2013 Last Minute Holiday Buyer’s Guide – Part 3

These are some of the hottest gifts available now, and some really good advice on which to get and why.

Over the past few years, I’ve put together a Holiday Buyer’s Guide. I never got to do one last year due to commitments to the now defunct Byte. Thankfully, I’ve got a chance to do it this year; and while nearly everything you see here will have some kind of software available for it from Soft32, I’m going to cover the hot categories – tablets, computers, smartphones, and accessories.

What you’re going to see are recommendations only. I don’t have everything that I’m going to list, so these aren’t necessarily reviews and shouldn’t be considered as such. However, I will try to cover recommendations from as many major camps within a given category as I can. For example, I’ll likely recommend a computer from the Windows as well as the Mac camp, a tablet from the Windows, iOS and/or Android camp, etc.

This is going to take a few days to get through, so please come back often to Soft32 for updates to the series. I’m going to do my best to get the series completed as quickly as possible. The other day I covered one of the hottest holiday gift items around – tablets. Today, we’re going to look at computers or PC’s.

holiday-present-7005361

Smartphones: The Key to the Whole Thing – Introduction


I said this a couple days ago – I cut my teeth on smartphones. Back in the day they were called PDA Phones but any way you cut it, they were less advanced versions of the same devices we have today – calendar, contacts, email, and yes…some apps.

Mobile development is very different than it used to be. Most everything used to be a lot more complicated and pretty disjointed. If you had an app on a device and you upgraded to a new device on the same operating system, you weren’t guaranteed that the app would run on the new device. If the screen size was different, it was a completely different game. Newer versions of the OS also more than likely meant that you either had to leave the app behind, upgrade for a fee, or rebuy a license.

Buying apps was also very disjointed. There were specific web-based stores, and they didn’t always allow you to redownload purchases. Hard resetting your device meant that you may also have to do without an app if you didn’t make a back up of its installation file and registration information when you initially bought it. It wasn’t fun.

Today, with the implementation of the software ecosystem, things are much easier. There are centralized stores for each mobile operating system. There are multiple OEM’s with multiple devices on at least two of the three major mobile platforms available today. There are tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of apps available for download and/or purchase. In short, we’ve come a LONG way in under 10 years.
When considering a smartphone for a loved one this Holiday season, you have a few different choices available to you. I’m not going to touch on some of the more “off the beaten track” options. This would include things like Symbian (sorry Nokia fans…), Firefox OS, or Tizen (formerly MeeGo OS, or the next version of Nokia’s mobile OS that didn’t quite make it off the ground).

 

Key Considerations

As expected, I’m going to cover Android, iOS and yes, Windows Phone. More than likely, you’re going to find something in one of these three ecosystems to meet your needs. However, just like the tablets I recommended the other day, you’re going to have to watch out for a couple of key items here.

  1. Do you or your loved one(s) already have a smartphone and/or tablet and you’re just looking to upgrade your device? If you’re looking to upgrade your device from an older model to a newer model, or if you already have an Android or iOS device, there’s a good chance you may want to stay within that particular ecosystem. This really makes like a lot easier for you or your loved one receiving a smartphone as a gift this Holiday season. They likely won’t have to learn anything new or have to change the way they work and can simply start using the device out of the box, after its activated. Most mobile OS revisions are evolutionary instead of revolutionary, meaning that there isn’t drastic change from major release to major release. Moving from iOS 5 to iOS 6 was pretty easy. So was the move from Android Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean. Even the move from iOS 6 to iOS 7 wasn’t too horrible, once you got past the UI element changes.
  2. Are you planning on switching ecosystems or is this the first device in an ecosystem? If this is your gift recipient’s first smartphone, or if they’re planning or wanting to change ecosystems then you have two very different considerations to take into account.
    - If you’re switching ecosystems: How many apps do you actively use? If you use a LOT of apps, determine the cost of rebuying all of those, and factor that into the cost of the new device. If you can’t use the device the way you want, then it may not be a good idea to switch ecosystems. If the cost of repurchasing all those apps pushes you over your budget, then you may have to rethink your purchase, or choose a lower cost model within that ecosystem.
    If you’re new to the smartphone game and this is your first device: Think long and hard about the choice you’re going to make. Its likely going to dictate what kind of upgrade device you’re going to purchase in the next 18 to 24 months. Its also going to dictate where you purchase your apps, songs and videos. You’re going to need to be comfortable with that choice, as it may limit your purchasing options, or they could be a bit more open than you thought. Being informed is being empowered and should make your life a bit easier, as you’ll know what to expect, and about how much you may initially spend.
  3. What kind of accessories have you purchased? Can they be used with the new device? If you or your gift recipient already has a device, how much stuff do you have? If you have a boat load of accessories, will you be able to use them with the new device? If the answer is, “no,” then you have to determine what you can live without and what you can’t, as you may need to repurchase a LOT of stuff. Some times adapters exist, but aren’t always very practical or very usable. Device accessories are a huge cottage business for many; and a very lucrative one at that. If you have to leave a lot of accessories behind, you may need to factor the cost of replacing them into the purchase price of the device or plan on when you’re going to buy replacements. The key point to take away here, is to know what you can use and what you can’t and then figure out the associated costs and plan for the expense.
  4. What kind of budget do you have for this purchase?

