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More thoughts on the iPad

With many tech blogs and news sites posting endless stream of anything iPad, I want to put my own 2 cents too. 😛

I’ve been thinking about how would I use the iPad. Usually one would buy something for a purpose. Apple is obviously hoping people would try to find a purpose to justify the iPad purchase.

1. An portable internet device for the home. Ever been wanting to view some websites while you’re taking a dump, while watching TV, or while lying on your bed? I’ve been doing it with my iPod Touch/iPhone, but obviously having a device with a larger screen like the iPad would make the experience better. The larger screen is also better to view videos. A netbook is a hassle due to their form factor. The issue with the iPad is how I would get my content on it. Currently, it seems that you have to sync the iPad with iTunes, just like iPods. Well, considering the small storage space on the iPad, this is an issue. Plus I don’t want to have all my videos in iTunes. I already have a Windows Home Server for all my videos. Apple should put the ability to stream content from a networked drive to the iPad. Alas, I don’t think it would be able to do that. Plus for the price, I’ll stick with my iPhone.

2. A camera companion on the go. Let’s say you’re traveling, and want to take tons of pictures while being able to view/back them up. Currently, a cheap solution is to bring a netbook with you. Most netbooks come with an SD slot where you can dump all your pictures to. The iPad with the SD card dongle might be a more portable solution. Problem is, again, the limited storage of the iPad (if you already fill it up with your music/videos, etc). Plus, the photos app is just a basic viewing app. I’m sure there will be many photo editing tools coming to the app store (already plenty for the iPhone), but it would be more seamless if Apple put iPhoto on the iPad.

3. As a backup internet device. As much as I like Comcast, it doesn’t have 100% uptime, and when it’s down, it’s really frustrating being offline. The iPad with 3G plus its prepaid wireless data plans seem to be a nice and cheaper way to have for a backup internet, vs paying $60 a month continuously for 3G data with a USB dongle. The dilemma is, I already have the iPhone (and I’m sure it’s the case for most people that are interested in the iPad). Now if only AT&T allow tethering on the iPhone, even with an additional fee, it will still be cheaper than spending money for the iPad. Alas, AT&T sux, and there’s no hint whether they would allow iPhone tethering in the US, ever. The iPad seems to be an expensive way to solve a simple problem.

So, yeah, it’s hard trying to find a use for the iPad. Now I’m sure once it’s released, there will be apps that change the way we think about it, but at this time, the iPad seems to have a lot of potential, yet at the same time feels too limited.

I’m curious that Apple might release the iPad simply as a training wheel for their future products, for people to get used to having multi-touch on a larger screen. I would imagine future iMacs and/or Macbooks would employ a multi-touch screen. Even better, imagine an iMac/Macbook that has an A4 equipped with iPhone OS built-in for instant-on usage, in addition to the traditional OS X and intel processor. Want to listen to music/check email quickly on your Macbook, instant-on to the iPhone OS. Want to do more stuff like picture/video editing, simply boot up to OS X. Yeah, that would be awesome! Hey, I just did a rumor for upcoming Apple products! I’m guessing Apple will see how successful (and probably how small/cool they can make the A4) the iPad is, and implement it to the iMac/Macbook in a couple of years.

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The iPad is here.

Well, after countless of rumors, fake news, fake claims, photoshopped pictures, etc etc, Apple finally unveiled the long-awaited tablet, called the iPad. No, it’s not a pot of gold spitting out unicorns, it’s just an extra large iPod Touch, to put it simply. However, because many people were imagining the Apple tablet to be a pot of gold spitting out unicorns, there are currently a lot of negative feedback, especially from the haters (who are ironically frequent visitors of sites that tend to do a lot of Apple coverage, like engadget).

When Jobs announced the iPad, he stated that the function of the device are simply to be used for browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks. Well, the iPhone/iPod Touch already do some of those, so, being a larger iPod Touch, the iPad will be more of a better experience in those things thanks to the bigger screen. Let’s stop here for a moment. A lot of people are wanting an actual tablet PC, with a full featured desktop OS, thus the negative feedbacks. Obviously that’s not what Jobs said the iPad would be, and in a way, Apple did the right thing. Tablet PCs are not new, and they never become mainstream. Why? Because they’re mostly just laptops with a touch screen running Windows. Apple approached this in a different way, from a consumer electronic perspective, not a computer. However, that doesn’t mean the iPad is the “Jesus tablet.” We’ll go over on some of the odd choices Apple made later.

