Category Archives: iPad

New iPad: Worth the upgrade?

I’ve bought each generation iPad: iPad (AT&T), iPad 2 (Verizon), and now the 3rd generation iPad with Verizon LTE.

For those on the fence, is it worth upgrading? Here’s my take: YES

  • Fantastic high-definition screen (must been seen to appreciate)
  • Faster cellular data options (Verizon LTE & AT&T LTE) than the iPad 2
  • Upgraded rear camera / camcorder

I’ve found the new iPad especially useful now that I’ve added a zagg folio keyboard case. It’s protective while not adding alot of bulk and weight. And perhaps best of all? The keyboard isn’t cramped and I can actually type accurately using it. Aside from the great quality the zagg folio offers, it also comes in great color combinations: I have the blue cover with white keyboard on ordeThe 3rd generation iPad feels like the iPad I’ve always wanted, and I’m thrilled to have it. If you’re near an Apple Store, highly recommend visiting to see the new iPad for yourself.

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UPDATED! Fitness tech gadgets: My “road test” results

Up

I’ve updated this post based on my experience after it was published. See text in blue bold for updates.

With the holidays approaching, I’ve been seeking ways to reinforce my motivation to meet health goals. This time of year, it’s all too easy not to be active enough due to long hours at work and colder weather outside.

So, after hearing about friends’ experiences using fitness devices, I decided to try a few myself:

All three devices worked as advertised for me, although there are some caveats potential buyers should be aware of…

Jawbone UP (pictured above):

PROS –

  • Easy to wear “bracelet” design
  • Compact and unobtrusive
  • Push button to change modes is easy to use and works well
  • Tracks activity (tracks steps when not in “active” mode)
  • Tracks sleep in a fairly granular manner. Comfortable to wear while sleeping. (It’s helped me understand why I’m so tired during the day… I don’t sleep very soundly at night.)

CONS –

  • First generation product with (an apparently) high failure rate. (More on this below.)
  • Only syncs with iPhone app (no joy for folks with other smartphones or even laptop users)
  • Surprisingly, doesn’t sync via bluetooth: User must connect UP to iPhone via headphone jack
  • iPhone sync process can be fussy: I find it works best if I restart my iPhone, open UP app, insert UP into headset jack, turn up headset volume, then initiate sync right away within UP app. (It really shouldn’t require such a precise process!)
  • Progress and metrics can only be viewed on iPhone app (not able to view metric tracking/dashboard on web site)
  • Food tracking is limited
  • Doesn’t automatically sync activity metrics with my favorite fitness/food journal app, Lose It!
  • Due to bracelet design, your arms must be swinging during exercise to accurately register activity (not happy news for bikers!)

UP

Caveats:
The Jawbone UP’s early failure rate almost dissuaded me from purchasing this product. Even so, I bought at my Apple Store, taking care to keep the package and receipt *just in case*. And the failure rates are not just anonymous metrics — I know someone who is on his third Jawbone UP — the 1st two failed.

With so many reports of early hardware failure, I’m not sure I’d give it as a gift until Jawbone comes out with UP v.2

UPDATED: A big con arose for me… it completely stopped syncing. No matter what I did, it would not sync. I finally wound up returning it to Apple (where I bought it) as defective.

Fitbit

Fitbit Ultra:

 

PROS –

  • Syncs wirelessly (dock connected via USB to your laptop)
  • Comes with seemingly handy plastic clip to connect to your clothing. (More on this below.)
  • Tracks activity and sleep
  • Offers detailed online dashboard at fitbit.com
  • Offers an iPhone app, as well as a mobile web site for other smartphones

UPDATE: I decided to keep the Fitbit after the UP stopped syncing. Based on the variety of tracking devices available on the market, Fitbit is among the best. I wrapped the Fitbit “holster” in electrical tape to make it less slippery (less likely to slide off my belt), and added a layer of electrical tape inside the holster to add friction (make it less likely the device itself would slide out on its own).

