Apple Announces New iPad Air, iPad mini, iMac, Updated Mac mini, Announces iOS 8.1, Releases Mac OS X Yosemite

In an event in Cupertino on October 16, Apple announced a slew of updates to their iPad and Mac lineup.

As usual, Apple CEO Tim Cook started off with some tidbits, including the how well-received the iPhone 6 has been, the big deal with Apple Pay (which launches on Monday October 20) with offline and online payments, the reception for Apple Watch, the WatchKit SDK availability in November, and as we know, the launch of Apple Watch in “early 2015″.

Biggest iPhone Launch Ever

Cook claimed that these are the fastest-selling iPhones in history. In the first 30 days that the iPhones have been available, Apple took the most orders for the devices. Curiously though, no hard numbers were provided. The phones will be available in China on all three carriers simultaneously for the first time, and the pre-orders there have set a high watermark, per Cook.

iOS 8 and OS X

Craig Federighi, the senior Vice President of software engineering at Apple, then came on stage to talk about iOS and OS X. Federighi showed an adoption chart that had iOS 8 on 48% of iOS devices and iOS 7 is on 46%. He made it seem like that it’s a good thing that the latest two OSes are on such a large percentage of devices, whereas in the past Apple used to be able to claim that the latest operating system was the one on most devices already. He clearly dodged the issue of slower iOS 8 adoption. However, any such chart will compare very well compared to Android. On the Android chart, Federighi showed that the latest version, Android KitKat was on 25% of the devices only after 313 days of release.

After the competition trash-talking, Federighi moved on to recap all the iOS 8 features which have already been discussed in previous events, and are well-known to most of the audience. There was a focus on Swift, the programming language introduced with iOS 8, and its huge adoption. He also talked about how IBM has devoted many resources on building enterprise line of business apps using Swift.

Federighi also announced an update to iOS 8, iOS 8.1. This update will provide Apple Pay support, iCloud Photo Library (5GB free, 20GB for 0.99 and tiers up to 1TB), and in a cheeky acknowledgement, he said it will bring back the Camera Roll which was inexplicably omitted in iOS 8.

On to Mac OS X, one of the curios facts that Federighi mention was that Yosemite beta had a user base of 1 million just two days after Microsoft announced that Windows 10 Technical Preview (not really a beta) has a user base of 1 million too, but that is only over a period of 10 days.

Similar to the iOS 8 recap, Federighi rehashed various new features already announced in Yosemite, and then announced that it will be available today. In addition, he announced that an updated iWork, Apple’s free productivity suite, will also be available for free today.

iPad Air 2

Cook came back to talk about the success of the iPad. He said that there are more iPads sold in the first 4 years (225 million) than any other product Apple has sold, ever. It is the #1 tablet in customer satisfaction, usage, education, enterprise, as well as consumer.

Phil Schiller, senior Vice President of worldwide marketing then came on stage to talk about the new iPads. The focus of the iPad Air 2 is on thinness, with it being only 6.1mm thin. It is 18% thinner than the iPad Air which was already one of the thinnest, if not the thinnest, tablet in the market.

There is no air gap in the next-generation Retina display, so the images and text are even sharper now. Apple has also added an anti-reflective coating on the surface, to reduce reflections by 56%.

iPad TouchID
iPad TouchID

iPad Air 2 Key Specifications

  • New A8X processor with 2nd generation 64-bit architecture
    • 40% faster CPU, 2.5x faster GPU.
  • New motion co-processor M8
    • Tracks motion
    • Calibrates sensors
    • Barometer included, like the iPhone 6
  • New 8MP iSight camera
    • f/2.4
    • 1080P HD video
  • First time in an iPad:
    • Panoramas up to 43MPixels
    • Burst mode
    • Timelapse
    • Slo mo video
  • Dual microphones to capture better sound when recording video
  • New FaceTime camera:
    • Burst selfies
    • HDR with single image, so there is no image composition involved
    • HDR videos
    • Updated image detection
  • Faster WiFi: 802.11ac with MIMO delivers up to 886Mbps
  • Faster and expanded coverage of LTE with 20 LTE bands
  • The most requested feature was adding TouchID to iPad and it is now available
    • With TouchID, Apple Pay is now enabled for the iPad, but only for online purchases, not retail stores

iPad Air 2 pricing

Like Apple did with the iPhone 6, the second tier of storage was skipped and bumped up to the next higher tier. So there is no 32GB iPad anymore, and it goes 16GB, 64GB and 128GB.