Let’s start chronologically with the keynote presentation.
First, we see Steve Jobs demoing Safari on the iPad. It shares the same gestures as Safari on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Jobs made it like it’s a new experience, but it’s not. We’re already tapping and “touching” the web, albeit on a smaller screen. Obviously it will be more pleasant doing it on a larger higher res screen, but not as groundbreaking as when multi-touch was first demoed on the first iPhone. I can see steam coming out from Jobs’ ears, seeing the empty boxes where a Flash animation/ads would’ve been when he demoed the various website. (He quickly zoomed in on a picture on National Geographic website when an empty plug-in box showed up the sides). Yeah, no Adobe Flash support, which imo is a good thing. A lot of the haters want Flash on the iPhone. Considering how lousy Adobe is, and with a lot of security issues with Flash, I’m glad Apple stays on their ground for not supporting Flash. HTML 5 FTW! Still funny though imagining what Steve was thinking when he’s demoing NYT websites with those empty plug-in boxes. LOL.

Next is email. It’s the similar email client as the one on the iPhone, with several UI tweaks when viewing the iPad on portrait or landscape mode. On landscape mode, you have the inbox and the preview pane side by side. Not bad, but then again, nothing too exciting either. No hint whether there will be a unified inbox or not. Considering it’s the same iPhone OS, my guess is not.

Oh, yeah, no multi-tasking, and no new way to switch apps. Just like the iPhone, you have to go back to the home screen to switch to another app. This can get annoying real fast on something like this. My guess is iPhone OS 4.0 is not fully ready yet. Why can’t Apple just buy Palm, and copy the way WebOS switch between apps using the ribbon.

Next, Photos. The photos app looks a lot like iPhoto (and you can guess the next version of iPhoto would share some of the looks). However, no skimming, which would be nice. Instead, you can pinch an album/event to show the pictures inside it. Nice eye candy, but skimming would be more efficient imo. In addition to viewing pictures, you can make slideshows too. Jobs showed the origami transition effect, which is very neat. Here’s the issue though, how do you get your pictures into the iPad? Wait, no camera? WTF? Yeah, no camera. This would be a no-brainer, but no, nada. You can sync your photos via iTunes from PC/Mac, but that is a really clunky way to get your pictures into the iPad. You can also import photos from an SD card/USB storage using the optional USB/SD card to dock connector adapter. I expect a fully functional iPhoto app for the iPad in the near future, as without editing capability, the current photo viewing functionality feels half-baked. Still, a built-in camera seems the more logical way. I’m guessing that will be for the next gen iPad.

Next, music. A big meh. Basically it’s like the iTunes store, except that it’s your own music. Jobs stated how nice it is to browse and play all your music collection. Wait, what? ALL your music collection? What’s the capacity of the iPad again, 16GB up to 64GB. WTF? If there’s 128GB model, then it would be fine, but 16GB? Puhlease. Apple better have some streaming functionality from iTunes on your desktop PC to the iPad. If not, this is just a big meh. The iPod app feels like a mini iTunes instead of an iPod. Small fonts galore for track and album titles. Annoying! Hopefully there’s a way to pick a larger font. Also, there better be a shuffle-by-album. If not, then the iPad fails at playing music vs a regular iPod nano/classic. Interesting enough, no coverflow? No HE-AAC support?

iTunes store, meh. Calendar, pretty nice. Heck, it seems better than iCal on OS X itself. Contacts also looks nice, better than the one on OS X. However, there’s no phone functionality on the iPad, something that I would want on this. Hopefully the contacts app can be seamless with VOIP apps. Maps is just an XL version of the Maps app on the iPhone. Still on Google maps, contrary to the rumors. A-GPS only on the 3G model, not the wifi only model. Youtube is nice, but since youtube’s content sucks major ass due to frequent copyright takedowns, I’m not too excited about this. Gimme streaming J-Dorama built-in on the iPad, then I’ll bite. 😛 Videos, well, nothing groundbreaking. The iPad’s screen resolution is only 1024×768, so no true 720p (although it does support 720p video playback), and not widescreen, so it’s not really an ideal movie viewing experience, contrary to what Jobs was trying to portray. Besides, I bet you have to sync movies with iTunes. Overall, Jobs didn’t explore too much details on these, other than trying to make it sound like the experience is new and exciting, while obviously it’s not.