CONS –

  • Sleep tracking requires inserting device into cloth wristband (I found this a little uncomfortable)
  • Sleep tracking is not as granular as Jawbone UP
  • Integrates with Lose It! mobile app but in a confusing way. (More on this below.)
  • SUPER easy to lose! It’s flown off my belt several times.
  • Fitbit iPhone app is okay but not as granular as I’d like

Caveats:
The plastic clip is slippery! It’s far too easy to lose the Fitbit Ultra (and at $99, you don’t want to risk losing it!). Integrates with Lose It! app but only populates Lose It’s exercise metrics if you burn a certain number of calories (hey, I want credit for all activity, as a motivator to be even more active!).

If you buy a Fitbit Ultra, be sure to find a way to affix it to your clothing so that it won’t fly off.

Withings

Withings Scale:

PROS –

  • Super easy to use… just weigh yourself and your weight is automatically synced to your my.withings.com dashboard
  • Easy to set up: Insert batteries, then connect scale to your computer via USB to complete set up (including enabling WIFI sync).
  • User can enable integration with Lose It! app and Fitbit dashboard.
  • Offers multiple mobile apps (WiScale app for iPhone and Withings app for Android).

CONS –

  • Expensive at $159 (see Amazon page for product details & reviews).

Caveats:
Aside from cost, no caveats I can think of. Does what it promises.

Loseit

Special mention: Lose It! fitness / food journal app

I first started using Lose It! a few years ago on my iPhone and missed it terribly when I moved to an android phone.

I love its robust food database and how easy it is to update and review my food and activity metrics.

However, since then, a Lose It! Android app has been released. Glad to see this great app available for more phones!

UPDATE to add another special mention: F.lux. It’s software for Windows, Mac, Linux, and jailbroken iOS devices. It automatically adjusts your screen brightness by time of day. If you use your computer before bedtime, it’s a must have… I installed it yesterday and noticed a big difference in how soundly I slept last night.

So what combination works best for me?

I’m still using the Jawbone UP and Withings scale with Lose It! iPhone app and web site dashboard:

  • I manually add activity tracked on the UP into Lose It!
  • Since I have Lose It! linked to my Withings scale, my weight is automatically posted to my LoseIt! account.
  • I monitor my sleep metrics via the UP iPhone app.

Both the UP bracelet and Withings scale have been a good fit for me, offering motivation while not requiring a lot of effort or workarounds.

  • I found the Fitbit Ultra works well but wasn’t practical for me because it kept coming off my belt — I decided it would be too easy to lose. (UPDATED: Fixed this with some electrical tape)
  • I recommend Jawbone UP with some reservation. It does what it does well, but seems prone to early hardware failure based on user reports. (UPDATED: And my UP failed as well. Great device, disappointing quality issues.)
  • I recommend Withings scale without reservation.
  • You can’t go wrong with the Lose It! app for iPhone and android!
  • UPDATED: F.lux is a must have, as well!

There once was a company named Palm… or how I came to buy an HP TouchPad

Touchpad

Like many geeks, er technophiles, I recently bought an HP TouchPad at fire sale pricing. I bought it partly because it was a great tech buy, and this article describes what I like about it, as well as webOS apps I’m enjoying.

But I also bought the TouchPad for a more nostalgic reason:

Palm ignited my love of mobile tech

Once upon a time, in a decade not so long ago (the 90s), I received a Palm Vx for Christmas.

Palm vx

Suddenly, I could have my calendar and contact list me wherever I went. I could sync my device with AvantGo content and read news articles while I waited to get my allergy shots. I loaded Peanut Press books onto my Palm Vx and caught up on my reading while waiting in line at the grocery store.

The Palm Vx was small. It was stylish. Palm Computing (division of 3Com) had made other PDAs but none so svelte and pocketable.

I’ve had many PDAs and smartphones over the years, but none evoke the delight I felt using the Palm Vx. I dutifully tucked it into its desktop dock to charge every evening, and never left the house without it. It became my first experience of ubiquitous computing, despite the fact that it didn’t directly connect to the Internet.

When HP bought Palm in 2010, it seemed promising. Finally, the Palm brand would be nurtured.

Alas, that was not to be. In August 2011, HP announced it would no longer manufacture webOS devices, including the TouchPad, Pre 3, and Veer.

And so, when HP announced its TouchPad fire sale pricing ($99 for 16GB, $149 for 32GB), I knew I had to get one.

After all these years, what did I think of the current version of Palm OS (now webOS)?

