Apple iPad 4 Tablet

IPAD 4

It’s going to be a little while to have enough reliable and substantial information regarding the soon to be released iPad 5 for a blog post, so I’ve included the iPad 4 for this review with the other tablets I’ve recently posted. The iPad 4 is undoubtedly the best version of this famous tablet, and Apple did not disappoint although the changing of the 30-pin to Lightning connector has upset a few customers, although it truly was an improvement for a few reasons. Regardless, the changes have been positive and in keeping with generational improvements; they just keep getting better, which is the way it should be.

Physically, the iPad 4 and the iPad 3 are identical in size. The iPad 4 dimensions are 7.31”W x .37”D x 9.5”H, with a 1.44 lbs weight. The screen is a 9.7” (diagonal) inch LED backlight multitouch display with IPS technology, with a 2048 x 1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch. The screen has a fingerprint resistant coating which improves readability as well. 

It is almost identical to the third generation iPad on the outside except for the power/data connector on the bottom. The Home button is still in the same location, with the volume rocker switch and the silent screen/rotation lock located next to it, on the right edge of the body. At the top you have the microphone on one side and the 3.5mm headphone mini-jack on the other side. 

The important major changes occurred inside the device, significantly increasing the performance. Three major changes showcase the fourth generation iPad including faster performance, replacement of the 30-pin dock connector with a new Lightning connector, and improved camera performance.

Faster Overall Performance

The iPad 4 received a new A6X processor, at 1.4GHz, (along with a quad-core graphics processor) a 40% improvement over the previous model’s A5X 1GHz processor. The benchmark tests reflect a marked improvement in performance. Geekbench Benchmark results indicate an iPad 4 score of 1764 versus the iPad 3 759. The GL Benchmark Egypt Offscreen results indicate an iPad 4 score of 183 versus the iPad 3 126. Basically, the tablet performed admirably with any application used with it, including some high-performance gaming apps; overall, a good solid performance machine.

The iPad 4 supports Bluetooth version 4.0 and WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n and Apple claims the WiFi has been improved with Channel Bonding, which utilizes two adjacent Wi-Fi channels simultaneously to double the bandwidth. Although sound in theory, in the real world, some interference occurs which has a negative effect and substantial reduction in bandwidth as a result. On the LTE version of the iPad 4, the LTE chip has been improved, with additional frequencies added for better worldwide support. There are two iPad models; one model is for Verizon and Sprint, and the other model is for AT&T, with each model using different LTE frequencies. The upgraded LTE chip also has improved GPS and GLONASS (Russian satellite location finding system used with GPS for improved accuracy).

Lightning Connector Replacement

The old 30-pin dock connector located on the bottom edge, which has been used for Apple products for eight years was replaced with a new, much slimmer but stronger connector that Apple calls Lightning. The new Lightning connector actually is now the standard connector on the latest version of all of Apple’s mobile devices. There were reasons for the change. First of all, the previous 30-pin connector was rather fragile and tended to break easily. The new Lightning connector is much slimmer and a much better connection is now the result with improved resiliency. You could only insert the older connector one-way, which at times would result in bent pins from users trying to force it in the wrong way. The new Lightning connector can be inserted either way with no problems. And of course, this new Lightning connector has now become the standard on all of Apple’s latest mobile devices. There is an adapter you can get which converts from 30-pin to Lightning for those using the older accessories.

Improved Cameras

Both the front and rear cameras have been improved over the previous iPad model, although the megapixel size is the same, 1.2 megapixel for the front camera and 5 megapixel for the rear camera. However, both cameras have been improved and the unit also has a new image signal processor for better image stabilization. Although the quality of the images are not at the standard of the iPhone 5, there was definitely improvement in overall quality from the previous model when comparison shots were performed. The rear 5 megapixel camera retained the same capabilities including:

  • Autofocus
  • Face detection
  • Backside illumination
  • Five-element lens
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • Tap to focus video or still images
  • Tap to control exposure for video or still images
  • Photo and video geotagging
  • For video recording important features were retained including:
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Video stabilization
  • Face detection
  • Tap to focus while recording
  • Backside illumination

The important thing to note about the front-facing camera is that it now supports a 720p video conference capability. Tests were performed using FaceTime and there was a substantial improvement in quality.

