iPad versus Android

We’re now looking at nearly 2 years since the launch of the original iPad and though the device retains some of the magic, those of us there at the beginning are no longer in awe of the fantastic design that has made so many millions for Apple and changed the way we work and play.

It now seems fairly natural to be walking around with a slim glass-and-aluminium device that’s more powerful than mainstream PCs of just a few years ago – so the only questions is – WHICH tablet should we be carrying?

I recently got my hands on a 7” Android tablet running “Gingerbread” – or Android 2.3.  Since then we’ve seen “Honeycomb” and finally “Ice Cream Sandwich” but most of the cheaper tablets are running 2.3 or lower.

To be honest I would not waste my time with anything LESS than version 2.3 is it’s fore-runners were never designed for tablet use.

Until now I’ve avoided Android tablets altogether for a number of reasons including the absolutely useless “resistive” displays that many of the cheaper ones employ. These are of the old-fashioned variety you have to press on to get any response and they are deeply unsatisfying to use. One of the iPad’s best features is the utterly responsive “capacitive” display which requires no finger pressure AT ALL to work – and so that for me is the minimum I’m prepared to look at.

The Yuandao N12 Fast Tab is one of dozens of 7” tablets out there that runs Android 2.3 and on the surface of it, it’s a mini-iPad..  the 7” format means it fits comfortably into a big hand and you’d expect that to be a big plus compared to the iPad’s rather larger format. In fact there is little apparent difference in weight.

So, in 2012 how to Android and Apple stack up?

The N12 is CHEAP – I’ve seen it at £100 including VAT in the UK so it’s not in the same league as iPad price-wise or feature-wise.

Let’s look at the pluses and minuses of this particular tablet – which is not untypical of the far-eastern offerings available right now..

Minus

  • Battery life –claimed to be 20 hours standby and 5 hours video – yes, if you are lucky, more like it 4 hours of use. The iPad has never run out on standby in the time I’ve had it and gets around 10 hours of video NO PROBLEM.
  • Microsoft Exchange – The M12 cannot handle any but the simplest of Exchange setups – if the setup won’t work with email and password, there seems to be no way to get into manual setup – this is a MAJOR omission for corporate use.
  • Display – fast and responsive but ultimately at 800*480 pixels it’s an overgrown phone and the pixilation is obvious, even watching movies.
  • WIFI – the WIFI is very insensitive, picking up less signal than many phones and dropping out occasionally.
  • Limited memory – a common Android problem, although the unit has 8GB internally with access to an external memory stick, it seems that even though you can move Apps into this larger space, there is an internal CORE of 512MB RAM (this is a common limit – see specs – APPLE do NOT have such a limit) and even Apps in external memory use up SOME of this 512MB RAM which soon gets eaten up – putting a limit on how many Apps you can install – this is really unacceptable but somehow manages to escape most reviews.
  • Speed – not quite fast enough to make good use of Flash – one of the so-called Apple-killer features, the Flash performance is poor.
  • Finish – the unit has a nice Aluminium finish which unfortunately has sharp edges – after repeated handling while, say, watching a movie, tends to get annoying. This sharp edging appears to be common among the Chinese offerings
  • Reliability – the hardware seems reliable enough but Gingerbread is chocker full of bugs – the language control means that some menu items come up in Chinese no matter what you do and installations can easily be messed up.
  • The Android market has some gaping holes compared to Apple, the latter having an excellent PDF reader (GoodReader) and several other business tools missing from Android market.
  • Front-only camera which is poor quality and not that reliable – only sometimes works with Skype. No back camera.
  • No Bluetooth – yes you heard it  – no Bluetooth (the iPhone 4 and iPad2 reliably handle 2 simultaneous Bluetooth connections – in my car for example the phone is Bluetooth hands-free but also talks to a separate Bluetooth unit to play audio through the car stereo – something the old 3GS could not quite tackle)
  • No sign of upgrades available – website is in Chinese, very little English discussion on the web.
  • Large border area around the screen.
  • 16:9 wide format

Plus

  • The 7” format would fit into a large coat pocket and just feels nice
  • The screen is bright and responsive
  • The Android market has come a long way and although still full of rubbish, there are some hidden gems in there – many of which are free.
  • External memory means no limit to movies you can store on the device.
  • USB means external keyboard is easy to implement (though Bluetooth would be more convenient)

Summary

Based on the above – for me the ideal would be a 7” tablet with little border area i.e. mostly screen, running a later version of Android which properly handled Microsoft Exchange, on a tablet with at least 1024 pixels wide, rounded corners, 6-10 hour battery life, Bluetooth, sensitive WIFI, at least 1Gb internal working RAM, preferably more.

