You can probably imagine that I get loads of press releases from various tech companies almost every single day. Sometimes I find a potential advertising prospect, and sometimes I find an interesting guest possibility for the show. Well just recently I heard from a PR agency promoting a blogger who had reviewed the Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone, a new flagship model running Windows Phone that’s getting a huge amount of promotion these days. With Microsoft’s mobile market share in the dumps, to be polite about it, I can see where there are lots of hopes for this product’s potential.
Early reviews have been promising enough, but it doesn’t come across as a potential knockout punch for Microsoft. But I’ll have more to say about that later. Meantime, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented the individual mentioned in that PR release, tech blogger Jonathan Rettinger, of TechnoBuffalo, who started off the session discussing the trials and tribulations of Yahoo!
The main event, of course, consisted of his observations about the Lumia 900. Here I got into a debate with Rettinger, because I didn’t feel Nokia had really pushed the envelope with smartphones and needed to do better to compete with the likes of Apple and Google, not to mention Samsung.
One curious sidelight, though. Rettinger said he was a devoted user of Apple products who had been very impressed with the Nokia. Yet there is a story from last December, from a site called WPCentral, where he made a huge deal, then, about switching from an iPhone to an HTC Titan, another Windows Phone product. Curious indeed.
In another segment, best-selling author Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus gave you a preview of his new book, co-written with USA Today’s Ed Baig, entitled “The iPad for Dummies,” the latest edition of which covers the new iPad.
Nationally syndicated tech columnist Craig Crossman, host of the Computer America radio show, discussed his experiences with 100 megabit broadband, and why you might have to replace your network cables if your ISP offers similarly high speeds.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present “conscious media” producer Ron James. Ron and Chris’ film “It Could Happen Tomorrow” swept this year’s EBE Awards at the International UFO Congress. The film is part of the five-DVD set “The Disclosure Dialogs” that features many of the top names in Ufology. Ron and Chris have worked together for seven years and have traveled around parts of the Midwest and Southwest to notorious haunted sites that resulted in the DVD set entitled, “Dead Whisper: In Search of Ghosts and the Supernatural.”
Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt — Now with New Design! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show, along with a redesigned storefront.
Leave it to Apple to keep us talking about them. Even the name of the third generation iPad became fodder for lots of discussion. Why not call it iPad 3 and be done with it? But, no, Apple chose instead to employ the Mac model, and use the generic product name, regardless of the revision. So you have, for example, the most recent iMac, which may be called iMac (Mid 2011). What this means is that we must call it iPad (third generation) I suppose.
Until next year, when Apple might just upset the applecart and use yet another type of product designation, and no, not the new new iPad. Just so long as we continue to talk about it, as I’ve just done, I’m sure Apple will relish in the free publicity.
But now that the initial furore has died down, it’s time to take a more thorough look at how the latest and greatest iPad stacks up compared to its predecessor. I won’t concern myself with other tablets, since I don’t think there are any out there that match Apple except for superficial specs. That’s why, except for the cheap 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire, it remains an iPad market.
First and foremost, you never tire of Apple’s gorgeous Retina Display. I was about to say “marvelous,” but I understand that word is out of favor these days. However, it’s best considered in comparison with the iPad 2, and the differences range from subtle to large, depending on the viewing distance.
To get a better feel for the differences, I accessed the same site in Safari, one of my forums, on both, with the units placed flat on a desk. Standing with my eyes approximately 30 inches above the desk, twice that suggested to get the best Retina Display image, the differences were subtle, with text on the iPad 3 being a tad cleaner. As I lifted the two iPads, one in each hand, and moved them closer, the differences became more distinct. Where the text on the older iPad became pixelated, the letters remained sharp and distinct on the new iPad. Photo rendering really stood out, although it takes that side-by-side comparison to really grok the difference.
Some have criticized Apple for making the third generation iPad a tad thicker and a tad heavier. I suppose they mistakenly believe that Apple makes their gear slimmer and lighter with every succeeding generation, which isn’t true. Indeed, although it’s the same size and shape, an iPhone 4s weighs 3 grams more than an iPhone 4, although you obviously won’t notice that difference.
Since I exercise regularly, as I’ve done for decades, I expect my strength is the same with both hands. Moving the two devices around, one in each hand, I was unable to detect any discernible weight difference, nor is the slightly thicker case on the new model readily noticed. Now maybe some of you are more sensitive to minor weight variations, and perhaps I’d be as well if I bothered to spend a few hours doing this sort of test, but I don’t think it’s a significant issue. I have better things to do with my time.
The other question raised about the new iPad is its alleged proclivity to run warmer, or possibly even hot. I didn’t go through one of those full hour gaming tests to stretch either iPad to their limits. But at the end of regular use, meaning loading Web sites, playing videos, checking email and other routine tasks, I didn’t notice either model as being that much different in terms of warmth on the rear case. Maybe the iPad 2 ran a tad cooler, but none of this made a difference to me. This isn’t the same as that iPhone 4 Antennagate issue, where it was easy to kill wireless reception if your hands covered the junction between the twin antennas on the lower left. But those symptoms generally arose only if your wireless carrier’s signal strength was marginal, and never if you used a case.
Another criticism leveled against the new iPad is Wi-Fi reception. Some published reports indicate that Apple is looking into issues with the Wi-Fi-only version, because of fewer bars and dropped signals at the fringes of a router’s signal area. Whether this is a hardware or software defect is not for me to know, although Apple will certainly replace the unit under warranty if you have a problem.
