Is choice a bad thing in consumer electronics?

I’ve been thinking about getting a tablet PC for some time now and I’ve been humming and hawing whether to get an Android tablet like the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or whatever one is getting the most media attention at the moment. My other option is to get an iPad 2; now I was initially skeptical about the iPad when it launched, it lacked several features that I thought were “essential” at the time, was too expensive, and was locked in Apple’s legendary walled garden etc.

As time goes on however I’m warming to the iPad, those essential features don’t seem so essential, the price although just as expensive seems to be the same as all the other tablets on the market, plus the iPad seems to be the only one that is available subsidised with a data tarrif in the UK. As for the walled garden… I have to admit having used an iPad it’s a really nice garden. I mean it’s no garden of eden, but… I’m going to stop that metaphor before I start talking about being chucked out of the garden for eating an Apple.

Anyway, I look at the Android landscape and it’s constantly changing, there are countless articles that compare the “best Android tablets” on the market, but by the time you read the article it’s already obsolete because bigger better more powerful tablets have been released.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is awesome, I really like the Android ecosystem and I love my Android phone.

There is an implicit “but” in that last sentence though, the “but” is that my top of the line HTC Desire was obsolete 3-4 months after I got it, I’m not looking at all the cool Tegra2 powered smart phones with envy. Okay it’s a year later now, and my phone contract is nearing an end, but I wanted a Desire HD when that came out, and there has been phone after phone that I’ve thought hey that’s pretty cool I want that.

Before I went Android it was the constant Stream of Nokia phones that filled me with envy, not sooner had you bought a new Nokia phone then they would release a new one with a slightly better screen, slightly enhanced camera, or one cool new feature. They just kept on coming, no manufacturer should make you regret buying one of their products, but that is how I’ve always felt with phones, there is always a better one around the corner, so how long do you wait?

This is where I think Apple may have stumbled onto something, with Apple you know where you stand, they will without fail release a new iPhone every year, and it seems that this policy is being extended to the iPad. this new phone/Tablet will provide an incremental upgrade to the previous one, so if you are a gadget whore you will want to get the latest and greatest but if you aren’t it’s okay if you skip a generation. This works well with the 18-24 month contracts that carriers are pushing these days, you can comfortably buy on release date and be happy with your phone/tablet for two years before it’s time to get the next iteration.

Apple also subscribe to the Highlander “There can be only one” strategy, all iPhones are created equal, the only difference is the size of the solid state drive, you don’t have to worry about getting the one with the better processor or the one with or without GPS or Bluetooth, or WiFi or whatever other sparkly feature, they all have the exact same features. The same applies to the iPad except that you have the choice of 3G or not, although arguably if you wanted a non 3G iPhone you can get an iPod touch (Don’t call it an iTouch, Apple employees hate that).

So yeah, from a consumers point of view there is something comforting in the knowledge that there isn’t going to be a bigger better badder, more sparkly phone/tablet coming out in a months time to make your once shiny but now quite dull one look like a turd with a touchscreen.

From a manufacturers point of view Apple’s iPhone team have a year to focus on building the best possible iPhone they can without being distracted by releasing half a dozen different other phones in the interim, they have one product one live version of the OS and one dream (okay I just like having things in three’s because it sounds better they probably don’t have one dream).

Whether or not I get an Android tablet or an iPad 2 is still up in the air, I’m probably going to play the waiting game a little longer, but how much longer? I don’t know.

Sony’s NGP announced: stuffed with tech, no price or release date

Wow Sony has just announced the PSP2, for the time being they are calling it the NGP (Next Gen Playstaion?), it looks fairly impressive They have put in a 5″ OLED screen which is slightly bigger than the 4.3″ one on the original PSP and they’ve added not one but two touch sensors, one on the screen and one on the back of the device, the one on the back is the same size as the one on the front allowing 1 to 1 mapping of input without obscuring the screen. While I think this is cool I’m a little dubious, I’ve got big hands and I don’t think I can hold the device for hours on end the way the person in the picture above is, I like to get my mitts round a system, and I don’t want to be accidentally doing stuff because my hand brushes against the rear touch sensor.

