even larger! But again, this is the cost of a "Tough Case".

(4) Durability(***): The Defender gets 3 of 5 stars for Durability - if is wasn't for the company's amazing customer service it would get 2 out of 5 stars. I am currently on my 3rd Defender case. The first one lasted about 6 months. The plastic on the case cracked around the screen after one drop from less than 4ft. Otter Box sent me another unit right away at no extra cost. The belt clip also broke so they replaced that as well. The second Otter Box I received lasted much longer, but the silicone around the edges began to disintegrate. I use my iPhone with headphones all the time - at the gym or in my shared office. Every time you want to use the jack you have to peel back a small silicone lip. It slowly began to rip with use and eventually snapped at the seem. But that's not all. The silicone used to cap the silence switch did the same thing. However, once again I called Otter Box and they sent me the new 4S version which fit fine. The biggest issue with the case is the silicone layer which degrades over time. But as long as the company takes care of it's customers and warranties the product, this is not such a bad thing. Nevertheless, the warranty on the Otter Box is only one year. While it seems like they take care of their customers beyond that (mine was replaced in the second year of ownership) it is obviously not guaranteed that the company will do the same for all customers.

That leaves us with an average rating of 3.75 out of 5 stars for the Otter Box Defender series, which costs $49.95. Before you read on, I must tell you that I do not own any of the following cases which I review. The information is based on my extensive research into each case, which includes videos, reviews from other bloggers, and information on the company's website. The information on the Otter Box comes first hand and is thus reliable.

My Next Case? The "LifeProof" iPhone 4/4S Series Case

I think that when the next iPhone is released I will purchase the LifeProof case. This case is supposed to be water-proof, dust-proof, shock-proof, and snow-proof! Who wouldn't want an indestructible iPhone that can go anywhere and do anything? Since I am an avid Geocacher I am very interested in what this case has to offer. 

(1) Protection (*****): For protection this case has it all! The entire phone in completely covered, speakers and all! In fact, the phone is water-proof for up to 6.6ft! The company also claims that it has been tested and can be dropped from 6.6ft. Take a quick look at the video below to watch what Dusty puts her iPhone through - some of it is impressive. However, I am unable to find any videos where someone drops the LifeProof cased iPhone of a roof... perhaps they don't exist because people are not dumb enough to try such a thing when the company tells you that it can only withstand 6.6ft... but Otter Box owners did and many of their phones survived. I am not quite sure how resistant the case is to a real beating. 



However, I did find this pretty good review on YouTube where he claims that he put his LifeProof through a beating and it held up. The link below is from part 2 of the review where he has used the case for some time. In part 1 he is actually a little disappointed with the feel of the case, which he initially thought would not hold up as well as his previous Otter Box. Thus for protection I am going to go out on a limb here and give the LifeProof 5 stars.




(2) Accessibility (****): I have rated the LifeProof 4 out of 5 stars on accessibility. Because the device is fully sealed in the case there are obvious impediments to accessing the device functions. The silencer, volume  buttons, home button, and power button all seem to work fine. However, because it's water proof, in order to access the headphones jack, one has to unscrew the "bung" from the case in order insert headphones. Interestingly the company also makes a waterproof headphones adapter for snowboarding, swimming, or just hanging out at the beach - I do love this feature but it still impedes everyday accessibility. Also, the standard LifeProof case will not support any dock due to the way its Apple connector door opens and closes. However, you may have noticed a 4 star rating... why higher than Otter Box when it seems like the LifeProof has the same (if not more) issues? It's because Lifeproof offers a dock extender for their case which quickly and easily solves the problem! That is truly innovative - even though it seems like a no-brainier. Lastly, there have been some complaints that the plastic that covers the LifeProof screen does not hug the screen that well (as if there was an air bubble between the screen protector and the phone) causing responsiveness issues. Moreover, some people claim that the sound from the speaker phone is a little muted or muffled; although the company says that if the phone is fit properly this is not an issue. Even so, I am still giving it 4 stars for having as great of protection as it does with as much accessibility as it does. Yes the headphones thing is going to be a pain in the ass but the dock extender makes it all better :)

(3) Bulk(*****): The LifeProof is by far the best "Tough Case" when it comes to slim design. The case is only 13.33mm thick, which is only about 4mm thicker than the phone rather than 7.33mm thicker like the Otter Box. This is a selling feature!