This is going to dictate what device you get and depending on what kind of apps and accessories you have already purchased, you may need to adjust your choice to account for budget.

Accessories and ecosystem aside, many of the best smartphones are very high priced, and many users may think its not practical to buy unsubsidized devices, as the down stroke to get into the device may be too deep.

At the end of the day, you need to realize that buying a smartphone is a bigger decision than just picking one and taking it home. You have upgrade considerations, content considerations and accessory considerations to account for. All of these will effect your device or near term costs. Being informed is being empowered and will allow you to make the best gift decision for you or your loved one(s).

In light of that – and I’ll likely have a column or article on this at a later date – you need to get ready for US cellular carriers to drop phone subsidies. T-Mobile was the first to do that. Subsidies cost carriers money. They try to pass that cost on to consumers, but they would rather finance the cost of the device, pushing the full cost to the consumer, than subsidizing it, where they share the cost of the device.

Before we get into what devices to consider, please note that I am going to make these recommendations devoid of carrier considerations. Based on your geographic location and the carrier choices available to you, you may need to adjust these recommendations to suite your needs.

Android

Of the three major mobile operating systems to choose from, picking the right Android phone represents the biggest challenge out there. When it comes to iOS devices, only one manufacturer is making that kind of device – Apple. When it comes to Windows Phone, while more than one OEM makes a Windows Phone, its really Nokia’s Lumia line that calls attention to itself. However, when it comes to Android devices the field of viable players is much wider.

And quite honestly, so are many of the phones. I think one of the biggest issues that I have with Android phones is that they are, in many cases, freakishly wide. I know that wide screens are really in right now, but I really have an issue with many of the Android phones available today. They’re too wide in my opinion.

However, screen size aside, as of this writing, if I had to or wanted to choose and Android phone for myself I’d likely choose either a HTC One or a Nexus 5. Both devices are high end smartphones and will provide you with, possibly, years of reliable use.

The HTC One comes in either 32GB or 64GB flavors and has a quad-core 1.7Ghz Snapdragon processor. It has 2GB of RAM and has decent battery life, despite the power it possesses. The device is probably one of the best that HTC has ever engineered and that’s saying a lot for a company that defined what smartphones really should be between 2003 and 2006 when they supplied i-mate with some of the best devices ever made.

If the HTC one isn’t for you, then you might want to try the Nexus 5. While its camera doesn’t even come close to competing with the 41MP camera in the Lumia 1020, at 8MP it is on par with other offerings available today.

The Nexus 5 is Google’s latest phone, and is guaranteed to provide the most Google-like experience available today. All other Android experiences may be tainted by the customized software layer that most OEM’s place on top of Android, like HTC’s latest version of HTC Sense.

The Nexus 5 will always run the latest version of Android (as long as its supported) and costs an affordable $349, unlocked. Many other devices, including the Apple iPhone 5S, cost over $600 unlocked.

iOS

While all three major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offer a subsidized version of the iPhone 5S, the only thing you have to worry about is which one do you want a 2 year contract with. At $199, the 16GB iPhone 5S is probably the best way to go. Its affordable and gets you the latest version of the device without breaking the bank. If $199 is too much for you to spend on a device that will require a 2 year contractual commitment, then considering the iPhone 4S is a good decision, as it will require no money down. The only thing you need to understand is that it only comes in an 8GB flavor, which may not offer enough room to store apps and other content.

Apple’s cell phone is a decent buy and a good decision for those computing users who use Macs as their PC of choice or for those that really like iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. A decision to purchase an iDevice is really driven more by content than by any other factor, in my opinion.
Windows Phone
The biggest reason to get a Windows Phone is NOT because of the ecosystem or because of the software store or accessories. Windows Phone is a hot mess right now, when it comes to ecosystem and software stores. There are two reasons to get a Windows Phone right now – ease of use and digital camera; and honestly, the second reason out-weighs the first.

