Tag Archive | "apple iphone"

Samsung Galaxy Nexus: The Closest I’ve Come to Switching to Android

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I’ve been using the iPhone for three generations now — starting with the iPhone 3G, then the iPhone 3GS, and finally the iPhone 4 which is my current companion. I’m finally due for an upgrade and I must say that I’ve come closer than ever before to picking an Android phone (specifically the Galaxy Nexus) over an iPhone, but it just wasn’t meant to be and I’ll explain why. Be sure to note that what’s important to have in a phone for me might not be the same for you; I’m just laying out my thoughts here as to why the Galaxy Nexus has been the phone that has come the closest to tempting me over to Android.

Android 4.0

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich feels like the first truly full package in the history of Android. Finally there’s good hardware acceleration and enough performance for a nearly smooth home screen. This hasn’t quite translated over to all apps just yet. Android finally seems to have all of the vital default apps and has long included a turn-by-turn navigation app that blows Apple’s Maps app out of the water. Google just launched the Chrome Beta browser which offers a rich browsing experience which should have been included in Android long ago. Photos can now be robustly edited right in the gallery without scouring the Android Market for the right app. Home screen folders are extremely fast and a pleasure to use, while resizable widgets further the level of flexibility and customization. There’s better battery and data analysis, and much more. This has all come together in bits and pieces over the last few years as Android has grown, and 4.0 is the first time it feels like a complete package to me.

The saddest part about all of this is how hard it is to get your hands on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google has crafted this seemingly complete package, but less than 1% of users have access to it right now! I’m actually limited to the Galaxy Nexus if I want a top-end phone that also runs Android 4.0 at the moment.

Camera

The camera app in Android 4.0 is super fast in both launching and taking consecutive photos. Unfortunately, I still find that all Android handsets that I’ve tested have lacked in camera quality (for both stills and video) when compared to the iPhone 4, often despite higher megapixel ratings. For me, camera quality is more important than speed. The new panorama mode in the Android 4.0 camera app is neat, but I find that I can achieve better results by taking individual photos, then stitching them together on the computer. It’s a shame that Nokia never got into the Android ecosystem as they’ve long been heralded as having some of the best optics in the mobile industry.

The iPhone 4S camera is supposed to be even better than the iPhone 4 camera with 8MP instead of 5MP and reworked optics. If I can achieve photos like the following with the iPhone 4, then I’m looking forward to what the iPhone 4S has to offer:

Notification System

I’ve said it before and I think it’s still true today: Android is the best at managing notifications, while iOS is the best at delivering them. Between Android 4.0 and iOS 5.0, Android absolutely wins when it comes to managing notifications — you can toss away individual notifications or dismiss them all at once if you’d like. Tapping on a notification takes you directly to the item you are being notified about. All of this is better than how iOS does it. However, Apple’s push notification system is best in class. I don’t understand why Google doesn’t have push Gmail through the official Gmail app. Side-by-side with the Galaxy Nexus, my iPhone 4 shows changes to my inbox almost instantly, while the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t do anything until significantly later, unless manually refreshed. I can literally receive, respond to, and be done with an email on my iPhone 4 before it even arrives on the Galaxy Nexus. For some people, getting notifications instantly isn’t a big deal, but as someone who works on the web it’s a big advantage and one that I can’t easily give up.

Screen Size

If you follow Carrypad regularly, you’ll know that I’ve got some gripes with 4″+ screens. One-handed usability is important to me because I’m frequently on the go. The 3.5″ screen of the iPhone (all versions of it) is far more comfortable in my hand than anything 4″ and above. The Galaxy Nexus, at 4.65″, is just too big to be used comfortably in one hand for me. Everyone’s hands are different sizes, so everyone has a different limit, but with the massive-screen fad that’s been growing in Android over the years, it’s almost impossible to get a top-end Android phone in a size less than 4″. If the Galaxy Nexus came in any size 4″ or less, I’d be far more inclined to pick it over the iPhone 4S.

Customization

This is one of Android’s greatest strengths, but it always runs the risk of being over-complicated. I’m the kind of person who loves to tinker with their gadgets and get them to work just the way I’d like. On the iPhone, this urge is satisfied with jailbreaking, which enhances the customizations you can make on iOS, but it’s not much compared to what you can do on Android. With Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Nexus, I can fit tons of apps efficiently on one page with folders. On other screens, I’ve got at-a-glance access to my calendar, weather, inbox, and music player. It’s nice to be able to do much of what I need to right from the homescreen instead of jumping through hoops between apps. This category is a major win for the Galaxy Nexus.

Apps

There’s no denying that there are some great apps on Android, but Apple’s iOS App Store still has a greater number of apps than the Android Market. When we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of apps in each store, the aggregate hardly matters. Where iOS has the real advantage is in quality and consistency. Because Apple has strict guidelines, most apps are intuitive and work well without crashing. When it comes to apps from the Android Market, you might have two great apps, but they might have two completely different interface approaches — one app trying to emulate an iOS-like ‘everything on screen’ style and the other trying to do the Android thing by hiding features away in long-presses and hidden menus. Alone, each of these is arguably as good as the other, but when you have to jump between apps that go back in forth in their interface approach, the user interaction aspect of it becomes increasingly convoluted, and this is something I quite dislike.

Availability

If everything above held an advantage for the Galaxy Nexus, there would still be one huge issue for me choosing it over the iPhone 4S — availability. I’m on AT&T, and the Galaxy Nexus is decidedly not available for purchase. AT&T has not one Android 4.0 ICS phone available at the moment, which means the best I could do is buy one of the top-end Android phones then wait and hope that it would receive an ICS upgrade. If Google thinks the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 is such a great pair, they’ve got to do a better job of making it available for people to actually purchase it. The only way for me to actually get my hands on the Galaxy Nexus would be to switch carriers or buy an expensive unlocked version of the phone without a subsidy from my carrier.

So, Google, you almost had me on this one, but unfortunately I’ve made up my mind to continue with the iPhone — for now anyway. Fix the stuff above that needs it; you’ve got two years to work on it before there’s another chance to convert me.

iOS 5 Pro? 12 More Tips/Tricks You Probably Don’t Know

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iOS 5 just launched earlier this month, and based on the popularity of my article the other week, which focused on actual honest-to-goodness iOS 5 tips and tricks beyond the painfully obvious “you can send iMessages!” variety, I’ve created a new list with an additional 12 obscure tips/tricks. Again, a few of these are not iOS 5 exclusive, but most are. If you’re a brand new iPhone 4S user and didn’t know any of these, don’t fret… these are pro tips. My goal here is to have provided experienced iOS users with, at very least, one new thing they didn’t already know about iOS. Did I succeed, or are you some sort of iOS trivia prodigy? Let me know in the comments, and if you’ve got any other off-the-beaten-path iOS 5 tips/tricks, please share them!