(4) Durability (****): I can't really comment on this criteria except to say that LifeProof has a year warranty like most cases. Those at CNET seem to think it is a durable but I have not used the case for two years like Otter Box so I cannot comment on how well it is made. But I will give it the benefit of the doubt and give it a 4 out of 5 star rating.

At a cost of $79.99 the LifeProof case gets an average rating of 4.25 out of 5 (4.33 is you don't count the durability rating for lack of information). Thus, the LifeProof case seems to offer a lot of protection in a sleek design which can also accommodate a dock, but has problems with headphones. Nevertheless, I just bought a set of wireless headphones from Motorola so headphone accessibility will not be a future issue (at least for me). I really like this case a lot and I think it will be next purchase for what I hope is the iPhone 5.

Can You Get Any Tougher? The "Ballistic Hard Core Series"

This Ballistic Hardcore case has not two, not three, but five layers of protection! 

*Layer 1 – Built in screen protector
*Layer 2 – Ballistic shock absorbent polymer
*Layer 3 – Tough impact resistant polycarbonate
*Layer 4 – An additional layer of our Ballistic shock absorbent polymer
*Layer 5 – Optional outer layer of silicone

Wow! This case has protection down!



                                      

(1) Protection (*****): Hands down this case has "hardcore" shock protection. However, there are a few issues that I didn't like. First, on some older models the headphones jack and noise cancellation microphone are not covered by the case. This can easily allow dust to get into the unit and cause havoc. In fact, this seems to be the number one protection complaint from customers, especially those in the construction or trade fields of work. However, it appears that the newest version does cover the headphones and mic, which has solved this problem. This case has some very nice drop protection but not as much dust protection in the headphone area as the Otter Box or especially the LifeProof. Nevertheless, from what I seen online, this case is tough when it comes to impact.

(2) Accessibility (***): It's the same story with the Ballistic Hardcore as the Otter Box (and the Lifeproof). Most of the features are accessible, but don't plan on docking the device with the case on. Also, the Hardcore has an issue with it's screen protector called watermarking. Apparently when the screen protector touches the actual iPhone screen it produces an odd pattern that looks like there is water under the screen. It can be fixed with some "baby powder". I never had this happen with my Otter Box which has an amazing screen protector that does not hamper the functionality outside of the issues I have already mentioned. See the video below for the baby power fix - Nevertheless, this is an important accessibility issue. I would compare this case to the Otter Box but with beefed up protection.



(3) Bulk (**): Put it this way, the case is very thick. I could not find its exact thickness on the web, which is probably a result of that NOT being a selling feature. Nevertheless, bulk is the biggest complaint about this case on the web. From what I can tell the case doubles the size of the iPhone.

(4) Durability(****): Once again I cannot give this criteria a rating for sure so I went with 4 out of 5 stars. From what I have read though some reviews are saying that the silicone is thicker than the Otter Box and thus has a smaller chance of ripping at the seems. 

Overall this case gets a 3.5 out of 5 star rating. If you want serious protection and don't mind the bulk of the case this may be the one for you. The case is $49.99 which is the same as the Otter Box. It seems as if this case offers better protection than the Otter Box but with more bulk and more accessibility issues.

One of the Best Protectors: The "Griffin Survivor Series"



The first line of the website says, "Ridiculously over-engineered? Or the perfect case for your iPhone 4 no matter where you're headed?" I think this sums it up well. Check out the video below from the company to see the damage it can take.