WiFi only: $499 for 16GB, $599 for 64GB, $699 for 128GB
WiFi + Cellular: $629 for 16GB, $729 for 64GB, $829 for 128GB

iPad mini 3

The iPad mini did not get much stage time, but it’s probably because the only thing “new” in the mini is the TouchID. Other than the TouchID, the mini 3 is much like the mini 2. The pricing:

WiFi only: $399 for 16GB, $499 for 64GB, $599 for 128GB
WiFi + Cellular: $529 for 16GB, $629 for 64GB, $729 for 128GB

Apple is keeping both, the original iPad mini as well as the iPad mini with retina (newly renamed to iPad mini 2) in the lineup.

Pre-orders for the new iPads start on 10/17, and they ship by the end of the next week.

iMac

The iMac finally gets a Retina display but Apple has packed their 27″ iMac display with a 5K resolution. That translates to 5120 pixels by 2880 pixels. It is the world’s highest resolution display. This 5K display packs 7x more pixels than HD TV display of 1080P and 67% more pixels than  a 4K display. It is also incredibly thin, at only 5mm. Among other things, Apple has made custom components like the timing controller, oxide TFT material, organic passivation technology and power-efficient LEDs for backlight, which results in a computer that uses 30% less energy than the previous iMac.

Retina iMac
Retina iMac

iMac Key Specifications

  • 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, configurable up to quad-core 4.0GHz Intel Core i7
  • 8GB memory, configurable up to 16GB or 32GB
  • 1TB Fusion Drive, configurable up to 3TB Fusion Drive, or 256GB/512GB/1TB of Flash storage
  • AMD Radeon R9 M290X with 2GB of DDR5 memory, configurable to AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of DDR5 memory

The iMac with Retina 5K Display ships today for $2499.

Mac mini

Finally, Schiller spent a few minutes talking about what he called “the first Mac for many”, the Mac mini. It is updated with a spec bump across the board, with 4th-generation Intel processor, Intel Iris HD 5000 graphics, PCI-e Flash storage, 802.11ac WiFi and two Thunderbolt 2 ports. It will be sold for $499 now, instead of the earlier model’s price of $599, and it will ship today.

So, that was a lot of stuff Apple announced and is going to take pre-orders for and/or ship. One thing missing conspicuously from the event was Apple TV. Many anticipated some sort of an App Store for the Apple TV but that did not happen.

What did you think of the event and the announcements? Are you going to buy any of the new products?

Nexus 6 is Fantastic, but it’s Not the Smartphone I Want or Need

Google launched the Android 5.0 (Lollypop) powered Nexus 6 yesterday. The new Google flagship is manufactured by Motorola and boasts of top of the line specs. Yet, for more than one reason, it’s not quite the device I was expecting from Google. In fact, it’s the most anti-Nexus device yet from Google.

Nexus 6
Nexus 6

The Nexus line started with the Nexus One released in Jan 2010. Google hoped to revolutionize the US smartphone market with the One. Its ambitious goal of ditching carrier lock-ins and getting people to buy phones online at full price didn’t find many takers. Nexus One was a commercial flop. The price tag of $529 dissuaded most buyers. However, it was well received by Android enthusiasts and critics. Google scaled back its ambition and partnered with carriers for the following devices. The Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus by Samsung fared better. However, the first major success in the Nexus line-up was Nexus 4. With Nexus 4 Google managed to deliver flagship quality hardware in a mid-range price bucket. Nexus 5 kept up the same tradition and delivered a comfortable and beautifully designed phone with great hardware at just $349 (16 GB). However, the Nexus 6 marks a stark departure from the LG Nexus phones.

