The iPad Air

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I bought a Wifi only 32gb iPad Air a couple of months ago and would like to share my impressions on it. For the last year I have been using a Verizon 16GB iPad mini which I loved for many reasons and hated for a few. Before that I had a Wifi only 32GB 3rd generation iPad. So what made me go back to the big iPad? The number one reason I upgraded was that I needed more space. 16GB just doesn’t cut it for me anymore on an iPad. I am fine with a 16GB iPhone but with the amount of magazines, comics, & blueprints (work related) that I have on my iPad, I need at least 32GB. I found myself constantly having to manage the storage on my mini. I also recently got tethering enabled on my iPhone so having a cellular iPad was no longer necessary. If I need data on the go I can easily get it from my phone now.  Another reason why I upgraded is that I read a lot on my iPad and the non-retina screen on the iPad mini was really starting to bother me, especially for comics and blueprints. All that being said why not just upgrade to the new iPad mini with Retina display? It was a very tough decision to be honest. The iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display are both incredibly good tablets. They both have the same A7 processor, cameras, retina display, battery life, etc. They have never been more similar. It really comes down to just two things.

  1. Screen Size – The iPad Air has a 9.7″ display where the iPad mini has a 7.9″ display.
  2. Price – The iPad Air being $100 more than the comparable iPad mini.

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There were advantages to both iPads for me and I will list them below.

iPad Air

Advantages:

  • The iPad Air is incredibly thin and light with an all new design. It weighs just 1 pound. It is unbelievable how much lighter it is compared to previous full-sized iPads.
  • The 9.7″ Retina display on the iPad Air is ideal for comics and magazines of which I consume a lot of.
  • The larger iPads are much better for typing in my experience. The iPad mini is just not very comfortable to type on for long periods of time.
  • The iPad Air’s battery seems to last much longer in standby than my iPad mini did.

iPad Mini

Advantages:

  • The iPad mini is extremely portable. For example, when I had my mini, I would take it to a lot more places as it would fit in my back pocket where now that I have the Air I end up just using my iPhone more.
  • The iPad mini is much better for one handed use. While the iPad Air has lost a significant amount of weight, it is still a two-handed device.
  • The iPad mini is $100 cheaper than the iPad Air. You can basically get twice the storage for the same price by going with the mini.

Lastly, I want to talk about accessories. I picked up a blue smart cover for my iPad Air. I like it quite a bit better than the same smart cover that I had on my iPad mini. It doesn’t collapse near as easily. I also picked up a Belkin Shield back cover. I like it fine though it is a tad loose. That is all I have bought for my new iPad but I have been using my Cocoon Gramercy bag with it that I loved using so much with my 3rd Gen iPad. It is still the best bag for an iPad, a few accessories and a phone in my opinion. When it is not in the Cocoon, it is in my bigger but still small bag, the Tom Bihn Ristretto 11″ which I really need to write a blog post on.

In conclusion I am very happy with my iPad Air. I am enjoying the large retina screen, the reduced weight, & the bigger storage capacity very much. I would hesitate to recommend it completely to everyone else though. If you are looking to buy a new iPad consider both the Air and the mini and buy the one that best fits how you would like to use it.

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One Reason Why I Love Apple

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I just wanted to share a little story on one of the many reasons why I love Apple. I recently purchased a 2013 11″ MacBook Air which I absolutely love. It is the perfect laptop for me. It has great battery life, is very light, and is very fast. I did have one small problem though. When my MacBook Air was on a flat surface it was just a little bit wobbly. I mean just a tiny bit, truly a first world problem. I figured I would put up with it until I was able to take it to an Apple store to get it looked at. I unfortunately don’t have an Apple store in the town I live in. A while back I tagged along with my wife to a photography convention in Dallas, TX and I set up an appointment at the Apple store in Fort Worth, TX. I wasn’t sure if they could do anything about it but I figured it was worth a shot. When I got there and was called to the Genius Bar the guy asked me what the problem was and took my MacBook to the back to take a look at it. A few minutes later, he returned to the Genius Bar with the store manager. The store manager politely introduced himself and said that It was indeed wobbly and that they were just going to give me a new MacBook. There was no paperwork to be done, no “we need to send it off for repairs”, no questions asked, just yeah we will replace it for you free of charge. They did not need my old MacBook’s box, charger, or anything. This is really no different than any of my previous experiences with Apple’s customer service. They have always went above and beyond what was required of them. They truly are the gold standard of customer service. This kind of care for their customers is just one of the many reasons why I love Apple and will be a lifelong customer of theirs.