(1) Protection(*****): This case is seriously rugged. It offers more protection than both the Otter Box and the Ballistic Hardcore. It has awesome drop protection, wind protection, and dust protection - although it is not completely sealed like the LifeProof case. The company claims that the case is "Independently tested and certified to meet conditions outlined in US Department of Defense MIL-STD-810 and UK Department of Defense Def-Stan 00-35." The company also claims to have tested the case at 6ft drops. The phone is covered all the way around and extremely protected. The only thing it's missing is the complete water-proof package. It gets 5 out of 5 stars, just like all of the cases I have chosen.

(2) Accessibility (**): There are some serious accessibility issues here! First and foremost the camera is completely covered by a silicone flap which must be held away from the lens to take a picture! This is the worst of all the accessibility problems - even worse than the LifeProof Headphones "bung". Other than that the same dock issues exist as the Otter Box and Ballistic HC. The Survivor also has a cover over the speaker, voice mic, and noise cancellation mic, which can muffle the sound of the device - but probably not as bad as the LifeProof given that the phone is completely covered and sealed. The screen protector has also been known to be less responsive than other cases such as the Otter Box Defender. The bottom line with the Survivor series is you are sacrificing a lot of accessibly and getting a lot of protection. 

(3) Bulk(**): Again this case doubles the thickness of the iPhone. I couldn't find the exact specs, but you get the point. 

(4) Durability(****): Once again I cannot give this criteria a rating for sure so I went with 4 out of 5 stars. From what I have read though some reviews are saying that the silicone is thicker than the Otter Box and the Ballistic. But, I have seen in some videos that the silicone over the camera has ripped and also the silicone over the corners has ripped.

Overall the Survivor gets3.25 stars out of 5. It costs $49.99. This one has the protection that tops all the others, however! After all, it was run over by a truck and the phone was destroyed, but it did still work :)

The Bottom Line

All of these cases provide great protection for your iPhone. They all have accessibility issues - including the fact that you cannot dock your device, which sucks! However, with the LifeProof case you can get the optional dock extender which solves my number one problem. The Otter Box and the LifeProof both have the best accessibility and offer very nice protection, with the LifeProof case being waterproof up to 6.6ft. Moreover, they all increase the size of the iPhone, but the LifeProof case delvers the slimiest package - which I love!

My choice for best "Tough Case" is the LifeProof and I will be purchasing one for my next iPhone. It is also the most costly at $79.99. Coming in second is the Otter Box - it has great protection, a comparatively sleek design (than the Ballistic or Survivor) and offers great everyday protection - my phone looks like I bought it an hour ago! The Ballistic and Survivor are great cases with lots of protection, but they lack the accessibility and are too bulky  for my tastes. 

I will be sure to review the actual LifeProof product once I get it, but that could be a while. Although, LifeProof is going to release an iPad case soon - hopefully with the same specs. I will definitely be buying that case for my "new iPad".

Notable Mentions


Case Mate's Tank - Talk about protection...

The Joy Factory's Rain Ballet - Mostly waterproof anyone?

Speck's Mighty Vault - Much like the Otter Box...

Trident's Kraken II - It's tough, with style...

That's the notable mentions. There are so many! See this CNET article for more info on their Top 20 Tough Cases. But trust me, the top 4 I reviewed are the best of the best! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Post PC World: The Best and Worst of "The New iPad"

The New iPad...

Yesterday at 1:00 pm eastern time Apple introduced "the new iPad". For the most part the iPad's reception has been favorable. Donald Bell, from CNET is absolutely enthralled with the new Retina display.Charles Cooper, again from CNET says "nobody cares what we didn't get". I happen to agree, although there is a part of me that wants to call "the new iPad" the "iPad 2S". Overall, what we received from Apple is pretty much what was rumored - see my recent post to compare the rumors to reality. But now that its here let's take a look at the machine.

