iPad cases come in many forms, but this new offering from Griffin has to stand out as one of the most unusual I’ve ever encountered.
The reason for this is that unlike most other cases, which act as a folio-style protector or finicky external keyboard, the SeeSaw is primarily aimed at children. The first clue is the hard foamlike material from which the case is constructed. This acts as a solid enclosure that should survive a few knocks and even drops caused by any diminutive hands.
With the iPad inserted the screen is propped up at a comfortable angle for viewing content and occasional interaction. Typing is not really an option at this incline, but playing games, selecting answers to questions and such activities are easily accomplished. The case can also be positioned in either landscape or portrait mode, with both feeling sturdy and safe.
Another advantage to the design is that it’s very light, so children can pick it up with ease, especially as there is a carrying groove in the back to aid grip. Next to this is also a handy slot for storing a stylus. The unit comes in two colours – bright yellow and blue – but I must admit if Griffin were to make one that looked like the original iMacs then they might capture a much wider market of adults who would love to have something as cool as that sitting on their desks.
To test the target appeal of the SeeSaw required the employment of two laboratory children, who were immediately drawn to the colourful exterior. Within minutes they’d fitted the iPad and were lost in Youtube. One slight problem they encountered was that the volume controls required quite a degree of force to get through to the iPad underneath. This may be a purposeful restriction to aid teachers in classrooms from having umpteen iPads blaring out at full volume, and if that’s the case then it’s a sensible choice. The one main issue I can see with the design in relation to being used in a classroom is how you would store the cases when not in use? Removing the iPads every time would soon get tiresome (not to mention probably loosen the cases grip), but as the screen is afforded no protection you wouldn’t want to pile them on top of each other.
For home use though the SeeSaw is a fascinating and quite charming little innovation. If you have an older iPad then handing it down to your progeny in one of these would make a great TV-lite device for their bedroom, or a perfect study companion for their homework.
The SeeSaw retails for £29.99 and would be a cool addition to any child’s desk. Now, just give me the iMac one to put on mine…
I feel like I’m getting settled in now. The iPad and iPhone have been banished and the Nexus replacements are holding up well. In fact that term – holding – is a key part of my thinking at the moment.
When Steve Jobs announced the iPad he did so with the aid of a comfy chair. He sat, fondling his new magical device while telling the world how good it felt to hold and touch. Although this might seem like the pitch of a world class salesman (which it undoubtedly was) there’s no arguing with the truth that was being conveyed. The iPad is far better to hold than a laptop. No great surprises there. The thing is that after three years of using one I’ve grown very accustomed to that particular squarish shape, and am struggling a little to adjust to the sleeker design of the Nexus 10.
At first glance they’re not so different, both are slim, light, pieces of expansive glass with a black border around their edges. Stand them side by side and you’ll notice that the Nexus 10 is wider (thanks to its 16:10 aspect ratio) and a little shorter than it’s fruity alternative. This makes watching movies on it a pleasant experience, aided by a lovely HD screen and two forward facing speakers. The bass frequencies can be a little lacking, which is not unusual on slim tablets, but the volume is respectable and coming straight at you – always a bonus.
One of my favourite uses for a tablet is reading news and RSS feeds on the Pulse app. Thankfully Pulse is available on iOS and Android so swapping over is a breeze. Within a few minutes of visiting the Play store I had all my feeds synced and was away. The layout is pretty much identical and meant that my transition from one device to another felt easy and with a minimum of fuss. Magazines aren’t quite so easy. On iOS I use Readr, which allows me to read lots of different magazines for a set price of £5.99 per month, saving me quite a bit of money. So far I haven’t found an equivalent on Android (if you know of one please let me know) and it’s also thrown up a small problem.
On my iPad I will often read magazines in portrait mode as I find it the best way to navigate around pages when zooming in and out. Holding the Nexus 10 in portrait mode just feels…weird. The taller, thinner nature is definitely designed to be used in landscape orientation, which is fine for video but not so great for magazines or comics. Of course this might not be an issue for you, but as I make my living writing for publications I also like to access them on my tablet. Amazon’s Kindle app works just great though.
The rubber backing on the Nexus 10 is very comfortable. I wish the iPad had something similar so it didn’t keep trying to leap out of your hands and hurl itself to the ground. Surprisingly though the thinness of the device still makes it hard to lean it against something without a bit of slippage. In the hand though I’m a big fan of the softer, warmer textures under my fingers.
One criticism often levelled at Android is the lack of tablet specific apps that are designed for it. So far this is certainly the case as many of the normal apps I use – Facebook, Twitter, Audible and others – all looking stretched across the wide screen rather than tailored to the environment. It was noticeable on the Nexus 7, but on the 10 it really starts to standout. This is something that I shall have to investigate further.