12 More iOS 5 Tips/Tricks:
  1. Week Weather View In Notification Center — If you are using the Weather Widget in the iOS 5 notification center, you can swipe it to the right or left to reveal weather for the next 6 days. You’ll be able to see High/Low temps, as well as anticipated conditions (sunny, cloudy, etc). Apple decided not to make it clear that this widget swipes to the side for this additional view, so don’t blame yourself if you missed it, I did initially as well!
  2. Swipe From Camera to Photos — This is a new obscure hidden gesture added in iOS 5; Apple doesn’t make any effort to indicate that it is there (much like #12 on the other iOS 5 tips/tricks post). If you’re in the Camera app, you can swipe to the left to slide the camera away and go to your most recent photo. You can swipe through your photos, and if you swipe back to the front, you can swipe to the camera again to continue snapping photos. This is almost no different from tapping the thumbnail at the bottom left of the app to get to the most recent photo. Oddly enough, you can’t swipe from your most recent photo to the camera if you go through the thumbnail, instead of using the swipe gesture from the camera. Apple, sometimes you are bizarre.
  3. Launch Camera Directly from Lock Screen — Apple touted this during their iOS 5 announcement, but people were confused because Apple initially demonstrated the camera button button as being directly on the lockscreen. However, the button wasn’t directly on the lockscreen when iOS 5 actually reached consumers. Don’t worry though, they didn’t remove it. Just double-tap the home button while on the lockscreen and you’ll find the button to launch straight to the camera. If you never knew of double tapping on the lockscreen before, you’ll also find playback and volume controls which have existed prior to iOS 5. Nifty.
  4. Lock Camera Exposure and Focus — Prior to iOS 5, Apple relied on third-party apps to implement this sort of functionality, but they’ve finally decided to bake it right in. You can now lock the exposure and focus level within the native camera app by doing a long-press on the screen (as opposed to tapping). Hold it for a second or two and you’ll see the focus square do a little dance. Let go and you’ll find that the focus and exposure have been locked as indicated by the “AE/AF Lock” text at the bottom of the viewfinder. Tap again anywhere on the screen to unlock and return to automatic mode.
  5. Use the Volume-up Button to Take Photos — Another Camera app addition as of iOS 5. When using the native app, you can opt to press the volume-up button to snap a photo. There’s no on-screen indication that this should work, so if you didn’t already know about it, or hear it from someone else, you’d probably only discover it by accident. I feel bad for the developers of the Camera+ app: Apple doesn’t allow third-party applications to rebind hardware buttons, but the developers of Camera+ actually sneaked this same ability passed Apple in their Camera+ app. After reports of this Easter egg found their way to Apple, the app was pulled from the store, only to have Apple include the functionality in their own Camera app as of iOS 5! Never let anyone tell you that Apple isn’t a bully.
  6. Custom Keyboard Phrase Shortcuts — Find yourself regularly typing a specific phrase in SMS, Email, IM, or somewhere else on your iOS device? You can turn that long and commonly typed phrase into something much more manageable with a new iOS 5 feature. For instance, you can have the letters “omw” be replaced automatically with “on my way”. To do this, go into the Settings app > General > Keyboard, and look at the “Shortcuts” section. Tap “Add New Shortcut” to define the phrase and the shortcut text. Next time you type the shortcut text, the phrase will automatically be inserted. Now you can finally stop repeatedly typing out, “Honey, I lit the house on fire, again.”
  7. Custom Vibrations for Contacts — Custom ring tones and text tones have been available prior to iOS 5 but they don’t do you much good if you always have your phone on vibrate. With the latest update, you can assign custom vibrations to specific contacts so that you know who is contacting you even before you get your phone out of your pocket. Unfortunately this only works for calls and not other notifications (SMS, email, etc.). There are a few predefined vibration patterns, and Apple has even included an easy way to create your own vibes. You’ll find this option in the accessibility section, as I’m sure you can imagine how it would be useful for someone who is deaf and blind. To enable custom vibrations, go to the Settings app > General > Accessibility > and turn the “Custom Vibrations” switch to on. Now go to your Contacts app, choose a contact, hit the edit button at the top right, and tap the “vibration” option. Here you can select from pre-defined vibration patterns, or scroll to the bottom and press “Create New Vibration” within which you can tap and hold on the screen to create any pattern you want.
  8. Access the Built-in Dictionary From Any App — Apple originally included a handy “define” functionality in their iBooks app, which allowed you to highlight any word in a book and get a definition. In iOS 5, they have expanded this dictionary to be system-wide. In any app that allows you to highlight words, you can hold your finger on a word to highlight it, then tap the “Define” button that pops up from the resulting menu. Now you’ll finally understand why everyone keeps telling you that your epidermis is showing.
  9. Enable Battery Percentage — This is an old one, but still seems to go unchecked by newbies and experience iOS users alike (probably because it’s hidden in a weird place). Despite the high resolution screen on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPod Touch (4th gen), it seems like the default battery icon only has 3 states: Full, half, and OMG YOUR PHONE IS ABOUT TO DIE. Instead of relying on these imprecise icon stages, wouldn’t it be much nicer to have a handy % indicator? Go to Settings > General > Usage > and flip the “Battery Percentage” switch to on. Voila! No more freaking out when you actually have a solid 20% battery life left.
  10. See Which Apps are Hogging Your Storage — This is a new feature for iOS 5 and it’s particularly handy for when you are crammed for space and can’t decide what apps are worth deleting. Some apps are dubious because they themselves are only small downloads from the App Store, just a few megabytes or so, but then they may download or accumulate hundreds of megs worth of data during their operation. To find out which apps are taking up the most space, go to Settings > General > Usage and note the “Storage” list. You’ll see your applications tallied based on how large they are, and this figure includes accumulated data. Without including accumulated data, I would have thought that Photosynth was a relatively small app at 7MB; turns out it’s now taking up 147MB total! Now I’ll be much more informed about which apps I should delete when space is low and you will too.
  11. Enable Emoji Icon Keyboard for Free — Emoji icons are a standardized list of hundreds of emoticons which are popular on handsets in Japan, but that won’t stop them from being used elsewhere. I’m very confused as to why Apple allows paid apps in the App Store which claim to “install” Emoji icons when they are built into the phone for free. You can easily enable the emoji keyboard by going to Settings > General > Keyboard > International Keyboard > Add New Keyboard > find and tap “Emoji” in the list. Now when you go into any app that uses the keyboard, you can press the globe icon at the bottom left to switch between your standard keyboard and the emoji keyboard, which has all of the icons sorted neatly into categories. If you get tired of the emoji keyboard, remove it by following the same steps, except use the “Edit” button at the top right of the Keyboard menu.
  12. Invert the Screen Colors as a Prank (or because it looks awesome) — With the proliferation of iOS devices, iOS pranking has become a reality among friends. I usually like to take a screenshot of the homescreen and set it as their background, but this particular tip that I’m about to share with you seems perfect for Halloween. This is another accessibility option, and I’m presuming that it helps provide better contrast to those who have exceedingly poor eyesight. It also looks rather cool and will frighten your friends who may think their device is on its way out the door. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > flip the “White on Black” switch. Enjoy.

How Apple’s Siri Just Stole Voice Control From Android

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Image courtesy Apple Inc.No doubt you’ve already heard of Siri, the voice control software that Apple is launching with the iPhone 4S. If you are late to the part, recap here.

Apple is billing Siri not as “voice-control” but as a personal assistant that will perform tasks for you. The press is already lauding its impressive functionality. But how has Apple managed to make such a big splash over a feature that Android has had for some time now?

To start, marketing has a lot to do with it. While Android bills voice-control (VC)l as just that — a way to control your phone with your voice — Apple promotes Siri as an entity that will help you get things done. Apple has given their iOS voice control a person’s name. Simply by calling it “Siri” (notice how Apple — and thus the press — always spell it as though it’s a proper noun), Apple has immediately made it more personal and more human — you’ll see the word ‘assistant’ thrown around a lot in stories about Siri (not excluding this one). Even if the abilities of Siri and Android’s VC were identical, Siri would become the colloquialism for voice-control on a phone, the same way that mainstreamers, who don’t know the difference, call any digital audio player an iPod.

That’s if the abilities of Siri and Android’s VC were the same. At a base level, there’s no fundamental difference between Siri and Android VC, both convert sound into meaning and perform some function based on what you’ve said. But Siri feels more human because of the breadth of its understanding. [See there I go, talking about Siri as if it were an entity and not a thing. Touché, Apple]. Siri will see high usage because the user doesn’t need to look through a list of things they are allowed to say, or pay attention to the order that they need to be said. Apple has ensured that Siri can understand such a range of input that there’s no need to think first about what you are asking it. Again, this makes Siri far more human than Android VC; you speak to Siri like a person, with no need to pause to formulate your question in a special computer-readable way. This means that there is a highly likelyhood that anyone who hasn’t used Siri before could ask it a question and get a good response, making it inherently more intuitive than Android VC. That’s the goal anyway.

Once Apple frees Siri from it’s iPhone 4S jail (either on to older, or newer devices), expect it to become a household name, and expect lots of existing voice-control software to be ‘reborn’ with human names.

