Archives For Apple

While running errands at the mall, I swung by the relatively new Microsoft Store. And, as you can see from the pic above, they’ve done a nice job duplicating Apple’s iconic store design… with the addition dark woodgrain surfaces (bad) and rich projection displays (good). Not to mention red store employee t-shirts replace Apple’s blue.

Speaking of those store employees, two confirmed reports that they’re accepting $25 deposits on the flagship Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone (on AT&T). However, as I tweeted, it’s pretty absurd to pre-order a device that has no announced launch date or pricing. So, of course, I pushed the staff for details. They stated rather factually that I could request white or black Lumia 900 hardware which they expect to release in the second half of March, after the 15th. Unfortunately, they weren’t so certain on pricing. One employee figured the Nokia handset would run about $200, while the other conferred with the manager who wasn’t given concrete details but inferred it’d be made available between $150 – $199.

The timing lines up well with the rumored March 18th launch date, but I’m somewhat bummed they couldn’t (yet?) corroborate a $100 price tag to undercut the competition. Until we know more, the Samsung Focus Flash remains my favorite Windows Phone. But only time will tell if it sees WP8 software and/or Skype video conferencing. Which you can pretty much guarantee will find its way to the Lumia 900.

Hack Your Apple TV

Dave Zatz —  January 29, 2012


Don Reisinger’s out with a column pitching the Xbox 360 as an Apple TV replacement. While we’re big fans of the 360 (and PS3) as an all-purpose digital media solution, it doesn’t offer the elegant simplicity of a Roku ($50 – $100) or Apple TV ($99). Further, once you add the remote and (recurring) Xbox Live annual subscription, even the base Xbox 360 console will run you about  three times ($280) the cost of an aTV. And that power brick is still huge. For many, Netflix and YouTube are the streaming tentpole supplements to Apple’s iTunes ecosystem. And it’s really no longer the walled garden it once was with content partners such as NHL and Vimeo recently joining the solid prior lineup including MLB, Flickr, and podcast directory.

Having said that, for this class of device, I still generally prefer Roku over Apple TV given it’s broader catalog of content partner, USB drive support, and more traditional remote. And why I was thinking of picking up another Roku. But a few Twitter followers convinced me to jailbreak my Apple TV once again, instead of investing in another box. Once jailbroken, apps like XBMC and Plex allow you to get at the media on your home network… and in some cases, beyond. With relatively no downside.

Hacking Apple TV is ridiculously simple these days thanks to Seas0nPass. Continue Reading…

Back in the days when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Macworld overlapped, with Apple actually participating in their namesake convention, news out of San Francisco derailed the events in Vegas January 9th, 2007. While an iPhone announcement wasn’t entirely a surprise, given years of speculation and rumor, the elegant simplicity of both its hardware and software was unlike anything we’d ever before encountered… or even imagined was possible in the mobile space. So despite launching at $500 – $600 without wireless carrier subsidies, as we’re accustomed to in the US , here’s what I concluded:

If the iPhone works as advertised, they’re going to sell a ton and really bring “smart phones” to the masses

Indeed, the iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry. And then some. But I’ve never been part of the technological masses, dwelling more on the bleeding edge. Which is why, while the iPhone’s sex appeal tempted and I closely monitored its launch, I was something of a late adopter. Steve Jobs proclamation that Apple was five years ahead of the competition didn’t move me as I couldn’t see comfortably downgrading from 3G speeds to 2G EDGE and giving up Exchange synchronization or third party apps, like SlingPlayer Mobile. Not to mention the reservations I had in using a completely virtual keyboard and forgoing my trusty stylus. Of course, at some point I could no longer combat the allure and augmented my phone collection with a first gen iPhone. But it wasn’t actually until 2010 that I declared Apple’s mobile operating system feature complete and, along with GPS nav and improved camera optics, made the iPhone my primary mobile companion.

In regards to what comes next… The iPhone app ecosystem is massive and something many of us have come to rely upon – making it difficult to completely abandon Apple at this point. Yet, Siri doesn’t wow me and I pine for better notifications, widgets, and a larger screen. I assume Apple’s cooking up new solutions which will once again inspire and amaze me, but we seem to have returned to a place in time where I’ll take on additional handsets for gadget lust fulfillment.

With CES upon us, USA Today chatted with Sony executive Kaz Harai on wide array of home entertainment topics — including Sony’s foray into cloud services across various platforms and the, perhaps inversely related, decline of Blu-ray sales.

But what I found most interesting are their  “smart” TV intentions. First, Kaz is on target when stating both Sony and their competitors simplify messaging to convey the benefits of an Internet-connected platform. As, while I believe widgetized televisions are selling, I’m not convinced web feature, as currently implemented, see much use. Next, kudos to Ed Baig for this killer question, “Will there be an Apple TV?” To which Kaz reponds,

I’m on my product development guys to do the very best they can to deliver a compelling experience and have competitive product in the market, whether Apple is there or not.