It’s early days with the Nexus 10, and using something else for the jobs that my iPad has done pretty much without exception for a few years now just shows how used to a certain weight and balance I have become. I’m sure that as the days roll by I will adjust to this new design, but it does feel alien at the moment. Next up…the Nexus 4.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed a few things about how I use my technology. Although the majority of the devices I own bare the markings of a certain California based fruit company (no not Apricot for you old-timers like me out there) the software I use has a distinctly Googly flavour. Gmail handles my communication, Google calendar attempts to bring order to my chaos, I write the articles that feed my family on Google Drive, Google Search aids my research, Google Maps help me get where I’m going, and Google + is fast becoming my preferred destination for social networking. If only the company made devices. Well, actually, it kind of does now. With the current range of Nexus devices we have tablets and phones that are intended to show us the mobile world as Google thinks it should be, and Chrome OS running on Chromebooks showcase how this translates to a full blown desktop operating system (stop that sniggering at the back!). So I thought, well, why not try living with them? Not piecemeal, but entirely.
I already have a Chromebook, which has proven itself over several months to be an excellent writing machine, and the Nexus 7 joined our family at Christmas. So it wouldn’t take much to skip over to the green fields of Android and complete the lineup. Armed with my univendor flavoured scheme I made a call to Google UK, who took pity on this impoverished freelance tech writer and agreed to loan me a Nexus 4 phone and Nexus 10 tablet for two weeks, possibly out of interest in my findings, but mainly to stop me calling them again.
And here I am. Nervous? Yep, just a little.
My iPhone 4S has been de-simmed and placed carefully in a dark draw, not to see the light of Facebook again for 14 days. The iPad 4 which accompanies me pretty much everywhere I go has been surgically removed from my hands, leaving the phantom tingles of a once present limb in its wake. Now I am in the company of strangers. The Nexus 4 will be my phone, the Nexus 7 my Kindle and handy sidekick, while the Nexus 10 takes on the challenges of the heavy duty tablet assignments. The Mr T of this technological A-Team if you will. Ensuring all the lovely plans come together is my Samsung Chromebook – you know, the really cheap one that I think is pretty damn wonderful.
How will it all work out? I don’t know, but I’m hoping that by the end of the two weeks I’ll be a little wiser in the ways of Google Fu. I also hope you’ll join me as I take these steps into a fruit free fortnight. Time for a technical adventure…
Are you an experienced Nexus user? If so what apps should I be running? I’ve already downloaded the standards – Kindle, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Wunderlist, Pulse and Audible, but are there others that make life on a Nexus device a glorious thing? Let me know in the comments below, and please feel free to ask any questions or offer suggestions on things I can try while exploring the world of Google living.
At the end of last week Samsung announced the latest in their range of amusingly large mobile handsets – The 6.3 inch Galaxy Mega. 6.3 inches…so finally we’ve returned to the era in technology when phones are larger than Smurfs. Oh, the humanity…or smurfanity.
I’ve seen the Samsung Note 2 out in the wild a few times and have always thought that its 5.5 inch screen looked pretty ridiculous. Now it has a bigger brother. Where will it end? Are we only a flexible glass display away from a 21st Century version of the Nintendo Power Glove?
Now of course I realise that a screen that size can be very useful for watching videos, typing long words, and converting into a makeshift Bivouac should you find yourself lost in the forest as the darkness closes in. As a mobile device that you hold up to your face in public and make phone calls with it seems less than optimum.
There’s the fact that at the end of your two year contract you’ll resemble one of the creatures from the last levels of Resident Evil. One arm will be enormous and muscled due to the repeated task of lifting an electronic surfboard up to your face for extended periods of time, while the other apendage will seem listless and withered in comparison.
You may find yourself worshipped by easily impressed people who see a halo-like ethereal light around your face thanks to your wide girthed phone of choice. Of course some would say this could be a plus.
Probably the most serious problem though is that you’ll just look very, very silly talking into a glowing cereal box while walking down the street.
It’s a strange thing that as we increase the size of devices that are meant to, theoretically, fit in our pockets we’re actually shrinking the dimensions of devices that we do some proper work on. The iPad has started a trend towards tablets as many people’s computer of choice, and now offers a smaller version which is selling rather well. Microsoft seem to view the future in terms of PC/tablet hybrids, with its Surface division deciding that the 10-inch mark is enough for most people to be productive. Of course if you’re older like me, and find your eyes a little less eagle-like than they used to be, then you’re going to be doing a lot of squinting in the technological years ahead.