What We Did Get

During the Keynote address Apple's CEO Tim Cook made it a point to differentiate the PC-World from the Post PC-World. Apple claims to be leading the Post PC-Revolution with its new iPad; although I am skeptical of the claim the the PC is no longer the center of the digital world and just another device - there are things iPad cannot do that I use my PC for everyday. So how well does the new iPad perform in a Post PC-Universe? Pretty damn good! See the brief video below for the big announcement.



The first thing Apple revealed was its new - and amazing - Retina display! The standard HDTV has a resolution of 1920x1080 or about 2 million pixels. The new iPad has a resolution of 2048x1536 pixels or over 3.1 million pixels! I have not seen the display yet, of course; the release data is not until March 16, 2012. But with that number of pixels on a 9.7 inch screen it has to be fantastic! I am going to buy the machine just for this display, which truly is revolutionary. The display alone is a huge upgrade from iPad 2 or any other tablet on the market. See the video from Apple to see the technology behind the Retina. 

We also received a more powerful processor with the A5X chip, which has quad-core graphics capability. I am not sure how fast the A5X chis is, although I have a hunch that it's still 1GHZ. I am also pretty sure that the new iPad has the same 512MB of RAM that the iPad 2 has. Nevertheless, quad-core graphics is a nice improvement.

Another new feature, which I though was odd given iPhone 4S, is the 5MP iSight camera with 1080p recording. It uses the same optical system as the iPhone 4S, yet it is 3MP less. It has image stabilization, records in 30fps, and has a 5x digital zoom. Not bad for a tablet camera!

The final new piece of hardware is the 4G LTE and 3G-World capabilities (which I did not mention in my last post). This is a really exciting feature if you want to spend an extra $129.00 for the device and spend another $30.00 a month for the 3GB a month data service from AT&T or $30.00 a month for 2GB of data from Verizon. No thanks, I'll stick with Wi-Fi :) (Do you see why I could care less about this feature coming to the iPad? I pay enough for my freaking iPhone data plan as it is.) Although I am impressed that Apple was able to keep the same battery life with the addition of next generation broadband cellular.

We also received a new microphone with the new iPad along with voice dictation (this will be amazing, if it works - is you watched the Keynote, you may have noticed there was no on stage demo like there was with Siri, this could mean the technology isn't as reliable). 

Apple also released a bunch of new Apps for the iPad, which I am not going to reiterate here. The bottom line is simple: if you have been waiting to buy one, now is the time; if you already have one it might not be enough to spend another $499.99 in less than two years (or one year is you have the iPad 2). 

Even though the new iPad is a revolutionary device at the same remarkable price point, there are a few things missing.

What We Did Not Get and Should We Care?

The first thing that struck me was no Siri! When Philip Schiller announced the new voice dictation feature, I was positive that the next words out of his mouth were going to introduce Siri for the iPad... that didn't happen. However, with the microphone and the hardware specs I think that Siri is on its way to the iPad. This summer Apple is likely to introduce the next generation iPhone and with iOS6. I think there is a pretty good shot that Siri comes to iPad at this time. Thus, I am not too disappointed that Siri wasn't offered with the new iPad... just yet.

I was, however, disappointed that the device - outside of the display - was not more powerful overall. I was hoping for 1GB of RAM and a more powerful processor, even if it wan't quad-core. Yes, I know that the graphics chip is quad-core - that's awesome! But I have a feeling the processor is still 1GHZ (this spec is not yet mentioned here on Apple.com). But, in the end, I don't think this matters for the new device. The iPad 2 is mega fast and I am sure the new iPad will be as well. 

The 5MP camera is a let down. The iPhone 4S has a better camera than the new iPad! However, I don't really plan on taking my photos with my iPad (I am sure many people agree with me); in fact my phone is really my first option when I am out and about and want to capture video and pictures. Moreover, with iCloud I can take my pictures and video with my phone and edit them on my gorgeous Retina iPad display. Thus, the fact that the new camera is better is enough for me. It still seems weird though that they couldn't just place the iPhone tech in the iPad? But what do I know, I am not one of their engineers... We also didn't get an improved front-facing camera - it remains the 0.3MP VGA quality - but really this is only used for Face-Time and who needs to look at my face in high resolution!

