iPhone, iPad Games, Apps, Reviews, News Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:57:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Story Behind Switching from iMac to Retina MacBook Pro Sun, 17 Aug 2014 10:49:20 +0000 Read More]]> Almost 1400 days ago (3 years 10 months) I bought my first Mac, a 27-inch iMac. At the time of heading to the local retail store to pick up the Mid 2010 model I had second thoughts, why not buy a MacBook Pro instead, I thought. However, it turned out that I bought the new iMac. At that point in time when I was switching from a windows laptop to a Mac, I was looking for more screen space and of course faster and reliable computing machine.

As I began using my first Mac with 27-inch large display and the fastest processors available at that time it was certainly an enjoyable experience. I could multitask and have TweetDeck open with almost 7 to 8 columns of different twitter feeds. So, more screen space allowed me to open more apps on the same desktop space. During the course of the last three years I increasingly felt tied to my workspace as working with a desktop obviously takes away the freedom of moving around.

When Apple announced the new iPad 2 in March 2011, it seemed to be the best option to bring balance to desktop computing by having a tablet to do other tasks while on the move. This combination of iMac and an iPad worked. I was able to check emails and respond while I was on the move, write reviews and more. As the App Store became populated with powerful apps like iWork, AppCooker, Omnigraffle I began doing advanced tasks like designing and wire framing apps and websites on the tablet. iPad became my first choice for tasks such as wire framing and designing as it felt extremely intuitive on a multi-touch screen.

All computing devices have a limited shelf life and as technology advances older products start slowing down. So, around mid 2013 the iMac and iPad 2 both started to age and not offer the same experience as before. Working from a stationary workspace also added more fatigue. This made me reflect back on that day when I had second thoughts about picking up a MacBook Pro instead of an iMac. Apple now had Retina displays in its MacBook Pro lineup and it felt like the perfect device for someone whose work involves a lot of writing and designing.

I waited for a while before making the switch to a Retina MacBook Pro as I wanted the processors to mature and offer stable experience to Retina display users.

When Apple announced OS X Yosemite during the WWDC, new features such as handoff wouldn’t work in my mid-2010 iMac. So, it was clear that iMac days were limited. On July 24 when public beta of OS X Yosemite was made available I installed in on my iMac and it worked fine for a few hours. The performance was laggy but that could be mainly due to the fact that it is a beta software and not final release. I rebooted the system a couple of times and it was the third reboot that killed my hard drive. The iMac was stuck on the boot screen and after a series of attempts to get the hard drive to work nothing worked. Eventually, I had to buy a new hard drive and then everything was fine. iMac being out of AppleCare warranty costs expensive repair. This particular model had a history of display and super drive being changed twice while under Apple Care.

After replacing the hard drive I decided to sell the iMac and buy a mid-2014 15.4-inch Retina MacBook Pro 512 GB SSD, 2.5GHz i7 Processor, 16GB RAM. It’s just been 2 days since I’ve started using the MacBook Pro and I haven’t missed having the iMac even one bit. Coming from HDD to SSD is like someone from the dialup connection days suddenly experiences the modern-day broadband. The absolutely stunning Retina display has an overwhelming “wow” factor. The text as I’m typing is set to very small font size but it’s so crisp and pleasing to the eye. Photos and videos look stunning with great colours.

I usually don’t quit apps as it used to take a little while to re-launch them but with the new Retina MacBook Pro tasks such as launching new apps, rebooting are so fast that you begin to appreciate the amount of power this machine has.

It’s only been two days, so there’s a lot for me to discover and it will be interesting to see how my impressions change after putting the device through daily usage. But, I can certainly say it’s been an extremely satisfying experience so far.

Do you have any first time Mac experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below.


]]> 2 Apple Inc. (AAPL) Retina MacBook Pro Shipment Time Improves to Less Than a Week Fri, 03 Aug 2012 19:45:45 +0000 Read More]]> Retina MacBook Pro AAPL

Early last week, Apple Inc. (AAPL) shipment estimate for the Retina MacBook Pro improved to 1-2 weeks. On Thursday, the estimate continued to show improvement, moving up to less than a week, with AAPL’s online store estimating that the 2.3 Ghz and 2.6 Ghz configurations of Retina MacBook Pro will be shipping within 5-7 days.

As noted by AppleInsider, alongside the updated ship times, Apple has also gone ahead to allow users to configure the Retina MacBook Pro to add 512- or 768-gigabyte SSDs to the base model, 2.3 Ghz quad-core i7 Intel Processor. These latest shipping estimates are a result of Apple increasing manufacturing of the MacBook Pros and catching up with the initial demand for the product. During Apple’s Q3 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook estimated that Apple would catch up with the backlog of of demand in August, and has done exactly that.

Apple’s Retina MacBook Pro brings the company’s revolutionary Retina Display, introduced with the iPhone 4 to the MacBook line. Apple in the past has been successful in improving shipping time with many of its new launched products, including the iPhone 4S and the new iPad, which experienced extreme demand during the first weeks of release.

]]> 5 OS X Mountain Lion Accounts for 3% of Total Mac Traffic Mon, 30 Jul 2012 20:44:04 +0000 Read More]]> OS X Mountain Lion Share

On Friday, AllThingsD reported on new statistics about the widespread use of Apple’s newest OS X update, Mountain Lion. The report mentioned that roughly 48 hours after the public release of OS X Mountain Lion, about 3% of total web traffic is coming from the latest Mac software.

Analytics firm Chitika conducted the research to come to this conclusion, estimating that Mountain Lion’s web traffic percentage increased from 0.25% before the public launch. This was likely the developer previews of Mountain Lion running prior to the release.

