SciTechBlog
April 2, 2010

Which iPad apps are getting the early buzz?

Posted: 01:42 PM ET

So what exactly can you do with the new Apple iPad?

That question will likely be best answered by what apps - or mobile applications - become available for the touch-screen device.

Ahead of the iPad's Saturday release, Apple decided on Thursday to put more than 2,500 iPad apps up for sale on its App Store, giving techies a first glimpse at an answer to that all-important question.

Reviewers who already have the iPad are weighing in. Note that these apps are generally pricier than those for the iPhone or iPad Touch. The big difference? iPad apps are bigger, allowing for fancier designs.

Here are a few iPad apps that caught our eye:

  • eBay: It's free and has bigger photos of products, theoretically making it easier and faster to sort through them.
  • Marvel Comics: The iPad's 9.7 inch screen shows off color books better than grayscale e-readers.
  • The Elements: Reviewers are in love with this app, which is basically a multimedia e-book about the periodic table of elements (think of your childhood place-mat gone digital). The price is steep, though, if you're used to $0.99 iPhone apps. It sells for $13.99.
  • NBA: Reviewers say this app is great for statistics fans, since graphs and court diagrams are easier to show off on a bigger screen.
  • Epicurious: The preview photos of this recipe-book app look pretty cool. And the app is free.
  • Netflix: You still need a Netflix subscription, but this free app lets you stream movies and TV shows offered by Netflix onto the iPad's large screen.
  • EA games: Scrabble, Need for Speed and Tetris are getting buzz from CNET. Some gamers hope the large screen will make games more engaging on the iPad than on the iPhone. Others are skeptcial. Some titles could just look over-inflated.
  • Box.net: Sites like Box.net and Dropbox archive documents "in the cloud," so you can access them from anywhere. Wired says these services are a whole lot easier to use on the iPad's big screen.
  • iWork: Apple's suite of apps costs $9.99 and are aimed at business and student types. They help you create presentations, documents and spreadsheets.

Check out the Apple App Store through iTunes to see a full list of the iPad apps available now, with prices and screenshots. With the exception of the iWork apps, we haven't tried these programs yet, but we'll report back as soon as we get our hands on an iPad.

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Filed under: Apple • Apps • Games • iPad


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April 1, 2010

From 'sensual' to 'disappointment,' iPad reviews are in

Posted: 01:13 PM ET

In case you've been sleeping under a rock with your iPhone turned off, there's some big tech news coming up on Saturday: Apple's iPad goes on sale. And the pundits are already chiming in.

Here's a point-by-point about this new "slate" computer, which is like a touch-screen laptop without a keyboard, or, as The New York Times writes, "basically a gigantic iPod Touch."

  • Overall impressions: Most tech reviewers are pretty gaga over the iPad, but there's some variance in how much they love the device. The Chicago Sun-Times is ready for a commitment ceremony, declaring the iPad "pure innovation" and "one of best computers ever." The New York Times isn't as sold.
  • Typing: The iPad doesn't have a keyboard, so you have to tap on the screen the screen to type. NYT says it's "barely usable," plus: "When the very glossy 9.7-inch screen is off, every fingerprint is grossly apparent." Wall Street Journal takes the opposite view: "I found the iPad virtual keyboard more comfortable and accurate to use than the cramped keyboards and touchpads on many netbooks."
  • Better than a laptop?: WSJ says the iPad is "pretty close" to being a laptop killer.
  • Multitasking: You can't run more than one program at once on the iPad, which disappoints the blog Engadget: "There's no multitasking at all. It's a real disappointment. All this power and very little you can do with it at once. No multitasking means no streaming Pandora when you're working in Pages ... It's a real setback for this device."
  • Creating documents: The WSJ likes the virtual keyboard, but doesn't think it will work for all business functions: "If you need to create or edit giant spreadsheets or long documents, or you have elaborate systems for organizing e-mail, or need to perform video chats, the iPad isn't going to cut it as your go-to device."
  • Multimedia books: BoingBoing says colorful, clickable books and apps make the iPad. It highlights those from Marvel Comics, Reuters news agency and the Epicurious recipe site.
  • Color books: USA TODAY says the fact that your can read books in color on the iPad is a big deal. You can't do that on many e-reader competitors: "Judged solely from a sizzle standpoint: There's no contest. Titles on the iPad such as Winnie the Pooh (which comes preloaded on the iPad) boast colorful illustrations. The 6-inch Kindle screen is grayscale."
  • No Flash: The iPad doesn't support Flash video. NYT: "Apple has this thing against Flash, the Web’s most popular video format; says it’s buggy, it’s not secure and depletes the battery. Well, fine, but meanwhile, thousands of Web sites show up with empty white squares on the iPad — places where videos or animations are supposed to play."
  • Cameras: The iPad doesn't have a camera, which means you can't use it for video conferencing. USA TODAY makes another point along these lines: There's no USB connection to hook up the camera you already have. But the paper says there's a workaround: "Some will decry the absence of a USB port or other connectors, which might let you hook up a printer or bolster storage. Everything comes through the standard iPod-like dock connector on the bottom of the iPad. You can purchase a $29 iPad Camera Connection Kit..."
  • Maps: "Maps become real maps, like the paper ones" on the iPad's larger screen, NYT says.
  • Love factor: Some writers seem to be just downright in love with the device. Scary in love with it. From BoingBoing: "The form just feels good, not too lightweight or heavy, nor too thin or thick. It's sensual. It's tactile ... the iPad hits a completely new pleasure spot."