If pushed, many mobile pundits – myself included – will tell you that despite its many disjointed, ecosystem challenges, Windows Phones have some of the best built in cameras on the market today. At 41MP, they have some of the best point and shoot digital cameras on the market. In fact, the camera on a Windows Phone likely has a higher megapixel rating than your DSLR or dedicated, point and shoot digital camera.

To this end, if you’re interested in a Windows Phone, the one to get would be the Lumia 1020. It has a 4.5″ AMOLED display, a 41MP PureView camera and a 1.5Ghz Snapdragon processor. It supports LTE network bands 2, 4, 5 and 17. It also has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage for documents, apps and content. Despite whatever issues or short comings the ecosystem has, the device is getting good press from all over the industry. If you’re looking for a Windows Phone, the Lumia 1020 is the one to get.

Conclusion

Buying a smartphone is not an easy task, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. In many cases, its likely going to become your defacto internet device. You’ll likely do more web surfing over your phone than you will with your PC.

Regardless of what decision you ultimately make regarding which device to buy, you’ll need to answer a few questions for yourself before moving forward -

  1.  Do you or your loved one(s) already have a smartphone and/or tablet and you’re just looking to upgrade your device?
  2. Are you planning on switching ecosystems or is this the first device in an ecosystem?
  3. What kind of accessories have you purchased? Can they be used with the new device?
  4. What kind of budget do you have for this purchase?

Like PC’s and tablet’s budget limitations may drive your smartphone purchase. If that’s the case with you, then do yourself a favor and still go through the exercise I’ve outlined here. It will at the very least get to take a long hard look at the larger picture of choosing the best smartphone for you.

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Can Lean Back Devices be used for Lean Forward Activities

…or can you really do that with a tablet??

6a0120a805e490970b01538e1c68a3970bI saw an interesting article by Preston Gralla the other day about how productivity boosting tablets were the gift worth giving this year. Preston sites three in his article – one Android (the Nexus 7) and two Windows Pro (Surface Pro 2 and the new Dell Venue 8 Pro). The bent of Preston’s article is that while there’s a great deal of convenience and multimedia capability built into these, they also contain a great deal of productivity power, providing the user with a well-rounded computing experience.

In his mind, this combination of lean back form factor and lean forward productivity is what makes these types of devices a sure winner. Preston has a point, but I’m not entirely convinced. I think it’s this mixing of features and form factor that are causing problems for these devices.

Tablets were originally (re)introduced as relaxation, or lean back, devices that provided basic, essential computing power in a highly portable, light weight, performance minded form factor. They were small enough to take and use nearly everywhere from the bathroom to the beach; and they got you on the internet, reading and answering email and posting to your favorite social networks without requiring a lot of bulky, computing hardware. They did just enough just about everywhere, and that’s what made them successful. Taking the lean back out of the tablet has changed the dynamic of the device.

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device was a movement that BYTE tried to address between July 2011 and April 2013 over at InformationWeek.com I wrote many BYOD focused articles there and you can still find many of the articles I wrote here. The entire house of cards starts to crumble the moment you try to bring your iPad to work. I know, I tried to do it for 3 or more years. Part of what I wanted to do on the iPad – hand written notes – really doesn’t work well, due to the type of digitizer and touch screen the tablet uses. To this day, handwritten notes aren’t easy, despite the advances in processor, memory, etc.

I have found that both iOS and Android, while capable of running productivity apps, are more suited to handling content consumption focused activities. In other words, while possible, both mobile OS’ are really better at running entertainment software – audio and video players, book reading software, game play, etc. again, even with the enhanced hardware they’ve received over the past few years.

When you put a more productivity based OS on a tablet as well as add a keyboard, you get devices like the Surface/ Surface 2 series type devices that have more in common with an ultrabook or notebook PC than they do a tablet. While this has a bit to do with hardware, its really more pointed at the OS. Windows 8 is more suited towards full-blown productivity apps than entertainment software, though they also do exist on the platform.

Portables_2_Rect

Interestingly enough, my son-in-law recently received a Toshiba Satellite Click 2-in-1 13.3″ Touch-Screen Laptop for his birthday from my daughter. The device comes with a detachable keyboard and Windows 8.1 Pro. He is using it as a productivity machine for school. I recently asked him how often he had used it as a tablet. He hasn’t. Not once.