Moreover, based on Apple’s June 2012 announcement that there are currently 66 million Mac users in the wild, we can infer that 2.11 million Mac users downloaded OS X Mountain Lion in the past 48 hours,” Chitika said. “Using this figure, if we assume that 90 percent of these users paid to upgrade, OS X Mountain Lion generated $38 million in revenue for Apple in the past 48 hours.

It is unclear exactly how this compares to last years installation figures, which brought in one million downloads of OS X Lion on the first day of release.

With Retina Macbook Pro sales still increasing steadily and the company’s Up to Date program running, many users are either buying the MacBooks with Mountain Lion preinstalled or getting the update for free. OS X Mountain Lion brings key features to the desktop platform and blurs the lines between its mobile counterpart, iOS. Features such as Notes, Reminders, Notification Center, iCloud, and Dictation make OS X very similar to iOS.

{via MacRumors}

]]> 2 Apple Inc. (AAPL) Admits Removing EPEAT Certification “was a mistake” Mon, 16 Jul 2012 18:14:08 +0000 Read More]]> Apple EPEAT

Earlier this month, Apple Inc. (AAPL) withdrew its products from being certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), which certifies over 95% of electronics in the U.S by a requirement by the government. AAPL’s 39 products under EPEAT’s were pulled without question, however, the company has now taken steps to address the media and the public on the parameters of its decision by issuing a letter.

In a letter from SVP of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield, the company revealed that they are putting all eligible products back on EPEAT. Apple defended their decision to withdraw a few days ago, pointing out that withdrawing from EPEAT did not change the environmental credibility of their products. In a report from The Loop, Apple defended their decision and made their comments public.

Apple takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact and all of our products meet the strictest energy efficiency standards backed by the US government, Energy Star 5.2. We also lead the industry by reporting each product’s greenhouse gas emissions on our website, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials.

In the letter, Mansfield addressed the company’s decision to withdraw from EPEAT certification and said that it “was a mistake” to do so. Mansfield also mentioned in the report that “all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT”.

We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.

It’s important to know that our commitment to protecting the environment has never changed, and today it is as strong as ever. Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry. In fact, our engineering teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to make our products even more environmentally friendly, and much of our progress has come in areas not yet measured by EPEAT.

This means that products that meet a standard of disassembly can be certified by EPEAT, and as a result, Apple’s new Retina MacBook Pro might not qualify. It is interesting to note Apple’s approach in issuing a statement through Mansfield as opposed to one from CEO Tim Cook, likely to assure the public that the right steps were being taken to rectify the company’s products under EPEAT.

{via 9to5Mac}

]]> 1 Shipment Time for Retina MacBook Pro Improves to 2-3 Weeks Mon, 16 Jul 2012 17:59:23 +0000 Read More]]>

Last month, Apple Inc. (AAPL) introduced a new line of MacBook Pro at WWDC called the Retina MacBook Pro, introducing a slimmer design, paired with the company’s popular Retina Display. Since the unveiling and first day of sales, estimated shipment times remained frozen around 3-4 weeks, a hefty waiting period for an AAPL product. Typically, Apple products in high pent up demand such as the iPhone have shipment times of this range.

However, on Friday, shipment times began to slip and improved to 2-3 weeks in a number of markets including the U.S, Canada, and Asia-Pacific. The improvement in shipment time likely points to either an increase in production or the demand for the device decreasing after initial sales. Either way, a shorter shipment time is good not only for Apple customers who will be able to quickly purchase the product, but for Apple who can continue to control demand with a moderate ship time.

The updated ship times are slowly spreading to all markets and appear to be moving to the European market next. Apple currently offers Free Shipping on the Retina MacBook Pro and with the improved shipment times, can attract thousands of new customers.

Did you buy the new Retina MacBook Pro? Does it live up-to your expectations? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

{via 9to5Mac}

]]> 1 Spotify Releases iPad App for its Streaming Service Tue, 08 May 2012 20:44:09 +0000 Read More]]>

Music streaming service, Spotify, gained popularity in Europe before debuting in the United States last July, allowing users to stream music from major music labels on their Macs, PC’s, and portable devices. Spotify is one of the first streaming services to combine users music libraries, as well as online streaming and allow them to sync their devices.

Today we’re extremely proud to present our native iPad app in all its green-hued glory. Features include:

– Retina graphics for iPad – dazzling display, razor sharp images, richer colors
– Even easier to browse and explore Spotify’s entire 18 million* song catalogue
– New ‘Now Playing’ full-screen view with high-definition cover art
– Search for playlists, users and music – all from the same view
– Check out what’s hot and find trending playlists & songs amongst your friends
– Inbox grouped by user for easy searching
– Gapless playback and crossfade
– AirPlay integration

Spotify has long been available on the iPhone since its release, operating on a pricing model, as opposed to the free model on the desktop computer. On Tuesday, Spotify announced that their new iPad application is now available in the App Store, utilizing the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen. The app is available via an upgrade to the existing app, which will be downloadable as both an iPad and iPhone app.

Spotify Premium is currently offering a free 48-hour trial for new users , allowing them to extend for up to 30 days if they sign up on the website. Premium users who use the service on the iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices are the option to sign up for a subscription for $9.99 per month.

{via MacRumors}

]]> 0 Apple To Unveil iPad 3 on March 7th and Announce Release Date Tue, 28 Feb 2012 21:40:12 +0000 Read More]]>

Apple earlier today sent out media invites for iPad 3 launch event which will be held on March 7th, Wednesday in San Francisco. The third-gen iPad will be unveiled at a keynote event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 10 a.m Pacific and 1 p.m Eastern time.

Last week we highlighted a report which suggested that Apple was planning a media event in first week of March and today the Cupertino, Calif. based company officially confirmed the event date. The invite sent out to media has image of an iPad with  Maps, Calendar and Keynote apps showing on the dock and the text reads “We have something you really have to see. And touch.”