But I did run a brief test, using Cisco’s fancy new Linksys EA4500 router, which debuted this week at a street price of about $180. I ran broadband benchmarks on both an iPhone 4s and the new iPad, and didn’t see much difference in measured speeds. It seemed that the iPad was a tad more susceptible to dropping the signal to two bars than the iPhone, but putting them in the same location didn’t present much difference in reception quality.
The larger question is whether the owner of an iPad 2 must upgrade, and the answer is no. You only see the advantage of the Retina Display for close up reading, particularly with e-books. Performance will probably be similar, since the new iPad’s quad-core graphics chip is mostly there to meet the increased demands of the beefier display. Then again, you can still get a decent price for an iPad 2 if you choose to sell it off, so maybe some of you will make that choice anyway.
But if you have an original iPad, or any Android tablet, the decision is obvious. The new iPad may look essentially the same as its predecessor, but it is a worthy upgrade. Steve Jobs would have been proud, although he probably green lit the new model last year.
Accompanied by a large PR and advertising campaign, Nokia and their benefactor, Microsoft, have launched the long-awaited Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone. Predictably, you’re already seeing a fairly decent number of reviews from the mainstream press and tech media. Clearly, Nokia has been busy sending out review samples, hoping for the best.
But the basic conclusions in those reviews should have been predictable, and it ought to give both companies pause, because they clearly aren’t going to conquer the market anytime soon.
Now with Apple and Google busy leapfrogging each other with OS features, and Google’s partners putting out more powerful smartphones every few weeks, it’s clear Nokia and Microsoft had a large mountain to climb. But rather than build a better mousetrap, they appear to be living in the wrong year.
Understand that my personal exposure to Windows Phone gear is limited, but I have done my research, and it doesn’t seem as if advocates of Microsoft’s OS are going to have credible counterarguments. I already put their claims to the test when I interviewed a tech blogger who liked the Nokia smartphone on The Tech Night Owl LIVE.
Had it been released in 2009, the Lumia 900 would have had a fair chance of conquering the marketplace. Windows Phone does seem new and different, even though it’s the same interface that you found on the failed Zune digital media player. It’s easy to use, and works quickly and reliably. The Nokia handset is nice to look at, and has a large, bright screen, although the gadget might just be a bit too large for convenient placement in a normal shirt or pants pocket.
Curiously, the PR release I received inviting me to interview that tech blogger made a big deal about comparing the Lumia 900 to a 2010 iPhone 4, although that comparison is largely bogus. Yes, the Lumia 900’s process is single core, just like the Apple A4. Yes, the clock speed is faster, although it’s real-world performance that really counts, and very few people would complain about the iPhone 4’s snappiness in normal use and service. But the latest iPhone is the 4S. Maybe they didn’t notice?
The Lumia 900’s 4.3-inch screen has an 800×480 resolution, compared to 960×640 and 3.5 inches on the iPhone 4 and 4S. That’s right, the display on a 2010 iPhone is superior to the one on the 2012 Lumia 900. See what I mean about living in the past?
The iPhone 4 weighs 4.8 ounces, compared to 5.6 ounces for the Lumia 900. But, as I said, it’s physically larger. While the introductory price of $99 with a two-year AT&T contract is tempting, there are only very few advantages over the $99 iPhone 4. One is 16GB internal storage (the entry-level iPhone 4 has 8GB), but you can get up to 64GB, at a higher price, on the iPhone 4s. There’s no such expansion option on the Lumia 900. Unlike Apple, Nokia supports the emerging LTE wireless standard, and has a large enough battery to offer decent talk time. Whether that’s a negative depends on which carrier you use, and what sort of download speeds you can get from 3G or faux 4G on an iPhone 4s.
The most troublesome aspect of the Nokia smartphone, however, is the latest and greatest Windows Phone, version 7.5, code-named Mango. It still doesn’t support multitasking, nor does it have anything quite like Apple’s Notification system, or even the one employed on an Android device. Microsoft is still playing catch up.
Now whether the iOS/Android interface scheme or Windows Phone’s tiled theme is better is a matter of personal taste. I’m not enamored of tiles, and I regard the iOS as easier to navigate, and an app’s identity is easier to recognize via icons than in a sea of connected lookalike tiles. A reviewer from Ars Technica reminds us that Windows Phone doesn’t make it easy to reorganize your most-used apps either. For someone who doesn’t download lots of apps — and Microsoft’s software repository is far smaller than Apple’s and Google’s — maybe it’s a tad simpler to use until you wish to move beyond the basics.
In short, the Lumia 900 appears to be a perfectly good smartphone, but it doesn’t advance the state of the art in any way that I can see. Microsoft’s usual excuse, when you ask them about a missing feature, is that it’s being developed and will be there in a future version. But the market won’t wait. As Apple develops iOS 6, and Google’s developers work on an Android upgrade, the next iteration of Windows Phone will likely still be a few steps behind. I’m also troubled by the fact that Nokia’s specs don’t match the latest and greatest Android gear, particularly when it comes to using multicore processors.
As I said, in 2009 the Nokia Lumia 900 would have been a trendsetter. It 2012 it’s an also-ran, and both Nokia and Microsoft are running out of time to get a significant share of a smartphone market that still isn’t taking them seriously.
THE FINAL WORD
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