The iPhone 5S

SONY DSCI purchased an AT&T 16GB Space Gray iPhone 5S on launch day (September 20th 2013) and would like to post my thoughts on it. First off a little backstory. For the past 2 years I have been using an AT&T 16GB White iPhone 4S. It was my first smartphone and I loved it dearly. It had begun to slow down a little with iOS7 installed on it & it wasn’t getting quite the same battery life that it once had but other than that it was still a very usable phone. I have used my new 5S heavily in the last month and a half and have posted my thoughts below.

  • The Design: The first thing I noticed with the 5S coming from my 4S is how much lighter the 5S is. This is because the iPhone 5 & 5S have aluminum (a-loo-minium) backs compared to the iPhone 4 & 4S, which had glass backs. I would describe the weight difference as feeling like the 5S’s battery had been removed from the phone. I am slightly torn on how I feel about this. On one hand I like that it is lighter and it is less likely that the back will break if it is dropped but on the other hand the glass back on the 4S made the phone feel a little more like a premium product to me.  The 4S had a good heft to it. The screen is also really nice. I appreciate the jump from 3.5″ to 4″ even though that is still a relatively small screen size for phones these days.  Other than that I love that it has a lightning connector instead of the old 30 pin dock connector. I really like the Space Gray color on the back. It is supposedly much more resistive to scratches and scuffing compared to the Slate Black colored back on the iPhone 5. The hardware buttons are fine but I do think the ring/silent switch on the left side is a little worse than the one that was on the iPhone 4 & 4S. It works fine but it’s just a little harder to toggle if you have fairly big fingers. One more note, I’m not sure but it seems like to me that the vibration on the 5S is also not quite as strong as it was on the 4 & 4S.

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  • The Camera: The camera is simply incredible on the iPhone 5S. Between the excellent low light performance, improved flash, burst mode shooting (10 photos per second!), and slo-mo video recording, it is a very nice upgrade from my previous iPhone’s camera. I still use my Sony NEXc3 as much as I can but the iPhone 5S’s camera is very capable on  it’s own.
  • The A7 Chip: The iPhone 5S is powered by the first 64bit processor ever in a cell phone. It is a substantial jump from the A5 chip that was in my iPhone 4S. I’m not going to go into detail about the processor, if you interested in more I would point you to the excellent AnandTech review.  Simply put this phone is fast. Everything just loads so much faster than my last phone. Apps, webpages, emails, etc. all just load nearly instantly. I am very happy with the performance of this phone. Apple has upgraded all of their apps to 64bit and it shows. Once 3rd party developers start updating their apps to 64bit, we should see even more performance improvements. I ran the Geekbench 3 app and have posted my results below.

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  • The Touch ID Sensor: The iPhone 5S comes with Apple’s Touch ID Sensor which is built into the home button. This sensor allows you to simply place your finger on the home button to unlock your phone as well as to authorize purchases on the App Store. It is a feature that nobody actually needs but is very convenient & very cool. Also, when it works it is nearly instantaneous. It is a very “magical” feeling when it scans your fingerprint & unlocks your phone for you. I go to a lot of Apple related sites and by all accounts Touch ID seems to work 90% to 100% of the time for the vast majority of people. As for me, I had some trouble initially getting it to work reliably but it now works for me about 75% to 80% of the time.
  • The LTE Speed: I know LTE is nothing new but this is my first phone that supports it. The AT&T speeds where I live are very good. I routinely see speeds of 15 Mbps up & 15 Mbps down. It is very nice to have speeds like that when you are out and about.
  • The Battery Life: I am very satisfied with the battery life in the iPhone 5S. I charge it every night and it rarely is under 40% by the end of the day.
  • The Software: The iPhone 5S comes with iOS7 installed. iOS 7 is a major departure from the previous iOS releases. It replaces the skeuomorphic designs of the previous OS’s with a clean, simple, & more modern look. For the most part I really like it. High points include the control center which comes up from the bottom, new voices and functionality for Siri, a much improved Weather app, FaceTime audio calls, & better multitasking. Overall I am very happy with iOS7. It’s not perfect but I like where Apple is going with it.

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In conclusion, I am very happy with the iPhone 5S and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Yes, it is not a perfect phone but between the improved camera, the A7 processor, great battery life, & most of all the incredible app ecosystem, I can’t think of a phone that I would rather have. It is the best iPhone yet.