Apple brought Retina Display to iOS devices with introduction of iPhone 4 and then it made its way to fourth-gen iPod touch. According to various rumors and speculation we’ve reported in the past, iPad 3 is widely expected to feature Retina Display with a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels and include a faster processor. While most evidences revealed in the past confirm the inclusion of Retina Display it’s still unclear if Apple will use a quad-core chip or a dual-core chip with enhanced graphics.

In addition to an improved display iPad 3 is also expected to feature better rear camera for taking photos however the front-facing camera might not receive any update. It is believed that in order to feature the high resolution display and better camera the iPad 3 might be thicker than iPad 2.

Apple is known to introduce complete product re-design every alternate year so iPad 3 is expected to retain the same design as iPad 2. The company could also introduce new Apple TV with “A5X” chip that could deliver 1080p content to your HD television.

Are you excited about iPad 3 launch event? What are your expectations from the event? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

]]> 24 iPad 3 Media Event Planned for Early Feb? Fri, 20 Jan 2012 19:20:02 +0000 Read More]]>

On Tuesday, Japanese site Macotakara reported that Apple is planning to hold an iPad event in early February to announce the iPad 3, which is expected to arrive with iOS 5.1. The website pointed out that they had an Asian supplier and a source in the U.S who could confirm these rumors.

Although the iPad 3 is expected to be announced in February, other rumors suggest that the iPad 3 will actually be released in March, the same as the iPad 2 which arrived on March 11. This long delay could be in part because of the Chinese New Year which is going to be celebrated from January 23 to the 28th.

Foxconn and Pegatron, two of Apple’s main suppliers are expected to start shipping the device to the Apple Stores in early March, likely for a mid-March release. The iPad 3 has long been rumored to include a higher resolution display, as well as the introduction of the A6 chip and better 2 megapixel camera, up from 0.9 megapixels.

Macotakara has a mixed track record with the release of Apple products, correctly reporting on Apple’s iPad 2 and iPhone 4S but incorrectly suggesting that Apple would be releasing a Macbook Air with high-speed 400MBps flash memory and that a fifth-generation iPhone would feature an aluminum back.

If the event is scheduled for February we can expect media invites to be sent out in the first week of the next month. It will be interesting to see if Apple will finally bring the retina display to the iPad, which will certainly make the poplar tablet worth an upgrade for many users.

{via AppleInsider}

]]> 2 iPad 3 Retina Display Photo Leaked? Sat, 31 Dec 2011 21:24:28 +0000 Read More]]>

Rumors of Apple’s iPad 3 have been on the web since earlier this year, as early as the day that Apple announced the iPad 2, however, very little has been revealed about the 3rd generation device until now. On Friday, an image on a Korean forum depicted what appeared to be two displays, one claimed to be from the current iPad 2 and the other, the next generation iPad 3. The image on top is believed to be from the iPad 2 and the bottom from the iPad 3.

Both are 9.7″ in diagonal, although, the bottom screen has a different configuration for the attached cabling, leading speculators to believe that it is entirely for a new device. The current iPad 2 contains 3 brown cables from the screen to the circuit board, where as the iPad 3 display contains 3 wide ribbon cables that might be used for data. The new iPad 3 is also expected to include a higher resolution screen of 2048×1536, roughly 3 times the number of pixels in the current generation iPad.

The iPad 2 was rumored to support the Retina Display, however in order to preserve the 10 hour battery life and keep the costs low Apple did not include the high resolution screen. The leaked photo is the best source of speculation out there at this point, with very little to no evidence of an existing iPad 3.

Rumors also suggest that Apple is switching to a new type of display from a company named IGZO, which allows higher resolutions without sacrificing battery life. The iPad 3 is expected to be released during the first half of 2012, although recent reports also suggest a Fall 2012 time frame.

{via MacRumors}

]]> 14 Second Gen iPad with FaceTime Coming Sooner than Expected? Sun, 12 Sep 2010 18:32:05 +0000 Read More]]> Apple iPad

During WWDC 2010 when Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPhone 4 Facetime video calling features he mentioned that Apple will ship “10’s of millions FaceTime devices is 2010″ It was very clear from that statement that we’ll see the iPod touch and iPad include Facetime too.

There have been numerous rumors about the second gen iPad and if one studies Apple’s product cycle then it would be easy to guess the upcoming features of the new iPad. Digitimes earlier reported that Apple will have an ARM Cortex-A9 based SoC for the next iPad, boost the RAM, include retina display and feature gyroscope.

Appleinsider is reporting that “Apple’s iPad is unlikely to endure the company’s traditional 12-month product cycle for iOS device refreshes before seeing its first major enhancements” They further added that Facetime video call features for iPad have “already progressed to the advanced testing stages”

Even though their source claimed that Apple could possibly launch the new tablet device “ahead of this year’s holiday shopping season” it will be interesting to see if Apple will hold another special event in spite of continuing strong iPad sales. has posted a great video which summarizes the rumors very well. Check it out!

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]]> 11 iPod Touch (4G) 4th Gen Now Shipping Mon, 06 Sep 2010 19:15:49 +0000 Read More]]> iPod touch 4G Shipping

9TO5Mac are reporting that Apple are starting to ship iPod touch (4G) fourth gen to customers today. Delivery is slated as the 14th of September on most orders.

So hopefully early next week we should see lots of YouTube videos as people try to figure out if the Retina Display in the iPod Touch 4G is really an iPhone 4 Retina display, or something else entirely!

We might also see some more tear-downs, other than the FCC one from over the weekend. Have you ordered a new iPod? Which model? Have you got shipping info yet? Let us know in the comments…

]]> 18 New iPods, iPhone 5, iPod Shuffle and iPad Mini Thu, 05 Aug 2010 03:01:50 +0000 Read More]]> iPad Mini

iLounge, which has a reasonable track record when it comes to rumours, is reporting some interesting tidbits about new Apple gear for the end of 2010 / beginning of 2011.