With current improvements to the Android Market, there is definitely a place for these devices. If you look at the likes of the Samsung S2 phone – slim, incredibly light, super display – think of one of those stretched to 7” or so and I reckon there is definitely a place for such a device provided the price is right (i.e. WELL under the cost of an iPad) – as yet it does not seem to exist, the NOTE being the nearest but still too small.

For now, the iPad is still streets ahead of Android…maybe they’ll keep that lead, maybe not. There is something quite nice about the smaller form factor and lower cost of the Android devices – opens up all kinds of possibilities if only the quality bar was raised…

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Facetime, Splashtop and more

The new iPad2 just keeps going from strength to strength!

iPad2For new readers, no I’m not an Apple Fanboy, I’ve been a Windows man since, well, DOS! But then there is the concept of “the right tool for the job” – Windows has it’s place – and so does the iPad2. Tonight I was sitting here getting on with some work on my Windows 7 PC (if anyone is still using XP or Vista, do yourself a favour if it’s not cost-prohibitive – bin them – Windows 7 is light years ahead) and my wife (who is currently in the USA while I’m here in sunny downtown Wark in Northumberland) rang me on Facetime (which for those of you not in the know is Apple’s kind-of equivalent of Skype).  I picked up the iPad2 and pressed the connect button and there she was – in a Barnes and Noble somewhere in Chicago – for all the world you’d think she was next door and we had a nice chat as I went off looking for the new kitten (she’s been away for a week and kittens grow quickly).

After waving to our pal Debby I asked her to switch cameras to the back camera – at which point I got a good look around the shop before ending the (free) call.  I recall before we got married you were talking a dollar a minute thanks to greedy BT (well, their predecessor) and their US equivalent.. thankfully – those times are gone forever and BTs claim to owning the Internet went no-where – what a joke.

Maureen and I chatted for a while as I got a good look around the store..  and then we ended the call and I noted a new update for Splashtop – which is a program that sits on your PC or PCs at home which then lets them talk to your iPad (for the techies, much like LOGMEIN but about a century ahead of the latter). I popped into the house and upgraded Maureen’s PC.  Some time and a glass of wine later I figured I’d give it a whirl. For the uninitiated, Splashtop and Logmein are programs that let you access the screen and keyboard of one PC from another – in the case of the latter – you can access your PCs from your iPad or iPad2.

Well, I don’t know if it was the upgrade or the extra speed of the iPad2 but I’m here to say that sitting in my office, I accessed Maureen’s Windows 7 PC from the iPad2 and went off to the BBC website – selected the latest news video (Flash – which the iPad doesn’t support natively for good reason) and ran the video. You would NOT believe for a SECOND that you were watching this remotely – PERFECT video, PERFECT audio, PERFECT sync – the power of a desktop PC in my hand!

The future of computing… remote access to any PC you own – and video access to those you know… on a lightweight, all-day-battery tablet – is here! It actually blows away the original Star-Trek concept which was limited to boring technical data only – but then that was a generation ago.

What we need now – is better, more universally available WIFI (FAR more important than 3G and it’s successors IMHO) studio lighting on the tablets so you look good in a pub when video conferencing – and that’s simple –strips down both sides of the tablet that light up white (high efficiency but WARM LED lighting – now readily available)… UTTERLY practical due to the low power requirements of warm white LEDs. and hey – this was MY IDEA!!!! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Technology that works – warm sunny weather in APRIL… what MORE could you want?

 

http://www.apple.com/uk/ipad/?cid=mc-uk-ipad-g_ipad2_brd_uk-ipad2

http://www.splashtop.com/remote

http://www.apple.com/uk/iphone/features/facetime.html

IOS 4.3 is Here–Speed up your iPhone

Somewhat earlier than expected, Apple’s latest IOS release is up and running – simply head off to iTunes to grab the software and update your i-device.