Apple iPhone 5 / iPhone 4S Event Coverage

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iPhone 4S available starting October 14th on Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T in:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan
(pre-orders begin on the 7th)
iPhone 4S Pricing (on-contract):
  • $199 – 16GB
  • $299 – 32GB
  • $399 – 64GB
If you don’t need the bleeding edge, Apple is lowering the price of the 16GB iPhone 4 to $99 on-contract and the 3GS will be free in the same manner.
On the 28th, it’ll hit 22 additional countries, and be in 70 countries by the end of the year on over 100 carriers. Apple says this is their fastest iPhone rollout ever.
iPhone 4S specs:
  • dual-core A5 CPU, providing up to 2x CPU performance and up to 7x graphics performance (over iPhone 4)
  • iOS 5 with Siri voice assistant
  • Same outer design as iPhone 4 but with redesigned antenna
  • 8MP camera capable of 1080p recording. No mention of front camera so we’re assuming it’ll be the same 0.3MP front camera
  • World phone – CDMA and GSM in one phone
  • Everything else is pretty much the same as the iPhone 4 except there is now a 64GB option for the iPhone 4S
Thanks for sticking around. Credit must be given where it is due. Props to the excellent live coverage from Slashgear, Enagdget, and ThisIsMyNext.
——————
17: Event is done. No mention of the iPhone 5 or Steve Jobs, and no explanation of that missed call notification from the event invitation… something fishy is going on here.

16: Apple store still down. Apple.com not updated to show anything new yet. Pricing for the iPhone 4S is the usual but they’re adding a 64GB option finally: $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB), and $399 (64GB), all on contract of course. Availability for the iPhone 4S is October 14th. Pre-orders start on the 7th. Still nothing about Sprint or an iPhone 5. I’ll be completely blown away if the BRG story is true. For those due for an upgrade, Apple is dropping the iPhone 3GS to free and the iPhone 4 to $99, pretty sweet. Oh hey they just said the iPhone 4S will be on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.

15: Still showing more Siri stuff. Reminders can be set through voice which will integrate with the Reminders app that’s coming with iOS5 (something I used to use the old Siri app for frequently). If Siri doesn’t know what you’re talking about, it’ll use Wolfram Alpha to try to give you some info. Examples given are currency exchange rates, definitions, and “how many days until X”. Now they’re showing dictation through Siri. Siri learns your voice according to Apple. Apple is calling Siri beta at launch. Dictation processing happens remotely on a server, which means it might have to fall back to less precise methods when you don’t have a connection, or maybe it won’t work at all.

14: Apple demoing the assistant software which is using the original name (before Apple purchased the company) “Siri”. Some of the queries you’ll be able to ask it: What’s the weather like today? What time is it in Paris? Set an alarm for 6am. Stocking checking, restaruant finding, directions, lots of functionality. The key here is that the user doesn’t need to know what they can or cannot ask. Just ask it something reasonable and it can probably do it. A cool demo of a text coming it: Siri reads it, user asks if they have any appointments at 12pm on Friday, Siri responds that there is nothing on the calendar, then the user asks to reply to the text, all by voice and the button on the Bluetooth headset. Pretty cool… will this only be available with the iPhone 4S?

13: Hoping we have the option to choose between 720p and 1080p video capture, as the larger size is sometimes not necessary for both storage and editing reasons. Apple isn’t always big on choices though…. Apple now talking about their new Assistant software which has been detailed pretty heavily in the media already. This is Apple’s version of voice control, which will use natural language to do a lot of stuff. Don’t know about you folks, but I’ve always found voice-control to be underused because I don’t like looking like an idiot in public. Great for the car and when you’re alone, but otherwise it’s just weird. If anyone can make is socially acceptable to talk to your phone without a real person on the other end, it’s Apple.

12: The iPhone 4S is a world phone, featuring both CDMA and GSM technology in one model. International travelers rejoice. New 8MP camera, backside illumination (for better low-light performance). Apple says the iPhone 4S camera can collect 73% more light than the iPhone 4 which should mean even better photos. There’s also a hybrid IR filter, but I’m not sure exactly what that does! The 4S takes pictures way faster than other smartphones on the market. 1.1 seconds to first photo for the iPhone 4S compared to 3.7 seconds for the Droid Bionic, then 0.5 seconds to a second picture, compared to 1.6 seconds for the Bionic. Ouch. 1080p video recording for the iPhone 4S along with video image stabilization (probably software-based).

11: [No mention of Steve Jobs yet. I can't imagine that won't say something about him.] Infinity Blade 2 is launching 12/1/11. Apple manages to increase processing power and also raise battery life, they won’t launch a phone without increasing these it seems, wish other companies would follow that lead. Wow finally, an antenna redesign; but I thought you said it wasn’t broken, Apple? iPhone 4S has HSDPA for up to 14.4 Mbps download. Upload is still at 5.8 Mbps (that’s IF your carrier supports those speeds.) Apple says their technology is just as fast as the HSPA+”4G” phones that some carriers have been pushing. The real question is whether or not the carrier will support such speeds through HSDPA…

10: iPhone 4S is official. Same design outside, new guts inside. Apple’s dual-core A5 CPU (same as the iPad), up to 2x faster than the current CPU in iPhone 4 (A4). Dual core graphics as well which Apple says can provide up to 7x increase in performance. President of Epic Games (they make the Unreal Engine, which powers Infinity Blade, and others) is on stage to talk about the iPhone 4S and gaming. They just announced Infinity Blade 2. The first one was pretty good, but the on-rails aspect killed the experience. Next one appears to be set in an Asian location.

9: Finally looks like they’re moving onto the iPhone. Nothing new before recapping the success of the iPhone 4. They’re calling it the “#1 portable game player”. I call BS on that one. Now recapping iMessage which will work across iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. There’s a white version of the iPod Touch coming. Cool?

8: Moving back to the iPod. I could have sworn that the invitation said “Let’s talk iPhone”. Oh hey look up there at the top of the post, it most definitely does. I’m starting to think that the missed call notification is telling us that Apple didn’t make it’s deadline and won’t have any iPhone to show off today! Showing 16 new virtual clock-faces for anyone using the iPod Nano as a watch.

7: New app from Apple called Find my Friends. It’s like Google’s Latitude, except from Apple. Time location sharing so you are only sharing where you are at certain times during the day. Oh lord, now they’re recapping iTunes match. I hope the folks there at the conference know what they’ve signed up for. All of this seems to be building to something underwhelming… we’ll have to wait and see.

6: They are going over big iOS 5 features, nothing new so far. This feels like a lot of filler information…. Oh here’s something new, iOS5 is coming on October 12th. Why not today?! iCloud info coming right up. More recap… maybe Apple thinks that they waited so long for their usual iPhone announcement that we forgot what they said at WWDC? Engadget says jokingly “Lots of wonderful things to be found in these clouds.” Agreed.

5: Moving onto iOS. They’ve got a chart up for mobile software market-share and Android is colored green, isn’t that cute! iOS is 43% while Android is 33%, they aren’t far behind and Apple isn’t trying to cover that up. Rim is the next shown on the chart at 17% and everyone else is 7%. Wait a minute, Fusion Garage’s Grid OS isn’t on here, there must be a mistake! Apple says there are 500,000 apps in the app store now (last we heard was some 300,000); 140,000 of those are iPad specific. Honeycomb-specific apps are now somewhere in the thousands still, I think.

4: Now onto iPhone stats. 125% growth year-over-year for the iPhone, compared to the rest of the market which grew 74% (according to Apple). #1 in satisfaction followed by HTC, Motorola, LG, etc. (yada yada). Moving on to the iPad. I want to tell Apple we (tech folk) don’t need a recap, but I suppose this is all for investors, analysts, and the like.

3: Still chatting about growth. Anyone with Apple stock will be please, as usual. Some of these things remind me of the book “How to Lie with Statistics”. Surprising to see Apple talking so much about the iPod; this is an iPhone event after all… right, Apple?

2: Talking about retail stores and just pointed out that Apple’s store in Shanghai saw 100,000 people visit in the opening weekend… a recent LA store took a month to reach that many people. Also noting that the Hong Kong store sold more Macs on opening day than in any other Apple store in the world. Clearly there is going to be some big Apple+Asia news coming up.