He said while he can use the device in tablet mode, the device works better as a notebook. When I pressed him for an explanation, it was clear to him that Windows 8.1, despite its live tiles and ModernUI interface, is more of a familiar notebook OS than a tablet OS. Office works better while using the attached keyboard than the on-screen keyboard. Computing in general, worked better with the attached keyboard; touch pad and extended battery than simply with the tablet. So, he is clearly leaning forward rather than relaxing and leaning back with it. He also hasn’t used it as an entertainment device – i.e. to watch movies, listen to music or to read eBooks – though he can do all those things quite easily with the device.

I’m finding that is exactly the case with the Dell Latitude 10-ST2 Windows 8 Pro Tablet. Its all productivity and very impractical as an entertainment device.

You’re likely going to hear a great deal of advertising this Holiday Shopping Season on how Windows 8.x tablets are the perfect combination of lean back and lean forward – entertainment and productivity – devices. In most of the cases I’ve seen and in my personal experience, it just doesn’t work out that way.

The potential for having both in a single device is great. If it works out for you, you can obviously save a great deal of money. However, I’ve noticed that most people don’t actually take advantage of both in a single device. Their device gets “mentally tagged” with a single or main purpose, and using the device for something else violates that tag.

I’ve seen people do that with a number of things – cars, pens, clothing, AND computers. Its not that you can’t drive the sports car to the office, its that you’re saving it for the fun times. As a child, I had school clothes and play clothes. You didn’t mix the two; and I suspect that with many people, whether they do it intentionally or not, they aren’t going to be able to put a ton of movies and music on their work machines. Let’s forget about how most enterprise admins frown on stuff like that and just say that you probably aren’t going to want to give up all the space you might need for documents, spreadsheets and presentations to MP3′s and videos.

In the end, it’s a metal paradigm that I think many people won’t accept. Its not because they can’t, but because for them, the whole idea just doesn’t fit well.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion below.

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Why Hasn’t Google Mopped the Floor with Apple?

The mobile space is very competitive; but how why hasn’t Google killed it? Let’s explore that a bit…

aaaIntroduction

Every now and again, even the best of us get hit with a moment of clarity. You know, that moment right after you lay your head down to sleep, you find it…you see it, and it hits you.

BAM!

THE reason, despite ALL others why Google, in spite of their huge vendor penetration and installation base, hasn’t totally mopped the floor with Apple and sent the iPhone packing…and it call comes down to one word –

Ecosystem. Or is it Fragmentation…? In many ways the two are so irreparably intertwined, it’s depressing. However, anyway you slice it, its totally Google’s fault.

Fragmentation

A couple years ago, I wrote an article titled, Opinion – How Google can Trump the iPad. Back in 2010, no one had ever said, heard or understood what an ecosystem was. I was kinda close, but didn’t quite close the loop.

I got about 98% of the way there. Yes, the ecosystem is all about your content on your device; but its more about capturing the consumer and keeping them and their business regardless of what device they’re using. They keep coming back to YOU as the source of truth.

They use your productivity services. They use your applications. More importantly, they purchase those services and applications from sources YOU control, continually providing you with a revenue stream.

Is this starting to sound familiar? Good. Hold that thought… I want to clear something up first.

This is NOT an article about how totally eff-ing awesome Apple is. This is really an article that asks, “how the hell could Google miss the damn boat?!”

Google is partners with Samsung, LG, HTC, and bought Motorola so they could create and sell Android devices of their own. There are more worn out Android devices in land fills now-a-days than there are iPhones in active use, yet iOS and Android are virtually even in market share.

Android Takeover

Can ANYONE tell me why that is?

If you go the fragmentation route, you find that there are so many different versions of Google’s mobile OS out there that it kinda gives you a headache. As of 2013-08-01, you can see the spread of Android versions currently in use. I’m not certain what’s most frightening, the fact that Honeycomb was a total loser, or that Android 2.1 Eclaire still commands a 1.4% share of all devices currently on the market today.

Including Key Lime Pie, there are 35 active versions of Android. That’s all of them, folks. To some extent, you can find every version of Android ever released by Google active somewhere; and Android devices are like grains of sand – numerous to uncountable, even from a single vendor.

To be honest, that figure includes every major, minor and point release of the mobile OS to be made available to end users, and not every version made it to every device.

