Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's time for the iPad critics to shut up

It's time for the iPad critics to shut up

If you believe what industry analysts say, the iPad is doomed. There again, if you believe what industry analysts say, I have a bridge to sell you, and I have some terrible, terrible news about Santa Claus.

The doom-mongering was given fresh fodder this week with Apple's earnings call: in contrast to otherwise typically strong results in other areas of the business, iPad sales dropped 13% in the last quarter compared to the previous year. What's more, this was the third quarter in a row of decline in iPad sales.

The reaction to the new iPads has been muted too, which is perfectly understandable. No matter how often I and others say that Apple's biggest strength is in iteration - making incremental improvements in every generation that refine and add power and capabilities to the core concept of a product - it's under huge pressure to dazzle and delight with the new and revolutionary. (People tend to forget that while revolutions sometimes lead to better societies overall, they're almost always bloody awful things to live through.) Still, it's nevertheless true that the PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL2hvc3RpbmdraXRhLmNvbQ0iIHRhcmdldD0iX2JsYW5rIiByZWw9Im5vZm9sbG93Ij5pUGFkIG1pbmkgPC9hPg==3 especially feels like a minor upgrade to its predecessor, leading to more claims that the iPad is a dead end.

But if you think Apple doesn't know what it's doing, you're wrong. If you listened in to the earnings call (and I can't think why you'd be doing anything else at 10pm on a Monday night) you'd have heard Tim Cook talk about his vision for the iPad, and it basically boiled down to this. First, the partnership with IBM means selling more iPads to businesses; second, although it's tempting to infer that the market is saturated, in Apple's top six countries between 50% and 70% of iPads are sold to people who've never owned one before; third, emerging markets are growing; and fourth, yeah, people don't upgrade iPads as often as phones and they sometimes pick Macs or iPhones over iPads - and Apple's fine with that, because they're still buying an Apple product.

That's all very revealing, but the most important thing to say to the iPad doomsayers is this: oh my word, shut up about it. I know this is rich coming from me, when I've written 547 words on the topic for TechRadar, but Lord, I am tired of hearing so much chatter about these big, strategic, business-centric aspects of Apple.

What should matter is not whether the iPad is doomed, nor the turgid inside-baseball analysis of Apple Inc, but whether you like your iPad. Is it good? Does it make you productive? Does it bring you joy - not necessarily in and of itself, but because of the things it lets you do and the people it brings you closer to?

If the answer's yes, that's all you need to know. If the answer's no, then that's OK too, and if you there's a competing product out there that will do those things better, then I wish you the kind of uncomplicated happiness with it that surely eludes industry analysts.

If you don't own an iPad, you shouldn't care if it's doomed or not. If you do own an iPad, you shouldn't care either. Apple's business is none of your concern.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

iPad mini 3 release date, news and rumors

iPad mini 3 release date, news and rumors

The iPad mini 2 was a strong follow-up to the iPad mini, primarily because it fixed the only major issue by giving it a retina display.

There's nothing left that's desperately in need of fixing or improving, so making the iPad mini 3 stand out could prove a harder job for Apple. Arguably there's not even much pressure for it to, as the iPad mini 2 is still one of the best mini slates around.

But we'll be disappointed if the Cupertino company doesn't cook something interesting up. What that might be is anyone's guess, but there are a number of rumors doing the rounds and we've collected them all in one place- here.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The sequel to the iPad mini with Retina display
  • When is it out? It might be announced on October 16, or we might not see it till next year
  • What will it cost? It will probably start at £319 / $399 / AU$479

iPad mini 3 release date

We may not have to wait long for the iPad mini 3, as Apple is reportedly holding an event on October 16 where it will launch the iPad Air 2. There's some question as to whether we'll see the iPad mini 3 there as well though, as sources speaking to Taiwan's Commercial Times claim that the iPad mini 3 might not arrive until early next year.

We'd take that with a pinch of salt though as Apple has so far released one mini a year and announced them alongside a full sized iPad, so there's no reason to think it would change things up this year.

iPad invite

There's some dissenting opinion too, as Mac Otakara, citing 'sources that can be trusted' claims that it probably will arrive on October 16.

Earlier in the year, Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst for KGI, also claimed that the iPad mini 3 would come out towards the end of the third quarter of 2014. So don't give up hope on a 2014 launch yet.

iPad mini 3 price

There have been precisely zero rumors on what the iPad mini 3 might cost, but it seems logical to assume that it will carry a similar price tag to the iPad mini 2, which has a starting RRP of £319 / $399 / AU$479.

If Apple ups the tech then it might also up the price but we can't see it being much more than that.

iPad mini 3 design and display

It sounds like the iPad mini 3 might look exceedingly similar to the iPad mini 2. According to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo it will have the same form factor as the iPad mini 2, which is slightly thicker than the iPad mini (although only by 0.3mm).

In fact it doesn't sound like Kuo thinks the iPad mini 3 will be a big product for Apple at all, as he reckons it will be sold in limited quantities while the iPad mini 2 will remain on sale at a reduced price. This is one occasion where we hope the rumors are wrong, but thankfully that's all they are.

Indeed it's entirely possible that Kuo could be wrong about the iPad mini 3 retaining its predecessors form factor, because we've now heard from Chinese site mag.udn.com that it will in fact be 30% slimmer, bringing it down to just around 5.25mm thick.

With a new size it would also apparently get a new name, going by the 'iPad mini Air', though we suspect iPad Air mini is more likely.