It does feel curious that when the mobile phone first appeared it was a huge device that looked, well, stupid, and was a bugger to put in your pocket. Now, a few decades later we’re in need of spacious trousers if we want to keep up with the times.
Of course I’m somewhat biased as I have an iPhone 4S which is fast becoming the Smart Car of mobile phones. Frankly its a wonder that I haven’t lost it under a speck of dust or had it slip through the stitching in my pocket. The thing is it’s actually a very nice size. I can operate it with one hand – which is something I do a lot with a phone as I’m usually moving around while using it – and it reaches from my ear to my mouth, so phone calls are quite achievable. Granted, after using a HTC One X for a while recently I could see how Youtube was much better on the larger screen, but other than that I’m lost for why we need something as big as the Samsung Mega.
Time will tell if the age of gargantuphones will be a long one, or whether we’ll be talking to our watches and glasses in the next few years. Either way I think I’ll stick with something small, as I’m already struggling enough to fit into my trousers these days.
What do you think? Am I missing the point? Is a huge phone actually really useful? I’m genuinely intrigued and open to persuasion, as I just don’t get this whole trend. Let me know your experiences and how these devices can be a good or bad thing in the comments below.
I know. It’s not like me…and yet still it happens.
My old laptop is now tottering towards digital senility, and I’m left with the quandary of what to replace it with? My needs are reasonably mild – writing, blogging, research, a bit of audio production here, a dab of video creation there – nothing that requires a powerhouse machine. Even if I did need some extra grunt then my Mac Mini is more than up for most tasks. So the question that echoes around the empty caverns of my mind with alarming regularity is ‘Can I use my iPad as a laptop replacement?’
Over the next month or so I’m going to find out.
Before I write that piece I need to get a few things in place and add a few accessories into the mix. I already have a wireless Apple keyboard which I use with the aforementioned Mac Mini. The onscreen iPad keyboard is actually very good, but using it for any extended writing sessions always gives me a crick in my neck, so an external one seems like a good option.
My iPad already has a case, which can double as a stand, but I find that it sits a little low and ushers forth the crick once more. So I need something that will keep the device portable, while elevating the screen and preventing it from toppling forward into my coffee cup. What’s that? A stand, you say? What a splendid idea!
The Griffin A-Frame is such a contraption.
When you first pick up the stand you can tell from the gentle heft that it is built to last. The aluminium construction feels sturdy and solid, two qualities that I usually hope for when I entrust the safe-keeping of a £500 piece of glass to something’s care. The central piece of the stand swings back to a set distance which offers a good viewing angle for an iPad in portrait mode, but I have to say that the angle is a little shallow when you change to landscape.
Griffin know that Apple have a penchant for elegantly styled and easily scratched devices, so the contact points on the stand are all covered in soft rubber to avoid damage and safeguard the resale value of its prospective passengers.
One of the real advantages that the A-Frame has over many of its rivals is the large chin that compromises the base of the unit. This means that the iPad sits about an inch or two above the desk, which is closer to a normal laptop than many of the traditionally low-slung tablet stands I’ve used. Crick…be gone.
In use the A-Frame is just about perfect. The iPad doesn’t wobble or exhibit any lemming-like tendencies while on the stand, and there is even a cutout on the back of the A-Frame which allows you to feed through a power cable neatly – although this only really works in portrait mode. The wide base is also open enough to hold an iPad in a case, which further maintains the safety of the device.
In truth it’s a little heavy, not stupidly so, and it’s only to be expected due to the solidity of the product, but when added to the Apple keyboard it does mean that the overall weight becomes similar to a normal laptop. Albeit a laptop that can be taken apart without the need for torx screwdrivers and heatguns. Now there’s an idea, Apple!
I managed to find a solution to the landscape viewing angle problem in the end by simply placing the case that usually holds my iPad under the stand. Hey presto, it’s a mini laptop.
Of course the question will be asked ‘Why not just use an actual laptop?’
Well, I know that I’ll always have a tablet from now on. They just suit my lifestyle very nicely. If I’m going to have one anyway then it makes sense to try and adapt the device into my workflow. If it can carry the weight then I’ve saved about £1000 on a new MacBook Pro. Packing a few extra items in my bag to make this happen feels like a fair trade, and of course once I finish work I can put the keyboard away, prop the iPad on the stand and waste the evening watching Youtube.
The Griffin A-Frame retails for around £20 online. It’s a very useful bit of kit, and doubles as a handy desk stand on which to charge the iPad or use it as a second screen when working on your main machine at home. Simple, sturdy, and affordable. That’s all the boxes ticked for me.
