Category Archives: Personal Technology

Coffee Shop Computing circa Dec 2012

Let’s agree that computing extends to iPads and iPhones, tablets and smartphones and the iPod touch. I prefer to get my morning exercise and some caffeinated computing done while outside the house at a local coffee spot. My rule is that I can’t go play at the local coffee shop unless I walk there. Seems fair.

I have a near weightless REI backpack to carry my gear – the kind designed for carrying water while cycling. Here is my current configuration:

  • retina MacBook Pro 13″
  • iPad 3 and/or iPad mini
  • iPhone 5

With this lineup, there’s no need for an extra keyboard, I’ll use the rMBP if there’s much typing involved. And love every minute of it. Cost 3.5 lbs.

Favorite writing apps include Day One, Byword and iA Writer. I’ve grown to prefer apps that support markdown because rich text isn’t universally supported across apps and is especially weak on iOS. I also prefer doing my email (Mail), strenuous web research (Safari) , free form diagramming (Scapple) and other non-iOS work like FileMaker Pro development on Mac (I just finished release 12 of my Studio Manager product – yay!). I got a lot more enthused about Mac once I acquired this retina wonder in October.

Reading, which is probably the biggest chunk of my time on these outings, is done on iPad 3 with its awesome retina and better reading form factor. It’s almost a toss up between the 3 and my cute, svelte, nearly weightless iPad mini. I often take both of these so I have the choice between the sheer eye pleasure of retina or the feather-weight delight of the mini. If you take the iPad 3, what’s another .68 lbs? Both offers you the chance to switch away from the iPad 3 if it starts feeling heavy after a while. The already rumored retina mini may make this twosome obsolete next year. The only casualty in all this has been a Kindle – I haven’t popped for a nearly free ($119) Kindle Paperwhite due to lack of juggling capability. Even I have my limits.

Where does that leave the iPhone 5 then? This handheld of choice is still relevant my friends. The form factor is incredibly ahem handy especially when moving or in line. You still can’t beat the ease of use you get when in motion – walking to and from my coffee place of choice. If not in hand, it is in pocket and ready at a moment’s notice. I still prefer this little guy when reading in bed or on the couch in many cases. This preference will probably go away once the retina iPad mini is here. But the iPhone 5 awesome retina – better than ever due to blacker blacks, is a serious competitor for reading with the much less rewarding text of the iPad mini. Don’t forget all those lines we wait in. The omnipresent iPhone 5 is there by your side. No pack or purse required. It doesn’t hurt that it has cellular data either.

iPad mini in hand

I’ve had hands on with the white iPad mini for 2 days now. It’s incredibly small and light. What a difference. The lack of retina resolution is the only weakness. Extremely small type is most affected. Retina fanatics should check one out at the Apple store, Best Buy or other store carrying one to see the screen and size for yourself.

Which iPad to use when? I can’t tell yet whether the split in use between big and small iPads will be 50-50 or what.  It will be interesting to see whether the pleasure of using such a small and light iPad will exceed the pleasure of full-on retina and by how much. But the iPad mini insures that I will have an iPad with me more often. It will especially help for apps that are iPad only like Thinkbook and Paper. Or for iBooks Author ebooks.

Screen Size and Smaller targets. You can adjust the size of type in most iPad apps to adjust for the smaller screen. The smaller buttons and icons work perfectly well in most cases. Any iPad apps size down without a hitch. But, some small things like the text in the bookmarks bar in Safari get really small. It doesn’t pay to try to tap them on the mini. I just type my letter abbreviations into the unified location and search field. The screen is huge compared to the iPhone but that doesn’t eliminate all negative consequences of a screen size shrink. Popular apps will get little tweaks to optimize for the mini in the next weeks. Flipboard has already been tweaked.

Web surfing. Compared to web surfing with an iPhone, the iPad mini is a dream. This little guy will travel well and will be there with your iPhone to help you out when you need a bigger screen. It just won’t help quite as thoroughly as its big brother. Keep in mind that mostly the iPad mini just works and replaces iPad 3 without incident, but I am looking for the flaws and differences here and have found a few.

Advantages. The most important advantages of the iPad mini are the $170 less it costs and its wonderful hand-friendly size and weight. I paid $729 for my 32gb iPad 3 with LTE and $329 for the 16gb wifi-only mini. That’s $400 less. When I need internet and I’m away from wi-fi I can create a personal hotspot on my iPhone and connect my mini that way. I’ll manage with 16 gigs and 1 more LTE device is too many even for me.

Retina mini. A year from now, we will likely have one and the perfect iPad may be realized. I didn’t want to wait a year for a retina version of a smaller iPad. If Apple had chosen to charge $399 and offered this year’s version in retina, I would have bought one and been a little happier I think – retina fanatic that I am. I am not so price sensitive that the cost would have deterred me. But the weight and thickness would have been more and will be more even next year.

The iPad mini will sooner or later cross that retina divide. Meanwhile, I have an awesome little iPad that will let me have access to amazing apps that I love and find essential. Retina or otherwise, most of the time I’m not focusing on the retina or not-retina. I’m reading, learning, writing, drawing, researching and being entertained regardless.

Considerations on Whether to Get an iPad mini

Oct 29: I see that all models of the iPad mini are now showing 2 weeks for their delivery time in the US Apple store. Brave souls have taken the plunge sight unseen. It would help to evaluate this new device to hold it in one’s hand and try it out though. I’ll report back to you on Friday when mine arrives.

Like most Apple products, the build of the smaller tablet is excellent, easily surpassing the competition on the market. By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys. Other manufacturers are going to have to up their game with this product in town. It’s just a striking difference in materials and solidness.