1: Apple store is down. Par for the course. iCloud.com is still up and offering login for developers. Event is beginning with a lot of talk about how Apple has grown and released a number of bar-setting products. Classic Apple event format so far!

Today is the big day for Apple to show the world its latest iPhone. We’ll be updating this post with the major developments as Apple’s event proceeds. Rather than doing a minute by minute live-blog, we’ll be watching the live-blogs and updating in numbered chunks. Be sure to refresh every now and then.

Rumors are swirling about the possibility of an iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5, or perhaps both. There’s also been pretty wild stories about Sprint getting a short-term WiMax exclusive on the iPhone 5, leaving AT&T and Verizon out of the loop until a few months later. I don’t think Apple would strike such a deal and frustrate loyal customers on the other carriers, but BGR says they got the info from a rock solid contact, so we’ll have to wait and see.

My own predictions for which (if any) 4G networks the iPhone 5 will feature are here, though I didn’t include Sprint as not much had been heard at that point about the carrier getting the iPhone.

I for one am hoping that iOS 5 launches today for those devices that will support it. Feels long overdue. Aside from software and phones, there is going to be a lot of reading between the lines to be done. Steve Jobs’ recent resignation from the CEO position is well known by investors and tech folk alike. This event will be as much about the iPhone as it is about showing that Tim Cook is a more than qualified and inspired CEO.

Oh and don’t forget, if you are going to trade-up for the next iPhone, you can sell your old device pretty darn easily through Gazelle. If you go start the process now, you can lock in the current trade-in price (with no commitment) before it drops following the announcement.

Apple iPhone 5 Event Confirmed for October 4th

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Some of the big name tech media have just received invitations from Apple for an iPhone press event to be held on October 4th, at which Apple’s iPhone 5 is expected to be announced. The invitation image shows the brilliance of Apple marketing. Yes, this is marketing. They market extremely well to the press and the press markets to their customers for them; that’s why Apple spends way less in advertising than many other tech companies, and has stock that trades far higher.

A lot of people are betting that Apple will bring the screen size of the iPhone 5 up to at least 4″ or even as large as 4.3″. My money is on the phone keeping a 3.5″ display. If they do change it, I can only hope that they don’t go further than 4″. Other proposed features include NFC and perhaps 4G. The latest version of Apple’s mobile OS, iOS 5, is expected to be launched on the iPhone 5, and we may see it released to existing devices during or shortly after the October 4th event.

A little while ago I speculated that we’d see Apple announce an iPhone 5 for AT&T with HSPA+ and a variant for Verizon with 4G LTE. Interestingly, Sprint is now expected to be joining the aformentioned US carriers in iPhone availability, but I’m doubting we’ll see a WiMax iPhone 5 (Sprint’s current 4G technology, which it is said to soon be replacing with LTE), which leads me to wonder whether or not Sprint will get the iPhone 5 at all. Perhaps that iPhone 4S that’s been rumored over the last few months is actually the CDMA-based iPhone 4 that Verizon currently offers, but with some tweaks and compatibility with Sprint’s 3G network?

The invitation image is quite neat after all. For non-iOS users out there, all of these icons are from core iOS apps, and each of them means something. The calendar icon says that the event is on the 4th, the map icon says that the event will be at Apple’s ‘Infinite Loop’ HQ in Cupertino, and the clock icon says that it will be held at 10AM PST.

But what of the phone icon with a missed call? I think Apple certainly wants people to speculate about this. Typically that little 1 at the top right of the phone icon means that you’ve got a missed call or a voicemail that needs to be listened to. Maybe it means Apple will only be announcing 1 phone instead of an iPhone 4S and an iPhone 5 as rumored? Maybe Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, will come on stage and at some point listen to a ‘voicemail’ on the iPhone 5 left by Steve Jobs. At any rate, it will likely tie into the event.

What do you think it means?

Apple Won’t Fix My iPhone, But Jailbreaking Will

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cydiaHere’s one more reason I’d be using Android if I couldn’t jailbreak my iPhone:

The home button on my iPhone 4 has crapped out. Not entirely, but enough so that sometimes it doesn’t recognize when I press the button. For you non-iPhone users, the home button is the one you use every time you want to get back to the home screen (where all your apps are located), which means you use this button a lot.

Double pressing the button is also used to get to the task-switcher which lets you jump between apps, and holding it down activates voice control. The button has about a 50/50 chance of working, which means getting the double-press to work happens about 25% of the time.

Because the button is used so much, having it inconsistently work makes using the phone extremely frustrating!

So what to do? I call up Apple support. They generally have really good support with one major caveat, you better have a warranty!

Naturally, my phone is 20 days out of warranty (Murphy’s Law tells us that things won’t start breaking until your warranty period is over). The support person asks someone if they can give me an exception since I’m only 20 days out of warranty, but I’m turned away. The only option is to have them repair the phone out of warranty, which costs the same amount as buying a new iPhone, which I’m not interested in doing for a phone that’s still mostly functional.

So Apple won’t fix my phone. Fortunately, as a jailbreaker, I’ve got access to tools that regular iPhone users do not.

Jailbreaking is the de-facto term for describing the process of hacking your iPhone to release it from the restrictions that Apple imposes on it. Once jailbroken, you’ve got access to Cydia, which is essentially the jailbreak version of the App Store. Through Cydia, you can install apps and tools that Apple won’t allow in the app store because they do things that Apple doesn’t want official apps to be able to do.

Thanks to the awesome (and free) Activator app which is installed through Cydia, I can reprogram any of the phone’s buttons (or even software gestures) to do pretty much anything I’d like, including, simulating a press of the home button.

So as of now I’ve used Activator to reprogram my volume-up button so that a short hold simulates a press of the home button (a single tap still works as you’d expect).

Viola! Problem pretty much fixed (better than Apple could do for me out of warranty, anyway). While at it, I’ve also taken the liberty of making a short hold of the volume-down button compose a new text message in a pop-up (through another jailbreak app called iReal SMS), and I’ve set a short hold of the lock button to take me directly to the settings app for quick access to WiFi connection management and more.

The people responsible for jailbreaking, and developing the apps that are accessed through it, are providing extremely useful tools to those who want to take advantage of them.

This is why it’s upsetting that Apple tries to block jailbreaking at every update.

Jailbreaking has saved me money, provided support where Apple could not, and provides a bunch of functionality that I use daily that Apple’s iOS doesn’t support by default.

Not only this, but jailbreaking has been the birth place of many great improvements to iOS that Apple has stolen, or at least taken ideas from. It seems that Apple should be fostering the jailbreak community, not hindering it.

For $15 You Can Always Have a Charge/Sync Cable for Your Smartphone with You Thanks to This Excellent Accessory

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scosche 2When it comes to technology gifts, I generally tell people not to get them for me. Not that I don’t appreciate the thought, but having a non-techie try to find a good tech gift for a tech-geek is like an atheist shopping for the Pope.

Somehow, this last holiday season, my mother actually managed to get me an awesome tech related gift which I’ve been making great use of. Check it out:

scoscheThis is the Scosche FlipSNYC USB iPhone adapter (fear not, they make Micro/Mini USB version as well!) which is incredibly compact, enough so that you can easily throw it on your keychain. I was impressed by the smart design which manages to keep it so compact, even in lieu of Apple’s relatively massive connector. This isn’t one of those “you can totally put it on your keychain!” ordeals that you might find see on a TV infomercial, where in reality the thing is so bulky that you’d never actually want to put it on your keys — it’s actually small enough to go on your keychain and not attract any unwanted attention.

I’ve always got my keys with me, so even if I run out of the house without thinking I might need to charge or sync my phone, I don’t have to worry about it; if the time comes, out come my keys and this useful little bit of kit.

I’ve been using mine regularly for about 8 months and it shows no sign of breakage or wear.