I love it:

  • Easy to use, intuitive
  • Elegant user interface
  • Scales well to tablet use
  • Easily optimized via Preware

And, like Palm OS of years past, there’s a vibrant and committed webOS community.

And the TouchPad? With its webOS underpinnings, it’s probably the best tablet I’ve used, and I’ve tried them all!

While heavier than the iPad 2, its softly rounded edges make it comfortable to hold and use. Docked in its Touchstone, it’s easily accessible and comfortable to use at one’s desk even while charging. It’s plenty speedy after applying Preware patches and a custom kernel (I’m currently running F4 Phantom).

And despite those naysayers intent on complaining webOS and TouchPad are light on apps, I haven’t had any trouble finding apps I’ve looked for. And I’ve stumbled across great TouchPad apps too.

My favorite HP TouchPad (webOS) apps, so far:

InterfaceLIFT: Gorgeous wallpapers

Angry Birds: ’nuff said

Glimpse: Cool app that enables user to select apps to use in a multi-pane view. See these instructions for downloading Glimpse (Developers’ Cut)

Spaz HD: Great twitter app despite the odd name!

AccuWeather: The same great weather data in an app designed for TouchPad.

box: 50GB free cloud storage just for creating your account from your TouchPad!

Flickr Mundo HD: Great Flickr app, and gorgeous in Exhibition mode.

FlashCards HD: Great study aid. Easy to import cards you find online — I’m using it to study for a professional exam.

Audubon Birds: Beautiful photos and lots of great info for aviary fans

NPR Reader: For NPR fans

Kindle: To read your Kindle books. Be forewarned the Kindle icon you see on your newly purchased TouchPad is just a link to the HP Store — you still need to download it!

Quell HD: One of my favorite Android games, beautiful and relaxing

Honorable mention (aka, apps for which I couldn’t find links!):

The WSJ Reader

The Washington Post Reader

Chicago Tribune Reader

L.A. Times Reader

News Republic

USA Today

Guardian News Hub

Guardian zeitgeist

iheartradio

atPeace: Relaxing scenes and music

PodCatcher Deluxe: Nice podcast streamer

If you’re a new TouchPad owner (and even if you’ve had your TouchPad for a while), I can’t recommend highly enough James Kendrick’s TouchPad optimization article on ZDNet. He’s posted several TouchPad articles, all well worth your time.

All in all, the TouchPad is a very good tablet made even better by webOS. If you’re fortunate enough to find one, I say go for it!

iPad vs. Galaxy Tab: Which tablet is right for you?

Recently, a new tablet was released that finally seems a worthy competitor to the iPad: The Samsung Galaxy Tab. Up until now, the iPad was the tablet to get — partly due to its inherent quality and great user experience but also due to lack of competition.

So, choosing a tablet has become more difficult… which is right for you: Apple’s  iPad (size: 9.56” x 7.47” x .5”; weight: 1.5 pounds) or the Samsung Galaxy Tab (size: 7.48” x 4.74” x .47”; weight: .08 pounds)?

Let’s walk through questions you’ll want to consider:

Do you have a mobile OS preference: Android (Galaxy Tab) or iOS ( iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)?

  • iOS (iPad)ipad_image
    • Apple is legendary for product ease of use, and the iPad continues that tradition.
    • If you (or the person you’re buying for) currently use an iPhone or iPod Touch, they’ll immediately feel right at home with the iPad.
    • Even if the prospective tablet user hasn’t used iOs previously, they should be able to pick up the iPad and quickly feel comfortable.
  • Android (Galaxy Tab)samsung-galaxy-tab
    • OS doesn’t require a degree in rocket science but is more complex than iOS.
    • I have non-techie friends who’ve bought Android phones and then felt overwhelmed, confused.
    • If you consider yourself (or the person you’re buying for) a geek who likes to try new things, you’ll feel comfortable mounting the Android OS learning curve.

How important is a large catalogue of apps available for download?