Anything else you want to know about the forthcoming pleasure device known as the iPad? Let us know and we'll do our best to find you answers. Also, if you pick up an iPad on Saturday, let us know what you think at this CNN iReport assignment.

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Filed under: Apple • Apps • iPad


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March 22, 2010

Geek Out!: What will we get from iPhone 4.0?

Posted: 02:15 PM ET
 
 
Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs.
 
 
The launch of the iPad is looming, but some of us are still more concerned about what's going to be new for its smaller-statured brother - the iPhone.

There will likely be an update to the phone’s operating system in conjunction with the release of the iPad.  The question is – what will we get?

There have been plenty of rumors that this update will be BIG.  Of course, "big" is a relative term and could really mean anything.

The hottest rumor is that the phone may actually be able to finally run more than one application at a time.

For Apple geeks, that would be bigger than big  - that would be huge -  and would bring our beloved iPhone in line with Palm’s Pre.

There are some other smaller features I would love to see come to my favorite technological addiction.  Some of these include:

_ Tethering/Hotspot creation:  The Palm Pre can do this – time for AT&T to allow the iPhone to do the same – i.e. create a wireless hotspot or allow the phone to be tethered to a laptop so you can surf anywhere.  I don’t even care if I have to pay for this feature – just don’t expect me to pay much. (An additional $15 -25 would be in line with what I'd expect).

_ Bluetooth remote profile:  The last update gave us Bluetooth streaming for wireless headphones and other audio devices.  But for some unknown reason Mr. Jobs neglected to include the profile that lets you change tracks.  Please enable this!

_ Custom sound sets: Friends with jailbroken phones (who will remain nameless) lord this over me all the time.  Why can’t I make my e-mail, SMS or other alerts sound like whatever I want?  Also, why can’t I choose just one email address (my work account for example) to beep/buzz when I get a new email?  Right now it’s all or nothing. 

Those are just a few of the things that bug me on this phone.  And as always, it’s not that the phone isn’t great - it’s that it could be so much better! 

What features do you want to see?  What isn’t there that drives you crazy?  And let's leave new hardware features for another post!

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Filed under: Geek Out! • iPad • iPhone • Palm Pre • smartphones • technology


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March 16, 2010

iPad keyboard delayed until May

Posted: 01:42 PM ET

If you plan to pick up an Apple iPad the day it's released, it looks like you'll have to put up with typing on its touch-screen keyboard for at least a month.

According to Apple's product Web site, the iPad keyboard accessory - which lets people peck away on a tactile keyboard instead of on a full-size touch-screen - will not be available for purchase until May. The Wi-Fi-connected version of the much-anticipated iPad, which is essentially a laptop computer with a touch-sensitive screen and no keyboard, is available for pre-order now and will ship to the public on April 3. (Thanks to AppleInsider and Electronista for picking up on this first). The iPad does have a Bluetooth connection, leaving open the possibility that you could connect another type of wireless keyboard to the iPad.

As I pointed out in January, the iPad's full-size, touch-screen keyboard feels a bit goofy at first. I don't look at my hands when I type, and on the iPad there's no way to make sure your fingers are tapping the right keys without looking down to check. The whole screen is glass, so you can't feel the difference. Other people apparently feel the same way about touch screens. An industry analyst who sat next to me at the iPad unveiling in San Francisco literally screamed with joy when Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the company would sell keyboards with the iPad.

It still appears they will. You just might have to wait a bit.

Other iPad accessories have been delayed, too. Ars Technica notes that a camera connection accessory is "currently MIA." MacWorld says an iPad case has been delayed to mid-April.