If it gets slimmer it's also likely to get lighter, but there's no word on what it might weigh yet and even with these few rumors there's still so much that we've heard nothing about yet.

iPad mini 3

We haven't seen much in the way of images of the iPad mini 3, but one sent to AppleClub.tw claims to show it alongside an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 6 and as rumored not much seems to have visually changed since last year's model.

The biggest visual change might be the color, as there are rumors that the iPad Air 2 will get a gold option and the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are already available in gold, so there's a fair chance Apple will bling up the iPad mini 3 as well.

We're not expecting any real change to the screen at all, so look forward to a 7.9-inch 1536 x 2048 display.

iPad mini 3 power

We'll almost certainly see a power boost, with Ming-Chi Kuo predicting that the iPad mini 3 will get the A8 processor which we've now seen in the iPhone 6.

However while there are rumors that the iPad Air 2 will get an A8X processor and 2GB of RAM there are no such suggestions for the iPad mini 3, so 1GB of RAM yet again is likely.

iPad mini 3 camera

The only camera rumors we've heard are once again from Kuo, who reckons the iPad mini 3 will have an 8MP rear snapper. Given that the iPad mini 2 only had a 5MP one we'd happily take that. Whether it will feature any of the fancy iPhone 6 camera tech such as Focus Pixels is another matter entirely.

There aren't any rumors on the front-facing camera yet, but it was 1.2MP on the iPad mini 2, so expect that at a minimum.

iPad mini 3 Touch ID

We're fairly confident that the iPad mini 3 will get Touch ID. For one thing it's long overdue, but more importantly various leaks and rumors point in that direction. Kuo weighed in once again, claiming that it will.

On top of that fragments of code from the Biometric Kit included in iOS 7.1 reference the iPad and mentions of both Touch ID and Apple Pay for the iPad have been found in the iOS 8.1 beta code.

Another rumor also mentions that Touch ID will indeed be coming to the iPad mini 3 (as well as the iPad Air 2).

iPad mini 3 Touch ID

We've also sighted a snap, supposedly showing the iPad mini 3. It was anonymously sent to Nowhereelse.fr, so it's impossible to say how reliable the source is, but it appears to show a Touch ID fingerprint scanner built into the home button.

It's worth noting that this is apparently a prototype of the device, so even if it is legitimate it's possible that Apple could ditch the scanner before it finalizes the hardware, but given all the other Touch ID rumors circling we'd file this under very likely.

iPad mini 3 operating system

We can tell you this one right now: The iPad mini 3 will rock up running iOS 8. That's the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system so it won't run anything earlier and it's far too soon for iOS 9, so iOS 8 it is.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lenovo adds Windows-based Yoga Tablet 2, ThinkPad Yoga to portfolio

Lenovo adds Windows-based Yoga Tablet 2, ThinkPad Yoga to portfolio

Lenovo has announced a business laptop that integrates the distinctive 360 degree rotation mode of the consumer-focused Yoga family. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 isn't as slim or thin as the Yoga 3 Pro, Lenovo's new flagship laptop, but can still be considered as an Ultrabook.

It sticks to a twin-hinge model rather than adopting the Yoga 3 Pro's hexa-hinge and keeps the Lift 'n' Lock keyboard from the original ThinkPad Yoga from 2013.

Other features points to a solid, if uninspired midrange Windows 8.1 laptop. It comes with a fourth-generation Intel Core-i5 processor, 8GB of DDR3L RAM, a 1TB hard disk drive with 16GB SSD cache, up to eight hours battery life, an Nvidia Geforce 840M graphics card and a 14-inch full HD IPS touchscreen display.

At 1.9Kg and 20mm thick, it sits at the heavier end of the Ultrabook spectrum. As far as connectivity is concerned, you get Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, HDMI, a card reader, two USB 3.0 ports and a HD camera.

More Yoga

Lenovo also introduced a pair of Yoga tablets both called the Yoga Tablet 2 that run on Windows 8.1, with the only big difference between the two being the display size. The smaller model has a 8-inch panel while the bigger one spans 10.1 inches. Both are full-HD IPS displays with touchscreen capabilities.

Both also run on an Intel Atom processor, the Z3745, which has four cores, 2MB of cache and runs at up to 1.86GHz. There's also 2GB of RAM, 32GB onboard storage with a microSD card slot, a pair of front-facing speakers, microUSB, Wi-Fi and even t amicro SIM.

There's also a 8-megapixel camera at the back and a 1.6-megapixel snapper on the front. Lenovo claims that the tablets have a battery life of up to 15 hours on a single charge. Note that the 10-inch model also packs a micro HDMI port plus a matching Bluetooth AccuType keyboard that doubles as a cover.

The Yoga Tablet 2 will cost $399.99 for the 10-inch model (£249, AU$456) and $299.99 for the 8-inch model (£187, AU$ 342) while the ThinkPad Yoga will hit the market with a $1199 price tag (£746, $1367).

Launching alongside the Yoga Tablet 2 is the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, a 13.3-inch tablet with a built-in Pico Projector. It features a 'Hang Mode', which joins Tilt, Stand and Hold modes to provide additional flexibilty. On its rear is an 8-MegaPixel snapper, and Lenovo claims that the model provides up to 15 hours of real-time use. It's launching with an RRP of £449 for the 32GB version with Wi-Fi.

  • What's the best laptop of 2014?