To begin with, the Nexus 6 has a six inch display. This firmly puts it in the phablet category, and it’s technically incorrect to even call it a phone. In fact, it’s about half a centimetre taller and wider than the Galaxy Note 4. Have a look at the comparison below. The Nexus 6 is appreciably taller and wider than all the devices in the list, and two of the devices in the comparison are phablets, and the other two are phones that are already too big to be comfortable. It’s worth noting that in response to the user feedback, One Plus is considering reducing the size of its next flagship. Forget about single handed operation, the Nexus 6 might even be too wide to grip comfortably while talking.

Nexus 6 Size Comparison
Nexus 6 Size Comparison

The next major issue that I have with the Nexus 6 is the price. At $649, it’s almost twice as expensive as the previous Nexus devices. I wouldn’t call it overpriced – not when Apple is charging upwards of $749 for the iPhone 6 Plus. The Nexus 6 boasts of top of the line specs including a 2K display and Snapdragon 805. However, the question that needs to be asked is do we really need the 2K display? I haven’t used the Note 4 or the new Nexus, but I did review the LG G3. While the increased resolution was noticeable, its impact was limited. You won’t feel the difference during most of your day to day activities.

For the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5, Google took flagship devices from LG, found areas of compromise (like the display size and camera), and produced a top performing device with enough restraint to be affordable. For the Nexus 6, Google took Motorola’s sensibly priced Moto X (2nd gen), and amped up the specs to give us a Nexus that beats every other device in the market in terms of specs, but quite possibly not in terms of the overall experience. May be Google has decided that Android is now popular enough that it doesn’t need to sell low-margin devices. May be it wants to make Android smartphones an object of desire like the iPhone. Or maybe, Google feels that current gen smartphones are mature enough to have a two year shelf life. It has not discontinued the Nexus 5. Future Nexus phones might alternate between a smartphone and a phablet. Whatever be the case, Nexus 6 isn’t the smartphone that I want or need.

Lenovo Launches The Yoga Tablet 2 Series In India Starting At INR 20,990

Lenovo recently launched four new Yoga Tablet 2 devices in India. The Yoga Tablet 2 (8 inch), Yoga Tablet 2 (10 inch) and the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13.3 inch) runs on the Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System. These devices comes with the new Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core processor, 8 megapixel rear camera, long battery life and so on. Apart from that, Lenovo has also launched another variant of the Yoga Tablet 2 (10 inch) which runs on the Windows 8.1 OS and comes with 1 year subscription of Office 365.

Yoga Tablet 2 series features a new Hang mode along with the existing stand, hold and tilt modes. This devices will be exclusively available at Flipkart in India. Yoga Tablet 2 (8 inch) and Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13.1 inch) comes with a price tag of INR 20,990 and INR 47,990 respectively, while the Yoga Tablet 2 (10 inch) Android and Yoga Tablet 2 (10 inch) Windows is available for INR 28,990 and INR 34,990 respectively.

lenovo_yoga_tablet_2

“As the world’s leading PC+ player, Lenovo is ahead of the game in terms of consumer centric design and technology that adapts to users. We are aiming to achieve global sales to the tune of 100 million PC+ devices, including tablets this financial year. Owing to our increasing focus on digital millennials, India as a youth market forms a crucial part of our PC+ strategy. Yoga Tablet 2 coupled with this association will help us in further strengthening our position in the tablet category.”