What do you think? Will not having a keyboard at launch hurt iPad sales? Will it make a difference in your decision about whether or not to buy the device that Apple has called "magical and revolutionary?"

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Filed under: Apple • iPad


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March 12, 2010

iPad pre-orders start today

Posted: 07:31 AM ET
Steve Jobs and his new iPad
Steve Jobs and his new iPad

The "magical and revolutionary" moment is finally here. Apple is allowing fans the opportunity to pre-order the new iPad starting today.

In preparation for the onslaught, the Apple Store was down early Friday with a yellow sticky pad saying, "We'll be back soon." The store since has reopened and are now taking pre-orders for Apple's latest creation.

Even though you can order today, the iPad won’t be in the customer's hands until April 3rd. Our partners at Mashable say "this moment is exciting because from now on, Apple (and, hopefully, the media) will have some idea how well this thing actually sells."

Will you be one of the first to order? Are you going to wait? Or do you even want to get an iPad anyway?

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Filed under: iPad


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March 8, 2010

iPad ad debuts during Oscars

Posted: 12:21 PM ET

The Oscars made history Sunday night - it was the first time a woman won Best Director, and the first time an ad for Apple’s upcoming iPad aired on TV.

The ad, which aired several times during the awards show, follows the same simple formula as Apple's iPhone commercials by featuring unidentified users navigating the iPad with catchy music - “There Goes My Love” by The Blue Van - in the background.

Among the iPad functions highlighted by Apple in the ad: Displaying newspaper articles and e-books, playing movies, showing maps and pictures and typing on the iPad’s touch-screen keyboard.

After the commercial's debut, the iPad became a trending topic on Twitter and on blogs.

The new ad wasn’t Apple's only presence at the 82nd-annual Academy Awards. Steve Jobs was spotted on the red carpet - in a tux, not his usual black turtleneck. The Apple CEO, who presumably was there supporting Disney/Pixar's “Up,” is a shareholder and member of the Walt Disney Company’s Board of Directors.

The iPad will be available in the United States April 3. Customers can begin pre-ordering the device March 12.

What do you think about the iPad ad?

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Filed under: Apple • iPad


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March 5, 2010

Sony to launch challengers to iPad, iPhone

Posted: 12:26 PM ET

Sources have told the Wall Street Journal that Sony is planning on making a challenger to Apple’s iPad that will have all the capabilities of a netbook, a Sony Reader and a PSP, the company's handheld gaming device.

At a Sony news conference in Tokyo, Sony’s CFO Nobuyuki Oneda didn’t provide any details but expressed the company’s desire to compete against Apple’s newest gadget, due in stores next month.

"That is a market we are also very interested in. We are confident we have the skills to create a [great] product," said Oneda. "Time-wise, we are a little behind the iPad but it's a space we would like to be an active player in.”

The WSJ also reported Sony is making a new smartphone - containing Sony Ericsson mobile technology and capable of playing PSP games - to compete against the iPhone. Both devices are expected to work with Sony Online Services, an online store due to launch in March and sell music, movies, books, and other downloadable applications for mobile products.

The iPad challenger and the new smartphone are expected to launch sometime in 2010, but no details about specs, price or design have been released.

Sony has tried to get into the phone/gaming gadget arena in the past. A patent was filed in 2006 for a device that looked like a PSP on one side and a smartphone on the other, but such a device has never hit the market.

Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones in the last three months of 2009. The company announced Friday that the iPad will be available April 3.

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Filed under: Apple • iPad • iPhone • smartphones • Sony


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February 23, 2010

Apple bans most (but not all) sexy apps

Posted: 11:58 AM ET
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit app is still available in the app store.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit app is still available in the app store.

Apple has tightened its restrictions on sexy or suggestive apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and many of the most popular programs in the iTunes app store have been removed.

While speaking to the New York Times, Apple executive Phil Schiller explained, "It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see."

Several days ago the developer of the Wobble app posted the results of his discussion with Apple on his blog. The Wobble app, which adds a jelly-like wobble motion to any user supplied photo, was recently removed because advertisements suggested it could be used on photos of breasts.

I have spoken with Apple, and the following are the new rules:

1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)

2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn’t ask about Ice Skating tights for men)

3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)

4. No silhouettes that indicate that Wobble can be used for wobbling boobs (yes – I am serious, we have to remove the silhouette in this pic)

5. No sexual connotations or innuendo: boobs, babes, booty, sex – all banned

6. Nothing that can be sexually arousing!! (I doubt many people could get aroused with the pic above but those puritanical guys at Apple must get off on pretty mundane things to find Wobble "overtly sexual!")

7. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content (not sure how Playboy is still in the store, but …)

While most apps containing bikini-clad women are threatened, Phil Schiller defended the Sports Illustrated app to the Times. "The difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format," he said.

As of this morning, a Playboy app was also still available, suggesting Apple may accept sexual content if the developer is associated with a strong brand.

Apple has struggled to keep the app store clean, but these new policies remove many of the store's most popular programs. Parents can enable the app store's parental controls and adults can simply choose not to download content they do not approve of.

In a blog post today, Fortune.com columnist Philip Elmer DeWitt linked the purge to next month's release of the iPad tablet computer, which will run iTunes apps and which Apple plans to market for home and school use.

How do you feel about Apple's decision? Should material that is so widely accepted be banned because it is objectionable to a relative few?

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Filed under: iPad • iPhone • iPod • mobile phones • smartphones


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February 3, 2010

eBooks get more expensive

Posted: 11:15 AM ET

Amazon has given in to publisher pressure and agreed to abandon their $9.99 price point for eBooks.

Publisher Macmillan felt that the $9.99 price devalued many of its bestsellers, which often sell for $30 in hardcover format. In response to the pricing dispute, Amazon briefly removed all Macmillan books from its store last week. However, the boycott lasted only a few days before Amazon gave in to Macmillan's demands.

In a statement Sunday, Amazon defended its position to customers:

Macmillan, one of the "big six" publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.

Amazon's decision to throw in the towel may be related to Macmillian's recent agreement to sell books in Apple's iBookstore. Amazon has captured an overwhelming share of the eBook market with its Kindle reader, but if the iPad becomes successful publishers may turn to Apple to sell their eBooks.

During a recent News Corp. earnings call, CEO Rupert Murdoch indicated that HarperCollins may follow Macmillan's example. "We don’t like the Amazon model of $9.99," Murdoch told investors, according to a recap in MediaMemo. "We think it really devalues books and hurts all the retailers of hardcover books... Apple in its agreement with us, which has not been disclosed in detail, does allow for a variety of slightly higher prices."

Publishers seem more interested in protecting the value of their hardcover books than competing in a digital format. Will higher eBook prices convince you to purchase a physical copy of your next novel, or will accept a modest price increase given that eBooks are typically cheaper?

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Filed under: Amazon • Apple • books • e-readers • iPad


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January 29, 2010

Demo: Touch keyboard on the iPad

Posted: 09:10 AM ET

After Apple unveiled the iPad on Wednesday in San Francisco, I squeezed into a crowded room of journalists to demo the lightweight computer that looks rather like a stretched-out iPhone.

My No. 1 goal: Try the keyboard.

The full-size, touch-screen keyboard on the iPad could make or break the device.

The iPad doesn't come with a hardware keyboard, like the one you probably have on your laptop or home PC. Neither does the iPhone, and it's worth noting that many people type on that device with relative ease. But, if, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs says, the iPad can be a device for reading and creating documents, spreadsheets and office presentations - if it aims to replace the laptop and netbook - then it has to be easy to type on.

The problem: It's not, at least not at first.

In a demo at Apple's invite-only event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs tapped away on the iPad keyboard using all of his fingers. He said typing on the device is "a dream." I found typing on the iPad to be rather cumbersome. Hardware keyboards are tactile. Your fingers can feel where they're supposed to be.

But if you're not looking at the iPad screen, then there's no way to know what you're typing until you see the errors popping up in your documents. I found myself choosing finger-strokes with anxious care, which slowed me down considerably - more than the iPhone keyboard does.

I chatted with some other tech reporters to see what they thought. Jacqui Cheng, associate editor at Ars Technica, said she had some similar issues and overall described typing on the iPad as "very frustrating." She's an adept iPhone typist, but said the iPad screen is too large to let users type with their thumbs, as many do on the much-smaller iPhone.

Other people said they found the keyboard on the iPad to be unexpectedly comfortable. It is large enough for average-sized hands when the 9.7-inch device is turned horizontally, which is rather unique. "I think it's amazing," Stephen Hutcheon, of the Sydney Morning Herald, said of the device in general. "It just sits really nicely in your hand. It's just a very intuitive feel."

The typing issues may work themselves out over time as people become more comfortable typing in this new way. And, according to one product rep, Apple will offer a $69 hardware keyboard that plugs into the iPad. (When Jobs announced the hardware keyboard at the press event, the man sitting next to me, a business-dressed market analyst, literally screamed with joy).

Still, the iPad is definitely a product you'll want to touch before buying.

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Filed under: Apple • iPad


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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