In fact when I first heard about e-readers the idea just turned me cold. How could people give up the feel of a proper book in their hands, the artwork on the sleeves, and all those creases in the spine that acted as waypoints for the adventure you’d just experienced? What grey, cold, computer could have the same heartwarming effect?
Well, as it turns out…the Amazon Kindle.
I bought my first Kindle as kind of an experiment. The slim plastic casing was lightweight, easy to hold, and in direct sunlight the pages looked, well, like a book. I tried in vain to fight the lures of this temptress, but in truth, she had me once I read my first e-inked line. The transition was swift. When perusing the listings on Amazon I’d check to see if new titles came in digital formats. Second-hand bookshops, once a sanctuary to me, slipped from my mind and faded into legend. Only something that could be emailed to my device was worthy of inclusion in my collection.
I had been digitised.
Where once I was a man whose home was packed with books, now the shelves were empty, an ebook collection nestled in the slim belly of my Kindle…and I was happy.
But there was one area in which the little device struggled. Well to be honest it didn’t struggle, it outright failed. Low light. If the sun went behind a cloud, the lightbulbs chose to shine in different directions, or my warm glow of literary self satisfaction faded, then the Kindle became next to useless.
I tried various lights that could be attached to the Kindle, but these all quickly became annoying. Some were bulky and added weight, others were tiny and flapped about all over the place like epileptic stick insects. I considered the official Amazon case with a built in light, but the hilarious price of £50 soon put paid to that idea. No, I was a dayreader now, and that is how it would stay. Unless I sat by a desk lamp of course.
Then came rumours of a new Kindle…one that would bring light to the word. I held my breath. Could this be true?
Slowly rumours transformed into speculation, then tentative, leaked technical specs appeared. So, the prophesies were soon to be made plastic. Glory be! Shortly afterwards the Kindle Paperwhite appeared, replete with an internal light and the promise of eternal happiness. Well, the happiness was only available through certain outlets, but the light remained standard. Lo, the Paperwhite had come into the world…and it was good.
After spending the past two weeks with this luminescent device I must admit that sadly…it’s rather wonderful. I say sadly because it now means a frantic scramble to gather together enough cash to buy the damn thing. Thus it was, as ever shall be.
What makes the Paperwhite so attractive is the illumination itself. I’ve tried reading books on my iPad, Nexus 7, and various mobile phones over the years. It’s not a terrible experience, but my eyes tend to tire quickly when staring at small text on those harshly bright screens. The Kindle Paperwhite glows in a more gentle fashion, allowing you to spend longer reading and less time Googling for symptoms of cataracts.
The design is elegantly simple too. Gone is the keyboard that wasted so much space on my old unit, replaced instead by a touch-screen. Thankfully there’s no swiping involved. You just tap the left side to go back, the right to go forward, the top to bring up a menu, and the bottom to see how much of the book remains. Actually this is a great little feature as the lower display swaps between the rather random ‘Loc’ display – which acts as a page number – to a far more useful option that uses your average reading speed to calculate how long it will take you to finish reading the book. Simple, brilliant, and mildly accurate.
Otherwise it’s business as usual for the Kindle. Meaning that the extra functionality (distractions) tablets and phones offer are sacrificed in favour of a dedicated reading experience. It’s hard to convey just how powerful this simplicity is. When you pick up an iPad you can read, then check your email, quickly update Facebook, maybe order another book from the Amazon website, then watch that video that your friend has just sent, possibly a quick game of Ski Safari, then….what was I doing again?
On a Kindle you pick the device up with a solitary purpose in mind – reading – and with the Paperwhite you can now do that anywhere at all. The battery still lasts forever, you can load new titles from your computer or have them delivered straight to the unit from the Amazon store, and the compact design means it’s comfortable to hold for long literary sessions.
If you’re a reader then there’s no better device on which to enjoy the words of others.
Regular readers of this site will know that I have a somewhat idealistic take on technology. The possibilities of the internet paired with powerful mobile devices and reliable, easy to use, interfaces still excite me on a daily basis. Maybe it’s a sickness. Quite possibly. But in the spirit of those immortal words sung so convincingly by Luther Ingram in 1972 – ‘If loving you is wrong, I don’t ever want to be right’.
Of course that song was actually written from the point of view of a lover involved in an affair with a cheating husband, and you can imagine that after the music faded someone ended up hurt and alone. Maybe it’s not the best analogy to use. Ah, you’re an intelligent bunch, you can work through the moral disarray.