Scosche sells these things for $15, and even though mine was a gift, I’ve easily justified the price with the amount of use I’ve gotten from it. It’s so handy to be able to plug into any USB port to get your charge on in a pinch and I’d definitely recommend one to any serious smartphone user.

scosche 3Fortunately, Scoche makes the aforementioned iPhone/iPod Touch version, and they’ve also got one for the same price that has both Micro and Mini USB plugs on it, which means that pretty much the entire modern smartphone world is covered.

The iPhone/iPod Touch version is also sold in red or white, just in case you’re too stylish for plain old black.

Scosche is also selling a second version of these called the FlipSYNC II, but they cost $5 more and the only differences seem to be a USB plug with full metal casing (rather than a ‘half’ plug) and the key loop is slightly larger. You can find those here (iPhone version) and here (Micro/Mini USB version), if you’d like to see for yourself.

When Will Apple Jump on the 4G Bandwagon?

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4gWe’re not into Apple rumors here at Carrypad, but what we are into is informed speculation. Join us for some healthy analysis about when and how Apple will make the move to 4G.

Based on Apple’s Q3 sales figures that were just released today, it’s clear that Apple is doing extremely well, even without a single 4G product in its stables.

This is interesting because 4G is one of the only areas where the iPhone and iPad are behind, rather than being ahead of, or at least on-par with, the competition.

For all intents and purposes, let’s consider HSPA+, LTE, and WiMax all ‘4G’ networks, as they’re all capable of delivering speeds that are well beyond earlier 3G connections.

The Competition

Verizon has now launched three 4G (LTE) smartphones, and is poised to launch at least one more (the Droid Bionic) toward the end of this summer. They also have the 4G enabled Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, as well as the Motorola Xoom which is supposedly going to be the recipient of a 4G hardware upgrade at some point. Additionally, they’ve got a 4G MiFi wireless hotspot and 4G USB modem. [See this article for a roadmap of Verizon’s upcoming 4G smartphones and devices].

AT&T has three 4G (HSPA+) smartphones currently launched, along with a 4G USB modem.

Sprint has fourteen 4G (WiMax) devices available. They’ve got smartphones, tablets, laptops, mobile hotspots, and USB modems. Though WiMax technically has the capability to support 4G speeds, the research I’ve done has indicated that Sprint’s WiMax is sorely lacking in speed, but I’m still putting it on the list because the tech that supports high speeds is already in place in these devices.

T-Mobile has claims to have twelve 4G (HSPA+) devices. They have 7 smartphones, 2 tablets, 2 USB modems, and a mobile hotspot.

What Form Will Apple 4G Come In?

Because Apple currently makes iPhone 4 and iPad 2 models for both AT&T Verizon, it holds that we’ll continue to see those two carriers supported for upcoming tablets and smartphones from Apple.

For the short term, AT&T is relying on HSPA+ to provide 4G speeds to its line of HSPA+ equipped phones; the company often sticks ‘4G’ to the end of the phone’s name to indicate the additional speed (even if some don’t consider HSPA+ to be ‘4G’ from a technical standpoint). In the long term, AT&T is planning on moving in the LTE direction starting this year.

Verizon jumped directly to 4G in the form of LTE, and they seem to have the best 4G speeds so far.

With the two currently supported carriers either already using LTE or eventually moving to LTE, my best guess is that Apple’s first 4G devices will be LTE compatible rather than WiMax or HSPA+, though as you’ll see below, we might end up with a combination of these.

Why Doesn’t Apple Already Have 4G When Others Do?

The technology for Apple to launch their devices with 4G exists, but I believe two factors have held Apple back so far.

Coverage
It doesn’t make sense for Apple to fork over additional money for 4G chipsets if the coverage isn’t already there. If Apple launched a 4G (LTE) iPhone 4 when it announced the Verizon iPhone back in January, it wouldn’t have had a big demographic to sell to because a relatively small number of areas where covered at the time. Passing on the price of 4G hardware to all customers, when only a small portion are actually in 4G covered areas, wouldn’t be good for Apple’s bottom line. It made more sense for them to keep the price attractive until 4G LTE sees widespread coverage.

Battery Life
Battery life on existing 4G LTE devices is still much shorter than 3G devices. I’ve been using the HTC Thunderbolt and LG Revolution and both 4G equipped devices from Verizon have had a hard time providing me with usable all day battery life. Battery life is a major concern for Apple, and I know that they aren’t willing to release a device without all day battery life under typical use.

With every release of the iPhone, Apple has increased performance and battery life. Releasing a 4G iPhone before the technology can come down to a reasonable power consumption level wouldn’t be acceptable for Apple.

When Will it Happen?

The real question is not if, but when. Apple has been wildly successful with the iPhone and iPad, even though the market is already brimming with 4G devices, but that won’t last forever.

Ideally, Apple would launch a 4G iPhone and 4G iPad when the two above factors, coverage and battery life, align. Unfortunately, Apple is now being pressured by all of the other 4G devices on the market.

Verizon’s 4G LTE forecast indicates that they hope to have their entire 3G network area covered with 4G LTE coverage by 2013.

AT&T is launching its first 4G LTE coverage areas this year, but the rollout is going to take time, and they’ll most likely be lagging behind Verizon in 4G LTE coverage in 2013.

The iPhone 5 is expected to be released in 2011, and the iPad 3 likely won’t come until 2012. In terms of coverage, the time is not ideal for Apple to launch a 4G iPhone 5 or 4G iPad 3.

I think that Apple would rather wait for two more product generations before releasing 4G devices (so that power consumption can come down and coverage can increase), which would mean 4G LTE compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPad 4, but I doubt that they can wait that long.

An interim HSPA+ iPhone 5 might be more practical for Apple, but it would leave Verizon users in the rain as Verizon has no HSPA+ infrastructure.

A compromise could be for Apple to release a 4G (LTE) iPhone 5 on Verizon and a 4G (HSPA+) iPhone 5 on AT&T. I would expect that release in 2011, but the iPad 3 will likely not be released until 2012. At that time, LTE network coverage should be more favorable for AT&T, and Apple may launch a 4G (LTE) iPad 3 for both networks, then eventually bring LTE to their AT&T iPhone offering with the release of the iPhone 6 in 2012. This is a bit confusing in text, so I’ve put together a timeline (apologies if the large timeline runs off the screen on mobile browsers!):

apple 4g timeline

Some might see the release of a separate HSPA+ and LTE iPhone 5 and iPad 3 as unlikely, but it should be considered as Apple currently has two separate versions of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, one for AT&T’s HSPA 3G network, and one for Verizon’s EVDO 3G network.

Though the LTE coverage is not quite optimal for the upcoming iPhone 5, Apple can’t ignore 4G as it’s starting to be expected from the latest phones (and every major US carrier is pushing the buzz word like their life depends on it). I can’t see Apple releasing the iPhone 5 without 4G, whether that be HSPA+ or LTE.

I would certainly reconsider purchasing the next iPhone if they release it without some form of 4G. How about our readers – does 4G availability influence your smartphone purchasing decisions?

The iPhone Has Finally Come to Verizon, with a Catch. Why I’m Happy About the iPhone on Verizon as an AT&T Customer

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iphone verizon 4So today is the big day for people who have been predicting that Apple would launch a Verizon iPhone at every single Apple event since the original iPhone announcement in 2007. Nice work guys, your “predictions” came true 4 years later. For those who didn’t follow any of the live blogs, the Verizon iPhone 4 will be, for the most part, aesthetically identical to the AT&T version, and is priced the same. And while it’s still just the iPhone 4, there’s actually some advantages over the AT&T version. Engadget is pointing out that the Verizon iPhone has some slightly changed notches on the steel antenna band, which points to an antenna redesign. I think this is likely because Apple surely doesn’t want a repeat of “antenna-gate”. Also, the Verizon iPhone 4 is going to feature Verizon’s mobile-hotspot which will let you share the device’s 3G CDMA connection to up to 5 other devices over WiFi (this feature comes with a costly monthly fee, of course). If you’re interested in the iPhone 4, you can order it from Verizon on February 10th, or if you’re a “qualified” Verizon customer, you’ll be able to pre-order it on the 3rd of February.