Upgrading the iPhone 3GS was simple – a matter of a few minutes download and off we go. Despite some issues with a cheap Chinese cable I bought, the upgrade went quite smoothly – all sorts of drivers being loaded and resets being done completely automatically in the background… I just went off for coffee and let it get on with it.

The software upgrade allows you (at last) to play videos and imagery on Apple TV directly from the iPhone. The setup is amazing – once upgraded, all your videos, pics and tunes on your iTunes computer are immediately available on your iPad or iPhone etc… and typically Apple – it just WORKS…

The browser has been speeded up thanks to the new “Nitro Javascript Engine” and it’s claimed that this alone doubles browser speeds –though that of course will all depends on whether your target website is making heavy use of Javascript – many do. The hated change to the mute button now allows users to select whether they want to use that button for muting or rotation control…  and apparently iPhone 4 can now serve up WIFI to other devices-  though no mention of  the 3GS – BUT this DOES APPEAR TO WORK over Bluetooth and USB on the iPhone 3GS which is interesting. No idea why you can’t do this over WIFI on the 3GS as that facility was built in from day one but Orange wanted to charge extra for it!

Similarly iPad – the upgrade just works…  video quality from videos on your PC iTunes setup is amazing.  So – for free, faster iPhones and iPads – can’t be bad!

 

Peter Scargill

p.s. I don’t recommend this but I didn’t go through any lengthy backup procedures and all worked well regardless. Upgrading the phone and iPad each took all of 15 minutes from start to finish with virtually no interaction required. So why are you waiting.. go get IOS 4.3 now!

iPad Killers? Not Likely

After all the noise made about Android killing the iPad – what do we see? A solitary Galaxy Tab which is a bit on the small side and hardly “thin” – and that’s about it – other tablets are either still in the works, still using older versions of Android – or recalled. Meanwhile the iPad has it’s new operating system upgrade, new Apps updates and now there is Apple TV -  which means that thanks to the REMOTE app, you can now use your iPad or even iPhone to control your TV, browse your music selection, make playlists and more.

I can’t think of a better gimmick for parties right now than to appear armed with wireless iPad and offer to let guests make their own music selections.  It all works and the Apple TV product is cheap.

Chances of getting compatible software on an Android device in the near future? I don’t think so.. all we need now is for SKYPE and APPLE to get their act together and put Skype video on the iPhone 4.

 

 

Peter Scargill

Apple – a Word of Warning

A word of warning for those needing help with their iPAD or iPhone… they are great products but it appears that Apple support is as crappy as Orange and other large organisations.

There’s an ongoing minor issue with the iPAD wireless in that it tends not to pick the best signal where multiple signals are available. I have 5 WIFI points in my house in England as the walls are solid stone – and the iPAD invariably picks the wrong signal and stays with it, requiring me to manually select an access point.

I thought as bought the unit in the US and am currently there for a short while, I’d ask them when they’re going to fix this – they’re a little behind on this (as is Skype with their OS4 fix  -at this rate they’ll be the LAST app to update).. NO Chance, there is no email address on their site and the only way you can start the process is to give them your Apple ID. This is what happened when I entered my Apple ID.

Did I expect any less? No. Today I will ring the store!

 

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Do YOU need an iPAD?

A lot hot air is circulating about the iPad, often by folks who have never laid eyes on the machine never mind made extensive hand-on use of them. I’ve seen reviews talking about reliability, about it being unsuitable for business… the list goes on – and mostly from those lacking any experience of the product.

Why listen to me? well firstly you need to know I would not touch a MAC with a bargepole so don’t peg me as an anti-Microsoft type. When the iPAD was released in the USA I had one shipped across almost immediately, despite lack of iTunes support in the UK. It looked ideal for reading agendas and other company paperwork, being the first supposedly long-life battery, thin almost A4 pad on the market… and I wasn’t prepared to take the word of others… I wanted to see for myself if this was going to be useful to see if there was a future for reducing or eliminating paperwork.  So, here it is, based on daily use of the iPad since its launch in the USA (and by that I mean used almost every day since then, sometimes all day), here is some information which may be of use to those of you thinking of using the iPad in a business environment.