To contrast this, iOS has seen about 1/2 as many releases in only 6 devices. In the Apple camp, OS releases are highly controlled. Many changes are rolled up to an annual major, release cycle. Minor releases are only introduced as needed. Point releases are used to address crucial, showstopper bugs. The OS simply doesn’t have the level of releases (in software, we call this “churn”) that its competitor’s does. iOS appears to be much more stable and organized as a result.

So, I think its safe to say that there are a bajillion Android devices from numerous vendors running a bajillion versions of Android. The perception here is not just fragmentation, but complete and utter chaos when it comes to devices and OS releases.

Next Page

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HTC Needs…Something

Back in the day, the company could do no wrong. Today, it’s a different story…

htcI’ve been an HTC device user for years. Back in the day, HTC made devices for a company called imate. imate was a device OEM out of Dubai, UAE, and back in 2004…they were the BOMB. Their devices were unlocked, well designed, high performing, high margin products. I remember saving money for an entire YEAR so I could buy an imate PDA2k, a Windows Mobile 5 powered, EDGE based, smartphone. It cost me $930. Unfortunately, the review of the PDA2k I wrote and posted on 2005-06-09 seems to evaporated. There’s nothing left but a small shot of the actual device. It’s too bad. It was a great device and a good review, too.

It turns out that the company behind all of imate’s devices at the time was HTC. Since then, the company came out on its own, established its own brand, made a huge splash in the market and was a total success. Lately, however, they’ve hit some really hard times.

Samsung seems to be able to introduce new Android devices every time it sneezes. Their Galaxy S line of smartphones is a worldwide success, despite any disputes with Apple or accusations of patent infringement. The competition they have been providing in the Android camp is pretty stiff.

As such, it’s been difficult for HTC to gain much traction in this space. I saw an interesting article on WSJ.com, indicating that HTC may need to consider a merger if it wants to survive.

htc_one14

Many analysts that share this point of view have suggested either Huawei or Lenovo as potential merger partners. It’s unclear whether HTC will consider partnerships with either organization. Both companies are Chinese, and a Chinese partner could really open up sales opportunities for a struggling HTC, who posted their first operating loss on record. Unfortunately for HTC, this loss, coupled with a “gloomy third quarter forecast” is powering an eight year low in HTC’s stock price. Many brokerages are targeting a NT $100 share price in recent weeks. HTC was priced at NT $160 as of early this morning, 2013-07-31.

HTC’s problems aren’t engineering based. Their devices are well designed, and well manufactured. The HTC One is simply stunning by all accounts. HTC’s issues are sales and marketing related, and its seems that a merger may be the best and easiest way to resolve those issues and hitch a ride on someone else’s well-oiled machine.

Any way you slice it, it’s clear. HTC needs…something. If they want to stay relevant and stay in business, they better figure out what that is and get it done, or the HTC One may be the One and Only.

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Apple’s Low Cost iPhone – Good or Bad Idea?

Apple LogoBelieve it or not, this isn’t as slam dunk as you might think it is…

Emerging markets are a big deal.

In areas like China, Korea, parts of Africa, etc., where there are untapped consumers just waiting to buy a smartphone, the right device at the right price can sell and sell very well. Low cost, low margin phones are intended to make money in volume sales.

According to an article published on TUAW, former Apple CEO John Sculley agrees that Apple needs to produce the low cost device, which for many in those markets, is the only computing device they will own. While Sculley acknowledges that there’s “nothing wrong” with the current iPhone, he also acknowledged that Samsung is very good at what they do, and implied that Apple needs to figure it out and provide a competing product.

Sculley agreed that Tim Cook is the right person to lead Apple at this time due to his operations experience. Apple’s decision to cut its product update cycles to 6 months instead of 12 will require solid supply chain experience, and that’s right up Cook’s alley.

While its still unknown if a low cost iPhone would make an appearance in either the US or Europe, there seems to be a shift in thought in the smartphone arena. Lower cost, unsubsidized devices seem to be the direction that the world wants the industry to go. That being the case, I suspect that we’re going to see a number of exciting changes over the next year or so.

Whether or not a low cost iPhone is a good or bad idea is going to be validated by Apple’s financial and stock performance. The markets seem very fickle right now, with Apple stock jumping 3-5% over the past couple of days on news of component order cancellations and their 2013 product pipeline, respectively. Until the world decides that Apple knows what it wants to be when it grows up, I’d expect a great deal of fluctuation in their stock price and speculation in the news regarding the company’s viability in a post-Jobs era.

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Find out which browser is the fastest on your device with Browsermark

Meet Browsermark, a free benchmark that measure and compare the performance of any browser on any internet enabled device, including: desktops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones and more. The benchmark runs test like the page loading and page resizing, and conformance testing for HTML5 and network speed so you can easily pick the right browser for your device.

