ipad mini

Along with the Nexus Player, which disappointed, Google’s Nexus 9 was also recently released and reviewed. It’s been described as having an OK display; good but not jaw dropping performance; above average speakers; nice feel but with small, noticeable flaws; and generally not something that beats the iPad given its $400 price. Lollipop is awesome as expected.

That’s all well and good, but there are two things about the Nexus 9 I was particularly interested in from an industry point of view:

  1. The Nexus 9’s size and weight
  2. Its dedicated keyboard cover

Is the 9-inch display the best of two worlds, or the worst? Is the Nexus 9 an appreciably good productivity device?

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If a PC company had flat sales, you might think its CEO would go, “Phew, not bad when the overall market is declining.”

Not really though: Lenovo, HP, Dell Acer and ASUS all increased sales the past quarter even though the overall market declined. Apple too. It’s not clear which PC company is suffering, but the strong get stronger while the weak exit.

So flat iPad sales — despite whatever Tim Cook may say — is alarming to Apple and Apple watchers. Moreover, now that Apple is selling larger phone sizes, people are finally realizing that you don’t need a big phone and a small tablet. The bigger iPad will need to grow a lot faster for the overall business to grow.

The iPad may not be one of the weak, but it is not one of the strong either. What should Apple do? The company has two possibilities: 1) make the iPad more appealing to a new market segment, and/or 2) deliver the same proposition to the existing market segment better.

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I’ve always liked these kinds of stories on other tech blogs — i.e., what gadgets nerds use on a daily basis — as it gave a “bottom line” that individual reviews of products on loan can’t give. So today I’m sharing what I use and carry, and why.

Smartwatch: Pebble, Moto 360

The Pebble is a great device. Its super solid in a way that Apple is known for; it does what it’s supposed to and it does it well. There are lots of interesting watch faces for it, the battery lasts for days, and it’s good for monitoring notifications and incoming calls. The main downsides are that it’s not particularly attractive or comfortable to wear. The screen has no color and is very low resolution.

I also recently got the Moto 360. A review will go up this Monday or the following Monday, depending on how the weekend goes.

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If you purchased a 5.5-inch smartphone today and don’t own anything else, the next device you buy simply won’t be a mini tablet. That money is better spent on other things, like a laptop or larger tablet. That’s why I believe the future of mini tablets is niche, and why larger tablets and laptops will ultimately converge.

That 5.5-inch device is good enough to be your daily device for personal consumption: browsing the web, reading books and even watching video. It’s still great for phone calls, photos and messages too. If you purchase a second device, it’ll be to do things you can’t do well on a 5.5-inch screen — like office work.

Despite most of Asia being clued into this for the past couple years, and despite large Android phones actually being popular in the US and Europe, the press there seemed largely unaware of this trend.

Until the iPhone 6 Plus.

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Mini tablets exploded at a time when 3.5-inch iPhones and 9.7-inch iPads were what’s most popular. There was a big gap between these two sizes: the iPhone was highly portable, but the screen meant bite-sized consumption; iPads were better for Internet browsing and games, but it was too large to easily carry around. Mini tablets fulfilled a market gap — a computing device small enough to hold with one hand that offered a better reading experience than phones could provide.

However, the world today is different. The 4-inch iPhone 5S is practically the smallest smartphone on the market, 5-inch phones are average and 5.5-inch phones are not uncommon. The trend to bigger screen sizes is apparent in the chart below:

Did you know that smartphone screens nearly doubled in size since 2007?

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I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but hadn’t because there was no solid data to back-up my assertions. I do now. This is about why I believe the future of tablets (and by extension, computing) is 15-inches in display size.

Let’s start with the origins of the modern tablet. The original iPad played such a strong role in shaping our perception of what a tablet should be, including a 9.7-inch display that we think of standard today. Apple arrived at that size because 9.7-inches was ideal given technology’s constraints at the time like weight, battery life and cost. It was the right size for 2010.

The iPad was never designed to be used primarily with one hand, unlike “mini” tablets of today. As Jobs demonstrated in his keynote, the iPad was meant to be used on the lap; or held with two hands; and only occasionally holding with one hand so the other can perform an action.

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