Of course, being the geek that I am, I wanted a bigger screen, flash support, a new iOS, better hardware, Siri, and longer battery life - but really I know that my wants and desires are much higher than actual expectations! The new iPad is a magnificent improvement and critics shouldn't be quick to point out what is not in the new device. I recall that after the iPhone 4S release there was a lot of talk about what that product was lacking, yet the device has been Apple's best selling phone yet. The new iPad is going to make a huge impact on the tablet market! 

The fact of the matter is that Apps are better for iOS and they will now look better on the Retina display with the more powerful graphics chip. Apple Post-PC portable devices are the best on the market. Android is a great operating system. It does a lot of great things and does them well. But nothing compares to the beautiful and easy to use iOS. In fact, the more I use Apple's portable devices, the more I want to buy a Mac... but I won't... Why? See here.

The Bottom-Line... Buy One!

I will be purchasing the new iPad! I am not sure if I will buy it on March 16 - I don't have the time to wait in line all day (unlike the people in those Samsung commercials, I have things to do). But I will pick one up early in the product cycle. My biggest fear in buying a tablet is that it will be out of date in only a year - and it will! I am not worried about my phone because I get one every two years and they are relatively cheap (if you sign your life away with a 2-year contract). Bu the tablet is much like a PC purchase, it's going to be with you for a few years (unless you have unlimited wealth, then just buy one every year - I do not). 

In the end I am impressed enough with the upgrade from iPad 2 to make the buy. I know that this time next year I will want the new device - that is a curse I must live with. In fact, if "iPad 4" good enough I'll give the old iPad to my fiance and buy the new one for myself :)

Yes... I am excited! I will be sure to let you know about my experience once "the new iPad" is in my possession.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview is Here!


Windows 8 is Here!


Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released yesterday (February 29, 2012) and it has already been downloaded over 1 million times! I have been a beta user of Windows Operating systems since Windows XP 64-bit in 2003. Out of all the OS releases in Windows history this is the most exciting (Windows XP comes in a close second).

I have been using the Windows OS since its 3.1x release in 1992. When Windows 95 was released it completely changed the user's experience. Windows XP had a similar impact upon it's release. Windows Vista was more advanced (and much more buggy) but it didn't really change the experience for the user. Windows 7 is an amazing OS, but it also did not revolutionize the user experience. In fact, I would argue that Windows hasn't really changed all that much since Windows 95. Sure it has gotten faster, moved from FAT32 to NTFS, the look has changed several times, the control panel has been overhauled, and many features have been added, but the user experience has been essentially the same. The start menu has been the hub of the OS and windows explorer has been our navigation mechanism. While Windows 8 maintains these elements, this time, the user experience is completely overhauled... and I think I like it.

Installation


There isn't really much to say about the installation. It was very smooth and took less than 2 hours (including the  3.3GB 64-bit download). There are few ways you can get the preview. You can use Microsoft's automatic download and install option or you can get an ISO Image file and manually install the OS yourself. I opted for the automatic download and install. You can choose to do a fresh install and wipe out your machine or you can keep all your files and applications. I chose to keep my files and applications which has in the past caused problems with beta installs. Not this time! The Windows 8 Install will run its compatibility check initially and it will give you a report. I had a few issues (mainly deactivating my iTunes account and installing a few driver/software updates from Windows Update before the install) but nothing that forced me to spend any time preparing for the install or prevented me from doing an upgrade. When I installed the Windows 7 beta I had to backup my system and complete a fresh install - not fun. Overall, the installation was simple and pleasant.

What's New?


Where to start? Get it... where to "start"? The start menu is completely overhauled. The "start" GUI is essentially the Windows Mobile interface for your desktop. For those of you have never used Windows Mobile, the interface is a series of clickable buttons representing both applications and locations on your machine. For example, there is an Internet Explorer button, a photos button, a maps button, a camera button, a weather button, ect. See below for a picture.