In short – technology is great. So to celebrate this I decided to illustrate some very simple but wonderfully convenient ways it has changed over the years to make our lives better.
When I was merely a snippet of a lad the only mobile technology I came into contact with was a remote control for our brand new, top-loading, VHS recorder. I loosely use the word remote because rather than the infrared devices that clutter up the gaps in our sofa cushions these days, the one we had actually attached to the front of the machine via a cord. So remote became a very subjective word. If six feet was remote to you then you were in luck, otherwise it seemed that you’d been given a quite close control, one that really offered little advantage over just getting up off your backside and turning the video on or off yourself.
How times have changed.
The other day I was in the pub with friends and realised that I’d forgotten to set my PVR to record Match of the Day (if this is all becoming far too lad-like for you, I refer you back to the first paragraph which included references to a 1970s love song, albeit of rather questionable values). In the past this would have been resolved by going home, calling home, or just bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t at home and why couldn’t someone invent something that stopped this kind of tragedy from ruining innocent lives. But not this day. Instead I quickly whipped out my iPhone, launched the Sky+ app, found the program guide and sent a signal for my PVR to begin recording. It was right, just, and I swear I heard the faint echo of angels singing as I slid the magical device back into my jeans and lifted my glass in victory. This is how life was meant to be.
As a child of the 70s who reached those troublesome young adult years amidst the avarice, violent protests, and terrible synthesizer music of the 80s, there is one item that came to symbolise those difficult years. The Filofax. It was the age of share dealing, business meetings, go-get-’em young executives making huge fortunes on far east investments then losing it all before the end of the day. Buy low, sell high, act like an over privileged idiot and end up thirty years later working in a petrol station, with a haunted look permanently darkening your gaze.
So how could you achieve such heights? The trusty Filofax. A paper world that needed to look battered, and so filled with contacts, notes, and calendar entries that technically the item counted as a potential explosive. Everyone who was someone had one. That’s a lot of ones.
The other thing I remember about the Filofax was how remarkably expensive they were. So for what was essentially a smaller than usual, leather, ring binder you could pay quite ludicrous prices. Then there was the additional expense of the inserts you needed to stuff into the thing to make it actually useful. It really became the case that in order to own a filofax you needed to be a high earner just to afford the new ruler, business card holders, or latest coloured note pages. Of course as the collection grew so did the weight and size, until those desperate to look important were dragging around what amounted to a filing cabinet in their pockets. Hernia treatment clinics have recently been linked with coming up with the concept, but they strongly deny the allegations.
Where are these paper palaces now?
The smartphone appeared pretty much out of nowhere and wiped out the industry. There had been the initial PDAs that started the transition, but really the iPhone, Blackberry and recently Tablets have taken the place of these impractical, additional devices. Now instead of the type of leather you clad your information in it’s the type of manufacturer. Brand names are back in fashion – Blackberry for the business professional…who doesn’t keep up with the times. iPhones for the well heeled, and Android for the rebels. What’s that? Windows Phone 8? Your guess is as good as mine.
Oddly one thing hasn’t changed. We still stuff additional pages into the phones to make them do more and increase our productivity. We just call them apps now, and thankfully they have little impact on our spines. Until the evil Hernia people find their angle…
It wasn’t that long ago that relatives in distant lands would film themselves on camcorders while giving seasonal messages, proudly holding aloft new born babies, or expressing they love for those far from them. These video cassettes would then run the gauntlet of x-ray scanners, crazed postal workers, and differing manufacturing encoding standards in the hope of delivering their precious cargo. To be honest it was such a pain that most people didn’t even attempt this high-tech form of correspondance, instead electing to write letters and throw a few choice pictures into the envelope. Long distance calls were expensive and at times actually of low enough quality to make it not worth the effort either. But still we tried to keep in contact with family and friends on foreign soil. I know of relatives that recorded audio diaries, repete with bedtime stories, which they would regularly send to their grandchildren so they could stay present in their lives even if not in a physical form.
There is a certain romance to this. The effort involved makes the intent more admirable. The striving to stay in contact even though the world would do its best to keep you apart is a true measure of love. It’s something almost noble.
These days our options are wide, free, and – technical hiccups aside – pretty much instant.
Skype, and its digital ilk, has made a huge difference in the lives of families who move to distant parts of the world, or in some cases just to the other end of a country. Now bedtime stories can be read in real-time, and the reactions witnessed as Bilbo nears his final confrontation with Smaug. I’ve been at parties where someone who couldn’t make the couple of thousand mile journey actually spent the entire night in the corner of the room via her laptop. She raised drinks, took part in the jokes, and was able to feel part of her wider community all from her home a hemisphere away. Journalists like myself conduct globe spanning interviews with celebrities that would once have had to brave the press tours to promote their newest creation. Children talk with their school friends in the evening, not seeming to see it an issue that they’ve spent the entire day with them already. The world indeed has been made smaller. It might not be the labour of love that went before it, but I think anyone would take it in a heartbeat.