We are all frustrated with the performance of our browser based on the device we are web browsing on, to the point that we continue to ask ‘Am I expecting too much from my tablet?‘” said Tero Sarkkinen, CEO of Rightware. Browsermark answers that question for you. This simple to run test will help you decide which browser gives the best web experience for your device.

Browsermark was designed to measure the browser performance in the context of JavaScript, HTML5, WebGL, CSS and many more. Browsermark provides the de facto benchmark approach to measure variety of different performance aspects of device’s browsing capabilities, functionality and speed, and provides well-understood results for easy comparison of different device capabilities.

All of the data will be uploaded to Rightware’s Power Board online database. Power Board gathers and maintains all of the official benchmarking data from all of the company’s benchmarking tools. Power Board allows access to benchmarking data of graphics, system, multicore, browser and user interface performance of various different devices, running different operating systems and hardware.

Run Browsermark

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Transfer music and video files from iPod and iPhone with Ease

Have you had a problem with your computer or hard drive, lost all your music, then connected your iPod to your computer, hoping you could do a two-way transfer? Unfortunately, when you do that iTunes won’t let you copy your previous music library to your computer. That’s where Sharepod comes in. With Sharepod, you can copy music you have stored on your iPod to your computer with a simple drag-and-drop interface. You can arrange by track, by album or by playlist.

Sharepod is a simple, single-executable application that doesn’t need installing. So whether you are at home or a friend’s, it is easy to download, open and have your iPod connected within seconds. As well as iPod to PC sharing, Sharepod allows you to copy music from your PC to iPod without the need for iTunes. This is a great if you have multiple computers and want to use your iPod with all of them, instead of connecting your mp3 player to just one device.

Sharepod is a great freeware application for transferring music from your iPod to other computers and back again. If you have multiple computers in your home network or want to share music with friends, there is no simpler way to do it than with Sharepod. Sharepod fixes the universal problem iPod users have when trying to connect their device to secondary computers.

Download Sharepod

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iPad 3 Rumor Roundup

After months of speculation, it’s looking likely the third generation of the iPad is imminent. Here’s your guide to what’s known and rumored about what will likely be the hottest gadget of 2012.

What’s the timetable and how do we know?

Apple has just announced a press event for March 7th, teasing journalists with the line “We have something you really have to see. And touch.” If this is the launch of the iPad 3, the device would likely be on sale within a few weeks.

 

Is this definitely a new iPad?

That’s the most likely explanation. It’s unlikely to be a new iPhone given the last model only came out a few months back. One other possibility could be a rumored new device that’s around the five to seven inch mark, though most analysts believe this would be a poor compromise between a smartphone and tablet.

What are the most likely changes in the new iPad?

One likelihood is a quad-core processor. That means a chip that can literally do four things instantaneously. This means the device will be able to do a much better job of carrying out demanding tasks without slowing down other features. For example, the iPad could use three of the cores to carry out video editing while still letting the user access the web. Quad-core would allow more intensive gaming and other tasks previously thought of as restricted to full-blown computers.

Another expected change is a screen with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, nearly double that of a full-HD screen. Taking account of the bigger screen size, this would be similar to the “retina” display on the latest iPhones. Apple uses this name with the argument that, at an ordinary viewing distance, such a resolution means the human eye can’t distinguish individual pixels, effectively making the image identical to reality.

What other new features could debut?

It’s thought the US model will support LTE, one of the new generation or 4G mobile data technologies. When it works to its full potential, 4G allows users to get the same speeds as home broadband from anywhere with a good mobile signal. Unfortunately LTE is still in the test stages in the UK.

The new iPad could also have a Near Field Communications chip, a technology similar to Bluetooth that only works over a few centimetres but connects almost instantly. It’s mainly used for contactless smartphone payments at the moment, but it could allow quick wireless syncing with compatible computers.

Less likely-sounding rumors include a 128GB model (double the current highest capacity) and a change to the Apple-specific charger and data socket.

How certain is all of this?

You can never be 100% certain about Apple rumours. The company loves to keep an air of mystery about its plans and techies tend to get caught up in their imagination and dreams when predicting what’s going to happen, the most embarrassing recent example being when the widely-hyped iPhone 5 turned out to simply be the slightly tweaked iPhone 4S. That said, there are a lot of credible sources, including in the South East Asia electrical engineering industry where large component orders by Apple often uncover its future plans.

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