The specs are quite impressive:

  • CPU: ARM® Cortex™-A9 core (4 core)
  • GPU: SGX543MP4+
  • External Dimensions: Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)
  • Rear touch pad: Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
  • Cameras: Front camera, Rear camera
  • Sound: Built-in stereo speakers, Built-in microphone
  • Sensors: Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass
  • Location: Built-in GPS, Wi-Fi location service support
  • Keys / Switches: PS button, Power button, Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left), Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square), Shoulder buttons (Right/Left), Right stick, Left stick, START button, SELECT button, Volume buttons
  • Wireless communications:
    • Mobile network connectivity (3G)
    • IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1×1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode)
    • Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)

But I wonder if all of that comes at the cost of battery life? The OLED screen will suck up less power but there is a lot going on under the hood there that will decimate the battery life.

This could be an amazing device there are a few things I’l like to know however:

Will it play video?

I must admit that I used my PSP for watching video more than I ever did gaming, the screen was just the right size for it.

Will it work as a Mobile/Skype Phone?

It’s got 3G and a microphone, can I make calls using it? I think the later PSP versions got a Skype application, this would be pretty cool, not that my mobile phone doesn’t already do this, but I might ditch my phone if my PSP could replace it, because lets face it I don’t use my phone as a phone much.

Does it come with a web browser?

The PSP did, it was rubbish but it did, with a 5″ touch screen this thing is as big as the Dell 5″ tablet, and would probably make for an okay browsing experience.

What is it running behind the scenes?

Sony have seemingly (From the screen shot) ditched the XMB they use in every other device, which to be honest is no big loss as the touch interface makes it redundant. But is this running a proprietary OS? Sony have been releasing a lot of Android phones and devices of late, and the “PSP Phone” is an android device, are Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Ericsson talking to each other or are they working at ends to each other? Running android would make the device a great convergence device and would make it almost as much a competitor to the iPad as to the 3DS.

If Sony are following the same strategy as they are with the PS3 this would make sense, as it would allow the device to be an entertainment device which also plays games really well.

I’m sure I’ll think up more questions later, but assuming this comes out at a reasonable price, I’d consider buying one if some of the questions above were answered correctly…

Edit:

Sony announcing that they will “Bring the Legendary Play Station Content To Android” implies that maybe this is running Android? Maybe it’s not…

Edit 2:

It appears there is a promo video…

Sony’s NGP announced: stuffed with tech, no price or release date.

If this had come out 2-3 years ago I’d have an iPhone.

Seriously the only issue I had with the iPhone at launch was a lack of a physical keyboard, and while I’ve learned to cope in the interim I would still prefer the option of having one on my HTC Desire. It’s not just an issue of tactile feedback, it’s a screen real-estate issue, the on-screen keyboard takes up space on the screen obscuring what I am typing, which is especially noticeable when I’m writing lengthy blog posts and emails.

Via Engadget.

How Apple came up with the design for the new iPod Nano and Shuffle

I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before. Apple have refreshed their line of cheap iPod, by gimping the Nano and adding a touch screen, and making the shuffle tiny and reverting back to their it’s old design (Why they didn’t call it the shuffle classic I don’t know). The above image shows an artist’s impression of the design process behind the new iPods.

Personally I’m a little disappointed that they haven’t released a new iteration of the classic, as someone on twitter said to me I think apple don’t know what to do with the classic.

The Classic’s form factor is almost perfect for what it does, there is no point in increasing the hard disk size; as although it can play video there is little point in doing so on such a tiny screen, and believe me I’ve tried watching TV shows on it while at the gym it’s was not a pleasant experience. Upgrading the hard drive to flash would mean decreasing the capacity or make buying one require a mortgage, both of which are not really viable.

The reason I got a classic when I did was because I have over 80 gig of music on my iPod, I don’t want to have to sift though that to make play lists for a smaller iPod and I’m not going to pay £329 for what is essentially a downgrade in size.

Sure the iPod touch has a touch screen and apps and a camera, but I carry around a phone that does that too. I’m not going to use my phone as an MP3 player either because the battery on modern smart-phones lasts at most a day when you only use it as a phone, using it as an MP3 player too would mean that I’d pretty much have to charge it three times a day.

So I stick with my classic with no upgrade path in sight and you know what I’m happy with that, I’m on my third iPod in the Classic series, I got a 4th gen iPod which died a horrible death,  a 5th gen one which I left on a plane, and my current “Classic” which does everything I want it to. The hard disk is just right, the battery life is just right and the size of the device is just right. I feel like Goldilocks in iPod-land. You can have your Papa bear iPod Touch, or your Mama bear iPod nano my Classic is just right for me.