There will be a few of these musings on the way tech is changing how we do the things we’ve always done. Why not leave a comment telling me what your favourite, simple changes are? Maybe they might even make it into a future post.
I adopted the tablet revolution quite early on. In the build up to the release of Apple’s iPad I was critical of how useful something like Steve Jobs’ latest magical creation could be. In fact the first time I encountered an iPad it left me unimpressed. I played with a few apps, discovered that well lit rooms were no friend of the tablet then decided that laptops were for me, not these expensive toys. I can’t remember when I changed my mind, but somehow – via a generous birthday present – I had the chance to really explore this new computer format…and from then on I was hooked.
Now the iPad is easily my most used piece of hardware. Internet browsing is strangely serene on it, podcasts play loud enough that I can use the device as a mobile speaker unit in the house, reading is great at night, I’ve rediscovered an old love of comic books thanks to excellent apps like Comix, and when teamed up with my Apple TV the iPad brings the endless time-wasting joy of Youtube directly to my TV. I’ve even been known to do the odd bit of writing on my beloved machine, including this blog post.
So now it’s pretty fair to say that I’ll always want a tablet in my life. Funny how times change. The problem is that due to the closed nature of the production of tablets there’s no way I can fix one or upgrade it to maintain optimum performance. Slowly, over time, my original iPad has developed…issues. Due to the low 256mb of internal memory apps now crash in a frustratingly regular fashion, and some tasks that were once instant now drag their heels in spectacular fashion. I’m guessing this is the way that Apple and their competitors ensure that we move up to a new device every three years or so, just like we do with phones. But a £500 purchase is something I want to last a bit longer than that, especially when it’s being used for non-intensive tasks. Thus it was with great interest when I saw that Google had released the Nexus 7 – a smaller, lighter, much, much cheaper tablet that had the press in unanimous praise. Could this be the Droid I’m looking for?
There’s no doubt that the Nexus 7 is an attractive device. Everyone that has seen the review unit I’ve been using was impressed by it’s bright, clear screen and diminutive form. Holding it in the hand was a light relief from its chunky inspiration, and the latest Jelly Bean Android software felt quick and stable. Initially it was an instant success and I thought that my bank account could be saved the mauling that Apple had bestowed upon it in previous days. Then the cracks began to appear.
The Nexus is small…but it’s also too big.
Confused? Yes, I’m not surprised. You see swiping and pinch-to-zooming is all well and good, but to navigate the internet, send emails, or interact with social media you’re going to need to enter some text. Typing on the iPad is, well, excellent. In landscape mode I can pretty much type at 80% of my top speeds, with a surprising level of accuracy. Using the Nexus 7 is somewhat confusing. Landscape mode is a bit of a stretch and the onscreen keyboard feels less accurate and sensitive than the Apple one. Turning to portrait mode makes the Nexus seem like an over-large phone, and once again the lower accuracy makes it easier to make mistakes. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s not the effortless experience that I’ve enjoyed on my iPad.
Of course the Nexus’ size becomes an advantage when using apps like Google Currents and Flipboard, which are both excellent and make catching up on news a very easy and pleasant experience. Amazon’s Kindle app is also a standout. Reading novels on pages that are pretty much the same as an actual book feels right, and the screen definition renders the text in a crisp manner. Social media is a little less splendid. The Facebook and Twitter apps appear to be the mobile versions, offering smaller text size and a compact view that just seems to lessen the experience, especially Facebook with it’s constant flow of pictures. Google+ is decent, but again feels a cheaper alternative to the magnificent iPad offering.
After exploring these sites I noticed another oddity of the device. With the iPad I tend to balance the unit against my legs, lean it on furniture, or prop it up against any random protuberances that offer purchase. It means that my arms don’t tire of holding what is still a quite substantial weight. The Nexus is light and slim, but I found that I had to hold it all the time, which actually ended up causing my hands to ache faster than the iPad did. It’s a small thing, but as I suffer from an old RSI injury, this became a bigger issue rather quickly.
