Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

A Matter of Life Or Death

Lest you get too excited about possible implications of the title, I’m only addressing the batteries in your latest portable electronic toys. Since many devices no longer have user replaceable batteries, a failed battery is no longer a trivial expense. Replacement may mean bringing or mailing the failed unit to the manufacturer’s repair depot, which replaces the entire device with a factory refurbished litter mate – at costs ranging from $99 (iPad) to $470 (Surface Pro) and delays of up to 6 weeks. Many dejected owners opt to discard the entire unit and replace it with a newer model.

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Automatic Android App Updates

How to Disable Automatic Updates of Android Apps

By default, most apps you install on your Android device are set to update automatically. There are a whole slew of Google apps that you may not even use, but they were default apps that cam installed on your phone. If you are set to update apps automatically (again, the default), periodically these things start to download and install. If this is going on when I try to do something on my phone, the operation slows to a crawl or even becomes completely unresponsive.

After some poking around, I found how to change the settings so automatic updates don’t happen. I can now choose the updates I want and when I want them to occur. Continue reading

The New Face of On-The-Go Computing

In my last article, The New Face of Computers,” I discussed the emergence of the All-In-One desktop style. This article is dedicated to the portable side of computing, an area that has been dominated by the laptop/notebook design for many years.

For the last couple of years, the “Ultrabook” has been taking over the high end of this market. Ultrabooks, in general, are notebooks that are sleeker, lighter and have longer battery life. ( See “Ultrabooks and Windows 8 Tablets” June, 2012).

The Ultrabook/Tablet Hybrid

The latest thing are notebooks/ultrabooks that can be used with a keyboard in the traditional clam shell fashion or converted to a tablet form factor with screens that can be removed, hinged, swiveled, rotated, folded, or otherwise maneuvered to deliver a tablet experience.  It’s these hybrid variations I want to review today.

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Netflix Launches New Windows 8 App

With the eminent formal availability of Windows 8 (October 26), the big “IF” that has everyone questioning its viability for mobile devices is the limited number of available apps vs. established competitors like Apple and Android.

One big hole in the entertainment app category has been the absence of a Netflix app. That hole has just been filled. A touchscreen optimized app for Netflix has just been added to the Windows Store. While it will work on any computer running Windows 8, it is clearly targeted at Windows 8 mobile devices with touch screens (tablets and hybrid tablet/notebooks).

I suspect the disparity in the number of apps for Windows 8 vs. the established mobile competitors will shrink rapidly once the new devices start to hit the streets. When Windows 8 devices become prevalent and numerous, app developers will find this market too lucrative to ignore for long.


Microsoft Surface Price Range Indicated

When I first reported the announcement of the ground-breaking Microsoft Surface tablets (Live From Hollywood – It’s Microsofts New Surface Tablet), there was no indication of price. I’ve heard low-ball prices for the RT version that would make it competitive with the Kindle Fire. I’ve heard scary high prices well above $1,000 for the Pro version. It looks like neither one of those extremes are correct.

Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated a range from $300 to $800. The $300 price point would be for the RT version that is targeted to compete in the Android and Apple iPad market, while the higher priced $800 product would presumably be the price point for the fully Windows 8 capable Pro version that is essentially equivalent to Ultrabook laptops.

There’s the rumor, straight from the top of Microsoft. Now we wait for October 26 when Windows 8 and the Surface RT are to be officially introduced. We probably won’t see the Surface Pro till sometime in January.

Amazon Releases New Kindles

As expected, Amazon released a new Kindle e-reader and a couple of new Kindle Fire color tablets early this month.

The new e-reader, Kindle Paperwhite, comes in two configurations. One is WiFi only at $119 and one is 3G enabled at $179. The most significant new feature is the high contrast screen, with a built-in light feature so you can read in low light. The device claims an 8-week battery life, even with the light on.

The new Kindle Fire HD tablet comes in two sizes, 8.9 inch that targets Apple’s iPad and a compact 7 inch, the same size as the previous Fire. The 8.9-inch product comes configured for 4G LTE at $499 or WiFi at $299. The 7-inch WiFi is $199.