Firstly the issue of WIFI. The only issue I am aware of is that the iPad occasionally forgets the login password and does not seem to track the best signal if you move from signal area to signal area within a building. It is a minor issue, does not really cause me any problems and the assurance is that this will be fixed. I can see no reason to doubt this as it’s little sister the iPhone does not suffer the same issue. 

Secondly business use – you hear “It’s all games” – no it isn’t – though some of the games are excellent – no doubt about it but with 200,000 apps you’d expect a lot of games.  I have asked our head office who normally send me reams and reams of paper to simply stop – and all my papers now go onto the company extranet  (Sharepoint).  I receive automatic email notification of the availability of documents and as long as I’m within range of a WIFI signal I can download using the likes of the GoodReader program (a bargain at 59p) and store the docs locally on the iPad. The largest document I’ve had the pleasure of using was 95 megabytes comprising over 400 pages of scanned documents – just about the worse combination…. No problem. I also use another package which cost peanuts to let me scribble on PDFs and open multiple documents at once.

Thirdly multitasking – after extensive use I have to say I do not miss the ability to do umpteen jobs at once – the ONE thing I’d like is to run SKYPE constantly in the background – and that of course will come in the autumn update. Most programs start up where they left off so they may as well be multitasking – but without the overhead.

“They say” iPad is not compatible with Microsoft… rubbish – I regularly open the latest DOCX files from Office 2007 as well as spread-sheets and other documents. At least one program can SAVE in these formats.

Specifically for use in meetings, the (realistically achieved) 10 hour battery life (including watching video) makes it possible to do an all-day meeting without a cable in sight. Those who lug around heavy bags full of laptops, power supplies and endless paperwork look on with envy. Armed with properly bookmarked PDF files I can view and search through large documents more quickly than with paper.

What about FLASH – well, I’d MUCH prefer if the iPad could handle flash, but not at any price and Flash does tend to be jerky on mobiles… considering that YouTube, Blip and others now offer iPad compatibility and even the BBC iPlayer is now iPad compatible, it hopefully won’t be long before that issue goes out of the window. You can watch a good number of the freeview channels including BBC News 24, for free on the iPad given a free program to do so, not to mention most radio stations.

When in Spain, as they say… I have a (small) place in Spain and last week I was other there. The iPad can’t handle dongles but I have a 3G dongle and I simply put the Sim into a phone which has WIFI and using a cheap program made the phone look like a WIFI access point – others may prefer to get the 3G version of the iPad itself  – as I already have a phone I didn’t fancy 2 subscriptions and annoying Apple won’t let you tether an iPhone to an iPad.   Skype and GotoMeeting work well – saving a fortune in calls when overseas as long as there is WIFI available. Emails using Microsoft Exchange, Google mail and others work absolutely fine as indeed do Exchange calendars and contacts. For streaming podcasts, I generally keep them on my PC and use STREAMTOME to listen to them on the iPAD (saves filling it up with audio and video).

Do I have any issues with the product? Of course I do – why on EARTH didn’t Apple put a forward-facing camera in for Skype etc. But them the iPhone 4 has that… Also being able to read memory sticks would have been nice but why not go the whole hog and put in Windows? Erm, no! The fact is that Apple have a great niche product on their hands which is, if you believe the hype selling very well thank you. Almost everyone I know who I’ve shown it to in business and otherwise wants one – I should have been a salesman but I’m NOT.

Of course, if something else comes along that’s better and cheaper I‘m a ruthless consumer with no brand loyalty… but from what I’ve seen, hands on reviews of what would appear to be alternatives have fallen apart due to poor video or other issues. For now, Apple are onto a winner – their shares don’t look too bad either (I don’t have any of those either).

iPAD is Here

You’ll be aware of the UK launch of the Apple iPAD TODAY, no doubt if you saw the news last night you’ll have heard that the unit is available from today and that they’ve sold a million in the states.