New iPod Shuffle:

The small Apple touch screen that we reported on last month is set to be part of a relaunched iPod Shuffle – with a touch screen.

New iPad:

A smaller 7 inch iPad is set for release at the end of the year. And there may well be higher resolution screens in future iPads which are more akin to the iPhone 4’s Retina display.

This makes sense when one considers the push towards a kind of “Resolution Independence” in iOS that Apple is forging ahead with. In other words devices can have various display resolutions but all run similar User Interfaces visually – with little developer effort. This is a clever move by Apple to side step one of the biggest issues for developers on Android, with its multitude of screen sizes and resolutions.

iPhone 5:

This is the least likely rumor in our opinion.

A repackaged iPhone 4 is set to be launched as an early iPhone 5 model. Perhaps with a revised antenna design, the same aesthetics, but a different internal arrangement.

There are also rumours that Apple is looking to save money with a cut down iPhone 4 Bumper, which is cheaper to manufacture. And that that Bumper will perhaps be packaged with iPhone 4s from September onwards. This makes sense as Apple is already dropping packaging on free iPhone Bumpers going out to existing iPhone 4 users.

We are not sure how much of all of this we buy. But if we had to guess we’d say the iPod Shuffle and iPad Mini / Retina Display rumours are not far off the mark.

Do these predictions sound likely to you? Is there anything else you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments…

[iLounge] ]]> 4 iPhone 4: Initial Impressions Part 3 – Look & Feel, Speed, Final Thoughts Fri, 02 Jul 2010 19:08:58 +0000 Read More]]> In Part 1 of my iPhone 4 Initial Impressions article I discussed my view of Multitasking, The Retina Display, The iPhone 4’s Cameras, and finally Signal Issues with Apple’s new iPhone.

Yesterday in Part 2 we looked at iMovie for iPhone, Location Awareness, The iPhone 4’s Gyro, and The Glass Case of the iPhone 4.

Today we’ll look a little bit more at the iPhone 4’s overall look and feel, it’s Speed (and battery life) when compared to earlier iPhones, and a few bits and pieces that don’t really fit into any particular category.

The Overall Look & Feel:

Everything about this iPhone screams quality. I’ve already remarked on the heft of the device, and how its glass and steel construction feels cool to touch. But there is another subtle feature to its overall form factor. It really feels incredibly thin. The original iPhone comes closest to the iPhone 4 in this department. The 3G and 3GS feel like they have a beer gut by comparison to both.

But the iPhone 4 feels almost credit card like in its thinness by comparison to all earlier models of iPhone. It is too heavy to comfortably put in your shirt top pocket, but its just about right to put in a jacket pocket.

And, as has been oft repeated by many – including myself, the Stainless Steel frame, and it being slightly proud of the iPhone4’s glass front and back make it feel exactly right in your hands when you hold it to use it as a camera, or to play games which involve motion controls. In some respects this extra grip has gone some way towards making me less fearful of dropping it and breaking the glass, than I am with the current iPod Touch and the 3GS.

The buttons and switches are all solid, and give great feedback when pushed or switched. And the screen is like hard smooth marble to touch, but with just the right amount of friction to make touch activities feel tactile to exactly the correct degree.

Discounting any qualms people may have about the iPhone 4’s performance in any technical department for a moment, the case design, and manufacture quality, as well as the materials used in the iPhone 4’s construction are about as good as it gets in the tech and industrial design industry today.

If the iPhone 4 was a car body it would be a top of the line Porsche, Mercedes or Jaguar – inside and out.

Speed & Battery Life:

The iPhone 4 sports a slightly revised Apple A4 SoC (System on a Chip). Embedded in that device is an ARM Cortex A8, very similar to the one inside the iPad. The iPad is known to run at 1 GHz. It is very clear that for battery life reasons Apple has down clocked the processor in the iPhone 4. But not by a huge margin. Most benchmarks have it coming in at around 800 Mhz. So a cut of 20% in raw horsepower.

Memory wise Apple have done with the iPhone 4 what they should have done with the iPad. They have upped its memory to 512MB. This not only gives a lot more space for multitasking, or suspended apps to hang around in memory. It also gives us a lot more room for tabs to be open in Safari, games to use, and for the system to run smoothly overall.

iOS 4 is noticeably able to handle the kind of tasks that we expect from the iPhone 4, and with far less stuttering than on the 3GS.

Overall the iPhone 4 is around 20% faster at most tasks than the 3GS, and around 35% slower then the iPad. This is across the board on most processor intensive tasks.

When it comes to rendering web pages with lots of graphics the iPhone 4 is on a par with the 3GS. My reasoning for this is because the GPU in the iPhone 4 is working hard to push those 4 pixels for every one that then 3GS and other earlier iDevices are pushing. And this comes back to my caveats in my first iPhone 4 Impressions piece, where I said that we are not going to see a huge leap in graphics performance on the iPhone 4 over the most recent generation of iPhones and iPods.

It is certainly not the end of the world. But it would have been nice if Apple had done something to beef up the GPU in the iPhone 4. But without going to an entirely new GPU they didn’t have much choice. As iOS 4 is refined I expect we may see some improvements to the quite complex rendering pipeline in the iPhone Operating System. Just as we did in revisions of iPhone OS 2.x and OS 3.x on earlier devices. Apple may even decide to turn up the wick a little bit on the iPhone’s SoC, and that may or may not give the graphics a bit of a boost later in its product life cycle.

Having said all that the iPhone 4 is still a very fast beast when compared to all of its immediate rivals. I just always want more!

For more mundane web pages, and general text processing the iPhone 4 is not quite as fast as the Android Nexus One running Froyo, but it’s not far behind, and it sits quite comfortable in the middle of the iPad and the iPhone 3GS in terms of performance.