On a side note, if you really want to rile up an Apple store employee you should call the “iPod Touch” the iTouch, they hate it when you do that.

Via  The Jason Calacanis Weblog.

Concept Camera Rubber-Stamp Counterfeiters Wet Dream?

This concept digital camera that turns any picture you take into a rubber stamp is indeed a “Nifty” idea. How you’d go about making one is anyone’s guess maybe it could work with millions of tiny pins like those executive pin toy things. If they can get the resolution good enough this thing would be a counterfeiters wet dream though. need to forge a stamp? Just take a picture of it and hey presto instant duplicate.

More pictures on Petapixel and Yanko Designs respective posts about this.

Via PetaPixel via Yanko Design

Test post from HTC Desire

Writing a test post from my new HTC Desire. So far I like the phone but I’m a bit disappointed with the battery life.

The keyboard is going to take some getting used to, I had been waiting for a good Android phone to be released with a physical keyboard, but it seems like there isn’t one forthcoming so I bit the bullet and drank the koolaide and ordered this phone.

Will blog impressions of it as I go along. I think my battery issues are to do withhold I’m using the phone though as a couple of people that I know who have also bought the phone aren’t seeing the same issues as I am.

Nintendo 3DS Could be cool but I’m Skeptical

Nintendo have Quietly announced the Nintendo 3DS which is the successor to the DS Line. Lets see if we can figure out the features from the name… 3D DS…. It’s got 2 screen and “games can be enjoyed with 3D effects without the need for any special glasses.” Hmmm I’m dubious, I guess they could use some funky eye tracking to make it look 3D.

It really reminds me of the Virtual Boy which Nintendo released in 1994 or there abouts. It only lasted for a year. The video below is a review of every game ever released for the Virtual Boy. While some small part of me wants one I would never pay more than £30 for one. I’ve seen them going for £80 in Game Station but that’s just too much…

Anyway some of the Features the 3DS is touted as having:

Backwards Compatibility with DS and DSi Games

Nintendo would be shooting themselves in the foot if they didn’t do this, it’s a proven formula for them and assures a strong back catalogue at launch)

Acceleromter/Tilt Controls

This seems to be the way mobile games are going and keeps it in line with Nintendo’s biggest rival for the handheld space… The iPhone…

High resolution Screen (Possibly 720p?)

I have no doubt that it will have a larger screen, and it will probably be higher resolution than the DS’s 256 x 192 screens 720p seems a little pointless considering the size though… I’d like to see video out like the PSP-2000 but the 2 screen input of the DS might not translate very well. Apparently both screens can be treated as a single screen so that might lead to a combined resolution of 720p

It’s possible that it could be powered by an Nvidia Tegra Chip

This makes sense as Nintendo have a history of using mass market chips in their hand helds, the Tegra is the up an coming chip boasting performance and efficiency.

3G SIM slot

This again seems to be a wise decision, Data tarrifs around the world have been driven down, and a 3G connection allows easy access to game downloads (a market strategy shown to be viable by the Kindle, iPhone, and Android) as well as other applications, such as network gaming. I assume it will also have Wifi as everything does these days.

Twin Cameras

One on the back and one on the front, this facilitates DSi Backwards compatibility and eye tracking. It also opens up a few interesting possibilities.

Conclusion

It looks like Nintendo are filling in the features they need to claw back the handheld market from the iPhone, the only feature missing is GPS… The 3G Sim/Wifi and the Camera lead to video conferencing, I’d like to see them partner with Skype as that would make this a killer device in and of it’s own. I’m skeptical about the 3D without the need for special glasses, I’m picturing holding this thing in my hand with a 3d princess Leia hovering over the screen asking me to help her… It could work, I guess… I remain skeptical

Leia

They will probably market this as an e-Reader as they have the DSi XL that’s not a bad thing, assuming the screen is good enough. The 3G SIM allows you to buy books wherever you are. I think I remember reading somewhere that Nintendo are looking to put DS’s in the classroom this would be a good way to do that.

I guess we’ll have to wait till E3 in June to find out…

Via  GameTrailers.com & Geekosystem & Gizmodo & Wired