– Rohit Midha, Director, Tablet Business Unit, Lenovo India

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8 inch) Specifications:

  • 8 inch IPS display
  • 1920 x 1200 pixels resolution
  • 1.86 GHz Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System
  • 8 megapixel rear camera
  • 1.6 megapixel front camera
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • microSD card slot
  • 4G LTE Connectivity
  • Voice-calling
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • 6400 mAh battery

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10 inch) Specifications:

  • 10 inch IPS display
  • 1920 x 1200 pixels resolution
  • 1.86 GHz Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) OS / Windows 8.1 OS
  • 8 megapixel rear camera
  • 1.6 megapixel front camera
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • microSD card slot
  • 4G LTE Connectivity
  • Voice-calling
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • 6400 mAh battery

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro Specifications:

  • 13.3 inch IPS display
  • 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution
  • 1.86 GHz Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System
  • 8 megapixel rear camera
  • 1.6 megapixel front camera
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 32 GB internal memory
  • microSD card slot
  • 4G LTE Connectivity
  • Voice-calling
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • 9600 mAh battery

Google Nexus 9 Tablet Launched; Up For Pre-Order From October 17

Along with the Nexus 6 smartphone, Google has also launched the Nexus 9 tablet. This device is manufactured by HTC and it packs an 8.9 inch display, 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor, 8 megapixel rear camera and so on. It runs on the latest Android 5.0 (Lollipop) Operating System. This device will be available in 16 GB and 32 GB variant. The dual front-facing speaker on this tablet is powered by the HTC’s Boomsound technology.

The Google Nexus 9 tablet will be up for pre-order from October 17th, however the device will go on sale from November 3rd. It comes with a price-tag of $400 for the 16GB model, $480 for 32GB model and $600 for 32 GB with LTE model. Apart from Play Store, you can also buy this tablet from Amazon, Best Buy, Gamestop, Office Depot, Office Max, Radio Shack, Staples and Walmart.

google_nexus_9

Nexus 9 will be available in black, white and sand colors. Nexus 9 users can additionally buy the Keyboard Folio which attaches to the device with magnets, pairs by NFC and supports two typing angles.

Google Nexus 9 Specifications:

  • 8.9 inch IPS display
  • 2048 x 1536 pixels resolution
  • Android 5.0 (Lollipop) OS
  • 2.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra K1 – 64 bit processor
  • Kepler 192-core GPU
  • 8 megapixel rear camera with auto-focus and LED flash
  • 1.6 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Front-facing stereo speakers
  • HTC BoomSound technology
  • 16 GB /32 GB internal memory
  • 2 GB RAM
  • GNSS support for GPS
  • Bosch gyroscope and accelerometer
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Up to 9.5 hours of Wi-Fi browsing time
  • Up to 8.5 hours of LTE browsing time
  • 6700 mAh battery

Google Launches The Android 5.0 Powered Nexus 6 Smartphone

Today, Google finally launched the successor of its popular Nexus 5 smartphone. The Google Nexus 6 is manufactured by Motorola and it runs on the latest Android 5.0 (Lollipop) Operating System which brings the Material Design, new call and message notifications and much more.

Google Nexus 6 packs a 6 inch Quad HD display, 2.7 GHz Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, 13 megapixel rear camera with dual LED ring flash and 4K UHD video recording capabilities. Apart from that, it comes with the Motorola Turbo Charger which gives an additional 6 hours of battery life just by charging the device for just 15 mins.

google_nexus_6

Google Nexus 6 will be up for pre-order at Play Store by the end of this month. This handset comes with a price-tag of $649 for the 32 GB variant. Nexus 6 will go on sale across Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America later this year. This device will be available in Midnight Blue and Cloud White colors.

Google Nexus 6 Specifications:

  • 5.96 inch AMOLED display
  • 1440 x 2560 pixels resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 with quad-core CPU
  • Adreno 420 GPU
  • Android 5.0 (Lollipop) OS
  • 13 megapixel rear camera with dual LED ring flash
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • 4K UHD video capture
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB / 64 GB internal memory
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO)
  • Dual front facing stereo speakers
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • 3220 mAh battery

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Launched In India For INR 58,300

Last month, Samsung unveiled the much awaited Galaxy Note 4 phablet at the IFA 2014 event in Berlin. This device comes with an upgraded 5.7 inch Quad HD display and a 3.7 megapixel front-facing camera for selfie lovers with 90 degree shooting angle and up to 120 degree wide angle. Today, Samsung finally launched this phablet in India.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 comes with a price-tag of INR 58,300. This device will go on sale in India from October 17. It also includes support for 14 Indian languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and so on. Vodafone subscribers will get 1 GB of free 3G data for 2 months with this device.