There is no "All Programs" button, however, one must right click on the start screen to bring up a hidden console which pops-up from the bottom of the screen. Once you click the "All apps" button, you are shifted to a screen containing all of the applications on your machine in a tile format. The interface is really nice and easy to navigate once you get to know the OS better. See pictures below to see the Apps screen.



Within the Start Menu there is a button called "Desktop". When clicked you are brought to what looks like the standard Windows 7 interface. However, there is no start menu in the lower left-hand corner. Instead you have to roll the mouse to the left-hand corner and wait for the Start Menu Icon to pop-up. Once clicked it takes you to the new interface. Windows Explorer is still a prominent part of the OS and you can search through your files and folders just as you always have - not much has changed in functionality. However, the newest and best addition to the OS are the built-in Windows Applications for Mail, Calender, Camera, People, Finance, Weather, Photos, Video, and several others.

Apps

The new Windows 8 has a series of applications built into the OS. Each one has a very nice interface with fantastic organization. The Photos App gives the user a rich and engaging film-strip interface which makes it easy to flip through your photo folders. The People App lets you compile your contacts but also lets you configure your contacts from Twitter and other social network sites. The Store App doesn't have a lot of apps yet, but it will revolutionize the way we use our computers. Essentially, the new Windows OS weds the mobile device experience with the utility and functionality of laptop/desktop. One of my favorite new features is the status / multitasking / background application toggle function that Windows 8 introduces. I am not sure exactly what to call this new feature, which you can view below, but I do know that it is very helpful. All applications that are running on the machine can be toggled from this new interface. Simply run your mouse to the upper-left corner of the screen and a small window will appear that shows the user all the apps they are currently running. From this interface you can close apps, toggle between apps, and view the apps you are currently using. This feature is very useful. 


The other useful feature is the screen split. When the user opens apps in the start menu they are able to have two apps open in the same window at the same time and toggle between them as you work. I am already planning on using Abode Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop in the new split screen mode; this feature will be great for web designers. 

Other Cool Stuff

Overall my brief few hours with Windows 8 has been very productive. I was able to learn the new features and functionality by just using the OS. I didn't have to research anything. The system is very intuitive. One other neat features is what I would call the command center. When you place your mouse in the lower-right hand corner of the screen the command center opens which displays the time, a search button, a share button, a devices button, and a setting button. This command center gives quick access to a whole set of functions needed to manage your PC. The entire design and functionality reminds me of a smartphone, yet I also have the full ability of my laptop. I can see this OS being very successful on tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices because it is so versatile.


Although I have only used the OS for a matter of hours (I am sure as I proceed I will find things I don't like) my initial review is very positive. I think Windows 8 is going to be a hit! I am very excited to be a part of the Consumer Review. Look for future posts as I continue to use my machine and get further acquainted with my new friend. 

Take-Away

Windows 8 is a complete overhaul of the classic operating system. It combines the best of what Windows Mobile has to offer with the ability of a powerful laptop/desktop machine. Finally... and yes it must be said... Windows 8 reminds me of Mac OS. There are a lot of similarities, which let's be honest, is a good thing.



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

iPad 3 March 7th Event!

Apple has finally announced its iPad (2S or 3?) event! I have been waiting for this announcement since the release of iPad 2. The primary reason I waited for the next generation iPad is the (very probable) introduction of the Retina Display which is currently utilized on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Apple's Retina Display is rumored to have four times the number of pixels as the current model. Apple will also probably boost up the rear-facing camera with its 8MP model currently used in the iPhone 4S (this would give us a boost from 720p recording to 1080p recording!).



What else may we expect from Apple?

I would really like to see a next generation processor worthy of the A6 title. However, rumor has it (with photo evidence you can view bellow) that Apple will release an A5X chip, which will remain duel-core. Earlier rumors claimed that Apple would introduce a quad-core A6 chip for the next generation iPad.


