Who Needs An Apple Tablet?

Rumors that Apple is building a tablet computer have reached a fever-pitch over the past six months. The basic gist is it will have a 7 inch screen and run a version of the iPhone OS making a good chunk of the apps available to also run on this new tablet. But why do we even need such a thing?

This thing sounds too big to be carried around with you wherever you go like an iPhone or iPod Touch but too small for long periods of work. It almost seems like it is aimed at two lifestyles: 1) Frequent flyers, 2) a TV watching companion device. This sounds just like the MacBook Air which was introduced on January 15, 2008.

I wonder, how long the battery will last in order to power a 7 inch display? And what extra functionality will this bring to our lives? According to one rumor blog, Apple Insider,

“The tablet is expected to be portrayed as a multimedia device capable of browsing the Web, watching movies, and reading content.”

Wow, you mean just like my laptop of today? Again, why is everyone getting worked up over this?

There have also been rumors swirling that the iPhone is coming to Verizon, which seems less likely from a technical stance (CDMA vs. GSM). I think if we ever see an Apple/Verizon partnership it will be for a data plan for this tablet device so you can use the web wherever you go. Verizon currently does this with a few netbooks, though it is a horrible deal. $199.99 + a 2 year contract of at least $39.99 per month ($1,159.75 total), all for a dinky, underpowered netbook that retails for $399.99 on HP’s own site.

So the idea of an Apple tablet looks lackluster from my point of view pre-announcement. Maybe Apple has a card up its sleeve when it announces the device and the world will wonder how we lived in the pre-tablet era. Perhaps this post will go down in Apple fanboy history just like all the negative reactions when Apple first introduced the iPod in October, 2001. Or maybe the Apple Tablet will just fade away into gadget history just like the Apple Hi-Fi.

“Great just what the world needs, another freaking MP3 player. Go Steve! Where’s the Newton?!”

—WeezerX80’s reaction to the announcement of the iPod.

Two Unreleased Gadgets That Caught My Eye

Zune HD

Yup, I’m a Zune fan. Gizmodo has a video of the buttery-smooth animation used in the Zune HD interface.

I’m sold after it comes out this fall.

HTC Magic

The successor to the T-Mobile G1 has been unveiled by Google who gave out 4,000 of them to the attendees of the I/O Conference. After further prodding it is revealed that the phone uses a T-Mobile SIM card which pretty much seals the deal that it will land with the magenta carrier.

HTC Magic G2

Initial reviews indicate the battery life is acceptable, lasting at least through the work day with 3G on. This covers two of my three requirements for a new phone.

No word on when this phone will officially launch.

The Touch Book From Always Innovating

Always Innovating announced a new tablet/netbook hybrid today at the DEMO conference. What’s unique about this tiny notebook is the detachable tablet screen that has a magnetic backing so you can stick it to a refrigerator and turn it into an instant wall computer. Both the tablet half and the keyboard half have their own battery which is being touted to last for 10-15 hours. It is designed to be always on just like a cell phone and with 10 hours in between charges, it will probably surpass my T-Mobile Dash. Unlike most other netbooks on the market today, the Touch Book uses an ARM chip instead of a “power-hungry” Intel Atom processor.

The Touch Book by Always Innovating is a sleek netbook/tablet hybrid

The included operating system will be a Linux derivative developed by Always Innovating featuring a unique 3D UI. But since the device is open source, according to their FAQ you could “install many OSes on the device, including Google Android, Ubuntu, Angstrom and Windows CE, though we would not recommend the latter.” If it can run the gorgeous looking Jolicloud OS from Netvibes founder Tariq Krim then I’m sold. Who needs an Apple netbook anyway?

Jolicloud mixes desktop and cloud software with large icons that make it easier on Netbook users.

I don’t believe any of the tech media has had a chance for a hands on review, but I’m anxious if this device lives up to it’s hype. Coming in at $399 for the tablet and keyboard or $299 for just the tablet, this little ultra portable really piques my interest. It is expected to ship in May or June of this year but is available for pre-order now.

Speaking of ultra-portables, I was at a Microcenter over the weekend and I happened to see a Fujitsu LifeBook U820. This thing was tiny! The dimensions are 6.73″ x 6.14″ with a 5.6″ screen. I had to squint to see my mouse cursor and the keyboard was just small enough for fat-finger mashing. Sometimes there is such a thing as “too small.” The scary thing is it runs Windows Vista Business. Pocketables.net has a good picture of it in use.

The Fujitsu Lifebook U820 requires tiny fingers.

Other coverage of the Touch Book:

T-Mobile Has 3G But No Phones

T-Mobile has had their 3G service up and running for over a month here in DC. My 2 year contract that I got with my T-Mobile Dash expired on Halloween of this year. So technically you could say I’m in the market for a new cell phone. The problem is there aren’t any phones that I’m particularly excited about. I would like a 3G QWERTY keyboard phone that I can surf the web and take pictures with. It sounds simple, but there are surprisingly few options.

There are only two official phones from T-Mobile that meet those needs: the Samsung Behold and the T-Mobile G1. The Behold lacks Wifi and the supposed real web browsing is mediocre. The G1 is the new Android-powered phone that everyone made such a hoopla about a month ago. A friend of mine has a G1 and says the battery life is abysmal. After playing with it for a couple of minutes I felt impressed but not knock-me-down I must have this NOW. If I did get a G1, I would certainly get it from Walmart where it sells for $50 less than T-Mobile.

T-Mobile G1

Other options include an unlocked Nokia phone. The E71 looks like a great contender though it is more expensive and doesn’t support T-Mobile’s 3G spectrum. Drats!

Nokia E71

Looks like I’ll just keep on waiting for something more interesting to come along. I mean is a 3G QWERTY phone with decent battery life too much to ask for?

