Apple has released iOS 6.1, the latest update to the operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. A minor change has been made to the lockscreen music controls – these are visible if your iOS device is locked, and you double-press the home button. Instead of displaying the time in a huge font, and the name of what you’re listening to below the slider, these small texts are above the fold, and the time is missing (it’s visible in the toolbar already, so it doesn’t need to be so big).
This lets you see more of your lockscreen wallpaper, which is, I guess, useful, but I’d much rather see more playback controls there: perhaps the shuffle and repeat buttons that you get in the Music app itself, or even the Genius button. Since I do use the lockscreen controls often when listening to music, it would be nice for those controls to provide the same access to features as the Music app. It would also be nice to be able to view lyrics from the lockscreen.
Posted: 1/29/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes Tags: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod | No Comments »
I like the idea of the Kindle, and the idea of the Kindle Paperwhite even more. Offering the ability to read both outdoors in sunlight, and indoors with a backlight, it seems like the best of both worlds.
Alas, having received a Kindle Paperwhite yesterday, I’m very disappointed. Not only is the backlight not very bright – not really bright enough to read indoors if there’s a lot of light – but it’s very uneven, with dark spots around the edges, especially at the bottom.
Here’s a photo I took of the Kindle Paperwhite next to the iPad mini, the latter showing a book in the Kindle app. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)
As you can see, even in this small photo, the lighting is uneven at the bottom of the Kindle, and there is a very large difference in brightness (both devices are set to maximal brightness in the photo above). While the iPad mini won’t work in bright light – such as outdoors – I have a Kindle Touch for that. So that Paperwhite is being returned. It’s a good idea, but it’s just a bit cheap and poorly designed. Amazon should really do better with a device like this.
Posted: 11/23/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, books, iPad Tags: books, iPad, Kindle | 5 Comments »
I wrote yesterday about how the iPad mini is the future of the iPad, and using it for another full day has convinced me that this is going to be the case, at least for most users. (One friend commented on Twitter that, for him, the iPad mini is too small, as his main use of the iPad is for maps.)
There’s one difference that I immediately spotted between the two devices, and that’s the color balance. The new iPad mini has a yellowish tinge to it, and seems to have a bit less gamma. Here is a picture of my home screen, where you can see that the blue background shows a hint of green because of the additional yellow. (Note that both devices are set to maximum brightness.)
It’s hard to tell from photos of displays, especially because the color bleeds a bit around the icons, especially in the dock; it’s much more visible when you can look closely. Another example that may be more obvious is this shot of a page of a book in the Kindle app:
Again, you can see that the iPad mini looks a bit dingy compared to the iPad 3, but I think the yellowness is clear in this photo.
Finally, here’s a photo showing the iPad 3, iPad mini and iPhone 5. Since I shot this with my iPod touch 4th generation, the photo is much poorer, with lower resolution and less brightness. But you can see that the iPhone is clearly the brightest of the three, and it seems to my eyes the whitest of the devices. The iPad 3, compared to the iPhone 5, is slightly bluish (or, again, it might simply be higher gamma), and the iPad mini yellowish.
I don’t know if this yellow tinge is inherent in the iPad mini’s display, or if my unit has a problem with the color balance. If anyone else is seeing different things, please post in the comments so I can figure out if it is normal or not.
Posted: 11/4/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad Tags: Apple, iPad | 5 Comments »
I love my iPad, but I have long grumbled about its weight. When you pick up a 10″ iPad, you know you have picked it up. At 651 grams, it’s a hefty device. I’ve always found it a bit too heavy for reading, and the 207 gram Kindle Touch is much more comfortable to hold, and its smaller screen is not a problem when reading books.
In the article I linked to above from July, 2012, I explained why I wanted a 7″ iPad. I use my iPad for consuming media and playing games, not for creating. The larger display doesn’t add anything for me, and the extra weight makes it a bit of a drag.
When I got my iPad mini yesterday (which finally has a 7.9″ screen), I realized that this is the iPad I had been waiting for all along. Not only is it smaller and lighter, but it’s thinness makes it feel like a totally different device. The lack of heft means that you pick it up easily, with less strain and gravitas than the heavier iPad. At 304 grams, it’s less than half the weight of the full-sized iPad, and, while it’s not that much thinner (7.2 mm compared to 9.4 mm), the difference is notable.
Following some of my fellow tech writers on Twitter yesterday, they all had good things to say about the iPad mini. It’s cute, it’s easier to type with two thumbs, and it’s much better for reading than the Kindle Paperwhite (the backlit Kindle) because the light is more even.
There are a couple of things that could be improved on the iPad mini. First, the display could be better. It’s better than the iPad 2, but not as good as the retina display of the iPad 3 and 4. This said, it’s fine for reading, even if the fonts aren’t as crisp as one might like. Apple most likely decided to forgo the retina display so they have a feature they can add to new year’s model, and I think this is a shame.
Second, everything on the iPad mini is just as it is on the full-sized iPad, but scaled down. I think that the interface could be re-designed so icons are a bit larger, and interface texts a few points bigger. There’s room to do this, but it does mean a different version of the interface than the standard iPad. Many interface elements have small fonts, which would be more readable at a slightly bigger size.
The iPad mini, which you can hold in one hand if you have large enough hands (as I do), is the right size and weight for usage on the go. It’s a portable iPad (sure, the large iPad is portable, but lug it around in your backpack, together with the rest of your everyday belongings, and you notice the weight). And it’s the future.