There’s been significant speculation that Apple might enter the television space Continue Reading…

Better hurry if you want to bring (limited) Apple Airplay functionality to your Google TV. While most of Apple, Inc vacationed during a long holiday, Airtight hit the Android Market. The 99 cent app enables you stream videos and photos from an iPhone or iPad to a television via Google TV – such as the Logitech Revue ($79). Unfortunately, music isn’t yet supported and of course DRM-ed content, like iTunes movie rentals, is a no-go. The probable bigger issue is our assumption that once Apple returns to the office they’ll likely ask Google to remove Airtight from the Market… as Apple intends to license AirPlay receiver capabilities, with one manufacturer (who’d rather not be named) telling me discussions with Apple pegged the fee at several dollars per box. (And, for low margin streaming boxes in the $100 range, that pricing is quite lofty.) Then again, given Google TV’s poor reception and limited adoption, Airtight might not be a relevant enough target for Apple legal to mess with. But you may want to hedge your bets by grabbing the app now.

The Roku iPhone Remote(s)

Dave Zatz —  December 27, 2011


Based on recent traffic, it’s clear many of you received Roku streaming hardware for Christmas or Hanukkah (with interest in a YouTube Channel… and content somewhat more racy). So we thought we’d take this opportunity to point out Roku’s brand-spanking new iOS remote app.

First off, Roku’s official app is free and therefore immediately worth a look for iPhone and iPod Touch owners. But, beyond the cost, we’ve found the remote highly polished for a v1 release – featuring a more efficient and powerful Roku Store experience than our Roku boxes actually offer via their television interface. Further, the virtual remote provides the priceless ‘instant replay’ button that’s not actually found on most Roku physical remotes – such as the one included with the $50 Roku LT. Yet there are a few areas that could use some improvement.

As a long time user of the very nice DVPRemote ($1.99), a third party Roku app, the official app is in desperate need of a virtual keyboard to enter credentials and search for content on various channels. Additionally, while some may appreciate swiping over tapping… many do not. And I’d personally like to see navigation “buttons” offered in a future upgrade. Again, Roku could follow the lead of DVPRemote by offering just such an option. But, in the interim, we’ll continue to recommend DVPRemote. Especially to those looking to control their Roku from an iPad. Continue Reading…

Now that we’ve concluded giving thanks for family and turkey, the time is upon us to give thanks for retail indulgence. We’re not entirely convinced it’s truly is better to give than to receive, but we know how to kill two birds with one stone by gifting oneself. So regardless of gadget beneficiary here are a few compelling deals of the day running under $100:

Barnes & Noble Simple Touch Reader ($79)

A mere two weeks ago, Barnes & Noble’s compelling e-reader would have run you $139. Yet, they dropped the price to $99 upon the introduction of Amazon’s competing Kindle Touch. And today, brick & mortar locations are hawking the Simple Touch for just $79. Not only is it $20 cheaper than Amazon’s touchscreen e-Ink offering, it’s also ad-free. Beyond that, the Simple Touch Reader features better ergonomics due to the sculpted rear and physical page turn buttons… with more panache than Amazon manages. Possible downsides are the cream colored trim of this special edition that may show grime and of course many prefer Amazon’s ecosystem.

Slingbox SOLO ($99.99)

Slingbox SOLO hardware has been around for sometime. And while I wouldn’t mind a more compact form featuring integrated WiFi, it’s still probably the best placeshifting experience money can buy. As a quick refresher, hook a Slingbox up to your home DVR or set-top box to stream that video around the house or around the world to a variety, including desktop web browsers and smartphones ($30). The SOLO retails for $180 and can often be had for less… but we’ve never seen it for a low of $100 as it is today and tomorrow at Best Buy and Continue Reading…

Choosing A Tablet Keyboard

Dave Zatz —  November 20, 2011


While saddling a touch-optimized tablet with a physical keyboard may seem like sacrilege, there are those who prefer the speed and tactile feedback of true touch typing as slates displace netbooks in the market. I’m not quite sold on tablets, but to maximize performance on my wife’s iPad during short weekend getaways I picked up Logitech’s Bluetooth keyboard (~$60). It’s not as compact as some and not nearly as sturdy or elegant as Apple’s aluminum offering, but it strikes the right balance between appearance and performance. In fact, industry analyst Ross Rubin came to a similar conclusion. Unlike the Apple keyboard, Logitech’s features an on/off slide — meaning it won’t accidentally trip in your saddle bag and kill the battery (of the keyboard or the tablet). The Logitech keyboard also ships with a semi-rigid pastic sleeve/case that doubles as a stand… which ended up on our junk drawer (and I highly recommend the convertible Incase Magazine Jacket to more effectively protect and prop up one’s iPad).

Logitech offers two version of this keyboard – the iPad edition that I purchased (with a half off coupon) and an Android-centric variant featuring their OS-specific function keys. Indeed, Logitech mistakenly shipped the Android one and their phone rep attempted to convince me the keys and functions were the same. Fortunately, I knew better given my hands on experience with the incorrect model and insisted on what turned out to be a tedious exchange. Amazon for the win?

Overall, I’ve been pleased with the Logitech keyboard which pairs nicely with various other devices in our household. So while the hot Asus Transformer Prime sets the bar high for tablet/keyboard integration, most tablet owners interested in occasional keyboard use would be well served by this wireless accessory.