On pure GeekBench style raw CPU based processing tasks the iPhone 4 comes out a good 20 – 25% faster than the 3GS overall.

All of this performance balancing, and Apple’s decisions on the iPhone 4 lead to one thing. A compromise to give us the best performance possible and still maintain battery life. Just as with iOS 4 “multitasking” Apple have made decisions to ensure that we can surf the web, listen to music, and make calls all day long without trailing a power cord around behind us.

Battery Life:

I’ve done some tests of my own, and also compared my results with other tech experts that I respect to come up with these average results for battery performance on the iPhone 4:

Web browsing over 3G yields around 6.5 hours on the iPhone 4, even with its better performance. That is around an hour and a half longer than on the 3GS.

WiFi browsing tops out at just under 10 hours. An hour or so longer than the 3GS will go. Talk Time is far better than any other mobile phone in its class. At around 7.5 hours it is almost twice the time the 3GS could manage, and the Nexus One is about half of that.

For a quick test on multitasking I had my iPhone 4 run iTunes today while browsing web pages alternately over 3G and Wifi, and checking the odd app from time to time in a repeating pattern throughout the day. My battery ran out after 6 hours. For all of that time my screen was on, and music was playing. That is pretty impressive.

I feel very confident taking my iPhone 4 with me all day and using it as much as I need, and not worrying about charging again until I get home. At a pinch I think I could survive two days without a power point if I was frugal during the second day. Considering how much more is going on on the iPhone 4 when compared to the original iPhone (which has always been great on battery life) that is very impressive – and streets ahead of the iPhone 3GS and 3G.

Final Thoughts:

A lot of differing opinions have been expressed in the press this week about the iPhone 4. At first it launched in an explosion of positive reviews and consumer excitement. Even today stores across the world are either selling out, or sold out already.

And then this reception issue reared its ugly head. It is very clear that some iPhone 4s exhibit a characteristic that can mean that signals get dropped. It is a very well defined and isolated to one small area of the iPhone’s case. And if you have the issue easy to replicate. You can, and should then either take that up with Apple, or simply ignore it by using a carry case. Something that all iPhone users I know have anyway. It also bears repeating that all mobile phones will exhibit this same issue if you hold them in some particular way.

Apple have issued a Press Release today where they explain that the issue with the iPhone 4 is simply the algorithm they use for displaying signal bars on the iPhone 4. In some ways this is true. All cell phones will lose signal if they are insulated by the hand holding them. And Apple argue that their algorithm is misleading people by showing too many bars of signal when in a weak signal area, and that then people are further confused by the signal suddenly dropping away when they touch or squeeze the iPhone 4 case in a particular way.

I am more or less on Apple’s side in this case. But not because I accept their explanation as being the only cause of this problem, or Steve Jobs’ comments that people are “holding the iPhone incorrectly” as being acceptable. I am on Apple’s side because I think that the problem is getting blown out of all proportion by a media scenting blood.

I have used quite a few iPhone 4s this week, and none of them exhibit this problem at all. This makes me very sure that Apple have a manufacturing problem with a small number of iPhones, and not a design problem. A problem which can be fixed for consumers by exchanging faulty iPhone 4s. They also have another problem, which is not actually a signal issue, but the issue they describe with the cell signal strength meter software. I think some people are being misled by Apple’s own cell bar indicator on the iPhone 4, and consequently think they have a faulty iPhone 4, when they don’t. I hope that made sense!

Unfortunately Apple are not dealing with it very well. Their explanation in their Press Release is like something out of a Monty Python script :

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong.

Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

None of this will convince those with problems that they don’t have one. But it also won’t put off those that want an iPhone 4, and look at the problem from the perspective that I think we all should. Some iPhone 4s are not made as well as others.

If you get a bad one, return it. Ask for a new one. Or go buy another brand of phone. Apple do actually suggest this themselves.

As a reminder, if you are not fully satisfied, you can return your undamaged iPhone to any Apple Retail Store or the online Apple Store within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.

This article is purely about my subjective impressions of the iPhone 4 after having bought one for myself. If you’ll take a leap of faith with me and ignore the reception issue for a minute then I can say that quite honestly this is the mobile phone I dreamed of when I first went into an electronics store in the UK in the late 80’s / early 90’s and paid a small fortune for a Motorola Brick the size of a shoe box. The iPhone 4 is the culmination of all the dreams I had of a Star Trek Communicator when I was a kid, and my own copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when I was in my teens, and what I hoped The Apple Newton Message Pad would be.

Quite simply it has the best camera, both for video and stills, that I have ever used on a mobile phone.

The operating system still destroys any other mobile operating system out there for usability and elegance of use.

The GPS is better than some in car GPS systems.

FaceTime is just “sick”. And I mean that in the way it is defined in the urban dictionary vernacular.

And web browsing, emailing and making calls all work fine. More than fine in fact. In my week of use they outstrip anything I have seen on the iPhone 2G, 3G and 3GS by far.

Should You Buy One?

Quite simply.. Yes!

I can’t see a reason not to. If you are still using an original iPhone then the upgrade is a no-brainer. Likewise if you are on an iPhone 3G.

If you are still using a fairly new iPhone 3GS you might want to perhaps wait. You have a fully functional version of iOS 4. And apart from the slight improvements to the GPS unit and the addition of the Gyro in the iPhone 4, you have comparable hardware in your iPhone.

There is the possibility that Apple will move to a dual core ARM Cortex A9 with a vastly improved GPU for the next gen iPhone (iPhone 5 or iPhone 4GS?). In what I believe will be the Apple A5 SoC in an iPhone 5. But it’s going to be a long year for you. And you are going to miss out on some cool stuff.