Ok, so comparing a £200 device to a £400 one seems a little unfair. Of course the iPad should be a more luxurious environment, it damn well better be for double the price. But the reason I’m doing this is that I was serious about converting from an expensive Apple device that I use mainly for media consumption to a cheaper alternative that offered most of the benefits with only a few losses. After a few weeks with the Nexus 7 though I was disappointed to realise that the iPad has pretty much ruined me for anything else. The drop down felt so vast in terms of quality, not of build – the Nexus is very solid – but rather experience. I’ve rarely felt frustrated by the iPad (except now that it crashes more often) but the Nexus became annoying in a fairly short space of time. As an e-reader it’s a very tempting option, offering more functionality than the Kindle Paperwhite for only £50 more, but for more general purpose tablet adventures it seems limited and more akin to a phone.
I dearly wanted to love this device, as did my wallet, and to be fair my children did. I think the issues I had with size were the exact opposite for them. But the compromises seem too big to make this a viable option to those who have grown used to the glorious expanse of Apple’s tablet. Even my mother, who has to be surgically removed from my iPad every time she comes over, but for whom the price tag is prohibitive, couldn’t get on with the Nexus. The text size proving difficult for her older eyes.
The Nexus is a cool little device which some people will undoubtedly love. For me though it looks like another trip to the Apple store looms in March when the new model comes out. Better start saving now then…
Just over two years ago I emerged from an Apple store holding one of the original iPads. I’d never carried home a computer from a shop before, well not one that was already assembled. I’d slowly transported ones piece by piece over several months many times before – my own Trigger’s Brooms on which I would save the galaxy, listen for the Joanna Lumley-like tones of AOL instructing me of mail deliverance, and write the occasional article or two.
This was different though. A new type of computing…one Steve Jobs called ‘magical’…and he was never one to exaggerate. No.
Those early days were filled with laughter and exuberant internet access. People would stop me in coffee shops and ask if it was what they thought it was? Beautiful women looked at me with new found desire, and children danced with joy, laying precious offerings at my feet while proclaiming that they hoped to one day emulate my magnificence.
Then the iPad 2 was released and suddenly I was mocked in public for the heft of my device, its ponderous nature, and the aesthetically offensive case in which it travelled. The days of plenty were at an end.
But I knew what I would do.
The insides of computers hold no fear for the likes of I. Many times have my hands delved into the hearts of a machine to resurrect its once deathly corpse to new life. Why should this be any different? All I would require was a screwdriver, some extra RAM, and an anti-static wristband (don’t leave home without it kids). But wait…what’s this? No screws? No clips? No way in at all? Treachery abounds!
It was just the beginning. Soon I noticed that the launch of MacBook Airs, Retina Pros, Ultrabooks, and All-In-One Desktops were making the task of upgrading hardware difficult, if not impossible. The mere idea of a huge tower PC, with all the expandable goodness that it once boasted, would now cause outrage and despair from all who saw it and heard the cacophony of internal fans screaming their obsolescence.
Once we were the masters of our fates…now…we await the inevitable critical failure that our devices will suffer the moment they mature past their manufacturers warranty period. They are no longer computers. Instead we are buying pretty, slim, moderately powerful, suicidal electronics.
How did we let this happen?
In years gone buy we would buy a PC once every six or seven years, and only then because of boredom rather than necessity. The internals would alter over time – a graphics card here, some RAM there – but in essence the cost of a new system could be offset for a long, long time. Now we seem to be paying high prices for machines that just won’t keep up with the near light-speed development of technology. The dark heart of this is that we’ve been subtly trained in these ways for years. We’ve been set up.
The advent of mobile phones brought freedom to the masses. Once we would have to actually know our friends’ telephone numbers, and arrange to meet them ahead of time. Now we could wander about in an amnesiac stupor, planning trysts on the fly. The cost of this emancipation? Signing up for a year long contract, with the incentive of a free, new phone at the end of it. What could possibly go wrong?
You see what they did there? We ran willingly into their arms and embraced the confines of their contractual limitations. Our souls in trade for a Motorola flip phone.
With the pattern in place we were systematically tutored that technology was disposable, and our expectations were lowered while our need to upgrade was enhanced. Pavlov rang his one year bell and we duly signed on again. Phase 2 swiftly followed. With the advent of smartphones we needed longer contracts, with higher rates. The experiment was to see who would crack? After only having to last a year before new toys were given to us, we now had to survive double the term. Those last six months became an eternity of anguish. ‘Why is the new iPhone so much better?’ ‘How can Android have advanced so much while I’m stuck back on Froyo?’ became the cry of the slaves upon whose back the pyramids of modern technology were loaded. Then, like men who have just wandered out of an exodus in the desert, we were offered the fresh, cool, water of an upgrade. We would have promised you anything at that point….sure, I’ll take the LG phone.