Personally, I don't care if Apple releases a version with a smaller screen. However, I would love to see a larger 10" screen rather than the 9.7" screen the current models have. Of course it should have more memory as well. The iPad 2 only has 512MB of ram; I would really like to see an upgrade to 1GB! With the new display I would like to see an upgrade to the current PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics chip as well. Of course it will also have Siri. It may also have Gorilla Glass, which would be awesome! Finally, and the least probable (not a shot in Hell), I would love to see Flash brought to all Apple devices with OS5 upgrade. That is truly wishful thinking, however :( 

What might I not want in the new iPad?

One thing that has been rumored is that Apple will release iPad with a smaller dock connector, which in my opinion would be terrible, as older accessories would be obsolete for your new device. That is pretty much the only thing that I wouldn't want to see in the new iPad. Although there was a rumor that the new model will not have a home button - but that rumor was based on a picture of the new device in portrait mode (see below). Thus, the home button would not be visible in the photo. 


Overall, the Apple community is really excited and so am I! I have waited to buy an iPad for a long time and I hope this model will be worth my wait. I will be sitting near my computer on March 7 waiting for the event to hit the Apple website (and reading a live feed). For the iPhone 4S event many websites "claimed" to have a live feed, when in reality it was just a few kids talking and blogging speculative information as the event proceeded - not even cool. If you can't wait to watch it (like myself), I suggest reading about the event live from Gizmodo's website. For the iPhone 4S even they ran a wonderful live text feed from inside the presentation. Until then, there is plenty of time for lots of wishful thinking within the rumor mill. 
"Well, everybody's heard iPad stories around the campfire. Heck, my grandma used to spin yarns about the iPad 3 that would rocket past the farm where she grew up!"
Do you know where I adapted this quote from? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Inactivity Messages on Internet Radio

Hello Everyone!

Everyday, when I am working on various project (mostly my Dissertation), I listen to Sirius Satellite or Pandora Internet Radio. After about an hour of listening, the music (or talk radio) just stops... silence.

Pandora Radio will stop because the company wants to reduce exceeding bandwidth and the cost of royalties for played music. I am not sure as to why Sirius does this but I assume it's for the same reasons. An interesting thing about Pandora is that this same limitation does not occur with their smartphone application. Nevertheless, the user has to interrupt what they are doing and click "I'm Still Listening" to continue. The apparent reason for this - I assume - is to prevent the user from leaving the room and leaving the content streaming.

For Sirius Radio, the system is even worse. The user has to log back in as their inactivity message actually boots the user off the service. I hate the inactivity messages! Slacker Radio is pretty awesome but I have yet to fix up my stations to be as good as my Pandora stations (which took forever to customize using the thumbs up / thumbs down buttons - and Pandora still plays strange selections. For example, my station will be entitled, "Black Sabbath" and Pandora will play Journey every so often). 

How often do you change the radio station when listening to "regular radio". Personally, I have a favorite station and simply listen to the that station for hours on end. My regular radio does't just stop... I guess I may be over-annoyed by a minor problem, but this constant annoyance drives me crazy. 

In order to prevent the message on Pandora you have to like or dislike songs (or change the station). I am not quite sure what you have to do for Sirius Radio (other than change the station). This does not seem like an annoyance, but imagine you are streaming Sirius or Pandora Radio from your computer throughout the house and you hop in the shower without pressing a button to keep it from going inactive and the music just stops! I can't tell you how much that annoys me! I think you have to upgrade to Pandora One and this will stop happening, along with the elimination of commercials.

On a side note, Sirius Radio is the WORST, not just for inactivity, but for random server errors and network drops! I hate my Sirius Radio with a passion! Sometime in the near future I will dedicate a post to why Sirius Radio is terrible (post merger with XM). But needless to say, when a certain radio personality retires, I will be cancelling my service. I hope Sirius is listening to customer like myself because they will not survive in the ling-run given the current landscape of portable audio (at least not without content)!

Anyway, this was just a short venting post about a small but really annoying personal pet peeve.