“The launch of Galaxy Note 4 highlights Samsung’s commitment to deliver iconic and differentiated products. The new device exhibits people inspired innovation with its unique combination of an enhanced S Pen, large and vivid display and superior productivity features to provide the most refined Galaxy experience to our customers. Samsung has significantly contributed to the wearable industry by taking the lead in offering unique smart wearable’s and the launch of Gear S will further set a new standard in the mobile communication space.”

– Asim Warsi, VP of Mobile & IT, Samsung India

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Specifications:

  • 5.7 inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display
  • 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution
  • 1.9 GHz Octa-Core (1.9GHz Quad + 1.3GHz Quad-Core) Processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System
  • 16 megapixel autofocus camera with Smart OIS
  • 3.7 megapixel front-facing camera with Wide Selfie
  • Air Command
  • S Note, Snap Note, Direct Pen Input
  • Ultra Power Saving Mode
  • 4G Connectivity
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • GPS, NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 32 GB Internal memory
  • 64 GB expandable memory
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 3220 mAh Li-ion battery with Adaptive Fast Charging

Windows 10 Technical Preview: 1 Million Users, 200,000 Pieces of Feedback

On October 13, Joe Belfiore announced on Windows Blogs that since the October 1 availability of Windows 10’s Technical Preview for Enterprises, it has been downloaded by 1 million users.

Given that there are almost 1.5 billion Windows users, it may seem like a very small percentage of the user base. However, this is a very early preview of the software and it required users to go sign up for it and download it. More importantly, per Microsoft, these 1 million users have provided 200,000 pieces of feedback. Here’s Belfiore:

Over 200,000 pieces of user-initiated feedback have been submitted to us via the Windows Feedback app from Windows Insiders like you. (BTW, we have a TLA—“three letter acronym”–for these: “UIFs”.) Matt Goldstein is a Windows Insider and actually developed a script that looks at the top feedback that has been sent in so far – see this article from Paul Thurrott for the rundown. This showcases how helpful it is for you to click the “me too” button when you see someone else’s feedback that you agree with or are experiencing yourself.

In the article referenced below, Thurrott summarized that many of the top requested features are very minor in nature, which shows that despite the label, this operating system is highly usable and mostly reliable. Another data point from Belfiore:

Wondering whether people are running this on actual PCs or just “trying it out” for a few minutes in a VM (Virtual Machine)? Well, only 36% of installations of the Windows 10 Technical Preview are in VMs. The remaining 64% are all on actual PCs. This makes us confident that a lot of the feedback is based on “medium-term” use and not just a few minutes of experimentation. (If you’re running the Windows 10 Technical Preview in a VM that’s cool too.)

Microsoft has always been big on software telemetry which provides them inputs of actual usage which helps them tweak and update their next version of the software to make it better for users. This preview is even more proactive in collecting feedback. There are times when the system prompts the users to provide quick updates on how they completed a recent task. For example, it could be something like “Would you like to provide input about how you discovered the print function?” and if one agrees to provide that input, it opens up the Windows Feedback app which gives users a quick way to provide feedback directly to the Windows teams.

Here’s how you can provide feedback:

Signed up as a Windows Insider? Tell us your Windows 10 likes, dislikes and bugs using the Windows Feedback app built into the Tech Preview software. This is the best way to get us your opinion on Windows 10 Tech Preview builds.

You can ask questions and talk with us and other Windows Insiders through the Windows Technical Preview Program forum. We have people reading the forum all the time and we’re forwarding questions, conclusions, discussions, stats around the team.