But I have done that by sticking with my 2G for a long time. And there is no reason you shouldn’t be as happy with your 3GS as I have been with my 2G since the iPhone was first made available to an expectant public.

Game wise I think you are going to see the same quality of entertainment on the iPhone 3GS as you are on the iPhone 4 for some time. And app-wise with the exception of some cool Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality type apps and games you are going to be able to do anything on your 3GS that I can do on my iPhone 4.

But don’t be put off by these reception problems. If it is an issue then Apple will fix it.

If you are unhappy, Apple will exchange it, or refund you.

Well that’s about it for Part 3.

Part 4 will be the end of this series tomorrow. It will be a little shorter, but packed with some cool stuff. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.

Do be sure to let me know your thoughts on what I have said in the comments.

]]> 12 iPhone 4 Initial Impressions: Multitasking, Retina Display, Camera and Signal Issues (Part 1) Wed, 30 Jun 2010 18:09:07 +0000 Read More]]> iPhone 4

Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 4, has been out in the wild for just about a week now. And in that week it has been the centre of tech news for so many diverse reasons that it is hard to know whether the iPhone 4’s launch has been the kind of success that Apple expected, and of course wanted for their new flagship iDevice.

It is also a hard device to review, for many reasons. Luckily most of them are good reasons, and related primarily to just how much stuff there is to explore and play with on the new iPhone.

For example, I spent 2 hours walking around my apartment the other night just playing with the Compass, Gyroscope, GPS and Google Maps. It is really amazing to have a device in your hand that so decisively tells you where you are and which way you are facing! More on that later. But I really do expect us to see a lot of Augmented Reality apps in the iPhone 4’s future.

I will be upfront about my views on the iPhone 4 now. I absolutely love it. There you have it!

It’s actually my first personal iPhone upgrade since the original iPhone 2G. So there is a lot to take in for me personally. Although I have used both the 3G and 3GS models extensively for work, there is a big difference between having them on your desk for work, and carrying one around with you day to day as your life helper! I am however, happy to point out the iPhone 4′ s flaws, and will do so. So don’t expect this set of articles to simply be a gushing endorsement of Apple’s PR message. But overall the iPhone 4 is an amazing piece of kit, in my opinion. With that out of the way we can move on with my first impressions.

I’ve split this “First Impressions” piece into four parts. In the first part I will be covering Multitasking, The Retina Display, The iPhone 4’s Cameras, and finally Signal Issues with the device.

In the next three pieces I will start to look at iMovie, some of the iPhone 4’s Location Awareness Features, as well as the Gyros capabilities for other applications, the iPhone 4’s Glass Case and Stainless Steel Frame, and along the way pick out some points on all of this from a developer’s perspective.

Finally, on Saturday, I’ll get to some final thoughts on the iPhone 4’s look, feel and effectiveness in day to day use. Including how well the battery holds up under a few full days work. Most of this tail end stuff has to come closer to the end, because by then I’ll have had it a few days!

I’ll also report on Face Time experiences once I’ve made a few more calls with people who have iPhone 4’s both in Thailand and abroad, and the iPhone 4’s speed when compared to other phones, and finally wrap up with conclusions and whether you should buy one or not.

Spoiler Alert : If you haven’t bought one already, then do so! The iPhone 4 is a winner, despite some of its problems being discussed very publicly around the web at the moment.

So without further ado…


For those that don’t already know, it is worth repeating that multitasking in iOS 4 is not what we expect when we “multitask” on a modern desktop machine. It has a lot more in common with multitasking on older desktop computers. And that is because resources are constrained in a somewhat similar way on mobile phones to how they were a few years ago on our desktop machines.

Although the iPhone 4 sports a very spacious, and welcome, 512MB of RAM, twice that of the iPad, its processor is still only a single core affair and even 512MB of RAM is small when dealing with the kind of files and media that we use day to day on mobile devices today.

If you were uncharitable you might call iOS 4 multitasking, simply “Fast Task Switching”. The reason for this is that with the exception of a few core background tasks, applications don’t really run in parallel with each other on the iPhone 4.

You can’t have two windows open at once doing different things, for example. What happens is when you switch from one app to another the current program is suspended in memory, as if it is frozen in time. Unless it is a special case. Special cases are things like music, email, messaging services or tasks given special permission by the OS to run slowly, or periodically in the background. In that case, the main portion of the app that has been put into the background is still frozen in time, but some core functionality of the app stays awake, and is allowed to keep working with the iPhone in a limited fashion; to play music, periodically check for data, or receive messages.. and so on.

In reality though, we don’t need, nor do we want multiple windows open on the iPhone 4’s screen. What we do want is to be able to have mail checked constantly, play music, keep connections open to messaging services, and pause apps and games to take, or make, calls and then go back to what we were doing as painlessly as possible. Or perhaps switch away from a FaceTime video call, but have it keep going as a voice only call while we check a spreadsheet or word document, and then switch back to full video when we have done that.

Multitasking on iOS 4 does all of this with aplomb. So although some people may argue over the semantics of what multitasking really is in iOS, it is exactly what a mobile device needs it to be. And what’s more it means that our all important battery life is preserved.

From a developers perspective I have been able to experiment with how well the iPhone 4 handles task switching, and it’s quite impressive. Even frustratingly so at times.

When you publish an app to the App Store, Apple check to see if you have implemented all the hooks for multitasking, and exiting your app cleanly in iOS4. Depending on your app’s scope they may or may not reject it if it behaves in certain ways. And I will of course make sure any app I publish is compliant… Do be aware though, that until developers update apps to run under iOS 4, and use the multitasking functionality things may not always run as you expect. Although having just said that I can say that the iPhone 4, with its extra memory, really does do its best to Fast Switch older apps that are not really multitasking compliant yet.