The iPad 4 did perform adequately on the power check test. The battery is a 42.5 watt-hour lithium type and in comparison tests, it did not do quite as well as last year’s model, registering a session life of 9 ½ hours versus the iPad 3’s 10 hour span.

Choices include colors black and white, as well as a WiFi or WiFi + Cellular. Prices start at $499 for the 16GB version, up to 64GB for $699.

My overall opinion of the iPad 4 is that it’s a great tablet with some solid performance improvements over the previous iPad 3. With the iPad 5 release pending, Apple will no doubt be cutting prices and you could get a sweet deal on the 4 with some great features to boot. It all boils down to your pocketbook: enjoy the savings reduction due to the new release or go for the new technology and its additional features with the iPad 5. That is always the dilema with choosing a cutting-edge device, features or money. For many long-time Apple customers it’s almost always the features and the newer device usually wins.

Apple iPhone 5S Smartphone Review

Apple iPhone 5S

Apple unveiled its latest version of their iPhone today; the iPhone 5S. I find it ironic that today's unveiling was September 11 (911 anniversity) . Although the unveiling of the new model was interesting, it was hardly of the hoopola level from a major event that I'm used to seeing.  There are some interesting things to note about the new iPhone 5S and that's where our smartphone review will be focused.

Overview

The 5S definitely has some interesting features, the most notable are the first ever 64-bit processor and a new way to implement login security. Out with the password, in comes a fingerprint scanner. Let's don't forget some notable camera improvements as well. Yes, it does indeed have some first in phones involved here. However, there's also one notable thing that did not happen. The screen is the same size as the previous model.  In fact, the physical dimensions are exactly the same size as the iphone 5. 

iPhone 5S features

  • 64-bit A7 processor/M7 Coprocessor – Included in this new processor is the OpenGL ES 3.0 standard, meaning better graphics performance.  Apple claims it's twice as fast as the previous model. Now I'll add the frosting to the cake here. This nifty device also contains an M7 motion coprocessor. That's a mouthful but what it does for users is nice. It will take in the phone's various sensors including the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Not only will applications that need or use real-time data benefit from this, the net effect will be less of a battery drain since it's less work the processor has to perform; thus an increase in battery life. 
  • Touch ID fingerprint-authentication system – The Home button located on the lower part of the front casing is depressed. This engages a scanner which detects differences in electrical charges caused by the various curved lines of a fingerprint and stores this information digitally. It should be emphasized this is not an image; it's more like a digital signature. It's very secure in that it cannot be stored in the Cloud. In fact it is actually stored in a secure spot inside of the processor. Supposedly, it will authenicate through an iCloud as well as the famous Apple iStore. It may be natural to be a tad skeptical since one would think this new technology would use more battery power. Apple says that the battery will be equal to or slightly longer in battery time than the previous one.  They claim 10 hours of 3G/4G LTE browsing will be available.
  • Improved Camera – This new 8 Megapixel camera specifically designed for this phone has a five-element lens and it is bigger in some respects. The lens includes an f/2.2 aperture, which is larger than the one in the iPhone 5 and has 1.5-micron pixels, which is more than the previous version. Another Apple first is the dual-LED True Tone flash, which uses a white and amber colored flashed, for cooler and warmer temperature flashes respectively. The new iOS7 system has some programs that will definitely benefit from this new camera hardware.  Just before the shot, the white balance and exposure is automatically calibrated for improving the highlights and the shadow areas. The picture sharpeness will also be enhanced by an improved auto-focus. Image stabilization is enhanced by taking a series of photos, and mixing them together for an improved picture quality. And for you video lovers, you have a 1080p HD recording capability.
  • Technical Specs - The 5S has more 4G LTE bands available than ever. It can pick up on 11 or 13 LTE bands depending on which carrier you go with. With this many bands, if you travel frequently you will have a better chance of locking into a LTE signal with this phone, definitely a strong consideration if you need that extra speed while on the road. Location finding includes assisted GPS and GLONASS; wireless includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology. There is no NFC capability; why that is, I do not know. To my knowledge none of the iPhones have NFC. Maybe one day they will, who knows. The 5S comes in 16, 32, and 64GB versions at $199, $299, and $399.00 respectively. 
  • Applications - The suite of programs including iMovie, iPhoto, and iWork can be dowloaded for free if an iPhone with iOS7 was activated after September 1, including phones besides the 5S. If you activated before September 1, you can still download these apps but you will pay for them.
  • Colors – The size of the 5S is the same as the iphone 5, including the chamfered edges. The colors offered include a new gold color, which many say is more of a champagne color. The other colors are space gray and silver.