If you’re not a Windows Insider, you can still tell us what you’d like to see in Windows. We now have a Windows Suggestion Box on UserVoice which is open to anyone who wants to send us ideas and suggestions for Windows. For example – if you think it would be awesome if Windows natively supported some file format it doesn’t support today, submit it through the Windows Suggestion Box!

Belfiore also hinted that an update is expected soon for the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Finally, Belfiore introduced Gabriel Aul (Gabe) who is running the Data & Fundamentals team. This is the team which analyzes and synthesizes the feedback they receive from the various sources and then route them to the various teams inside Windows, so that features get added, functionality gets addressed and it all happens quickly so that by the time Windows 10 ships, it will have all major issues addressed. Aul is on twitter at @GabeAul.

I had noted earlier on twitter, that while it is great for Microsoft to collect feedback this way, I wonder how closely will this enthusiast group match the broad spectrum of Windows users. In other words, is it a good idea to shape the Windows features based on early adopter/enthusiast’s inputs?

 

 


Have you downloaded Windows 10 Technical Preview? Are you liking it?

IRCTC Finally Releases Android App for Booking Train Tickets

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, better known by its abbreviation IRCTC, has finally launched its official Android app. The Android app launch comes over an year after the launch of a Windows 8 and Windows Phone app. IRCTC is one of the largest e-commerce vendors in the country with close to 5 million tickets sold every day. However, it has never been very quick or good at adapting to newer technologies. The Android app was long overdue, considering that India is a country where a significant chunk of the internet users access the web solely through mobile phones.

IRCTC Android App Splash Screen
IRCTC Android App Splash Screen

I had limited expectations from the app, considering that government websites are notorious for having ugly and convoluted user interfaces. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the app. It takes a few seconds to get started, and doesn’t support any social login. Once you sign-in, you are presented with the ‘New Booking’ page. Selecting source and destination stations is a breeze thanks to the autocomplete feature. The app presents all available trains in a neat grid and allows you to quickly view seat availability and proceed with the booking. The app offers notification of upcoming journeys, and allows you to view and cancel past bookings. The overall user interface is quite decent. The biggest eyesore is the banner ad that’s displayed at the bottom of the screen. Does a ticketing app of a subsidiary of the Indian government really need to display Google Ads?

IRCTC Android App Trains Between Station
IRCTC Android App Trains Between Station

A major issue with IRCTC Connect is that it doesn’t sync with the IRCTC website. Tickets that you have booked in the past through the web interface are not accessible through the app. This is a major issue, and will hopefully be addressed in future versions. Another drawback of the app is that it can’t be used during the peak hours (8:00 AM to 12:00 PM). In other words, even though the app supports Tatkal booking, IRCTC has imposed an artificial restriction to make it practically useless for Tatkal tickets.

IRCTC Android App New Booking
IRCTC Android App New Booking
IRCTC Android App Train Details
IRCTC Android App Train Details

[ Download IRCTC Connect | User Manual ]

SJ4000 is a great GoPro alternative if you’re looking for an Affordable Action Camera

While the GoPro is one of the most popular brands for action camera, if you’re looking for an affordable action camera, the SJ4000 is a pretty good alternative. At a sub-$100 price point, the SJ4000 Sports HD DV camera offers top of the line features and a box full of accessories.

sj4000_1

Continue reading SJ4000 is a great GoPro alternative if you’re looking for an Affordable Action Camera

[INFOGRAPHIC] 95% believe CXOs see IT as Strategic Business Driver: EMC Forum 2014

At the EMC Forum 2014 this week, EMC Corporation released the findings of a survey that asked IT decision makers in India for their perspective on IT’s role as an enabler of business change during the shift towards the mega trends of cloud, mobile, social and Big Data. Continue reading [INFOGRAPHIC] 95% believe CXOs see IT as Strategic Business Driver: EMC Forum 2014

Know your technology head on