As the first few years of the new decade advances we enter Phase 3. The computers will cost more, expire sooner, and we shall be complicit in the plan. Tablets are the harbingers of doom…and we are carrying our own carcasses to the abyss with smiles on our faces. We can only await the terror that will be Phase 4…
Still, the new iPhone is pretty cool…and I’m really just waiting for the new MacBook Air…it’s meant to be better than the last one.
It’s been seven years since I committed myself to the cause. In that time I have been transformed, seen incredible new things, and brought others to an understanding of the true way while rejoicing at their accepting this wonderful rebirth.
But now, it seems, my walk is faltering…inside are doubts I can’t suppress or ignore…my faith is beginning to fade.
How did it come to this? Oh Apple, why have thou forsaken me?
I think it began with the iPad.
Thanks to a generous birthday gift I was able to experience the new technology sensation shortly after it launched here in the UK back in 2010. I was immediately in love. The elegant dance of information beneath my fingers beguiled my skeptical mind and left me with the profound sensation that I was engaging with the future. It seemed a million miles from the Sinclair Research ZX Spectrum that had initially filled me with wonder all those years ago.
All was well until the release of it’s younger sibling twelve months later. I saw no need to upgrade as the addition of a camera was of no interest and the speed of my original iPad was more than satisfactory. Then I tried to download the newly released iMovie and discovered that it was not available for my tablet. Surely there was some mistake? I was on the cutting edge – probably for the first time in my life – how could my hardware already be redundant? Then other non-iPad 1 apps started to appear…it had begun.
I comforted myself with the thoughts that I probably wouldn’t have used them anyway, and my iPad was still the brilliant machine that it always had been. The pain subsided, I learned to live within my reduced but still rich digital environment and the hurt passed into memory.
Then Apple did it again.
iOS 5 sounded wonderful. The ability to have my documents synced between the iPad and my MacBook without any kind of fiddling around with importing or exporting was the kind of seamless thing I expected from the Cupertino boffins. And now here it was, all for the princely sum of nothing at all!
Only things weren’t quite how they seemed.
Within a short time of upgrading I noticed that my once very stable tablet was now crashing…a lot. Once it even locked up and required a reboot – something I’d hardly ever experienced in my time among the fruit people. The cause? iOS 5. Forums were alive with similar stories and the only fix it seemed was to wipe the disk and start again, then disable the iCloud settings. I duly did this and, in a fashion, it worked although my machine does still crash more than it used to – plus I can’t use the syncing feature for fear of the whole thing breaking again. I wasn’t even given the option of returning to the previous version of the iOS that worked perfectly with the iPad 1 because Apple don’t look back, only forward.
Then I discovered that upgrading my Macbook to the newly released OSX Lion would be problematic because its limited 2gb of internal memory means it will struggle to cope, plus the trackpad only supports two finger gestures which means it will miss most of the benefits that Lion offers.
So instead of a brave new world I was given a slightly more broken one. Not quite what I had hoped for.
Now I find myself in that awkward time when my main machine (the aforementioned old white Macbook) is beginning to show signs of age and will possibly need upgrading within the next year. But for the first time in a long, long time I’m actually finding myself question whether I want to pay premium prices for something that might be reduced to second-class citizenship a damn sight faster than I’d like. I’ve never regretted buying anything from Apple. Since my conversion I’ve bought and used heavily an iBook, Macbook, iPod touch Gen1, iPod Gen5, iPod Shuffle, iPad, and Apple TV. All of which have been brilliant. But as times get tougher my eyes are starting to wander.
The problem I’m faced with (and I realise that in the grand scheme of things it’s a trifling one) is that buying something new from Apple these days has the strange effect of making you feel obsolete so very quickly. I fully accept that the thing that makes them great is that they push forward all the time, but if you’re like me and only earn a modest income that precludes you from buying a new model every two years then it can get strangely depressing. Has it always been like this? I don’t remember it as such.
The thing is I can’t go back to Windows. I just can’t. So where does that leave me?
In recent months I’ve started exploring the idea of Linux….and it’s quite interesting. Sure it doesn’t have the simplicity of OSX, nor the beauty. But it does actually work, is free, and because of it’s home-brew nature doesn’t leave you in the dust only months after you’ve paid a fortune for something. I don’t know if I’ll be able to withstand the constant fixing that it will no doubt require, but I’m finding the fresh environment, the surprising fun of reconnecting with the workings of a system, and the frontier attitude genuinely refreshing. How long this will last I don’t know. Those MacBook Airs are mighty tempting. But at least here I can enjoy the idea of salvaging old machines rather than saving for new ones…