iNews Review

Tablets for 'Normal People', iPad 2 Tops CR Ratings, RokForm Adjustable iPad/iPhone Stands, and More

This Week's iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Apple TV News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2011.04.11

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review, and general Mac news is in Mac News Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News, Reviews, & Opinion

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Accessories

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News, Reviews, & Opinion

Wozniak: Tablets Are for 'Normal People'

IDG News Service's Stephen Lawson reports that Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak said Monday during a keynote session at Storage Networking World in Santa Clara, California, that tablets are the culmination of what Steve Jobs wanted to create at Apple from the beginning, noting, "The tablet is not necessarily for the people in this room . .  . It's for the normal people in the world."

iPad 2 Tops Consumer Reports' Tablet Ratings

PR: After almost a year during which Apple's iPad has been virtually the only game in town in tablet computers, some serious competitors are finally hitting the market. Yet in Consumer Reports latest tests of the 10 most-promising tablet computers, the Apple iPad 2 with WiFi and 3G still topped the ratings. The full report including ratings of tablets is available at ConsumerReports.org.

In Consumer Reports lab tests, the Motorola Xoom revealed itself as the iPad 2's chief rival. Like the iPad 2, the Xoom boasts a 10" screen but adds conveniences that the iPad lacks, including a built-in memory card reader and support for Adobe Flash videos and animations found on many websites, as well as standard USB connectivity and the ability to run desktop applications.

"So far, Apple is leading the tablet market in both quality and price, which is unusual for a company whose products are usually premium priced," says Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor at Consumer Reports. "However, it's likely we'll see more competitive pricing in tablets as other models begin to hit the market."

Consumer Reports tested tablets from Archos, Dell, Motorola, Samsung, and ViewSonic, as well as several models from Apple. Each tablet was evaluated on 17 criteria, including touchscreen responsiveness, versatility, portability, screen glare, and ease of use, and testers found several models that outperformed the rest. The iPad 2 with WiFi plus 3G (32 GB), $730, topped the ratings, scoring excellent in nearly every category. The first-generation iPad, $580, also also outscored many of the other models tested but tied with the Motorola Xoom, $800.

The largest gap in performance among the 10 tested tablets was evident in Consumer Reports' battery-life test, measured by playing the same video clip continually on each tablet and timing how long it played until the battery ran down. The top-scoring iPad 2 lasted 12.2 hours, but one of the lowest rated, the Dell Streak 7, $450, lasted just 3.8 hours.

Before choosing a tablet, Consumer Reports recommends that consumers consider the following points:

  • Many features are almost universal. Easy-to-use touch screens based on capacitive technology are now widely available. All the models Consumer Reports tested feature WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, a front-facing webcam, and GPS capability. Android-based models can be expanded using built-in USB ports or slots for SD flash-memory cards, but the iPad 2 lacks both.
  • You get what you pay for. With prices for the best tablets still too high for many budgets, consumers may be tempted by lower-priced competitors. Don't be, says Consumer Reports, whose tests have found the performance of models costing $300 and under to be at best mediocre. Buying a tablet with a data plan may lower the initial cost of the device, but canceling early may result in a stiff penalty. Otherwise, it might be cheaper to buy a 3G-capable model without a contract.
  • Future-proofing will pay off. Hardware specifications don't tell the whole story. Portability, storage capacity, and weight are important. But less obvious differences in software, connectivity, and upgradability are critical too. And with faster 4G data networks becoming more widely available, 4G capability (or at least the ability to upgrade to it) is also a plus.

For additional buying advice and model recommendations, check out the May 2011 issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands.

iPad 2 Supplies Getting Closer To Meeting Demand

iPad 2-3 week delayComputerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that Apple's supply of the iPad 2 edged closer to demand on Monday with the company's online store showing a two-to-three week shipping delay, which represents an improvement over the three-to-four week delay between ordering and shipping that Apple had been quoting customers since the iPad 2's release more than two weeks ago.

The Canadian Apple Store still has all three capacities of 3G capable first generation iPads available, discounted to the former list prices of the WiFi only models, starting at Can$549 for the 16 GB model. The WiFi 16 GB iPad 2 is listed at Can$519, but with that 2-3 week wait.