Obsessable.com Is Worth Obsessing About

The newest gadget/technology site to hit the web is Obsessable.com, which launched earlier today. Now you might be thinking “Who needs another gadget blog?” but it is more than just the latest news. Obsessable aims to be the resource for consumer electronics covering news, reviews, and detailed product information. It’s like a blog/product database for all your mobile, imaging, home a/v, computing, and gaming needs.

Obsessable Homepage Screenshot

Probably my favorite feature is the Comparators. Like the name implies the Comparator lets you compare several products side by side through a slick, scrolling interface that is jam packed with vital stats. The first example of this thing in action is for 6 HDTV’s. You can add or subtract groups of stats that you care about. In the case of the HDTV’s that would be things like data connectivity and physical specifications. After finishing constructing a table of all the data you want it would be nice to be able to print it out so you can take it with you to a store. I’m sure this feature is coming.

Obsessable Comparator

The team consists of many former Weblogs Inc. writers. Evan Blass and Barb Dybwad formerly from Engadget, Emily Price from Download Squad, and Randall Bennett who I use to do a podcast with over at DVGuru.com. These are just some of the names I recognize from the Obsessable’s staff roster.

Obsessable is clearly aiming to be a top contender in the personal gadget space that is already ruled by Engadget and Gizmodo. There is also the as of yet unannounced site gdgt from the masterminds behind the top gadget blogs Ryan Block and Peter Rojas. But in the world of gadgets, many sites can co-exist. In fact it makes gadget reporting better because every site keeps the others in check.

I can see Obsessable is only at the begininng and can’t wait to see what else it has in store.

Casio Brings Super Slo-mo Video To Prosumers

Casio’s EX-F1 Does Super Slow Motion Video
Engadget is reporting on a digital camera with super slow motion capabilities from Casio. The EX-F1, which was announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show today, is a typical 6 megapixel still camera but with some serious frame-burst technology. The video modes on the camera offer three settings for slow motion: 300 frames per second (fps) at 512 × 384 resolution, 600fps at 432 × 192, and 1200fps at 336 × 96. To put things into perspective, 1200fps is about 40 times more frames than real time which is 30 fps. The more frames that need to be played back the longer the clip duration will be resulting in slow motion. It’s a drag the frame size drops to a web video size for the slowest of slow motion, but at least it is there. Before this camera, the closest thing to getting slow motion footage of this caliber would require an investment of at least 5 figures. Now this specialized camera can be yours for just over 3 digits at $1,000!

Not to say that the video is only good for slow motion, the Casio EX-F1 can also shoot 1080i HD video as well as 60 fps at the full 6 megapixel resolution in still mode. First hand reports claim this thing sounds like a machine gun when you release the shutter like InfoSyncWorld.com who said “The shutter release sounds more like a machine gun or a whirring fan than a camera shutter.”

Engadget posted some sample video from the press conference:

This camera has some power to drool over, especially for those specifically interested in slow motion video. I always wanted to explore slow motion video but I never had access to any cameras that could do it. I am always weary about camera that try to do both video and still photos in the same device because they usually end up suffering in both areas. But each year we keep seeing the two mediums come closer together with acceptable results. If I were in highschool right now I would be saving up to get a camera like this especially with social networking and YouTube being so big. I wish I had all of this stuff when I was a kid when I had the time to play around with it.

You can see the full specs of this beast over at DPreview.com but oyu won’t be able to get your grubby little hands on one until March.

666th Zune Fan

I just joined the official Zune group on Facebook the other day and when I looked at the number of fans I saw this…

Zune 666

I’m sure lots of Zune haters will get a kick out of any reference to Hell and the Microsoft device. I am actually a fan and my review will be coming in a couple of days.

Update: Last Zune In The DC Area

Microsoft Zune 80 Package

It has been nearly a month and I thought I would update everyone about the last Zune in the DC area. I managed to sell the digital media player on the Amazon Marketplace for $329.99, a 32% markup over the original price. I still needed an MP3 player for my daily commute and with the profit I decided to buy another Zune 80 online via Amazon.com instead of in person at Target. In this situation buying online was a much better deal for the following reasons:

  1. Buying the player in person results in sales tax being tacked on. Here in Maryland, the sales tax is 5% so that would add an additional $12.50. Amazon.com doesn’t charge sales tax for Maryland residents.
  2. Amazon.com offers a 30 day price match on it’s own products. If the price drops within 30 days of a purchase, Amazon will refund the difference. When I ordered the player on December 2nd, it was $249.00. Today it is being sold for $239.99, a difference of $9.00. Claiming a refund is easy. Just go to Amazon.com/refunds and send customer service an e-mail. If you don’t want to keep track of the price differences yourself, check out PriceProtectr.com which will send you an e-mail if there is any drop.
  3. Both Amazon.com and any local store are sold out of the device, so I would have to wait either way. I don’t mind waiting which is why I decided to sell my first one when the demand was high.

Here is a final breakdown of the math:

1st Zune Bought at Target
+$12.50 Sales Tax
= $262.49 Total

Sold on Amazon.com Marketplace
$329.99 Price Sold
+$7.48 Shipping Credit from Amazon.com
– $10.35 Actual Shipping Cost (Added insurance to the cost)
-$28.14 Amazon Fee
– $262.49 Cost to Acquire
= $36.49 Profit

2nd Zune Bought on Amazon.com
+$5.58 Shipping and Handling
-$5.58 Free Super Saver Shipping
-$9.00 Price Difference Refund
= $239.99

Final price for my Zune
$239.99 for 2nd Zune
-$36.49 Profit From 1st Zune
= $203.50

Not bad for waiting a little bit longer and taking advantage of a unique situation.