Why I like iOS over Android

Apple vs.AndroidI greatly prefer using Apple phones and tablets running  iOS  over Android powered devices. Most people who know me could tell you this. But I get asked quite a lot why I prefer Apple so staunchly. Android, especially on phones is huge right now. It’s market share in the world dwarfs all of the competition, though not to the same extent in the U.S. There are Android phones of every size & price, the apps are usually free, and Google’s services (Chrome, Gmail, maps, Google Now, etc.) are great on Android. Why would anyone prefer Apples closed ecosystem & small screened phones? Here are the reasons why, at least for me, I prefer Apple.

  • Software Updates – Practically everybody in the U.S. signs a two year contract with their mobile carrier when they buy their cell phone. If I’m paying a large bill for two years before I can upgrade to a new phone, I need to know my phone will not be obsolete by then. Apple is the only company who controls the software updates for their phone. All of the other hardware manufacturers (Samsung, Motorola, HTC, etc.) are at the mercy of the wireless carriers for the release of software updates for their phones, which are always delayed somewhat or never come out at all in a lot of cases. The only exception are Google’s Nexus phones bought off contract through Google. If you have an iPhone that is 1-3 years old you get the latest iOS update the day it is released. Meanwhile, take a look at Google’s official numbers for Android here. These numbers are ridiculous. 38.4% of Android devices are still on Gingerbread, which came out in 2010! Meanwhile almost 90% of iOS devices are running iOS6 which was released in September 2012. The sad thing is, people who are  running Gingerbread on their phones can’t even use the best parts of Android. Chrome & Google Now among other things are not even available on Gingerbread. Unless you want to buy a Nexus phone there are no guarantees your phone will ever be updated. When you buy an iPhone you have the peace of mind that you will be supported for a least 2-3 years.
  • Android Skinning – What do TouchWiz, Sense, and (shudder) MotoBLUR all have in common? They are all Android skins. An Android skin is software that sits on top of the stock Android operating system that changes Androids looks and performance. They are all pretty terrible with MotoBLUR leading (lagging behind?) the pack. (See here, here, & here.) TLDR – They cause fragmentation, hamper performance, and are just plain ugly. Nearly every Android phone uses one of these skins (Hello Galaxy S3!). Only the Nexus phones, tablets & special versions of the HTC One & Galaxy S4 without subsidies can get you the pure stock Android experience. Needless to say I hate skinning. But hey, Android is open so companies are free to mess up Android as much as they want to. If I ever did have to buy an Android phone it would be a Nexus device. That way I wouldn’t have to deal with an ugly skin and I would have guaranteed updates.
  • Build Quality – While not quite as big of a deal nowadays, hello HTC One, I prefer the build quality of the iPhone over nearly all Android handsets. Whether it’s the front and back glass iPhone 4 & 4S or the glass and aluminum iPhone 5, when you hold an iPhone in your hand it feels like a premium product. I understand that the iPhone 4 and 4S are prone to cracking if dropped but when I hold a Samsung Galaxy in all it’s plastic backed glory, I just do not have the same connection. It just feels cheap to me. I do however concede that this is a personal preference on my part.
  • Malware – One of the “benefits” of Android being open is you are way more likely to be exposed to malware on your device. YAY! See here and here
  • Apps- One of the main reasons I prefer iOS over Android is the app library. A lot of major apps come out on iOS first (Vine, Instagram, twittermusic, etc.) or are iOS only (Letterpress, Reeder, Tweetbot etc). I like being able to try out the latest and greatest apps when they come out. One of the reasons why apps come to iOS first is because iPhone users are more engaged and spend longer with their apps than Android users. Another reason is that despite the fact that Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store are equal on many fronts, Apple still has a huge lead in revenue. Developers are going to put out their apps where they can make the most money and that is Apple right now.
  • Tablets Aren’t Even Close – While there can be arguments made for Android cell phones over Apple cell phones, it get dicier for tablets. Simply put, Android tablets suffer from all the same things as Android phones, as well as there not being very many tablet optimized apps. I hope you like phone apps blown up to fit your tablet’s screen! I own a Nexus 7, one of the flagship Android tablets. It has a good display, decent battery life, latest version of stock Android, etc. but it just sits in my desk drawer. My iPad is so much more fun to use it isn’t even close. So many apps, such great battery life, superior build quality, the list goes on and on. An iPad is the tablet to own in my opinion.

This concludes my reasons for preferring Apple’s iOS over Google’s Android. At the same time there are I’m sure a lot of advantages to Android over Apple. These guys are #1 and #2 and I think you can get by pretty easily with either.