The Catch

One downside to the iPhone 4 on Verizon is actually one of the reasons that compelled Apple to go with AT&T in the first place. That is: Verizon’s CDMA technology doesn’t allow for simultaneous data and voice. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been on a call with someone on my iPhone 4 and also been referring to emails/attachments/websites/apps that were pertinent to the conversation. With Verizon’s iPhone, you’ll end up with a lot of “Hey did you get that super important attachment?”, “Uh…. let me call you right back”. Still, for those already on Verizon and who prefer it’s service to AT&T, a slightly compromised iPhone is better than no iPhone at all.

Why I’m Glad the iPhone Has Come to Verizon as an AT&T Customer

It’s about damn time that AT&T had some competition! The city in which I live must have the worst iPhone service ever. I’m lucky if I break 10kbps up and 5kbps down in some places. Thank the lord that there’s usually WiFi. With the iPhone now in Verizon’s hands, there will finally be competition for the best iPhone service, and AT&T is going to be forced to step up their game if they don’t want new cellular customers going straight to Verizon for the iPhone. After being recently called out by consumer reports as the worst carrier in the US, AT&T won’t be able to hide behind it’s claims of “Nation’s fastest 3G network” for long. I’d much rather have Verizon’s 3G reliability than AT&T’s 3G, which is fast in well covered rural areas, but horrendously slow in densely populated places. There’s finally someone to give AT&T the kick in the pants that it’s needed for several years.

There’s also FaceTime. More people with iPhone 4’s means more people with FaceTime, the simple to use — but so far under-deployed –  video calling service that’s built right into the iPhone 4 and latest generation iPod Touch. With more people having access to the service, it will become more widespread, which is always good for users. Still, it won’t be until the carriers feel that their networks are fast enough to remove the WiFi ball and chain from FaceTime that we really see it take off. And hey, what do you know, maybe this would be a good opening move for Verizon against AT&T… I love competition!

viphone search graphAnd furthermore, I’m glad that the iPhone 4 has come to Verizon because I don’t have to listen to the same Apple rumor over and over! Four years was long enough. Now that the iPhone is on Verizon and the iPad has been released, the Apple rumor mill will have to devote it’s attention to something else. I just hope I’m not hearing about touchscreen iMacs for the next four years….

iPhone 4 Auto-HRD Comparison and Tips for Use

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final shotMy apologies for not getting to this post sooner. Apple released a very cool HDR mode for the iPhone 4 with the iOS 4.1 update. As tempting as it was, HDR wasn’t enough to get me to jump on the upgrade right away and I instead decided to wait for 4.1 to be jailbroken. But now that iOS 4.1 has been freed of Apple’s restrictions and I’ve had some time to play with the iPhone 4’s HDR mode, I’d like to share with you some comparison photos and tips on get the most out of the feature.

First up, let’s talk about what HDR does and how it works on the iPhone.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR photos fuse together shots of multiple exposures to get the most exposure detail out of a given scene. The idea is that in one shot, a static exposure could lead to a particular area of the photo being under-exposed (too dark), or over-exposed (too bright). By capturing multiple exposures and selectively combining them into a final photo, you can achieve a photo that is more realistic to what is being seen by the human eye as each part of the photo is exposed properly.

How does it work on the iPhone? I don’t have access to it’s inner workings, but from my testing, I have happily concluded that this is actual HDR, not simulated. I say “actual” in the sense that the iPhone 4 is fusing multiple photographs into one, rather than taking a baseline shot and doing some post-effects to simulate HDR. The selection of the various exposures of each photo and the fusing/alignment of the photos together is all handled automatically; the algorithms that power this process are very good. Unless you are trying to capture moving subjects, you’ll probably never find a poorly fused or aligned photo.

Snapping a photo with the HDR mode takes barely longer than taking a regular photo which is very impressive. The aligning/fusing process takes just a few seconds after the shots are captured. There is a very high rate of return when it comes to quality shots because of how quickly each of the individual photos are captured. With a slower capture process, the HDR mode would be subject to any slight movements during the duration of the capture process. If Apple wasn’t able to make HDR photo capture this quick and have such a high return of properly aligned/fused photos, they wouldn’t have implemented the feature.

So what does it actually accomplish? Let’s take a look:

1010 (2)

6 6 (2)

1 1 (2)

44 (2)

9 (2)9

It’s important for me to note that most of the above examples are some of the more drastic ones that I’ve seen. You should be able to see how the improperly exposed areas are removed and replaced with properly exposed regions from other shots. The overall effect tends to be more natural looking photos with more accurate lighting and more detail revealed compared to under/over-exposed photos.

Apple isn’t usually one for options, but you can actually toggle to keep the original photo and the HDR shot in your photo roll if you’d like (you’ll find this options in the Settings app). This is handy because you can compare the two afterword and decided which you like best. I tend to leave HDR mode on all the time. The process is that quick and simple that it’s worth it to keep it turned on for every shot.

Knowing how to utilize HDR on the iPhone 4 can help you capture the most properly exposed photos. Here’s how I do it:

With HDR mode enabled, I use tap-to-focus (which focuses and adjusts exposure) to select the darkest park of the scene. This blows out anything that’s lighter than the darkest part, but the HDR mode seems to compensate better by decreasing exposure on the blown out portions of the scene (as opposed to increasing exposure on the darker/under-exposed parts). I used this technique on the first photo, which combined very dark and very light areas, in order to dramatically demonstrate HDR capabilities.

By recognizing this and using it to our advantage, it’s possible to take shots that capture photos that are exposed properly across all parts of the scene, and recreate a scene with much more detail and depth than is possible with a single photo. I hope to see similar implementations on upcoming competitor devices, but I’d be surprised if they were this good.

Never Judge a Camera By Its Megapixels

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As nearly every smartphone is expected to have a camera these days, there is an important lesson that people must heed. Cameras are more complex than a simple megapixel rating. It’s a common belief that when it comes to megapixels, bigger is better. But I’m here to tell you that you need to look deeper if you are basing your smartphone decision on which has the best camera. Megapixels have their use. A pixel dense picture is great if you want to crop it down and still retain good quality, but beyond that there is more to be considered.

Case-in-point, the Droid 2 [portal page] and the iPhone 4 [portal page]. Both phones have 5MP sensors. This means that they capture 5 million pixels in a given image. Both phones might capture the same number of pixels, but the quality and size of the sensor dictates how accurately each pixel is sampled and how much light it can capture. Another important factor is focus. Without a good focus algorithm (and no ability to manually focus), you’ll end up with a blurry shot no matter how many megapixels your camera can capture.

To demonstrate this, have a quick look at the two photos below. One is taken with the iPhone 4 and the other with the Droid 2. Both were taken under the same lighting conditions and were focused as accurately as possible (click for full size):

2010-10-12_12-37-44_59

photo (1)

You may have to click for the full-sized images to see, but the image taken with the Droid 2 is blurry and has inaccurate colors.

This is a result of the Droid 2’s camera not being able to capture as much light as the iPhone 4, as well as the inability to focus as accurately. This is all despite the fact that both phones have the same megapixel rating.

But what can you do if you don’t have the phones to try before you buy? A bit of research may go a long way if a camera is important to you. I’d recommend checking Flickr’s camera page. Find your desired smartphone and then browse the photos to get an idea of the photos that the phone is capable of taking. And of course we’ll always do our best to give you camera comparisons and tips right here at Carrypad.

Interesting Flickr Data Shows iPhone Upgrade Trends

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As Chippy pointed at his personal blog, it’s possible to search Flickr for pictures taken by particular cameras. By analyzing EXIF data, flickr is able to keep detailed data for all the cameras that are used for snapping photos that end up on the site. Flickr has a neat page that has stats for all of their photos and the cameras that they were taken with.

Looking at the stats for iPhones shows some interesting trends:

flickr iphone graph *For clarity’s sake, I’ll refer to the iPhone 3GS as the iPhone 3G[S] so that it won’t be confused with the plural of the iPhone 3G (iPhone 3Gs)

This isn’t the most detailed graph, but I think we can make some educated guesses about what’s going on here.