Next, on to the hardware itself. As usual, the first thing Jobs said was how thin the iPad is. The big surprise here is, the fact that the iPad uses Apple’s own A4 chip. Wait, what? Apple made their own chip? Yeah, thanks to PA semi acquisition a while back. Imo this is a BIG HUGE news, that is overlooked by many people. I can see Apple using their own chip throughout their products. The next obvious one would be the iPhone and iPods, depending on how large the chip is. And then Apple TV! I can imagine the next Apple TV will be using Apple’s own chip. To put a further speculation, imagine Apple TV using the iPhone OS, complete with games. Voila, Apple’s gaming console. The possibilities are endless as Apple would be a huge CE company, capable of making a lot more products powered by this Apple chip. My next guess would be Apple making a real TV with this chip and Apple TV built-in.

Okay, enough of the chip. The iPad comes in 3 storage size: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. MAJOR LAME! Really? Only maxed out at 64GB? 128GB would be more reasonable, considering how Apple is trying to market this as a media device. 16GB is just sad. Heck, I have a 16GB iPod nano, and it’s just for music. I’m guessing Apple decided to scale back of the storage simply to not exceed the $999 price barrier. In short, it’s a marketing strategy, to advertise that their top-of-the-line iPad is still below $1000. Then there are the usual tech specs: Wifi n, Bluetooth, dock connector, speaker, microphone… oh wait. Microphone? This is odd. Why? Well, first, there’s no phone app, even on the models with 3G wireless connectivity. Second, no camera, no front facing camera, so no video conferencing. So, a microphone just for VOIP? My guess is that Apple will put in voice commands on the iPad, although that could contradict the supposedly more “intimate” interaction of multi-touch on the iPad. As for Bluetooth, I hope it’s not the crippled Bluetooth connection just like on the iPhone, meaning only for headsets. I want Bluetooth file transfer, or even better, Bluetooth tethering with an iPhone.

Next, Scott showing some apps, iPhone apps. Since the iPad uses the same iPhone OS, it is obviously compatible with all the current iPhone apps. In addition, the iPad can do pixel doubling so the iPhone app can be run full-screen. Big whoop. He demoed the facebook app. Heck, with the iPad, I can just go to the real facebook site. Games designed for the iPhone would run faster and smoother due to the faster processor, but obviously games designed specifically for the iPad would be better. The SDK with iPad simulator is also released. Imo another reason there’s a 60/90 days delay during this announcement and the scheduled iPad shipping date, is to allow some time for developers to make iPad-specific apps.

Next, some apps. First, Gameloft, with their FPS game. Really? FPS game is bad enough using a gamepad, now using a touch interface? Even worse, requiring some gestures (eg. 3 finger gesture just to open a door?)? Sorry, but keyboard + mouse FTW.

Second, New York Times. Yeah, even though Jobs showed that you can view the full NYT website with Safari, NYT is doing an app (probably because Jobs was not too happy with those empty Flash plug-in boxes, LOL). Some people are saying that the iPad will be the savior of the newspaper industry. NYT app shows some interactivity and even video playback. Pretty neat, and could entice some people to subscribe. However, considering I can get my news via simple RSS feeds… yeah.

Third, Brushes. Basically Paint on the iPad, with fingers. I’m sure this is a big deal for some people, but I’m no artist. The playback feature is really neat though.

4th, EA, with Need for Speed. If you think FPS is bad enough, yeah, trying to fiddle/touch the controls while playing a driving game doesn’t look fun at all. I’m sorry, but there are better game genres to show off the iPad. RTS, Adventure games, RPG, etc, not FPS or driving game. I’m guessing Apple just want to show off the graphics/processing power of the iPad.

5th, MLB. Imo sports apps like this may be one of the killer app as you can add a lot of interactivity while watching a game. Could be an awesome thing for sports fans. I couldn’t care less though. 😛

Steve returned to the stage to show iBooks (not to be confused with iBook, the pre-cursor to the Macbook), another HUGE news that slip by a lot of people. Apple is opening an eBook store, competing head to head with Amazon and the Kindle. iBooks app looks a LOT like Delicious Library. Typical Apple, the app has plenty of eye candy, especially with Steve showing how he’s flipping the book’s “page” partially back-n-forth. The fact that Apple is going to use epub format is also great news. Publishing companies are more archaic than the recording industry, clinging to DRM heavily. Hopefully Apple can change the market like they did with music. On Apple’s site, the iPad apparently has a voice over screen reader, something that the Amazon Kindle has, but got into a big fight with the publishers. Will Apple fare better? Steve surprisingly didn’t say anything about battery life, something that E-Ink-based devices will have a huge advantage. Plus, I don’t know if I can read a book for a prolonged period of time on an LCD screen. Not good for your eyes. The bigger news here is obviously Apple’s entry into the eBook market. I don’t think Amazon should be worried, as they already know something like this would happen, thus the Kindle app for the iPhone.