How Apple Converted the World to Onscreen Keyboards

Cult of Mac's Mike Elgan notes that it's hard to recall now, but the number-one complaint about the iPhone when it first came out was the onscreen keyboard, while others complained about the visibility of finger smudges on the screen when you turn the power off.

Elgan contends that these concerns seem quaint now, comparing iPhone skeptics to people a hundred years ago complaining that their new automobile wouldn't to slow down when they said, "whoa, Nellie" and didn't speed up when they whipped the fender with a riding crop.

He admits that he was among the tech pundits who griped about Apple's global ban on the sale of third-party physical keyboard and refusal to create one of its own, but says he now thinks Apple deliberately used the popularity of its iPhone to force the world to accept and learn to appreciate onscreen keyboards, which have opened up vast new vistas of keyboard input evolution.

A lot of interesting points made in this thought-provoking piece.

Satisfaction Ratings Similar for AT&T and Verizon iPhones

PR: A new ChangeWave survey of 4,068 consumers has taken a close up look at key comparisons between Verizon iPhone 4 owners and AT&T iPhone 4 owners, including customer satisfaction and dropped call rates.

The ChangeWave survey, completed March 28th, was conducted several weeks after Verizon began offering the iPhone 4. Among other things, the results provide insight into how owners believe the AT&T and Verizon iPhones stack up against each other in a couple of key areas

Future iPhone 4 Buyers

ChangeWave Research's Vice President of Research Paul Carton says that while the overall satisfaction ratings are very similar for AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4 owners, there is a difference when it comes to reported dropped calls, according to the latest survey from ChangeWave Research, a division of industry analyst and data firm The 451 Group.

For several years ChangeWave Research has been tracking the wireless service providers industry and the ongoing battle between heavyweights AT&T and Verizon. But now that both Verizon and AT&T offer the iPhone 4 are there any major differences reported by owners?

In terms of customer satisfaction, the ChangeWave survey found virtually no difference with 82% of Verizon iPhone 4 owners saying they're Very Satisfied compared to 80% of AT&T iPhone 4 owners saying they're Very Satisfied.

When it comes to dropped call rates, however, Verizon iPhone 4 owners reported a lower percentage of dropped calls than their AT&T iPhone 4 counterparts.

Additional results include:

  • iPhone 4 Dropped Call Rates - Verizon vs. AT&T
  • Overall Dropped Call Rates for 4 Major Wireless Providers
  • A Historical Perspective on Overall Dropped Call Rates Verizon vs. AT&T

Full report details include:

  • Demand for Apple iPhone (AAPL), Motorola (MMI), Research In Motion (RIMM), Samsung, and HTC smart phone handsets, among others
  • Customer Satisfaction Ratings by Manufacturer and Operating System including a historical comparison of Apple iPhone vs. RIM-BlackBerry
  • Planned Buying Trends by Operating System
  • Biggest Winners and Losers
  • Comparison of Android OS Demand vs. Apple iOS Demand
  • Features Most Important to Planned Smart Phone Buyers
  • Growth Trends: Overall Smart Phone Market

24 pages|PDF Format (167K)

Price: $1,500

iPad 2 vs. iPad Head-to-Head Review

V3's Khidr Suleman reports that despite some flaws, the iPad 2 is the best tablet on the market at this time, offering high-end performance and a well rounded experience with its sleek design, fast performance of applications and Internet, and excellent battery life, but on the downside no adapters are included, there's no Flash support, and the new cameras aren't up to much.

iPad 2 'Not Exactly a Quantum Leap Forward'

Laptop Mag's Brian Oliver Bennett says there's no argument that the original iPad set the standard for the media tablet category, combining a topnotch display with a fun and intuitive multitouch interface, and while the iPad 2 certainly is an improvement with its size reduction (33% thinner and 15% lighter) and faster processor (dual-core A5 CPU), it's not exactly a quantum leap forward.

Apple's Digital AV Adapter for iPad Reviewed

The Register's Cliff Joseph notes that it's not often that a mere cable merits a review of its own, but the Digital AV Adapter that Apple recently launched along with the new iPad 2 is important enough to justify a closer look.