When developing quick test apps for myself I sometimes skip some of the functions which handle shutting an app down nicely, or saving its active state. Even when I did this the iPhone 4 still backgrounded my development apps, and caused me quite some confusion initially. When I would subsequently try to re-launch them, thinking I was running a fresh copy of the app, it would actually simply un-pause the existing version. Impressive, but confusing initially!
At the end of a day of coding I realised, as others have found, that when you think you have quit an app the iPhone has actually backgrounded it. I actually had around 20 apps sitting in my task tray at days end. Once you have filled up the iPhone 4’s memory this way, it will start to cull apps. And this is when developers like me earn our pay. If we’ve done our job properly, our suspended app will then save its state to the iPhone’s Flash Memory, and the next time you use it it will still resume, but just not quite as quickly as a backgrounded app.

In reality this is all quite impressive, and shows just how many small apps you can have in memory at the same time. But at the end of the day the difference between multitasking and app quitting and launching is simply a small amount of time.

What it does show is that the iPhone 4 is certainly backgrounding anything it can, whether or not that app is even supposed to “multitask”. Neat.

The iPhone 4 is certainly making good use of its 512MB of RAM to background tasks and make your life more convenient. Launch times for backgrounded apps is incredibly fast. Making the iPhone 4 feel incredibly snappy all day long. And with double the memory of the iPad you can have a lot more tabs open in Safari, as well as apps suspended in memory before things start to chug.

I have not got my iPhone 4 to chug yet by the way! But I am trying!

The Retina Display:

The iPhone’s new LCD display is probably almost as big news as its alleged ability to lose 3G signals. Some users have reported yellow spots on their displays, but this has been cleared up as simply a function of solvents used in the manufacture of the iPhone not having had time to dry before shipping. Normally it clears up in a day or two, apparently. On all the devices I have seen to date I can say that none exhibited this problem. Even on display models, and behind the counter models, which are showing up with the princely price tag of over $2000 in our local malls this week.

Overall though, everyone seems to be in agreement about one thing. The iPhone 4’s Retina Display is like something out of a science fiction movie when compared to all other mobile phone displays on the market. It has even made me quite picky about text on my super high resolution Apple Monitors and 17 ” Unibody MacBook Pro’s screen. They all now look slightly pixelated to me, by comparison to the iPhone 4’s display! Safari looks positively awful for me now, on anything other than an iPhone 4!

Four things strike me about the iPhone 4’s Retina Display:

Firstly, it is unbelievably high resolution. Even if I literally stick my eyeball on the screen of the iPhone 4 I cannot make out pixels. Text is smooth and crisp, almost like the characters are actually little plastic stickers, or rub-on transfers, just behind the touch panel. I’d go so far as to say that if it wasn’t so brightly backlit you could believe that the screen is actually a sticker on a fake display model iPhone in a store – until it scrolls, or reacts to your touch. Then it looks like a glossy magazine!

Secondly, it is very evenly lit. Some 3GS iPhones I have used have had a little imbalance to their backlight. This panel seems to be very constant in its illumination. Much like my iPhone 2G. Bless it.

Thirdly, the icons and text seem to be much closer to you than on previous iPhones. This is undoubtedly because of Apples new manufacturing process that bonds the LCD panel and the Touch Layer all into one. Further enhancing the illusion that the iPhone 4’s display is actually displaying glossy magazine content.

Finally, overall the iPhone 4 screen has a more yellow hue than previous iPhones. It’s something you notice when you put the iPhone 4 next to an older iPhone. It’s a little disconcerting at first, probably because I’ve become so accustomed to the earlier iPhone’s colour balance. But you barely notice it unless you are comparing screens side by side. In summary, older iPhones seem to have a blue hue to them, whereas the new iPhone has a more warm yellow hue.

From a developers perspective the one downside to this screen size is the amount of pixels it has. If you imagine pixels on a screen are like a bag of sand, and that the GPU in your iPhone or iPod Touch is an automated shovel that fills the screen with those pixels, then you can imagine quite easily that it has to work a lot harder when filling the iPhone 4’s screen. Four times harder. Four times more pixels to shovel around.

Apple have not upgraded the graphics chip in the new iPhone since the 3GS. Whilst at the moment, on a day to day basis most people won’t notice any slow down, it is worth noting that the GPU in the iPhone 4 is now working 4 times as hard as it is in the iPhone 3GS, simply to keep that screen going. I write games, and graphically intensive software, and I would have liked to have seen perhaps a small speed / performance bump in the graphics chip in the iPhone 4.

All this means is that the iPhone 4 is probably not going to blow us away visually in games any more than an iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch will. Its CPU is faster, about twice as fast as the 3GS overall. But its GPU is actually maxed out.
Technically the iPhone 4’s GPU is fill rate limited now (as opposed to having horsepower to spare on the smaller screens of the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch), and in some ways it is more comparable to the iPhone 3G in terms of raw polygon drawing power. But iOS is very snappy, and this will really only affect people like me trying to get as much as they can out of visuals for games.

I have experienced this first hand in the last few days when comparing my own software on an iPod Touch 3G, against the iPhone 4. Overall the iPhone 4 is not quite as snappy when running flat out as an earlier iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch 3G. But only in very graphically intensive applications with a lot of visuals. The iPad is affected similarly with it’s even larger screen and identical GPU.

Just to be clear, this does not in any way affect day to day applications, videos, iMovie, or any aspect of iOS overall. So don’t worry about it too much. I am just passing on an observation from “dev. land”.

The iPhone 4’s Cameras:

Where to start here? We’ve already covered the technical specs of the iPhone 4’s cameras in previous pieces, and this article is about impressions of actually using the device. But I will briefly recap. The iPhone 4 has the following capabilities:

The 5 megapixel CMOS chip, with backlighting technology, and an improved lens, is about as good as it gets on mobile phones for taking pictures casually. Apple have maximised the technology to provide what I think is the best mobile phone camera setup I have used to date. Forget the 8MP pixel Androids. The overall package of the specialised 5MP backlit CMOS, and improved lens in the iPhone 4 is better for getting accurate data (more photons – to quote Steve Jobs) into the pictures you are taking.