Why I bought a MacBook Air over an iMac

I have been wanting to share my reasons for why I bought a laptop over a desktop the last time I went shopping for a computer. Earlier this year the HP laptop that I had been using for 6+ years (Curse you Windows Vista!) had reached a point to where it was virtually unusable and so it was time to look for something new. I knew that I wanted to go Apple for my next machine but wasn’t sure what I wanted specifically. Apple offers Macbook Pros & Airs, Mac Minis, & iMacs & they all have their pros & cons. I eventually settled on a 13″ MacBook Air w/ a 128 GB SSD drive, 4 GB of ram, & a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5 processor. It has turned out to be perfect for my needs. With a few extra accessories I get to enjoy great portability on the go and a desktop experience at my house. Let’s start with the portability. When I leave the house the one thing I nearly always bring with me is my backpack. As a lover of technology I can’t bear to leave it all at home. The MacBook Air makes this easy on a person like me. I used to dread bringing my laptop & would avoid doing it whenever I could. But at just under 3 pounds & at only .68″ thick, I barely even notice the MacBook is in my bag compared to the HP I had previously. With it’s 5 hour plus battery life & the incredible speed of the SSD drive I can get quite a bit done in a short amount of time. It is also remarkably faster than my previous machine. It boots up super fast too, less than 15 seconds in most cases. As far as a laptop is concerned it is at the top of the class in my estimation. But what I have really come to appreciate is what a great desktop machine it can be at home as well. (Disclaimer – this does require some additional equipment.) When I am at home I use my MacBook Air completely different than I use it on the go. I hook up my Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter from my MacBook to my Sony 24″ 1920 x 1080 LED display, as well as connect via Bluetooth my Apple wireless keyboard & magic trackpad. I plug in the power to my MacBook & boom, I have a very capable desktop computer with a higher definition display & almost twice the screen real estate as well. Another advantage to having just one computer is that I don’t have to worry about which files or apps are on which machine, everything is just all together. I’m definitely not saying that this is the right decision for everybody but it has worked out really well for me. There are tradeoffs to having just one machine. If you want a machine that is always running as a media server for your house or need a lot of storage for video or photo editing & portability isn’t a priority than a desktop is probably the right choice for you. But if you are like me and are looking for something that is more than capable for home & on the go use, you could do a lot worse than a MacBook Air or similar Windows ultrabook.

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The iPad mini

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My Shiny New iPad mini

I have very recently purchased an iPad mini & I would like to share some of my thoughts on it. This is actually the 4th iPad that I have bought. I bought the OG iPad ( 16gb Wifi Model ) shortly after it was released, upgraded to the iPad 2 ( 16gb Wifi as well ) again, shortly after it had been released, & then waited in line for the midnight release of the 3rd Gen iPad ( White 32gb Wifi ) in the spring of this year. I always sold the previous iPad shortly before the new one came out, as Apple products hold their value really well. The 3rd Gen iPad was really great. It was white, which is the best color for tablets in my opinion, and the retina screen on it was just amazing. It really is something to behold. So why did I recently sell it and pick up an iPad mini? As most people probably already know the iPad mini has a slightly older processor in it ( the A5 chip ) than the 3rd Gen iPad (A5X), & the new 4th Gen iPad (A6X). It also has the same 1024 x 768 screen resolution as the iPad 1 and 2, not the far clearer 2048 x 1536 retina resolution of the 3rd and 4th Gen iPads. So why would anybody want an iPad mini over one of the newer full size iPads? It wasn’t a hard decision for me at all. The iPad mini has some stuff going for it that really suited the way I want to use my iPad. The first thing you notice when you pick up an iPad mini is how incredibly thin & light it is, especially compared to the slightly heavy 3rd Gen iPad I am used to. I’m not trying to say that the regular iPads are too big & bulky. They are not. But this iPad mini is jacket pocket or put it in your purse and forget it’s there portable! I have been carrying mine with me pretty much wherever I go. It also has just as good battery life in my estimation as the full size iPads. If you own an iPad you know how great the battery life is on these devices. I would not want to purchase something that took a step back when it comes to the battery performance. But the big difference in this iPad mini for me is that I purchased the Verizon LTE version. This has been a game changer for me. (Note – You can get an LTE version of the regular iPads as well, I just never had personally.) It is hard for me to explain how convenient it is to have a constant internet connection on my iPad mini. I find myself using it over my phone most of the time now. Also worth noting, the speeds of Verizon’s LTE network are nothing short of amazing. I’ve gotten 24mps down and 17mps up on their network. It’s basically as fast as my home network only I can take it anywhere I go. Another benefit to buying the cellular version of the iPad mini is that you get a GPS chip inside. With it’s great battery life, 7.9″ screen, & GPS capability, the iPad mini makes for an awesome GPS in the car! Overall, I am very happy with the mini. While I miss the retina screen from my previous iPad, that is the only thing I miss about it. Everything else in my opinion is better on the mini. I have purchased a couple of accessories for my new iPad. I bought the Blue Smart Cover from Apple and the SwitchEasy CoverBuddy back cover. I love that they protect the front & back of my iPad while adding only minimal thickness and weight to it. I have added some pictures below of the accessories on my iPad.