You can see that the iPhone 3G is the most used camera out of these three, and in fact, you may find it interesting to note that it’s the most popular of all cameras used on flickr (see: http://www.flickr.com/cameras/, this is probably due to a combination of the iPhone 3G’s popularity and the fact that there is a Flickr app in the app store. Traditional cameras naturally can’t upload without going through a computer).

You might also wonder why the iPhone 3G appears to be so much more popular than the more recently released iPhone 3G[S]. I think this has a lot to do with the AT&T contract. Lots of people went out to buy the iPhone 3G because it was much more affordable than the original iPhone and had improved features. Many of these people signed up for new, or re-upped, a two-year contract. When the iPhone 3G[S] was released about a year later, most people weren’t eligible for upgrade pricing.

Now you’ll see the correlation between the dip at the end of the iPhone 3G line and the peak at the end of the iPhone 4 line. iPhone 3G users who purchased the iPhone 3G when it was released are now eligible for upgrade pricing on the iPhone 4. And if we’re looking at this correctly, it looks like people are upgrading from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4 at a very regular rate. The iPhone 4 line also shows us something about the availability of the device. You’ll notice that there is only a slight upward trend as the iPhone 4 line lifts off the x-axis, then it suddenly starts to jump upward. This could represent the initial release of pre-order devices, then the availability of new stock.

So what about the iPhone 3G[S]? What’s with that lazy curve it’s got going on? It’s hard to say exactly as the graph doesn’t have a proper timeline, but the dropping end of the line may be cause by Gizmodo’s early iPhone 4 reveal. They got their hands on the iPhone 4 hardware far before the phone was released, and the ensuing drama was covered by major news outlets across the US and even further. People knew in advance that the iPhone 4 was coming and this likely hurt the sales of the iPhone 3G[S].

I’ll be interested to continue watching these charts. If the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G lines ever cross, I think it’ll be pretty conclusive that lots of people are upgrading.

Agree with me? Have a better analysis? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

Detailed iPhone 4 vs. Droid X Camera Comparison

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2010-08-09_19-29-18_983 IMG_1899

While I dropped some test images and videos comparing the iPhone 4 and Droid X myself, I wanted to highlight and article over at tnkgrl Mobile which has more comparison info and a detailed write-up of the strengths and weaknesses in the cameras of each phone. If you are looking for a phone with a good camera, you are definitely looking in the right direction with the Droid X and iPhone 4, but between those two, finding which one fits you might just depend on which type of user you are.

iPhone 4 Review

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I have to preface this review with an apology. It’s taken me a long time to get this review up on the site and I’m sorry for that. You knew not to expect a day-one review from us because that’s just not how we roll; we like to get a serious feel for the items we’re testing before passing judgment. I was waiting for apps to be updated with iOS 4 features, and for Apple to tell their side of the antenna story before writing the review (not to mention getting distracted with the Droid X). With that said, I hope you’ll still join me for our iPhone 4 review.

Hardware

2010-08-09_19-30-48_22 The iPhone 4 introduces an all new design. Here’s a quick spec rundown, and as always, you can get detailed information from our iPhone 4 Portal page.

  • CPU: Apple’s A4 chip (1GHz)
  • RAM: 512MB
  • GPU: PowerVR SGX 535
  • Screen: 3.5” IPS display @ 960×640 (326 ppi)
  • Rear camera: 5 MP with single-LED flash (HD video record capable)
  • Front camera: 0.3 MP (video up to 640×480)

Design

2010-08-09_19-33-51_256 You’d have to really despise Apple to say that they have no design talent. The iPhone 4 once again makes its predecessor feel like a toy, despite the fact that it once felt like a quality built device. The iPhone 4 is 24% thinner than the iPhone 3GS, making it the thinnest smartphone in the world (according to Apple), though despite it’s decreased thinness, it doesn’t feel thinner than the iPhone 3GS because of its square back. The iPhone 3G and 3GS had rounded backs which made them feel thinner than they really were. The result of this lack of rounded back makes the iPhone 4 feel just as thick as the iPhone 3GS.

The front and back of the device is made from glass which Apple lauds as being much stronger than plastic. I’ve somehow managed to already get more scratches on the front of the my iPhone 4 than I did over the entire course of my iPhone 3GS’s lifespan. They aren’t significant scratches, but hold the phone under the light and you’ll find quite a few. This is a striking contrast to my iPhone 3GS which never got a single scratch on it.

This could have something to do with the fact that the glass back of the iPhone 4 is somewhat slippery compared to the plastic back of the iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 4 isn’t slippery in the hand, but it frequently slides off of places where I once rested the 3GS, such as on top of my Wallet, or on the arm of a couch. Some people have attributed this to the oleophobic coating which is designed to reduce fingerprint smudges (this was only present on the front of the iPhone 3GS, but it’s on the front and back of the iPhone 4).

The front and back of the iPhone 4 is glass, but there is a tiny plastic bezel that surrounds each pane. This is likely to prevent any dangerously sharp edges, as well as reducing the chance of chipping the edge of the glass.

As for the look of the device itself, it’ll definitely come down to personal preference. I, for one, think it’s a beautiful looking device, and I’m happy to see Apple working on a somewhat retro look, rather than continuing to evolve their previous design – the natural conclusion of which would have eventually been the iBall — if Apple continued to simplify shapes and smooth lines.

2010-08-09_19-28-32_725 The device feels undeniably well built, and the metal buttons are impressively solid and have no play to them. The volume buttons have been changed from a rocker bar (as they were previously on the 3GS) and separated into individual buttons. The plus and minus markings are cut directly into the metal button which gives them a sharp look that won’t be worn away over time. Both volume buttons, the silent switch, and the hold/lock button have highly satisfying clicks. Additionally, the home button on the front of the device is much more clicky than the one on the iPhone 3GS which was occasionally on the squishy end of the spectrum. If you’ve ever used an iPod Touch, then you’ll know the feeling of the iPhone 4’s home button.

Screen

112_1027 Apple specifically designed the screen to have a pixel-per-inch rating that surpasses the eye’s ability to tell each pixel apart. Apple claimed that this threshold was about 300 ppi at a given distance (10 inches or so) so they made the screen 326 ppi with a 960×640 display which is 4x the resolution of previous iPhone. Just to clarify, the increase in resolution doesn’t mean more space on the screen. Instead, Apple scaled up graphics of the entire OS to 4x their original size to fit the new resolution. The result is an extraordinarily crisp screen that makes you wonder how you ever lived with the low res 480×320 screens on the old iDevices.

When I look back at an iPod Touch or previous iPhone, the screen looks quite pathetic. The iPhone 4’s 960×640 screen is the highest resolution in a smartphone, but next to an 800×480 device like the Droid X [portal page], the difference won’t be perceptible for most people. So while the iPhone 4’s display blows the previous iPhone out of the water, it isn’t wildly superior to other devices out there.

The IPS screen is reasonably readable in bright sunlight and has an impressive full 179 degree viewing angle with virtually no loss of color or contrast at even the most extreme angle.

Droid X vs. iPhone 4 – Speed Test

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Sunspider Javascript Benchmark

I ran the Sunspider javascript benchmark on both devices. While the benchmark is quite dependent on browser performance, it is also an indicator of CPU ability, as well as a cross-platform benchmark, allowing us to compare both the iPhone 4 and Droid X from a more objective perspective. I used the default browser on each phone for the test.

On average, the iPhone 4 was 1.3x as fast the Droid X (click to view detailed test results):

(smaller ms is better)
Droid X – Total: 13,511.2 ms +/- 1.2%
iPhone 4 – Total: 10,401.4 ms +/- 1%

I also gave the Sunspider benchmark a try using a different browser than Android’s default. I used Dolphin Browser HD to run the test and actually resulted in a slower score (around 16,000 ms).

Apple Contradicts Itself and Puts Me in a Rough Spot With iPhone 4 Antenna Conundrum, Has Me Looking for a New Handset

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You’ve likely heard of the iPhone 4 antenna debacle and saw coverage of the recent press conference that Apple held on the issue. Well, as an iPhone 4 owner, I’m quite bothered by what’s going on and the way that Apple has acted toward this issue.