Next, Phil with iWork for the iPad. I don’t know. There’s a lot of questions here, not about the apps themselves as they look great but about the basic functionality you would expect. For example, printing a document/spreadsheet. There’s no USB port on the iPad. Will it be able to print to a networked printer directly? Via USB host with the USB to dock-connector dongle? If you have to export your work to a desktop first, then it’s super stupid. Then there’s Keynote. The obvious question is, is there video out? Turns out Apple has a dock-connector to VGA dongle for the iPad (which is ironic by itself considering Apple is focusing on mini display port on its computers). There’s an issue with the dongle itself, how do you connect to the AC adapter for long presentations? I’m guessing a dock connector splitter? As for iWork itself, this is the first time Apple unbundles iWork, meaning you purchase Pages, Numbers, and Keynote separately. $10 each. The touch interface seems tedious on Keynote, but maybe a pre-cursor for something larger like Microsoft’s surface (or iMac with multi-touch). The automatic word-wrap around a graphic on Pages look great. Numbers, meh. I haven’t used a word processor extensively out of school, let alone a spreadsheet or a presentation app. Another question would be, how do one export the created files out of the iPad? Syncing via iTunes? Emailing? Again, more reason for Bluetooth file transfer support.

Yes, the iPad syncs via iTunes, just like the iPhone. Sounds like iTunes will become more bloatier than ever.

Back to hardware, looks like Apple will have 2 versions of the iPad lineup. One with Wifi only, one with Wifi and 3G wireless. Looks like Apple realize that people would be furious if they have to pay more monthly bills and under contract, so the 3G data plan for the iPad will be prepaid (yay!), AND 3G iPads are unlocked out of the box (YAY!). There are 2 data plan, $15 for 250MB per month, or $30 for “unlimited.” My guess is unlimited means 5GB, since Apple is doing this with AT&T. The best part of this is of course, prepaid, meaning that you can just buy the 3G data plan when you actually need it, not having to pay for it continuously. Oh yeah, no Verizon, as Apple wants this to be an international model, thus GSM/HSDPA, not CDMA. Yeah, take that Verizon fanboys.

Now, the pricing. Jobs made a reference how people were speculating that the price will be $999, and dropped the bomb that the price of the iPad will be just $499. The crowd cheered. Wait, really? $499? Well, typical Apple, that is the lowest end model, the one that you don’t want. 16GB and wifi only. Add $100 for each bump in capacity (32GB for $599, 64GB for $699). That $499 doesn’t look that cheap anymore now does it. 😛 Having 3G connectivity and GPS adds $130 on top of those prices. So, the real price of the tablet that you will want is actually $829, for the 64GB model with wifi and 3G. Still lower than $999 (which is why we don’t see a 128GB model as Apple probably wants to stay below $999), but definitely not $499. It’s the typical Apple upselling/marketing strategy.

The wifi only models will ship in 60 days, and the wifi + 3G models will ship in 90 days. Why? In addition for regulatory issues, obviously this lag is to allow developers to have their apps ready when the iPad is shipping. As for accessories, I’m sure there are a lot of people drooling for the keyboard dock.

Lastly, a complementary making videos, a trend started with the unibody aluminum Macbooks. Oh, and a new tagling, “You just… DO!” LOL. Kinda lame. Apple is trying to portray how amazing and magical the iPad is. Yeah, that would work if we didn’t have the iPhone. Problem is, all this multi-touch stuff is not new anymore, so the newness of touching stuff is, well, getting stale. People already see Microsoft’s surface, and the various multi-touch capable PCs.

In the end, the bigger news here is not really the iPad, although that is the focus of most bloggers and tech journalists since it’s the unicorn. The big news are:
1. Apple having their own fast and low-powered chip ready for mass production.
2. Apple going into the eBook market.