The LED Flash is competent, and I’ve been able to snap shots in all lighting conditions with great results. In fact my Canon G5 stills camera (also 5MP) is now in my spares draw. My new iPhone is able to it’s job as well as it could on a day to day basis, and fits in my pocket. The iPhone 4 shutter speed, and startup time is noticeably faster than on previous iPhones. And unless I am setting up for some specialised sports shots (which require grown-up camera settings) I cannot see me bothering to throw my real camera in my bag, or on the back seat of my car very often these days.
The LED Flash also doubles as a constant light for use with the Video Camera, and works very well. That is such a cool feature. I am guessing it might be handy on a dark night if you drop your car keys too!

Switching between the front facing, and back facing cameras is seamless, achieved by tapping very responsive on screen controls, and even accompanied by an animation that rotates the entire screen from one camera to the other live. The front facing camera is great for quick snaps for ID pictures, or quick head shots for web sites and more – and of course for FaceTime calls. More on FaceTime in a later one of these articles.

Tap to focus is fast and responsive, and the ability to manually turn the Flash, or Video Light on and off, or leave them on auto is all you really need from what is, after all, a phone!

One problem I did have with my upgrade process was that a few pictures seemed to go missing from my iPhone 2G’s library when moving my shots over to the iPhone 4. And that in the big scrolling view of all my photos the iPhone 4 does not have any thumbnails for those shots. I have no idea why this is. But it is disappointing as it looks bad when you open a couple of years worth of photos to see a mainly black screen. The photos are there to look through individually, but not as a scrollable tiled wall of thumbnails. Hopefully if I sync again in the future this might resolve itself.

Signal Issues:

I actually had four iPhone 4s brought into Thailand on the Sunday just gone. Apart from mine they have gone to friends based in and around Bangkok. Mine is with me just outside Bangkok. Some are in good areas with a full 3G service. Others are in areas which simply have 2G coverage. Make no mistake, Thailand’s mobile phone network is by no means a world leader. 3G has only just come here, and we are currently in the rainy season. If we are going to get signal problems it will be at this time of year, and in this part of the world.

For myself I am primarily in a 2G area, and I have had absolutely no problems making or receiving calls. On my iPhone 2G I often have to lean precariously off my balcony to make calls at certain times of the day, and in certain weather conditions. With my new iPhone 4 I can sit at my desk inside my office, surrounded by computers and WiFi and make and take crystal clear calls without issue. So for 2G voice calls the iPhone 4 is a significant improvement over my previous iPhone.

Two of my friends live right in the heart of 3G land in downtown Bangkok, and both have marvelled at the speed at which they can pull down videos and mail on the iPhone 4. (Just don’t ask how much their phone bill will be this month!)

I asked both of them to try and get their 3G signal to drop out by following the instructions on various web sites around the web. Neither they, or me when I visited 3G areas, have been able to get voice calls, FaceTime calls or data services to drop out on iPhone 4s when using either 3G or 2G. It is baffling to hear these reports from other people.

In fact I cannot even get the bars on my iPhone 4 to drop at all. And that is in places where both my iPhone 2G and iPhone 3GS have problems.

I totally believe that some people are having this problem on their iPhone 4s. If I was asked to make a judgement call on what it is exactly I would guess that it is related to manufacturing tolerances to do with the iPhone 4’s Stainless Steel surround. Something that Apple can hopefully address moving forward for future iPhone 4s, and also existing early adopters. I don’t expect to see a software fix solving this problem. And hope that Apple don’t try to mask it with a faux software upgrade.

In any case this signal issue is certainly not something that would stop me buying, or recommending the iPhone 4. I was aware of it before I had iPhones sent here from the UK. As were all my friends. And none of us were concerned. Rightly so, in our collective options. Especially when I cannot conceive of anyone not having a carry case, or Bumper on one of these phones. Which by all accounts clear up the problem 100% for those that have it.

It is also worth noting that the iPhone 3G, 3GS and most Android and Nokia phones all exhibit similar problems if held in similar ways that obstruct their antenna. This is simply a functions of having so many signals in such compact devices, and is not an “Apple issue” in my opinion.

That’s all for this part of my iPhone 4 Initial Impressions.

Please do feel free to comment on what I’ve said so far, and share your experiences with your iPhone 4, if you are lucky enough to have one.

Tomorrow expect to read about iMovie, Location Awareness, The Gyro and my views on the Glass Case and more…

To follow on from what I have been saying about my findings with the iPhone 4 so far. AnandTech have done an in depth review on the iPhone 4’s Performance and Signal Strength characteristics from a technical perspective. There follow some interesting conclusions from them so far…

Holding the iPhone 4 without a case, in your left hand, crossing the black strip can result in a worst case drop of 24 dBm in signal. […] The fact of the matter is that either the most sensitive region of the antenna should have an insulative coating, or everyone should use a case. For a company that uses style heavily as a selling point, the latter isn’t an option. And the former would require an unprecedented admission of fault on Apple’s part.

iPhone 4 performs much better than the 3GS in situations where signal is very low, at -113 dBm (1 bar). Previously, dropping this low all but guaranteed that calls would drop, fail to be placed, and data would no longer be transacted at all. I can honestly say that I’ve never held onto so many calls and data simultaneously on 1 bar at -113 dBm as I have with the iPhone 4, so it’s readily apparent that the new baseband hardware is much more sensitive compared to what was in the 3GS. The difference is that reception is massively better on the iPhone 4 in actual use.

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