First of all, Apple has contradicted itself over the antenna dilemma. Prior to Apple’s July 16th press conference, Bloomberg ran an article titled “Apple Engineer Told Jobs iPhone Antenna Might Cut Calls” which purported that a senior engineer at Apple had warned Jobs about the possibility of the antenna design could lead to dropped calls.

When someone brought up that Bloomberg article during the Q&A part of Apple’s July 16th press conference, this is what was said, according to Engadget’s live blog of the event:

Q: Were you told about the design before the phone was released?

Steve: Are you talking about the Bloomberg article? That’s a crock, and we’ve challenged them to show proof of that. If anyone had said this thing has problems, we would have dispatched people to deal with that issue. [my emphasis]

So Apple says that reports that they were warned about the antenna design beforehand were false. With that in mind, see this quote from Steve Jobs at an earlier point in the same press conference (the time is marked if you’d like to watch it for yourself):

“We knew that if you gripped it in a certain way, the bars are going to go down a little bit […] we didn’t think it’d be a big problem.” – (13:17)

This statements seem to be rather conflicting. And it isn’t just that. At the opening of the press conference, Jobs explained what the press was reporting about the issue, and said that it had been dubbed “antennagate”. Just at the end of the conference, jobs had this to say:

“There is no ‘antennagate’” — (33:20)

However, earlier in the conference he very clearly stated the following:

“When our engineers and scientists look at this data, it’s very hard to escape the conclusion that there is a problem, but that that problem is affecting a very small percentage of users.” – (23:28) [my emphasis]

So, to paraphrase the above, Apple says “No one within Apple warned us about any antenna problem as Bloomberg reported” then goes on to say “We knew about this issue, but didn’t think it’d be a problem.” And furthermore, “There is no issue (antennagate), but looking at the data, its hard to escape the conclusion that there is one”.

Anyone else have a problem with what’s been said here? And mind you, these aren’t out of context quotes from various statements that were weeks apart. No, this is all from a single, orchestrated, Apple press conference.

Moving on…. Apple says this issue is affecting only a small number of users. Well I happen to be one of those users and I was expecting a working phone when I bought it. I upgraded from Apple’s iPhone 3GS and quickly began noticing that my iPhone 4 dropped calls more frequently and more easily than my iPhone 3GS. Steve said his pet theory was that many people had cases when they went from the iPhone 3G to the 3GS, so the antenna issue was already fixed. Well I never owned a case for my iPhone 3G or my iPhone 3GS, and yet, there is a noticeable and frustrating increase in dropped calls since

I’ve started using the iPhone 4. I was even noticing more dropped calls early on when I thought people were just jumping to conclusions over the antenna issue.

I’m an affected user, but Apple wants to make every user happy, according to Jobs. So I take my phone to the genius bar at the Apple store; I have three issues:

  1. Proximity sensor – hangs up calls while I’m on the phone with people
  2. Dropped calls – iPhone 4 drops noticeably more calls than my iPhone 3GS or 3G
  3. 3G Speeds – My upload speeds never surpass 100 kbps (I’m lucky if I even get that many) even when I get 1+ Mbps download [this is when I’m not even touching my phone]

So what does Apple do to make me ‘happy’?

  1. Proximity sensor – blames the software “fix coming soon” ok fine, I’ll take that and hope that a software update really does fix it
  2. Dropped calls — “We’ll give you a case, that will fix the problem”. This is a frustrating response. They don’t acknowledge that the iPhone 3GS doesn’t have the same call dropping issues as the iPhone 4, but they tell me that a case will fix the problem. Well guess what? I don’t want to use a freaking case on my phone. I’ve never had a case for my iPhones because I use a holster instead. If they would simply say “Ok, look, the iPhone 4’s design causes calls to be dropped more frequently than the iPhone 3GS” then I’d be somewhat happier because I know that there’d actually be a confirmed issue for which a case would be the remedy. But not saying that they is a problem unique to the iPhone 4, then offering a free case to fix this “non-problem” is just ridiculous. At the press conference, Jobs said that he doesn’t use a bumper and he holds his phone in the death grip and has never seen problems. Well I certainly do see problems, but because Jobs has stated that the issue is not unique to the iPhone 4, the Apple store won’t replace my phone. What if my phone is one of a small percent that actually has some flaw? Because, I’m certainly having a different experience than that of Mr. Jobs. They just play it off now like all iPhone 4’s can’t possibly have a real issue, even though they clearly do when compared to phones like the 3GS (as confirmed by Steve Jobs citing drop call data from iPhone 3GS vs. iPhone 4)
  3. 3G Speeds — So how about my upload speed never passing 100 kbps? Could that possibly be an indicator that there is something wrong with my phone? Certainly not, they just blame AT&T.

All I really want is to swap out my iPhone 4 for another iPhone 4 and see if I still have the same problems. Apple says they’d be happy to do that for me, but they can’t take a phone from the Genius Bar stock, instead they have to take it from sale stock, which is empty, and there likely won’t have any before my 30 day return window is long gone (it ends on the 23rd of July – 3 days from now).

Ok so Apple says if I’m still not happy, I can return the phone for a refund. They promise me a free case, but they can’t get it to me until after my 30 day return period is closed. What if I wait for the case and I’m still having issues? Will Apple claim that that’s just how all smartphones are and not do anything to fix the problem?

All of this has me seriously considering the Samsung Captivate which I played with very briefly in an AT&T store today, it felt snappy, and if I can return the iPhone and get my upgrade eligibility back, I’ll be able to pick up the Captivate for $100 less than I paid for the iPhone 4. Tempting.

Apple: Free Cases to iPhone 4 Owners or Refund. I’m Not Satisfied, Considering Changing Phones After Owning the Last 3 iPhones

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bumpers Apple’s press conference is still doing some Q&A as I write, but the gist of it consisted of Apple saying that all phones have the reception issue when held in certain ways and that they don’t actually have a problem that is unique to their device. Still, they say that they want to make customers happy and so they are offering a free case to iPhone users or accepting returns for full refunds through September 30th. Apple says they will present a few different cases for customers to choose from as they are unable to make their own first-party bumper cases quickly enough to keep up with demand. Apple also says that if you bought a bumper case, you’ll be refunded, however, third-party cases will not receive refunds. Customers can apply for free cases from Apple on their site, “late next week”.

I wrote yesterday about why a free case wasn’t going to cut it:

I personally won’t be satisfied with a free bumper. I want a new phone, and one that works. I’m a phone holster kind of guy, and naturally, a bumper on my phone wouldn’t slip in an out of holster very easily. I also don’t like the idea of buying a flawed product then requiring that an accessory be always present to fix it. I quite like the aesthetics of the iPhone 4, despite the fact that they are responsible for the reception issues. I don’t want to cover up the sides of the phone.

Hearing Apple say that they don’t think they have a problem when myself, and many others have been putting up with the issue, is very frustrating. This feels like a good opportunity to go for a new phone. I’ve been using the iPhone since the 3G, but I’d totally snag a Droid X [portal page] or HTC Evo 4G [portal page] if I could; the major roadblock for me is that neither of those phones are available on AT&T, and at the moment there really aren’t a lot of good options to choose from other than the iPhone on AT&T.

The only phone I’d likely consider is the upcoming Samsung Captivate which is due to be released on the 18th. Apple is offering a “full” refund on the iPhone 4, which for me would mean $299 back, but if AT&T doesn’t return my upgrade availability then I won’t be able to get a subsidized deal on a new phone, thus making returning the phone a huge waste of money. I just locked an offer in with Gazelle.com to sell the iPhone 4 for $493, just in case.

Let’s not forget that I had to agree to a new two-year AT&T contract to purchase the iPhone 4, and I’m doubting that AT&T will undo that if I return the phone. Apple was very unclear on this point in their press conference, but if AT&T doesn’t return “upgrade eligibility” to customers who return their phones, then you’d be better off selling your phone to recoup the costs than returning it to Apple.

Apple says they want to make every customer happy… I’m certainly not happy right now.

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