So, is the iPad “magical” and “revolutionary”? Nope. Like I said, a lot of the fanciness is kinda stale due to the fact we already have multi-touch for a couple of years. The iPad seems to lack a lot of things, like a camera, front facing camera for video conferencing, a phone app (or at least an SMS app), multi-tasking, etc. It’s obvious the OS is not fully optimized for the iPad (small icons, sparse screen). A live widget like weather would be nice, like on Android phones. Should you get one? Well, I don’t think there’s a need for a tablet or iPad in the first place, outside specific industries. However, knowing Apple, I’m guessing we can see the price being pushed lower by the end of the year or so, so people would buy the iPad just because, and then contents and apps will follow suit.

Regardless whether you find a use for the iPad or not, it’s another new and shiny toy from Apple. Heck, the lure of prepaid 3G data is very tempting for a backup internet (since AT&T doesn’t seem to offer tethering for iPhone in the US, ever). Personally, I was hoping for unlocked iPhones instead of this, but obviously that is not happening. Hopefully we will see more information and specifics on features (eg. Bluetooth file transfer, Bluetooth tethering, VOIP, etc) as time goes, and maybe we will see the OS itself being optimized (or the iPad itself shipping with OS 4.0 instead). Nonetheless, I at least expect iLife, or at least iPhoto for the iPad in the near future.

As for future rumors, let’s get started before the analysts. 😛
1. Price drop of the iPad before 2010 holidays. Maybe together with the regular September/October event.
2. Next gen iPad would have a camera, or at least a front facing camera for video chat. Also iChat app will be released. It will have a larger screen while retaining the same size (less bezel).
3. iLife 2010 would share some UI looks as the iPad photo app.
4. iCal and Contacts on the next OS X would share the same look as the iPad version.
5. iPhone OS 4.0 will cost iPod Touch users yet another $10

Well, there you go, a long and winded overview of the most hyped product announcement event ever. Heck, imo the iPad release overshadow President Obama’s State of Union Address! LOL.

 

September Apple event is coming

It’s this Wednesday, 9/9/09. I’ll be following gdgt for keynote coverage and watching TWIT live for Leo Laporte’s commentaries (and occasional live spycam from the keynote). I’ll be comparing notes with my own prediction.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2009 in 2009, apple, classic, event, gdgt, ipod, itunes, nano, rumor, september, shuffle, touch, twit

 

iPod Touch 3.0 firmware

I decided to cough up yet another $10 to update the firmware of my iPod Touch to 3.0. This trend of Apple charging money for firmware updates for the iPod Touch is truly annoying. I mean come on, they are going to sell Snow Leopard, an OS upgrade, for only $29, yet $10 for a firmware update for an iPod? I have yet to see other companies charging money for firmware updates. Even Sony gives free firmware updates for the PSP and PS3.

Anyway, aside form the rant, here are a quick impression of the 3.0 firmware installed on a 2G Touch.
-The download size of the firmware is a hefty 257.8MB.
-Installing and upgrading the firmware on my 2G Touch went without any issues. It seems pretty quick too, quicker than I expected.
-Couple new options in iTunes for the Touch. First is the option to encrypt the backup (iTunes will ask for a password). 2nd is the option to sync notes (not sure if this had existed before or not).

