MaCinJay’s Musings

another case of inverse vandalism

Posts Tagged ‘iPod touch

Updates to iPhone, iPod touch

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On the eve of the Macworld Expo I speculated that Steve Jobs might announce a 3G iPhone during his keynote but it was not to be. However today Apple announced that it would be releasing a 16 GB version of the iPhone, as well as a 32 GB iPod touch. Both will cost $499. I’m sure that this will please consumers with large media libraries or those that prefer lossless playback.

Existing owners of these devices will be looking forward to the SDK, which is due for release this month. It’s going to be really interesting what third-party developers will come up with, especially considering the incredible variety of iPhone applications that have been developed without Apple’s support.

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Written by macinjay

February 5, 2008 at 7:57 pm

iPod touch update

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Following Steve Jobs’s keynote at last week’s Macworld Expo I made the observation that international iPod touch owners (or at least those without iTunes Stores in their countries) had been left high and dry because they were unable to buy the upgrade that he announced. In fact though there is a workaround, albeit a convoluted one.

A while back I tried to open an iTunes account but was stymied because I didn’t have a US credit card or address. After that I read somewhere that you could also make purchases from the iTunes Stores using iTunes vouchers but never bothered to look into it further. My interest was rekindled after Jobs’s keynote – I wanted that upgrade.

I learned that iTunes vouchers were available for purchase on eBay and bought a $25 voucher with a $4 markup using PayPal. All that remained was to find a suitable address in the US so that I could redeem the voucher under “Quick Links” in the iTunes Store.

Once all that had been done I was able to buy the upgrade. Even better, I’ve bought a few songs and downloaded the pilot to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for free!

I still have to question Apple’s wisdom here though. While it may be convenient for the company to leverage off the iTunes Store to sell these type of upgrades, it doesn’t make much sense from a distribution standpoint. In countries like South Africa distribution rights for music content are jealousy protected, which is presumably why there is no iTunes Store here yet. But Apple is free to sell its software anywhere in the world, so why restrict sales unnecessarily and leave people to resort to complicated workarounds?

Surely Apple should have come up with a more appropriate platform.

Written by macinjay

January 24, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Macworld Expo Keynote

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I concluded my last post by predicting that Steve Jobs would have a few surprises in store for us. For the first time since I’ve been following the Macworld Expo though I can honestly say that I wasn’t actually surprised by anything revealed in his keynote!

There was no new iPhone announced. Jobs compensated by talking about the new features and enhancements included in its latest firmware update. Not exactly earth-shattering though by Apple’s standards, especially considering that these had been leaked to the rumour sites weeks ago. The update will also be available to iPod touch owners but they will have to pay $20 for what their iPhone-owning counterparts get for nothing – go figure. Also the upgrade is only available via the iTunes Store, which leaves a lot of Apple’s international clients, including me, out in the cold.

The rumour sites were also spot on about Apple’s new ultra-portable, even getting the name right – the MacBook Air! Thin enough to make your average supermodel green with envy, it’s a small engineering marvel that Jobs was able to fit into a manila envelope. Very nice, only it doesn’t have an optical drive and sports slower processors than the less-expensive MacBooks. By leaving out the optical drive Apple seems to be prematurely consigning another technology to the scrapheap, like they did with the floppy drive and dial-up modems. From a connectivity standpoint the Air is limited to USB, WiFi and Bluetooth. It isn’t all about aesthetics; the Air shares the iPhone’s Multi-touch technology for zooming images and rapid scrolling using its generous touchpad and there is a flash-based version that should improve boot-up times. But I have to wonder if the Air is going to find a market considering all the design compromises that had to be made so that Apple could market it as the “world’s thinnest laptop”. Time will tell but I’m certainly not regretting buying my MacBook Pro now.

Jobs also announced a wireless storage and networking solution to work hand-in-hand with Leopard’s back-up utility Time Machine called, aptly, Time Capsule. I may actually consider buying one of these for back-ups and to provide a wireless connection to my printer, as plugging and unplugging cables into my MacBook Pro everytime I need to move it has become a chore. Still, not really a headline-grabber.

As predicted, Jobs revealed that movie rentals were coming to iTunes. He also detailed related changes to the Apple TV, which will allow users to view, rent or buy media directly from the device instead of having to synch it with their computers first. The upgrade will also enable high-definition content. No doubt this will address criticisms of the original product. (The improvements will be available to existing Apple TV owners as a firmware update.)

That was the meat of it; of course there was the usual padding about how many billion songs had been downloaded from iTunes and all the rest. But this is not what keeps Mac fans glued to their computer screens for updates from the Expo blogs. Sadly I fear this year’s Expo will leave many of them disappointed.