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iPad mini With Blue Smart Cover

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Smart Cover Folded Into Stand

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SwitchEasy CoverBuddy Back Cover

Are iOS Apps Worth Paying For?

ios6Many people out there have some kind of an iOS device. Whether it be an iPhone, iPad, or an iPod touch. There are so many apps on the App Store, (more than 700,000) many of which are free. So why would you ever need to buy any apps especially if there are free alternatives? Indeed I know people that have had iPhones for years & haven’t purchased a single app. But, if you are like me you spend a lot of time using various apps from the App Store. There can be a pretty big difference in design and usability between apps that are free and apps that are just a buck or two. Sure if there are two or more apps that do similar things & you rarely open them, the free app will probably be preferable to the paid app. However, if you use an app everyday sometimes just spending a few dollars on a better app can be a huge benefit. Also, there are some paid apps that don’t really have free alternatives. Some of these can be a real joy to use and you would never experience them if you refuse to put any money into the app store. Think of it like this, you probably spend close to $100.00 a month on your cell phone bill if not more. For a fraction of that monthly price you can have a really enjoyable experience with some paid apps. I would encourage you to read reviews of any app before you buy it though. There are tons of subpar apps both free and paid on the App Store. I quickly just want to write about a few paid apps that I think are definitely worth the money they are asking for and that I use everyday.

  • Reeder – Reeder is by far the best RSS reader I have ever used. What does it do? You simply add any website or blog that you read regularly to Reeder and it will keep track of everything posted to that site for you. That way you will never miss another article from one of your favorite websites. It will also cache these articles for offline reading. It is a very intuitive app and makes great use of gestures. It is an absolute joy to use and I open it multiple times everyday (Note – this app requires a google reader account, which is free.)  Available for iPhone  ($2.99) & for iPad ($4.99)
  • Tweetbot – OK why in the world would you want to pay for a Twitter client when there are so many free ones including the official app? This one basically comes down to, how much do you use twitter? If you are a very casual user you will probably get by with the free official app. But if you are a pretty heavy user Tweetbot is head and shoulders above everything else. Beautiful design, tons of features, (Muting Specific Users!) great gesture controls, multiple timelines, & awesome sound effects make this the Twitter client. Available for iPhone ($2.99) & for iPad ($2.99)
  • Downcast – I listen to a lot of podcasts. Apple themselves offer a free podcast app. It sucks. I have had so many crazy crashes and lost data when I used it to ever recommend it. Downcast  however, has been close to perfect for me over several months of  heavy use. You simply search for and add whatever podcast you like in the app and it will keep track of them from there. It gives you a ton of options for how and when to download new podcasts, how many podcasts to keep and when to delete old ones, & like Tweetbot has great sound effects. This is probably my favorite app in the App Store. It is available as a universal app for both the iPhone & iPad ($1.99)
  • Fantastical – This is a relatively new app for the iPhone but has been a much loved calendar app on the mac for quite some time. What’s great about Fantastical over other calendar apps is it’s natural language event creation. It can be a real chore entering in calendar events into the regular calendar app but with Fantastical you simply write in exactly how the event is in your head. For example you could type – Dinner with my wife at Applebees at 630 to 730 tomorrow night. Fantastical will take that sentence and put all of the information in the right places for you. It makes for a much better calendar experience and has gotten me to keep better track of my life with it’s simplicity. It is available for iPhone ($1.99)
  • Delivery Status Touch – This app is terrific if you order a lot of things online. They support pretty much every delivery service. You simply add your order information (Who you bought your item from, order #, tracking #, etc.) to the app and it will keep track of all of your packages and update itself every time you open the app. It is a lot more convenient than constantly copying and pasting tracking numbers into various websites over and over. It is available as a universal app for both the iPhone & iPad ($2.99)

These are just 5 apps that I really enjoy and feel comfortable recommending. You could buy them all for around $21.00 and have them all for both iPhone & iPad. I have found in my 4+ years of using the app store that there are some apps worth paying for. Feel free to let me know if you have any that you would recommend. Until next time…..