He reports that the cable is compatible with the iPad 2, the original iPad, the iPhone 4, and the current fourth-generation iPod touch, with the other end of the cable providing a full-sized HDMI interface so you can connect it to an HD TV, along with a pass-through dock connector so that you can still charge the battery at the same time. With the iPad 2, it can also support video mirroring, allowing you to view the full iPad screen on your HD TV.

Apple's New iOS 30-pin Connector Compatible with Thunderbolt, USB 3.0

Digital Trends' Andrew Couts reports that a newly-granted Apple patent reveals the company's next-generation 30-pin iOS connector that can support connection to the recently debuted high-speed Thunderbolt port, as well as USB 3.0 and 2.0, according to a report on Patently Apple, with the next-generation connector expected to be implemented on all iOS devices, as well as Mac computers - possibly as early as this year with the iPhone 5 or in 2012 when Intel Macs are projected to finally get USB 3.0.

Apps & Services

Facebook 3.4 for iOS

Facebook 3.4 for iPhonePR: Facebook for iPhone makes it easy to stay connected and share information with friends. Use your iPhone to start a conversation with Facebook Chat, check your friends' latest photos and status updates, look up a phone number, or upload your own mobile photos to Facebook while on the go.

New in Version 3.4

  • Added Map View for Places
  • Added the ability to Check in to Events that you're attending
  • Added the ability to unfriend from the phone
  • Improved News Feed
  • Improved notifications UI

Rated 4+

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Free

Adobe Demos Photoshop Express 2.0 for iPad

AppleInsider's Daniel Eran Dilger reports that Adobe showed off new imaging technology for the iPad during the keynote address of the company's Photoshop World conference, with the new technology expanding on the free Photoshop Express tool Adobe already offers on the iOS App Store, which offers basic camera, photo editing, and picture sharing tools. A $3.99 Camera Pack in app purchase option adds a self-timer shutter, auto review, and noise reduction technology derived from Lightroom 3.

Free Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0 for iPad Reviewed

The Register's Cliff Joseph reports that having taken the plunge into iPhone photography with the Slow Shutter Cam app, he decided his next step should be Adobe's Photoshop Express, which has just been updated to version 2.0.

Joseph notes that Photoshop Express is by no means the most sophisticated photo-editing app available, but the basic version is free and is very quick and easy to use, although, oddly, Adobe seems to have overlooked the cameras in the iPad 2, so you still have to shoot photos using Apple's Camera app and then import them into Photoshop Express for editing.

Keyboard 2 Give the iPhone a Full Screen Keyboard

PR: Beer Sheva, Israel-based Independent developer Tal Shumski announces the official launch of Keyboard 2, his new application for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The utility is already proving immensely popular. Keyboard 2 provides a full screen keyboard with double sized buttons to facilitate sending text messages and other communications.

Keyboard 2The keyboard features an ABC and numeric layout, complete with common punctuation marks on the main keyboard. Users can customize configurations for ease of use. Numbers are presented in a typical keyboard layout that includes all the accompanying special characters. The keyboard is semitransparent and content is displayed behind the buttons. Users can adjust the level of the keyboard's transparency, text color, font size and button color to accommodate a variety of personal preferences.

Keyboard 2 allows users to type in content before posting to a variety of platforms. After content is entered, user can post to their Facebook account, send SMS and email messages and Google It. Users can copy to the clipboard and use it anywhere else. The application is also compatible with third party apps. Keyboard 2 contains a multitasking feature, allowing users to easily switch between apps and utilize Super Keyboard for Twitter, Awesome Notes, TO-DO and similar functions.

With Keyboard 2, there's no need to put off responding to messages or posting on social media sites due to a small keyboard. The application allows users to respond and post on the spot without the frustration of using a small keyboard. Some messages deserve immediate attention and can't wait until the user is in front of a computer with a large keyboard. The utility provides an easy way for users to take care of important business in a timely manner.

The application grew out of a combination of the developer's personal need and a chance encounter on a train. The engineering student was searching for ways to fund his college tuition. While riding the train, Shumski observed a man with rather large fingers become angry over the size of the keyboard on his iPhone. The man was having difficulty typing a simple message through a combination of large fingers and the iPhone's small keyboard. Shumski immediately saw the advantage in a keyboard app to remedy the situation and set about developing Keyboard 2.