The phone has some nice technical improvements although the basic design of the phone has remained the same. It seemed as though Apple was more concerned with technical improvements over the physical looks of the phone. It does seem to have some appeal with its improved processor and coprocessor, although time will tell how much that actually improves the performance of this phone. We shall see.

 

 

Apple Computer’s Thunderbolt

Are you looking for a Windows PC that has the fastest external data transfer speed in home computing? Orginally desgined by Intel and Apple Computer for their computers, the Thunderbolt technology  has been licensed to a few companies, including Acer, for one of its higher-end laptops. Thunderbolt's speed is 10 Gbps; to understand just how fast this is, you can download a full-length HD movie in under 30 seconds. Yep, that's pretty quick. 

Thunderbolt vs USB

To put it in perspective to other data transfer technologies, USB version 3.0 is 5 Gbps, so Thunderbolt is twice as fast, although replacing copper with fiber-optic wiring in the interface cables will significantly add to the speed.

Acer Aspire and Lenovo ThinkPad Ege

The Acer Aspire S5 laptop is selling with the Thunderbolt port for about $1300. The Aspire is ultra-thin and light, at 2.6 lbs,  and all of the ports are contained behind a motorized door. Other PC makers on the Thunderbolt bandwagon include the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge laptop, and Asus has added it to a few of their laptops as well.  The issue right now is that only a handful of companies make peripherals that are compatible with the Thunderbolt standard, although many believe it will be a different story by the end of 2012.  Time will tell. 

More information about Thunderbolt vs. USB can be viewed here.

USB Superspeed+ vs Thunderbolt

Can you say "Speed War?" The USB vs Thunderbolt speed war escalates as the latest USB standard has been upped to version 3.1. It is unofficially known at Superspeed+ and doubles the data bandwidth for USB devices to 10Gbps (gigabits per second).

Thunderbolt Bandwidth

Thunderbolt, the competing technology used for data transfer on Apple machines, already has comparable 10Gbps bandwidth capability.  Released back in 2011 with the MacBook Pro, Thunderbolt uses a Mini DisplayPort connector, different from the standard USB waferish style of connector that PC compatible machines have used since USB's inception. 

Thunderbolt Support

It will be some time before we see Superspeed+ hit the stores however. Two things need to take place first. Intel, AMD, and other chipset manufacturers will have to produce support chips to accomodate the new technology. Second, manufacturers of products that use USB will have to revise their products to accomodate the new standard. 3.1 will be fully backwards-compatible with devices using the older USB 3.0 technology, so it will not be a problem with PCs using the superspeed+ with devices built for 3.0; they will simply run in accordance with the 3.0 standard speed. 

Thunderbolt Availability

It will be late 2014 before we see Superspeed+ on machines. And it most likely will be early 2015 before we see it being offered on a large-scale with a plentiful supply of vendors supporting it. It is exciting to see it here. This speed war does have a beneficiary; the consumer. Who says a war has to be nasty?

To get more information about the Thunderbolt vs. USB speed war, you can check it out here.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal” . . . Steve Jobs

We are witnessing case after case of patent and copyright infridgements and while a part of us understands the fairness of copyrights, we all need to understand how the "fairness doctrine" has played out over the years in the PC industry.

IBM PC vs Apple II

As Apple Cofounder Steve Jobs' Apple II computer was introduced in 1977,  businesses were grabbing it in hopes of cutting their mainframe computing costs down. IBM also wanted a big piece of the new personal computer industry market share, and countered with their own IBM PC in 1981.  How IBM got their operating system for it, MS-DOS, required some wheeling and dealing, and using non-IBM parts, service, and sales was totally contrary to anything they had ever done. 

IBM and Microsoft

IBM needed an operating system for their PC, so they went to the biggest PC software company at the time, Microsoft, assuming they were in the operating system business, when in fact Microsoft only did programming language work. Bill Gates told IBM they did not have an operating system, but referred them to another major player in the PC industry, Gary Kildall, who had created the most popular operating system up to that point, CPM. Unfortunately for IBM, Kildall had legal issues with their proposed deal and declined. IBM, not accustomed to being snubbed, went back to Gates for help.  