Now on the 2G iPod Touch itself:
-A lot of the features have been previewed twice by Apple, on the sneak peek in March, and on WWDC 09.
-Calculator seems to load faster
-There’s an option to turn on Bluetooth in the Settings. Yup, Bluetooth on the 2G Touch is unlocked with the 3.0 firmware. Have not played with it though.
-Shake to shuffle. It is a gimmick on the 4G nano, and imo still a gimmick.
-In Settings, there’s an option to manage your iTunes account.
-Autofill for Safari. Could be a security/privacy concern for some. I leave it off.
-Spotlight search: Quite amazing. You can set on what it will search in Settings. You can set to invoke Spotlight with double click of the Home button.
-Speaking of search, almost all of the built-in app like Music, Video, Contacts, Mail, etc have Search on the top if you scroll up through the top of the list.
-Voice Memos. Voice recording, obviously the 2G Touch would need an external mic as it doesn’t have a built-in one. I use the Apple in-ear bud with mic, and it works fine. You can also trim the recording afterwards. Other than that, pretty basic. I expect more 3rd parties will make good external mics for the Touch/iPhone.
-Maps have some GUI changes. Nothing significant, but seems a bit prettier with some new dots and icons.
-Now you can log-in to your Youtube/google account in the Youtube app. The app will list your fav videos, and you can rate & put comments on videos.
-Stocks got quite a bit of facelift. It will show a larger graph on landscape. It also list some news related to the particular stock.
-Copy-n-Paste. Well, it works, across apps too (tried copy-n-pasting from Safari to Notes). The Shake to undo is pretty neat. A lot of people are making fun of Apple’s cut-n-paste, yet I don’t really see a lot of devices implement copy-n-paste across apps nor undo.
-When you invoke the iPod controls on the stand-by screen, it will show the track title, album, and artist.
-Chinese character input. Now you can use your finger to write down a Chinese character. Not that great though as a finger is not as thin as a stylus. The iPod will try to guess what you’re writing, and it seems to work okay. I don’t think it will be efficient though compared to stylus-based input.
-Now you can pay audio podcasts at double the speed or half the speed. Useful for lectures I guess.
-Still no shuffle-by-album feature. 😡 Lame, just lame, considering this feature have existed on the regular iPods and nanos forever, and the fact that Apple is touting the iPhone/Touch as “the best iPod.”
-Movies are now available on the iTunes store. Dunno how useful this will be though as it would take forever downloading movies on the device, even via wifi. Then there’s the capacity issue.
-TONS of language options and keyboards. This is quite amazing actually. I have not seen an electronic device being localized extensively into so many languages in 1 firmware.

In the end, is it worth $10 for 2G Touch users? I’m afraid I have to say yes, as the 3.0 firmware will unlock Bluetooth on the 2G Touch. 1G Touch, however, don’t have Bluetooth nor mic support for voice recording, so the value of the 3.0 firmware is not that great. Thing is, sooner or later I can see that most apps in the app store would require the 3.0 firmware.

I still think for Apple charging money for firmware updates is lame. You don’t see this behavior with any other companies. The lack of shuffle-by-album feature is also super lame, considering this is a standard feature on regular iPods. Some of the features like cut-n-paste are way overdue. The 3.0 firmware is the natural progression of the iPhone/Touch platform. While companies like Sony are still confused on what they’re selling, Apple is definitely turning into the definitive portable media player maker. With the iPhone 3GS getting better camera and video recording, we’ll see if those feature will trickle down to the iPod Touch.

I will post more impression on the Bluetooth feature later.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2009 in 3.0, 3GS, apple, firmware, iPhone, ipod touch, itunes, youtube

 

iPod Touch auto-sync with iTunes

Didn’t know this, but apparently you have to check “Open iTunes when this iPod is connected” for the iPod Touch to sync automatically with iTunes when it’s connected. I’ve been wondering about this for a long time since I’ve been having to manually click the sync button everytime. This is not the case with any of the regular iPods as they are synced automatically when connected without having that option checked.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2008 in ipod touch, itunes, sync

 

Apple September event, new iPods

You can watch the from Apple here. If you have subscribed to the Apple Keynote Podcast in iTunes, it should download the new keynote, albeit very slowly (since everybody is downloading it too).

So, what’s new?
1. iTunes 8
New album display, kinda like Windows Media Player. Nothing exciting. Genius? Remember the iTunes mini store that nobody uses/turn off? Well, consider genius as the 2.0 version of the iTunes mini store. Basically it gathers info of your library, automatically creates playlist based on the “seed” song, and offer recommendation from iTunes store. Currently it’s taking quite a while “gathering information” of my library after the installation of iTunes 8. My take? Meh. Really, Apple has done their homework when they released iTunes, and the previous subsequent updates, to the point that there is no reason to fix something that is not broken. Now, I guess the focus is to sell more stuff from the store. HD movies finally on desktops too, previously only available on Apple TV. But meh.

2. iPod Classic
As predicted, to compete with the new Zune, it is now 120GB only for $249. Grab the 160GB while you can, it’s on clearance for $299 only. Or for a great deal, get the previous 80GB Classic for just $199! Again, meh. Apple used to be the leader, now it seems that it is following Microsoft since the 120GB Zune is available before this event.

