The rumour mill is suggesting that Apple will release its new iPad 5 in the fall, which begs the question: when should you upgrade your precious electronic devices?
I was one of the early iPad adopters, picking up the original iPad shortly after it was first introduced — and the reason couldn’t be geekier: I saw what an awesome device it was for reading comics. Now to make it sound less nerdish, I could use the more adult term graphic novel, but I have been reading comic books all my life, so it is far too late for me to act like an adult now.
The original iPad has been such a wonderful device that I’ve never really seen the need to upgrade. I’m not a huge gamer, so I find it plays the games that I’m most interested in (old-school Sonic, Angry Birds, etc.) extremely well. I can surf the web, check email, send instant messages, look at photos, etc., without any problems. But then Apple teased me with the iPad 4, officially called the iPad with Retina display (from $499 Cdn; apple.ca), that took my beloved gadget and gave it some very desirable tweaks: enhanced, high-definition display, powerful new processor, faster WiFi, and a thinner Lightning connector that can be plugged in without looking. The one thing that remained the same is great battery life.
With my wife quickly claiming my original iPad for her own, I transferred all my files and apps over to the iPad 4 to see if I had made the right move in upgrading. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was missing. Comics look even crisper, apps open without any time lag — and the enhanced graphics make the new games run silky smooth and look jaw-droppingly beautiful. There are other enhancements to the front and rear cameras, plus the addition of Apple’s cool voice assistant Siri, but the bottom line is really the high-def screen and much faster processor. Apple has simply made a great device even sweeter.
Although the new iPad has a nice onscreen keyboard for texts and emails, I still like the feel of a traditional keyboard when I’m sitting down to work on my new novel. And with Apple’s word processor Pages ($19.99 Cdn; apple.ca) being able to sync between a laptop and an iPad via the Cloud (i.e. the document is stored on Apple’s servers so that any Internet-enabled device you own always has the most current version), I am able to work on the manuscript from either device. To make writing on the iPad easier, I checked out Zagg’s new ProFolio+ ($129.99; zagg.com). Now this neat device is both a thin and light protective leather cover (available in a variety of colours), and a wireless, backlit keyboard. Zagg has made a lot of improvements since its first aluminium keyboard for the original iPad. For a start, the new ProFolio+ looks great (I went with red leather) and it holds the iPad far more securely than the original did. The lid is also magnetized for extra security and automatically wakes and sleeps your device when opening or closing the lid. Once you have paired the keyboard to the iPad via Bluetooth (a simple process that is explained in easy-to-follow directions), you simply start typing. This is definitely one of the best and most convenient add-ons I have come across for the iPad yet.
Now if you like to crank the tunes, you’ll likely be disappointed by the iPad’s built-in speakers. That’s where SuperTooth’s Disco Twin ($199 US for a set of two; supertoothstore.com) comes in. These portable, rechargeable speakers can be placed at the correct distance apart for true right / left stereo and deliver a combined 32 watts of sound. Although music can be streamed wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device, I found they work much better with the iPad and iPhone than from my laptop (the connection isn’t nearly as crisp when I connect via my MacBook Air.) While you can leave them plugged in as a home stereo, the integrated rechargeable batteries deliver up to 10 hours of portable music between charges. If you crank it up to 11, you’ll still get between three and four hours of party time at maximum volume. If you’re blasting out a classic album such as The Who’s Quadrophenia, you’ll enjoy having the true stereo effect.
There has also been some buzz lately about Apple’s rumoured move into the iWatch category. I’ve been wearing Apple’s square Nano as a watch for a couple of years now, and would love for them to unveil a connected iWatch sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I decided to try out the Cookoo ($129.99; cookoowatch.com). Available in a variety of colours, the Cookoo is a pleasant looking watch with an analog face that connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone. Unfortunately, it’s more like R2D2 than C3PO when it comes to communication. A series of beeps and/or vibrations let you know when a text message or phone call is coming in, but no extra information is displayed, such as who is calling or what your appointment reminder is for. As such, it really feels like that first calculator you ever had that could only do plus, minus, multiply and divide. It is first-generation cool, but you just know that it will quickly be replaced be something even cooler — especially if Apple gets involved.
Speaking of cool, sometimes that’s all it takes to intrigue me. Last year, I reviewed a nifty little knife from Sinclair that was the size of a credit card until you unfolded it. I still use it (although I have to be careful to remember it’s in my wallet when I go through airport security) and was interested to see what else the company had up its sleeve. This time, it’s a credit-card-sized flashlight, the Eon Classic (£15; iainsinclair.com) that packs a powerfully bright light into a slick aluminum enclosure. With no batteries to buy or change, the Eon Classic is guaranteed to last for at least 10 years. Its solid and minimal construction also means that you can keep it in your pocket with your keys, etc., and never have to worry about it getting damaged. I love it — especially late at night when I’m trying to find the right key for the front door.
The last gadget that has taken my fancy of late is the NetTalk Duo WiFi ($74.95; nettalk.ca), a nifty little device that is aimed at reducing your phone bill by giving you free long distance. The NetTalk connects either wirelessly to your WiFi network or plugged into your router. Some Canadian numbers are portable (mine wasn’t), and the price includes one year of free service. After the first year, you pay $39.95 per year, which is quite a savings over a traditional phone line. In using the NetTalk Duo, I found the sound to be crisp and clear without any lag, and the only problem that I’ve run into is that it occasionally drops off my WiFi network and I need to reboot the device. If you make a lot of long distance calls or just don’t want a monthly phone bill anymore, the NetTalk Duo is definitely worth looking into. M