  • iPad is the clear winner if
    • You’ve owned other iOS devices and invested a lot of money on iOS apps
    • You want the largest possible catalogue of apps available to download to your iPad. See my post listing favorite iPad apps here.
  • Galaxy Tab is worth considering if
    • You like the ability to obtain apps from the official Android Market as well as downloading apps directly from web sites. NOTE: AT&T Galaxy Tab doesn’t currently support installing apps from non-Market sources; all other carrier Galaxy Tabs allow you to install apps from a variety of sources as long as you go to Settings > Applications and select the option for “Unknown Sources”.
    • You prefer to download free apps. Not sure why, while many apps I’ve installed for iOS were paid apps, it seems many more (although not all) Android apps are free. See my posting listing favorite Android / Galaxy apps (so far) here.

How do you plan to use your tablet?

Caveat: The best way to determine which is best for you (or the person you’re buying for) is to go to a local store. No amount of reading can replace checking out a device hands on.

  • Viewing movies: Supported by both devices
    • iPad users can buy and download movies from iTunes
    • Galaxy Tab users can download movies from the Samsung Media Hub app, or load the movie onto their SD card.
  • Watching Hulu / Hulu Plus: iPad is clear winner as Android does not yet have a Hulu Plus app, and you cannot successfully view Hulu / Hulu Plus video content via Android browser.
  • Watching Netflix: Again, iPad is clear winner as Android does not yet have an app supporting Netflix streaming video.
  • Watching TV shows on web sites using Flash: Galaxy Tab is the clear winner here as iPad does not support Flash in the iPad Safari browser.
  • Reading eBooks: Both the iPad and Galaxy Tab offer ebook software (e.g., apps for Kindle, Barnes & Noble nook) but where do you plan to read?
    • At a desk with tablet in stand: Both the iPad and Galaxy Tab work well in this scenario.
    • Lounging on the sofa: I’ve found the Galaxy Tab to be more comfortable to use in this scenario since it’s the size of a Trade paperback book.  The iPad is simply a bit big and heavy, and I wind up feeling distracted by having to hold / balance it.
  • Browsing / web surfing: See eBook reading scenarios, above.
  • Information at a glance: While the iPad offers many more apps, Android (Galaxy Tab) offers the ability to add widgets to your home screens. I find the ability to get information “at a glance” to be extremely handy, especially when I have limited time.
  • Games: Both devices are great for game play and have a variety of good games available.
    • Flash games: If you like to play flash games on the web, Galaxy Tab is the clear choice (Flash not supported by iPad).
  • Mobile use:
    • Tablet as laptop replacement / netbook: iPad
    • Tablet as mobile device to slip into your handbag: Galaxy Tab
      • As they say with cameras, the best mobile device is the one you have with you. I found that I left the iPad at home frequently just because it didn’t fit in my handbag.

Do you want to avoid wireless carrier charges?

  • iPad: You can buy either a WIFI-only iPad or an iPad that offers both WIFI + 3G connectivity (3G data provided by AT&T, with multiple price tiers). If you buy the WIFI only iPad, you will not need wireless carrier data access (and thus will not incur any related charges).
  • Galaxy Tab: Currently in the U.S., the Galaxy Tab is tied to wireless carriers and can be purchased at a discount with wireless contract, or at a higher price without contract. It’s a little confusing to describe, and I recommend reviewing PCWorld’s pricing comparison here. Note: A WIFI only Tab is set to become available via Best Buy but its release has been delayed – my guess is Samsung will release it after the holidays, to ensure the WIFI only version doesn’t cannibalize wireless carrier sales.

There you have it… questions I suggest considering before making your tablet purchase. Did I miss a usage scenario that you’d like to see covered? Leave a comment to let me know.

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Initial impressions & comparison shopping

samsung-galaxy-tabIf asked a week ago, I’d have said the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the product I was least likely to buy. Although it looked interesting, I couldn’t understand why someone would buy a 7” tablet. Really, why?

Still, I’d been reading positive articles about the Galaxy Tab by James Kendrick and was intrigued. To learn more, I went to try the Galaxy Tab hands on. It’s a solid, well-built device with a beautiful, responsive touchscreen. I watched a YouTube video and surfed the web. Easy to handle. Text displayed clearly & crisply. I liked it, but wasn’t too sure about buying it @ $399 with 3G contract.

So, I visited some nearby stores to check out products that could be considered similar:

Huawei Ideos S7 7” tablet: Interesting feature set on paper (including Android 2.1), but I found the resistive touchscreen to be frustrating and not worth $299. Screen wasn’t responsive enough, and I didn’t like pressing so hard to activate a function.