3. 4G iPod nano
Apple change the nano yet again.
-Finally full aluminum enclosure ala 2G nano.
-Glass screen cover.
-A LOT of colors! Are you watching this Sony? Me like orange.
-Price is not aggressive enough. Again, Apple used to be the leader, now it’s not. 8GB DAPs have been available for $149 from the competitors for quite sometime. $199 IMO is kinda a hardsell, due to the same price of 8GB iPhone.
-The accelerometer is nice, auto turning screen. Sony, where’s yours? You still have to rotate screen manually on Sony DAPs.
-Shake to shuffle. Huh? Sandisk’s Sansa shaker anyone?
-Not enough features to justify an upgrade. IMO the 3G nano is excellent, aside from the scratchable chrome back. The 4G nano would have been more interesting if it has more aggressive pricing (8GB for $99/$129, 16GB for $149) and built-in Nike+ transmitter. Hey, they put the Nike transmitter in the new iPod Touch, but not the nano? Doesn’t make sense.

4. 2G iPod Touch
-Curved back as expected, ala iPhone 3G
-Stainless steel back? I guess this is Apple’s way of built-in obsolescence, for your device to scratch up like crazy. Boo!
-Volume button. Finally!
-Built-in Nike+ transmitter. Why? This would’ve make more sense on the nano. The Touch is too big.
-Again, pricing is not aggressive enough. The benchmark is 8GB iPhone 3G for $199. The new 8GB Touch is still more expensive, $229. The great deal? Get a previous gen 8GB Touch refurbished from Apple for $179!
-2.1 firmware upgrade for all Touch. You still have to pay for it if you haven’t upgraded from 1.x.
-Built-in speaker. There are times that I wish the 1G Touch have this. It’s a nice addition.
-Nothing ground breaking or new as far as online capability. Meanwhile, Microsoft is doing some new things with the new firmware of the Zune.
-Now, the interesting one, is the fact that the upcoming earbud accessories have a mic on it. If Apple allow voice on the Touch, all we need is a VOIP app! F U AT&T!
-Again, IMO not that exciting, and not a must upgrade from 1G Touch, unless there is a VOIP app.

5. New earbud/in-ear bud with basic remote capability and mic, obviously to be usable by the iPhone too. The in-ear one has 2 drivers in each side. Sounds interesting, but I HATE the Y-cable design. It is NOT practical. I prefer the behind the neck design.

6. “New” colors for iPod shuffle
-Recycled colors from the 2006 2G shuffles. Boo!
-Are you kidding me? No price drop? You can get 2GB SD cards for less than $10 now. Any modern cellphone is good enough to be a basic DAP.

7. iTunes 8 impression:
-Genius, or should I say, Moron.
Okay, while I was typing this blog, the Genius feature in iTunes 8 finally finished “gathering information” from my library. It took quite sometime despite the size of my library being not that big at all. So, does it work? NOPE! Yup, it only works for “seed” tracks that it could find in the iTunes store, even for the playlist creation. STUPID! The playlist creation is supposed to create playlist from the music IN MY LIBRARY. Nothing to do with the iTunes store! Since I primarily have Eurobeat and J-Pop songs, Genius is baffled, and becomes a Moron. USELESS! At least from the few stuff it recognized, it listed new albums and tracks that I have not purchased yet. Great feature to see if there is a new release or not. As for playlist creation from “seed” that is available from iTMS, it’s WAY OFF. The playlist does include tracks not in iTMS, but obviously it’s not “smart” enough, obviously only basing stuff on the available tags. And then there are mis-recognized artists (J-Pop artist vs western artist). A very poor feature. I’m turning it off. Maybe it would work better once it gathers all the millions of iTunes users info.
-Grid view is similar to Events view in iPhoto 08. Skimming works, but IMO not practical for music. Cover flow is supposed to be the “better” version of this. I still prefer the list view, but now I cannot get rid of the genre listing. WTF? It’s taking up space from the artist and albums list, and I always disabled it, but the option is gone now.
-The new visualizer is pretty slick. I never really like any kind of visualizers before, but this one is pretty cool!

If Apple would’ve included the Nike+ transmitter inside the new nano, I’ll grab those in a heartbeat. Now, I have to think twice. The orange/yellow ones are calling my name, just for collection sake. Just like in Pokemon, gotta catch’em all.

As I expected, nothing spectacular from this event. The DAP market is reaching its peak and ceiling for features and innovation. The obvious next step is the merging of DAP and phone, thus Apple probably putting more effort on the iPhone. Microsoft will be faced with this issue in trying to design better online capabilities of the Zune, being the requirement of a web browser, thus the obvious result is marriage with Windows Mobile. Between now and September 2009, this is the best period for all the competitors to catch up with Apple, but yet again, everybody seems to be failing. Microsoft seems to be the only one taking the chance with some new firmware updates for their Zunes. Sony? Look at their even more meh lineup, and overpriced 16GB DAPs. Heck, they don’t even release 16GB models for the new lineup in the US. Creative? Nobody cares about Creative anymore.