Microsoft and MS-DOS

Gates agreed and began looking for an operating system. He didn't have to look very far. Across town, in Seattle, a small and up-and-coming company, Seattle Computer Products, had a programmer on staff named Tim Patterson, who had created a program that Microsoft felt could do the job. The only problem was the program was not Patterson's, but his company's property. Microsoft told Seattle Computer Products  they would like to buy the program for $50,000. They agreed; Microsoft cleaned the program up a bit and called it MS-DOS. The rest is history. MS-DOS became the operating system for millions of PCs worldwide. An interesting note is Microsoft did not make any royalties from it, only the contract price they settled on with IBM for providing MS-DOS. Where Microsoft made royalties was through their sale of MS-DOS to all of the other PC clone makers in the industry. 

Xerox PARC

As the Apple II computer in 1977 and the IBM PC in 1981  had established the new personal computer industry, a new player was working on the sidelines,   Xerox. Although copiers were Xerox's bread and butter,  their newly established Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) located in the Silicon Valley,  was developing exciting new technologies for the personal computer. Among them were three technologies used today: 1)  a graphical user interface, which we all use today in the form of a mouse with Windows and Apple computers, 2) object-oriented programming, which has enabled powerful applications to be developed over the years, and 3)Ethernet, a technology for networking computers together.  What is the most amazing thing is that Xerox invited Steve Jobs and Apple engineers to a demonstration of these technologies, which basically "gave away the kitchen sink" as PARC researcher, Adele Richardson put it.

Xerox PARC Research and Apple MacIntosh

Steve Jobs was so impressed by what PARC computer scientists had done, he hired more engineers and began work on a new computer which would be called the MacIntosh, incorporating a  graphical user interface,  the Mac's most notable feature, and literally redefining the way computer users interact with their computers.  After the excitement of the Mac's release subsided, sales begin to drop quite rapidly. Apple knew they needed what is known as "killer apps"; an application so important to users, that it alone would justify the Mac's purchase.  Steve Jobs business savvy enabled him to cut a deal with Adobe and purchased 20% share of it, while developing True Type fonts and other program design features of the Mac conducive for desktop publishing. As a result, sales for the Mac began to increase and user response was so incredible, it actually spawned a whole new niche, desktop publishing.

The PC industry is what it is today through copying, sometimes downright stealing, but it has also produced incredible innovation, which has successfully fueled the industry in numbers and sales; one of the most profitable in the world today. Steve Jobs once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." I believe Apple needs to be more forgiving with other companies who make similar looking products, and the companies who copy the design need to be innovative with new features, so it's a win-win not just for the consumer and the manufacturer, but for the PC industry as well.

For more information, including the famous Apple vs Samsung lawsuit, you can view it here

Apple vs Samsung Landmark Case Verdict

Well, a verdict was reached in a San Jose, CA courtroom about an hour ago. The verdict was an overwhelming victory for Apple. Frankly, I would have preferred a more balanced verdict. 

Verdict of the Case

  • Jury finds Samsung infringement of Apple utility, design patents for some (though not all) products
  • Jury upholds Apple utility, design patents
  • Jury upholds Apple trade dress '983
  • Jury finds Samsung "diluted" Apple's registered iPhone, iPhone 3 and "Combination iPhone" trade dress on some products, not on others
  • No Apple infringement of Samsung utility patents
  • Jury found Samsung violated antitrust law by monopolizing markets related to the UMTS standard

Damages

  • $1.05 billion in TOTAL damages assessed to Samsung
  • No damages against Apple from Samsung's countersuit

It is virtually impossible for ANY Smartphone manufacturer to not infridge on one of Apple's patents. To avoid killing all competition in the phone market, this is something that should be overlooked, but with this condition: the phone manufacturer uses INNOVATION in designing their product. Samsung certainly should have been more innovative and Apple should have been more forgiving.

I believe the verdict is a loss for the competitive market for Smartphones. Apple will now use this case as a precedence for future litigation against the other Smartphone manufacturers.  This is not a good day for the future innovativeness of the Smartphone market.