Velocity Cruz 7” tablet: Another 7” tablet, but this time running Android 2.0. Build quality seemed cheap. Not compelling enough to spend ~$300.

Archos 7 Home Tablet: Cheaper than other 7” tablets at $199, and apparently running Android 2.1. However, read reports of poor WIFI connectivity. Why is it named the “Home Tablet”? Based on some reviews, apparently due to poor battery life.

I got to thinking, if my main use case would be as eReader, why not consider Kindle, nook, etc.? So I wandered over to see those. Both the Nook and Kindle are well-built quality devices (I owned the Kindle 2, and had used it day in and day out). The free 3G connectivity is enticing. However, while my main use was to read ebooks, I didn’t want a device limited to just one usage scenario. I also find E Ink’s reverse display during page turns distracting. (Note: There are rumors the $249 nookcolor will be hacked to enable broader use as an Android device. Stay tuned.)

Despite finding the Kindle and nook too limited, I realized I loved the device dimensions as a comfortable fit for an eReader. The roots of a Galaxy Tab were planted…

Before buying a Tab, I revisited the iPad as ebook reader. I love the iPad for bringing tablets to the masses, but find it uncomfortable to curl up with like a book. As an eReader, it is simply too big despite its other qualities.

Aside from the quality of the device itself, what finally compelled me to buy the tab-homeTab? RadioShack’s Sprint Galaxy Tab $350 sale (11/21 – 11/24/2010). I went with the 2GB $29.99 data package since I’ll generally use the Tab at home.

Now that I’ve had the Tab a few days, I’m finding I enjoy it even more than expected. I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, on the Kindle for Android app. I’m keeping up with news via the WSJ, NY Times, and Financial Times Android tablet apps. I’m reading PriusChat and AndroidCentral forum posts on the Tapatalk Pro app. I’m reading Twitter posts via the Toiuteur Premium app. I added the Clockr Evolution text clock widget. I’ve played chess on the SparkChess HD Lite android tablet app (requires Adobe Air) and honed my Angry Birds gameplay skills. I’ve taken screenshots by pressing the Back and power buttons simultaneously.

I love the apps that are configured for tablet display but haven’t had seen any display issues for apps not specifically intended for Android tablets.

For my usage scenarios (ebook reading and couch surfing), the Tab is perfect. Comfortable to hold with a crisp, easy to read screen. If your use scenarios are similar to mine, definitely recommend the Tab as an option.

My favorite iPad apps (so far)

ipad I love my iPad 3G, it’s a pleasure to use. While iPad apps aren’t as numerous as  those for iPhone/iPod Touch (yet), I’ve found some worth recommending. Note: Links point to iTunes.

News –

Thomson Reuters Pro: I respect Reuters as a news organization, and their iPad app doesn’t disappoint. Wide range of topics and elegant presentation. (Free)

France 24: Excellent news content and easy to use app. (Free)

SkyGrid: Interesting new app that presents 10 “Featured Streams” based on current newsworthiness. App also provides ability to subscribe to specific news categories. (Free)

npr: Nice content presentation and all the news you’ve come to expect from npr. (Free)

WSJ: Love it for the dead tree newspaper-like experience. I have a WSJ Online subscription and so far using this app has been free. Will I recommend it when I’m paying ~$18 per month? Not sure. (Free app. WSJ subscription required after trial)

NY Times Editors Choice: Not the full newspaper content, thus the “Editors Choice” label. Nonetheless, I enjoy it for the dead tree newspaper experience similar to WSJ app. (Free)

USA Today: If you like the USA Today newspaper or iPhone app, you’ll like the iPad app as well. ‘Nuff said. (Free)

Finance –

Bloomberg for iPad: Think Bloomberg app for iPhone, on steroids. Track your portfolio, monitor Finance news and watch the markets. (Free)

Thomson Reuters MarketBoard: A different presentation than Bloomberg app, with a cool animated market board. Also features news, corporate call information, and ability to monitor your stocks. (Free)