The 8.9-inch Fire HD has an impressive 1920×1200 screen display, with an anti-glare feature that makes it easier to read from an angle and in bright light. It also has Dolby audio and dual speakers that give it a sound richness that belies the fact that it is coming from a tablet. The 7-inch model has a 1200×800 HD display with the same anti-glare technology and rich Dolby sound.

These tablets are still clearly aimed at content consumption from Amazon’s e-book, movie and music libraries. But the impressive screen and audio features make for a first class experience.

Even More Tablet Rumors – This Time from Apple

From time to time, the possibility of Apple introducing a 7-inch iPad has been batted around among the pundits. Since Apple traditionally deals in the “high-priced spread” and especially since the late Apple leader, Steve Jobs, always talked smack about the small tablets, an Apple 7-inch tablet has not seemed  very likely… until now.

Things are changing.

The first serious 7-inch tablet competitor was Amazon’s Fire. Recently Google’s Nexus 7 entered the fray. That impressive product, along with the rumored pending upgrade of the Amazon Fire, are likely to spur the 7-inch market. Also Microsoft’s announced Surface tablet, while a 10-inch, not a 7-inch display, is likely to take market share from Apple’s traditional market dominance. So this would appear to be a good time for Apple to abandon its snubbing of smaller, less expensive tablets, and enter that marketplace itself.

To compete in this arena, Apple will have to at least come close to the price point of the 7-inch competitors of $200. That means there will have to be some compromises from the current iPad. Notably, the high-resolution screen of the new iPad will probably be the first casualty. How will Apple fans respond to the feature downgrade? I suspect we are going to find out soon.

Yet Another Kindle Fire Rumor – 10 inch Tablet Coming?

Just yesterday I posted the rumored new 7-inch Kindle Fire that may appear as early as next month. Now today, yet another rumor of a 10-inch version coming by the end of this year.

The new 7-inch Fire is needed to keep Amazon in the hunt and compete with the new Nexus 7. A 10-inch product would presumably enter Amazon into a position to compete with the iPad.

If true, this would be Amazon’s first 10-inch tablet. It is rumored to have a higher build quality than the first Kindle Fire, which was, admittedly, a little cheap looking. Higher quality in both a 7-inch and 10-inch Fire could result in a resurgence of Amazon in the hotly contested tablet marketplace.

7-Inch Tablet Showdown

Things are heating up in the 7-inch tablet market. There are two notable “new kinds on the block”

New Kindle Fire

There have been rumors of an imminent new Kindle Fire before. And I fell victim to one of those rumors in this blog a few months ago. But this time, it really looks real.

The rumor has it that the next generation of Kindle Fire will be released by the end of July. Specks of this new Fire are also just rumor at this point, but among the speculations are a camera, physical volume adjustments, 1280 x 800 pixel display (an upgrade from the current Fire’s resolution of 1024 x 600), and continue to sell at the current price of $199. Some people thought that this might be a 10-inch tablet, but at that price, that is very doubtful.

The rumor of a new Kindle Fire had better be true this time, for Amazon’s sake. Because a serious competitor has just come on the market.

Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet

Google is expected to announce it’s Nexus branded slate this week. We won’t have to wait long to get the specs on this, but at first glance, it appears to be targeting Amazon’s Kindle Fire directly. Like the Fire, Nexus 7 appears to be optimized for content from the Google Play marketplace, just as Fire is for Amazon’s collection of books, mp3s, games, TV shows & movies, etc.

The Nexus will be built by Asus and will supposedly sport the newest version of Android, named “Jelly Bean.” The 7-inch display has 1280 x 800 resolution, the same as is rumored for the new Fire. Nexus 7 offers 8 and 16 GB storage options. The entry level price point is expected to be $200, head-to-head with Fire.

Google Play is simultaneously being updated to more completely compete with Amazon’s content offerings. It will be offering movies and TV shows, as well as magazines.

With the hardware, content offerings and price running so completely parallel between Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s new Fire, this is going to be a competition showdown to watch!