Poor old Beeb, that’s ancient news and a quick look on the web will add at least 50% to that figure! Also they won’t have enough units to keep up with demand so expect delays! If you’re planning a trip to the Apple store I’d ring first! There are 6 models broken into two sets, the first set of 16gig, 32 gig and 64 gig have WIFI and motion sensing only, the second similar set add 3g and GPS into the mix – and of course the cost rises accordingly. Prices will start at £429 (including VAT) for the perfectly capable 16Gig WIFI model.

Meanwhile the iTunes store is up and running, I have had the American version of the iPad since it’s launch over there and everything’s working a treat. If you want to keep up with the latest apps I suggest you take a look at AppShopper, a nicely laid out website that’s easy to use. It has both iPhone and iPad apps and you can select both or just iPad apps.

Apple’s PAGES Word Processor is now available (as of a few days ago) and you’ll be needing that if you want to do any word-processing on the unit.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, remember, this isn’t a laptop, it won’t run Microsoft software! It runs only what you can get in the iTunes App store – but as they have countless thousands of Apps in there, some free, some a few pounds, you should find just about anything you need.

Some pros and cons for those of you looking at this miraculous unit for the first time:

The iPad+ Apps CAN:

  • View pictures, videos and play tunes
  • Read Word, Excel, PDF and many more document formats.
  • Read and write Emails.
  • Play games (but only the countless games in the App Store).
  • Talk to Bluetooth headsets and keyboards out-of-the-box.
  • View YouTube video
  • View the BBC iPlayer (new and VERY good quality !!)
  • Handle TV (tvcatchup) and radio (tunein radio)
  • Run Skype
  • Provide weather reports (the weather channel)
  • Search maps (google maps)
  • Control your Sky+ box (Sky+)
  • Share 3g/WIFI with many phones (Joikuspot on phone)
  • Record audio
  • Handle social networks (many Apps)
  • Run for up to 10 hours without mains power
  • Emulate iPod

The iPad CAN’T:

  • Let you access all it’s memory like a disk. Memory is split up into application spaces and of course the place you store your videos, pictures and music. I’ve found no way to “see” this as a single disk drive.
  • Run Microsoft software. It is not a laptop.
  • Handle USB disks and cameras directly.
  • Run FLASH video (though YouTube and iPhone are supported – see CAN).
  • Run WiFi super-reliably (sure it runs WIFI but it breaks occasionally – soon to be fixed)
  • Share WIFI with your iPhone (deliberate and stupid move)
  • Take pictures or video (no camera)

I hope this information helps you make a decision. Am I happy I bought an iPad?  Most definitely YES. Would I pay the extra for the 3G version? No. Am I happy with 32Gig? Can’t even start to fill it up so the base model will do for many people. Music and video lovers with massive collections may opt for the larger models.

Peter Scargill

To order these units online I BELIEVE you go here http://store.apple.com/uk

p.s. If you want to know more about using the iPad, for example with a 3G dongle – see my other articles….

Comparing Android and the iPhone/iPad operating system

Using the iPad with a separate 3G source like an iPhone, MS Smartphone or dongle SIM

 

 

 

 

3G for iPAD

So you’re an Apple enthusiast, you probably already have an iPhone – and now you’re considering the iPAD – but which version? Do you go for the WIFI only or get the 3G version and land yourself with ANOTHER contract?

Well, there may be another way. As it happens I have a Vodafone 3G dongle allowing (fair use) unlimited access to 3G signals to supply broadband to the laptop.

That won’t work, I hear you say, it’s a USB dongle and  the iPAD won’t handle a USB dongle! True, but, as I found out this morning, the SIM in the Vodafone dongle works in a phone – at least, for data anyway. I just happen to have a Nokia e65, but any old phone with WIFI will do… head on over to Joiku where they have software for most phones to turn the phone into a WIFI access point. You run the software, it makes the call – and supplies a WIFI signal for your laptop. Which means of course – your iPAD. I’ve yet to try using this to provide a signal for the iPHONE so that I can use SKYPE (which refuses to work on 3G or even 3G with a VPN) – but that’s because I went out to do my testing with a flat phone battery and just managed to knock off a couple of emails to prove that it all works.

More on the SKYPE episode later but if you can lay your hands on a suitable phone, the only downside to using this as against the dongle – is that you end up with something else to keep charged… but rather than adding another contract that surely has to be a worthwhile compromise?

Peter Scargill