Books –

Kindle: LOVE it! Offers the reading experience I’d hoped for from Kindle hardware. Tip: Want cool iBooks-like page turn animations? On Home screen, tap “i” (lower right of screen), then Settings, and then set “Basic Reading Mode” to OFF. (Free app. Kindle books can be had at a variety of prices, including free)

iBooks: Apple’s own eBook Reader. I think the Bookshelf UI is a bit tired but, nonetheless, easy to use and beautiful interface. (Free app. Lots of books available and many free offerings)

Alice for the iPad – Lite: A great example of what’s possible with eBooks. Beautiful graphics and cool interactive animations. (Free)

Marvel: Gorgeous comic book graphics – even if you’re not into comic books, worth downloading just to check out. (Free app. There are a few free comics available, but most are paid.)

Twitter –

I haven’t found an iPad twitter app that knocks my socks off yet, but here are the frontrunners at this point…

Tweetings: Makes good use of iPad screen real estate and fairly robust. Also offers notifications, which is a plus. ($2.99)

HelTweetica for iPad: Similar UI to Tweetings, but also includes retweet, fav, @ and DM commands on main twitter list. I like how clicking a link drops you directly into the web page. (Free)

Weather & Traffic –

As with Twitter apps, I have found some good options but am hoping there continue to be improvements in this space.

Weatherbug Elite for iPad: A very useful “at a glance” view — main screen is 3/4 map with weather details squeezed into the right-most 1/4 of the screen. (Free)

The Weather Channel Max for iPad: Select from six screens: Maps, Local, Video, Severe, Social, & On TV. Great for when you want more detail than Weatherbug provides.  (Free)

Beat the Traffic: Uses GPS to show your location on large map, along with real-time traffic info and slowdowns. (Free. US & Canada only)

Productivity & Reference –

I’ve purchased Numbers, Keynote, and Pages but haven’t used them much yet. Here are some noteworthy productivity apps…

MaxJournal: Great journaling / note-taking app with a beautiful “Day-Timer” interface. Can be password-protected. ($2.99)

Dragon Dictation: Amazingly accurate voice to text capability. (Free)

MindNode: I’ve tried both MindNode and iThoughtsHD but prefer MindNode for ease of use and its clean, easy to read diagrams. MindNode also supports exporting your maps. ($5.99)

WolframAlpha: The fantastic reference app that used to be $50 is now affordable and should be on everyone’s iPad/iPhone. ($1.99)

Dictionary.com Dictionary & Thesaurus: Straightforward dictionary and thesaurus reference. The price is right. (Free)

Entertainment –

Cartoons HD: MSNBC political/news cartoons. (Free)

Yahoo! Entertainment: Yahoo’s contribution to the iPad – news, book reviews, fashion, comics, and more. (Free)

ABC Player: Love being able to catch up on some great TV on my iPad: LOST!
:-)   (Free)

Netflix: For Netflix fans, this is a must have. Manage your queue, browse DVDs, and watch streaming video via “Watch Instantly.” (Free app. Requires Netflix subscription)

IMDB: Needs no further explanation – perfect app for serious movie fans. (Free)

Audio –

WunderRadio: I like WunderRadio for its flexibility. A great iPhone app is now an equally good app for iPad. ($6.99)

Pandora: Gotta have it. Love Pandora’s Spa Radio Channel. (Free)

Relaxation –

iZen Garden for iPad: Beautiful graphics and soothing sounds. Great for unwinding after a hectic day. ($5.99)

Magic Window: Gorgeous animated scenes with soothing ambient sounds. Love to open this app and then just leave the iPad standing on a desk. ($2.99)

Marine Aquarium: A colorful aquarium available anywhere, anytime. ($.99)

Games –

Scrabble: Disclosure – if there were a 12-step program for Scrabble addicts, I’d be first in line. Familiar scrabble board and tiles. Just wish the board were a bit bigger. ($9.99)

Shanghai Mahjong: Beautiful mahjong game, with a wide variety of tile graphics, board layouts, and backgrounds. ($2.99)

Pinball HD: Beautiful images and fun game play. ($2.99)

Angry Birds HD: I don’t know what got these birds so P.O.d, but this game rocks! Very fun and addictive. ($4.99)

Honorable Mention –

The Elements: A stunning display of periodic table elements. ($13.99)

What cool iPad apps have you found? Add a comment to share your recommendations.