The new app provides an easy and convenient means of responding to messages and posting online without the need to wait for access to a computer. Keyboard 2 offers a large keyboard format that includes the alphabet and numerical keys that makes it easy to conduct business, respond to communications and interact online.

Device Requirements:

  • iPhone and iPod touch
  • Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later
  • 10.8 MB

Keyboard 2 (v1.1) is 99¢ (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Utilities category. For more information, visit the website.

iBuildApp First Company to Offer Free Digital Publishing for the iPad

PR: Thanks to the Apple iPad and new tools like iBuildApp.com, digital publishing is easier than ever. The Silicon Valley based startup iBuildApp recently added an iPad publishing solution to its suite of iPhone templates designed for the non-coder.

iBuildAppiPad publishing has created new revenue streams for businesses who can publish materials without printing and shipping costs. The iBuildApp iPad solution will be integrated with blogging and CMS platforms for easy publishing.

Create your own iPad magazine, catalog, or book app. iBuildApp solution has templates, is automated, and totally free to create and update.

"We want people to be part of the trend of digital publishing. Its a great way to build a global audience around your niche without the cost of print. With iBuildApp's publishing tool you don't need a developer. Its easy and free to publish your monthly magazines, newsletters, catalogs, or books on the iPad," says Rafael Soultanov.

iBuildAppThe solution also delivers a good experience for the reader. We believe that a digital magazine or newspaper should feel like a media app, not like a magazine reader, said Soultanov. When someone swipes from page to page they can choose different stories to read. Images are vivid, video is optimized. If a reader wants to comment or share what they're reading, they just tap a button.

The fully functional publishing app takes just 2-3 hours to create and publish content. Just copy/paste content into our pre-made templates for the iPad, for free. The iBuildApp iPad solution will be integrated with other CMS platforms such as Wordpress, Drupal, and Joomla. It simply requires snippets of code from iBuildApp to be inserted into the CMS code.

Services make it less complicated for authors to publish and manage their own publishing (magazines and books). By using a service, publishers can focus on their content and leave the formatting, publishing and distribution to iBuildapp. Unlike other services iBuildApp Self-Publishing Solution provides authors with a free online editor, free formatting and design templates and integrated publishing for iPad and Web.

iBuildAppiBuildApp believes in the power of ideas and the creativity of the crowd. Their automated self-publishing solution lets creators of all kinds - from individuals to enterprises - make and monetize content on iPad. iBuildapp lets content owners quickly create and publish their content on iPad with ability to monetize the content.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) released its figures from January 2011 book sales, and the news is that more readers are turning to e-books, and they're doing so in droves. In fact, ebook sales have more than doubled since the same time last year. According to the AAP, ebook sales are up 115.8%, from $32.4 million to $69.9 million year-over-year.

As of end of March, the iBuildApp solution produced about 2,000 iPhone apps, which is near 0.5% of all apps on iTunes. Many small businesses from news to radio to soccer fun clubs have used iBuildApp to mobilize their business.

Accessories

Rokstand with iPad RokForm Rokstand Adjustable Desktop Stands for iPhone and iPad

PR: RokForm is a new division of Two Brothers Racing,one of the world's premier aftermarket manufacturers for the powersports industry, with a passion, design philosophy, stringent testing and really cool products that have firmly planted TBR on the global map with motorcycle enthusiasts. They say it was only logical to turn this passion towards performance accessories for personal mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Rokstand RokForm Rokstand V.1 Adjustable Desktop Stand for iPhone and iPad

The RokForm Rokstand V.1 Desktop Stand is a mechanical piece of art. You might think its developers are crazy to build a stand this complex just to hold an iPhone, until they say, you get a chance to hold one in your hand and use it with your phone.

This stand is touted as form and function working together in perfect mechanical harmony; a true conversation piece on any desk or airline flight. Each stand is hand assembled and inspected to ensure flawless performance; then serial numbered as authentic one of a kind RokForm.