 
 

iPod Touch 2.0 firmware

As most people know, iPhone 3G goes on sale today. At the same time, 2.0 firmware is released for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I’ve been refreshing my iTunes in the morning, but it’s not until about 9-10pm at night that the firmware is finally available for purchase. Yup, it’s another $10 for yet another firmware update. But the ability to install the apps makes the $10 worth it IMO, although free would’ve been preferable.

Updating my Touch took quite sometime, mainly because iTunes had to wipe my Touch clean, and reload the content after updating the firmware. The flash memory on the Touch has pretty slow write speed. After updating, preferences, all icons arrangement and screens are put back to default.

Most noticeable addition is the App store icon. This will allow you to download/apps directly form the Touch. In iTunes, there is an option to setup mobileMe, although it only directs you the Apple’s website, showing you simply to sync mobileMe/.Mac in system preferences. There are some minor cosmetic updates on the maps app. In preferences, there’s an option to schedule the email push/fetch.

First app I downloaded is epocrates. Finally! As I mentioned in the past, I’ve been using my beat up Palm Tungsten E for epocrates. The app seems to download pretty quick in iTunes. After transferring it to my Touch, I put in my log-in, and the app continues the installation by downloading (presumably) all the updated database over-the-air. My Palm Tungsten E doesn’t have bluetooth nor wifi, so updating epocrates requires me to sync it with my desktop. It’s a nice upgrade that now I can just update my epocrates directly from my Touch without having to sync back to my desktop all the time. The UI is just like any other app. I just have to get used to the touch keyboard, having used to my Palm’s stylus. Another great feature is pill ID, with pictures. This is not available on my Palm before.

Next app is iTunes remote. This allow your iPhone/iPod Touch to control your iTunes via wifi. Obviously you have to have a wifi access point, since that is the only way the Touch can be connected to the network. The computer itself doesn’t have to be connected to wifi. My iMac is connected to the network via ethernet. In iTunes 7.7, there is a new option for iTunes to find iPhone/Touch remotes. When I tap on Add library on the remote app, iTunes shows my Touch on the sidebar. On the Touch, it shows a 4 digit code that I have to enter into iTunes, just like bluetooth pairing. After that, I can control most aspect of iTunes from my Touch. Even better, I can control my Airtunes output from my Touch! Control response is surprisingly responsive! UI is pretty much like the Music app. There are a couple of gotchas though.
1. You don’t get the output on the Touch, meaning audio and video are not streamed to the Touch. The Touch will simply act as a remote control only.
2. Cover flow doesn’t work. Although the album list of your library will look very similar as the music on the Touch, tilting the screen won’t give you cover flow.
3. All playlist are listed, except Party Shuffle. Don’t know why. 😦
4. The remote is only for iTunes, not Frontrow. It would’ve been much more awesome if Apple made this into a more capable Frontrow remote, vs the basic Apple remote.
5. The starting volume control on the remote app is set to max. This volume is independent from the actual volume control in iTunes/MacOS. So make sure you set the max volume you desired in iTunes/MacOS.

Despite all of the advance things the Touch can do now, still no shuffle by album feature, something that the traditional iPods can do. Booo!

This is definitely an exciting platform for developers and Apple. I can see Apple phasing out the traditional iPods for this platform. Of course, the idea of having to pay Apple for every firmware update is highly annoying.

Addendum: epocrates’ pill pictures are only loaded when my Touch is online (via wifi). If not, it only shows a question mark, although the pill ID still identify the pill correctly, albeit without pictures. Grrr! I assume it would require quite a lot of storage space to store the variety of pill pictures locally. Still, the app doesn’t even cache the pics I already viewed. I’m kinda disappointed, especially that I don’t have wifi access at my work place. 😦

2nd addendum: Screen capture capability! On any screen, press & hold the home button, then press the on/off button. A white flash will pop up, and there will be a new folder in the photos app called Saved Photos holding the captured picture. You can also save pictures from Safari by pressing on the picture for a couple seconds, then an option will pop up to save/email the picture. Saving the picture will put it into the Saved Photos folder.