I will gladly predict that the iPad mini will become the standard iPad, and that, in the future, we’ll look back on the early full-sized iPads with a smirk, the way we look back at the first portable computers. If you already have an iPad, go check out the mini. If you don’t have either, compare the two. You’ll see that, unless you want to use the iPad to create – to work on images or videos, for example – there’s no reason to buy the bigger model. The iPad mini is really just right.
Note: See this post for some observations on color differences between the iPad mini and the iPad 3.
Posted: 11/3/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad Tags: Apple, iPad | 8 Comments »
Yesterday, Atebits released an addictive new word game, Letterpress. Alerted to this game by my Macworld colleague Lex Friedman in his review of the game, I downloaded a copy, and quickly got hooked.
It’s a combination of Boggle, Words with Friends and Risk, where you have to make words from the 25 letters in a square, but when you use tiles, they change to your color. It gets a bit complicated, as you can “own” tiles that get a darker color, if your tiles surround them, preventing your opponent from taking those tiles from you. You get one point for each tile that’s your color, and the game ends when there are no more white tiles, or when both players pass, if there are no more words they can make.
I’ll admit that it’s a bit confusing at first, and a friend and I started playing yesterday and went through a few games, pretty much stabbing in the dark. But following Lex’s advice, we persevered, and the strategy needed to play slowly became more obvious. (Read Lex’s Macworld review to better understand the gameplay.)
Letterpress uses Game Center to set up games and manage moves. I’ve had a few problems with moves that couldn’t be sent, which have been resolved by quitting the app and re-launching it; these problems are related to Game Center, and it’s not clear whether they are due to the app itself or Game Center. I have to say, I’ve never really used Game Center much before, but yesterday, I added a whole bunch of friends (mostly my Macworld colleagues and other tech writers), many of whom are regular Words with Friends opponents, and all of whom have adopted Letterpress as well.
Letterpress is free, but for $1, you can unlock the full version which adds two important features. You can play more than two games at a time (I’ve got a dozen going on already), and you can see a list of words you’ve already played. Because there’s another twist: if you play a word with a certain root, it can’t be used again. So if you play “follow,” then no one can play “followed,” “follower,” etc.
There are only two things missing in the game. First, there’s no way to chat with your opponent. Second, you can’t ask for a rematch without going through Game Center and making a new game request; that’s a multi-step process, whereas tapping a button to request a rematch (as you do in, say, Words with Friends) would be much easier. (This also looks like something that will be huge on Facebook, and I don’t know if Facebook integrates with Game Center at all.)
Try Letterpress for free, and you may find yourself hooked. The extra buck to unlock more games is necessary, because two games at a time isn’t enough. It’s a fun, attractive game, perfectly suited for those who like non-real time turn-based games and who like finding words.
Posted: 10/25/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone Tags: games, iOS | 1 Comment »
Following this post about how to remove the iOS 6 Podcasts app and use the Music app to listen to podcasts on an iOS device, I have written a more extensive article about podcasts on iOS for Macworld. I look at how the Podcasts app works, if you want to use it, and explain how to remove it, if you don’t like it.
Personally, I’m using the Music app, after trying the Podcasts app for a while (long enough to know what’s wrong with it to be able to write about it). The only thing I miss, however, is the two ways of displaying podcasts: in “grid view” and in a list. Also, in the Podcasts app, you can re-order podcasts, so if your favorite is not the first in alphabetical order, you can put it at the top of the display.
Posted: 10/5/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes Tags: podcasts | No Comments »
It’s been years since I’ve used Apple’s earbuds with an iPod or iPhone. I’ve long been a fan of good, light headphones, and my go-to cans for when I’m moving around are Sennheiser’s PX 100-II i, a light, foldable headset with an inline mic and iOS device controller. But I got a set of Apple’s EarPods with my iPhone 5 last week, and thought I’d try them out.
First, the shape. It’s odd, but it makes sense. Not only the oblong shape in general, but the position of the sound point, pointing toward the ear canal, rather than just to the side of the ear. They fit fairly well, even if, in my left ear, it feels as though it’s not quite right. All in all, however, this is an earbud that won’t fall out easily, and that’s a good thing.
But then there’s the sound. These earbuds are totally devoid of bass, and even of low midrange sounds. At first, I tried them out when listening to some podcasts. The lack of bass actually makes spoken word a bit easier to understand. But when I put on some music – The Clash’s Train in Vain, from London Calling, for example, with a strong bass riff – the music was hollow and empty.
No, these don’t cut it for listening to music. They’re a bit better than the previous earbuds in terms of sound, and much better at staying in ears, but if you really want to listen to your music, try something else.
Posted: 9/25/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes, music Tags: headphones, iPod | 2 Comments »
If you like to listen to podcasts, but are dismayed at the way they are relegated to their own Podcasts app in iOS 6 (and in iOS 5 as well), you don’t have to use the Podcasts app. What’s changed in iOS 6 is that podcasts no longer show up in the Music app; with iOS 5, they still did, and you had the option of using either app. Now, you no longer have that choice, assuming that you have the Podcasts app on your iOS device.
If you recall, you had to install it on its own; it’s not part of iOS. So if you’d rather continue to listen to podcasts in the Music app, just delete the Podcasts app. When you open the Music app, tap on Other and you’ll see a Podcasts entry. You can access your podcasts from there as you did before.
Posted: 9/21/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes Tags: iOS, podcasts | 23 Comments »