Rokstand with iPadSpecifications:

  • 6 angles of adjustment
  • Precision High speed bearing and cam adjustment.
  • All CNC machined from Billet 6061 T-6 Aluminum with Anodized finish.
  • Soft rubber Contact surface rings provide a soft feel and non slip performance.
  • Holds iPhone in landscape or Portrait
  • Built in Sound enhancing speaker ports.
  • Works with Standard iPhone 4 charger plug.
  • Charges while on the stand in portrait.
  • Comes in a variety of colors to compliment any taste.
  • Designed, manufactured and assembled in Orange County, California USA

Price $169

Rokstand RokForm Rokstand V.1 Folding Stand for iPhone

Have you ever tried watching a movie on your iPhone on a plane, at home or at work? The Rokstand folks have, and say that's why they created the Rokstand V.1 Folding Stand. Simple, convenient and compact the Rokstand V.1 Folding Stand is your friend in the air, at home or at the office. Each stand is hand assembled and inspected to ensure flawless performance; then serial numbered as authentic one of a kind RokForm.

Rokstand with iPhoneSpecifications:

  • 2 adjustment angles in landscape or portrait
  • Simple stainless steel spring loaded push button adjustment
  • Adjustment arms ride on double sealed 36,000 RPM bearings
  • All CNC machined from Billet 6061 T-6 Aluminum with Anodized finish.
  • Soft rubber Contact surface rings provide a soft feel and non slip performance.
  • Holds iPhone in landscape or Portrait
  • Built in Sound enhancing speaker ports.
  • Works with Standard iPhone 4 charger plug.
  • Charges while on the stand in portrait.
  • Comes in a variety of colors to compliment any taste.
  • Includes Padded travel case for convenient storage
  • Designed, manufactured and assembled in Orange County, California USA.

Price $119

iPad Case with Integrated Bluetooth Keyboard

RightShift case & keyboard PR: Turn your iPad or iPad 2 into a productivity tool with the RightShift case & keyboard. This elegant, protective case integrates a Bluetooth keyboard that features a right shift key so you can actually touch type. When fully charged, the keyboard provides 90 hours of continuous use.

RightShift case & keyboardFeatures:

  • Bluetooth keyboard connects to your iPad with a few simple steps
  • 90 hours of continuous use when fully charged
  • Includes USB to micro-USB charging cable
  • Dimensions: 9.75 x 8 x 1 inches
  • Weight 1 lb.
  • One Year Warranty

Technical Specifications:

  • RightShift case & keyboard Broadcom 2042 Main Control Chip with 2.0 Bluetooth Interface
  • Built-in lithium ion battery
  • Fully charges in 4-4.5 hours
  • Lithium ion battery life: 3 years
  • Key Life: 500 million keystrokes
  • Can be used with other Bluetooth products

Orders for custom cases are filled within 72 hours.

Solid Line 'Make My Case' iPad Case Uses Your Favorite Image

PR: Solid Line Products, LLC has announced its Make My Case service which makes custom iPad cases from customers favorite images. Using recycled materials, the company's patent-pending design allows customers the option of adding the company's RightShift keyboard to enable true touch typing.

"These new covers are light and durable, analogous to a hardcover book," says Henry Lo, CEO and founder of Solid Line Products, LLC. "They're a fun and environmentally friendly way for iPad users to express their individuality while protecting their iPads from nicks and scratches. The covers are also water and stain resistant."

Among the first to take advantage of Solid Line's Make My Case service is New York-based AHAlife. AHAlife enlisted the talents of fashion designer Christian Joy to create two images to be used in the lightweight case. In collaboration with Jason Crisell, the case features the Monster Face print on the front of the case and Bug Monster for the back of the case. The portable works of art are available exclusively through AHAlife.

iPad Cases That Express Individuality or Corporate Identity While Enabling Greater Productivity

Starting at $39, custom-printed cases from Solid Line Products provide a great way for consumers to showcase their own photography or images of their artwork. The company also provides online editing tools that allow consumers to add text to their images or convert them to black & white or sepia tones.

They're also affordable branding tools for corporations. With an optional RightShift keyboard, expressing individual or corporate identities can also make the iPad more productive. The RightShift, a Bluetooth 2.0 silicone keyboard, is designed for quiet typing. It uses a micro-USB cable for charging the built-in lithium battery, which, when fully charged, enables 90 hours of continuous keyboard use.

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