Written by macinjay

January 16, 2008 at 11:43 am

Firmware updates

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Apple has released firmware update 1.1.2 for the iPhone and iPod touch. This has inter alia added support for international keyboard layouts and – in the case of the touch – the ability to add and update events in the calendar. The latter feature addresses the touch’s most glaring weakness from a software point of view.

I’ve had a chance to use the touch for a week now and have been really impressed. For my money the best feature isn’t the music player, it’s the Safari Internet browser. I’ve always been lukewarm about the desktop version of Safari, preferring Firefox’s greater flexibility, but it works great on the touch. A nice feature is that when using your finger to scroll up or down in a web page there is a “bouncing” effect when you reach the limit of the page. It’s an effective way of showing that you can’t go any further – like hitting a wall in real life, only without the pain. A small touch but one that nicely showcases Apple’s legendary attention to detail.

My only real complaint is that it is too easy to accidentally activate links, which I mentioned in my last post. (That and the fact that it would be nice to have a larger viewing area – is there an Tablet Mac in the works?) It makes me wish that it the touch was not reliant on Wi-Fi so that I could use it all the time. When oh when will Apple release the iPhone in South Africa?

Written by macinjay

November 13, 2007 at 10:20 pm

iPod touch

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Yesterday my mother returned from a two week trip to the UK and brought back an iPod touch for me. The touch is essentially of course an iPhone without the calling and emailing features although it is possible to use web mail via the touch’s Internet browser (providing you have wi-fi access). But I am jumping ahead of myself as I mean to recount my experience with the touch from the beginning.

First of all the supporting documentation is sparse to say the least, just a warranty and a very short quick start guide. The lack of documentation isn’t really an issue though, as the touch is really easy to use. Also there is no iTunes install disk so be prepared for a long wait if you don’t have version 7.4 loaded on your computer or a fast Internet connection; you have to use this version to set up the touch before you can start using it.

Once the iPod was registered on iTunes I was able to access the touch’s menu by pressing the Home button under the screen (this can also be done by a brief push of the Power key located at the top left-hand edge of the casing) and swiping the onscreen slider. The iPod’s applications and settings are activated by touching icons on the screen. Another set of icons provide access to music, photos and videos, as well as Apple’s new wi-fi iTunes feature. Regrettably though this last feature will not work in South Africa due to the lack of a local iTunes Store. The resolution of the screen is excellent – it’s ideal for viewing photos and video. (There was an problem when the touch was first released with the quality of video playback but this seems to have been resolved.)

The touch’s stripped-down Safari web browser provides a convenient way of surfing the Internet when you don’t feel like lugging your laptop around. Unlike the iPhone though the touch is not EDGE-enabled so you will need a wi-fi connection. It’s easy to zoom up web pages by “pinching” and “unpinching” the surface of the screen with thumb and fingers. However I found that occasionally my digits would inadvertently activate a hyperlink when trying to zoom in – it would be nice if there was a “Deactivate Links” feature. Also the browser doesn’t support Flash, although this is probably as much a blessing as a curse. Otherwise the touch delivers a surprisingly good web browsing experience given the limited dimensions of the screen. You can even use it for blogging and posting using the onscreen contextual keyboard. A caveat here though: it is easy to select incorrect characters on the keyboard due to the lack of tactile feedback.

I didn’t delve too much into the YouTube application due to my limited Internet bandwidth but video looked crisp and sharp.

The weakest application on the touch is the calendar, which is completely passive due to the lack of an event-creation feature. Hopefully this will be rectified in a future firmware update.

Contacts on the other hand is one of the strongest applications and for my money is more user-friendly than Address Book in Mac OSX. It’s going to be a lot easier to access my contacts’ information once I have loaded them onto the touch.

The Clock includes world times, alarms, a stopwatch and a timer. Curiously though the time and date is set via Settings. (In fact, all settings are adjusted here rather than in the applications themselves.) Also the touch’s external speaker isn’t all that loud, which hampers the effectiveness of the alarm.

The Calculator has limited features but is very effective for the basic maths functions.

When Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPhone at January’s Macworld in San Francisco I believe he called it “the best iPod ever” and he wasn’t wrong, at least until the touch came along. The iPhone and touch may not have the huge capacities of the Classic iPods but they present a massive step forward in terms of the user interface. To be honest I haven’t had a chance to listen to a lot of music on the touch yet but the sound quality is at least on a par with our nano.

As mentioned the touch’s hi-res screen is great for viewing photos. The Photo Library has a refreshingly simple look, with pics closely arranged in a grid. Individual photos are selected by a tap and can be zoomed up by spreading your thumb and finger apart over the screen’s surface. There is also a slideshow option.

And that in a nutshell is the iPod touch. It has a few minor flaws but these are far outweighed by the positives. I am looking forward to the promised software developers’ kit that should be available for the iPhone and the touch in the early part of next year. This will give developers the tools to produce some really exciting applications for these devices.

Written by macinjay

November 8, 2007 at 10:50 pm