Updated Oct 26: I  preordered a white, wifi-only 16gb iPad mini at midnight Thursday. Please note, I would get an LTE 32gb iPad mini if it was my only iPad but I’m keeping my iPad 3 LTE. I can create a personal wi-fi hotspot with my iPhone 5 for my mini if needed.

At $329, the iPad mini is a more costly than we expected. I had it pegged at $249 and some thought Apple might get crazy and hit $199. I already have the iPad 3 which is now old news with the new iPad 4 announced yesterday.

I thought I would pounce on the mini when I imagined it to be a cheap smaller iPad even if it wasn’t retina because I wanted a Nexus 7-sized tablet that could be a cross between a color kindle and an iPad. I could forget about Kindle and be iPad all the time using my iPad 3 at home mostly when a bigger screen seemed better and using the mini around town when I was travelling light.

Spoiled by the size and lightness of the Kindle 2, I’ve wanted a smaller, lighter iPad all along. I bought a Kindle Fire last December. Even though it is a bit of brick, I liked the size especially for reading. I bought a Nexus 7 in July and love its size, shape and weight. Both of these are gathering dust because I can’t get the apps I want on these devices. I’m not married to google, so that ecosystem doesn’t hold me. I strongly prefer iBooks as an ereader to the Kindle app and don’t appreciate the dumbed down interface on the Fire.

There is inherent loss in just reducing a product in size. We took the time to go back to the beginning and design a product that was a concentration of, not a reduction of, the original. – Jony Ive

These are my big considerations on whether to get this little iPad mini:

  1. The size, thinness and lightness. Everything I liked about the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 will be even better on the mini. It will be easier to hold while I’m using it. It won’t have to be propped up and accommodated to get into a comfortable position. It will be cute and lovable. It will be fun.
  2. It doesn’t have a retina display. I love my iPhone 5, iPad 3 and MacBook Pro retina displays. Firsthand observers who played with the iPad mini yesterday say it is noticeably not a retina display. The word disappointed was mentioned even though further comments emphasized that the screen is very good and better than the iPad 2 screen which is good. I hope the greatly reduced size and weight is more than a fair trade for losing retina. Even for someone spoiled by other retina devices. Retina is high priced in terms of size and weight (you need more batteries).
  3. It’s expensive especially when compared to the Kindle HD 7 and Nexus 7. The comparable Nexus 7 is $249. You have to pay an extra $79 to get the better hardware (but not better screen) and app ecosystem. That hurts. On the other hand, you know very well that $79 doesn’t go far and your time has value. If this tool works for you, do you want the best in class tool or one of the cheaper, economy tools?
  4. It’s a cheap iPad. I paid $359 for my Kindle 2, so this is an amazing bargain in a lot of ways. This is going to be great if you don’t have an iPad yet. It’s $170 cheaper than the iPad 4 retina.
  5. Should you have both a mini and a regular, though? That’s my question. How many devices can you use? This may just be a the right tool for the job situation. I know that my iPad 3 is great when I’m sitting up in bed with my knees up. It’s great on a table with my Logitech keyboard cover when typing. When I need room for whatever reason, that bigger canvas will still be preferable. But when those situations aren’t there and I want easy and light, like for reading which is my highest percentage use, the truly pad-sized, iPad mini will be great! The iPad mini will be a lighter adjunct to my laptop when I need to bring it along with me.

One thing I consider when indulging in more than one iPad or other tablet device like the Kindle or Nexus 7 is that we are moving away from paper. As we do so, we will need digital paper devices of different sizes just as paper pads and notebooks come in a variety of sizes. We don’t limit ourselves to one size of paper pad but use many sizes. The full-sized iPad may be your perfect size, especially if you are a fairly large-sized human. Women, normal to small-sized men and children will really love the iPad mini’s smaller, lighter, more portable form factor.

One last thought. The iPad mini will certainly get a retina display in a future update. Just as the Macbook Airs will get retina. But, the extra size, weight and processing requirements of the retina display are tradeoffs that these diminutive devices cannot yet abide.

Related post: Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire 2 vs. iPad mini updated Oct 23 2012.

Other good posts on iPad mini:
eReader Joy: New: iPad Mini.
Josh Topolsky, the Verge: Apple iPad mini Hands On
iPhone J.D.: Why Lawyers will love the 4th gen iPad and iPad mini
James Kendrick: iPad mini: Why I’m buying one as soon as possible

iPhone 5 in Hand

Got iPhone 5. Lighter is better. It’s just as solid as ever but lighter. Loving the extra screen real estate. That extra app row on the screen and in app folders is working for me.

Screen looks wonderful. Better than my home screen here which is compressed.

Shortly after it arrived yesterday I went upstairs to show my neighbor. He and I were both surprised by how different it seemed. We wanted and were happy for that surprise!

It does seem skinnier and taller, but you get used to it on day 1. Now my iPhone 4S seems heavy and clunky in comparison.

This screenshot closes the deal. These are the best apps going and I wouldn’t switch to Android or Windows Phone 8 or whatever other platform someone concocts until such time as the hardware and apps are as as good as this.

I love the sleek little Lightning connector. It is elegant. If only all previous devices and connectors could automagically shrink and slenderize. I could live without seeing another one of those just fine thanks.

By the way, Verizon is working very well. Getting LTE in Tiburon, CA and enjoying it just as I have on my Verizon iPad 3. I am a switcher this time around from AT&T and so far my reception at home where I do most of my work is better. I got the 2 gb shared plan for $100/mo which I’m hoping I can fold my iPad 3 under. I haven’t come close to using the 1 gig I had for my iPad so I think 2 gigs will be sufficient for both.

Steve would be proud.

I’ll be filling you in on more either by embellishing this post or adding a second.

See also: Jeff Richardson of iPhone J.D. has a great set of excerpts from early reviews. His In the News post on iPhone Day is also an incredible summary piece.