The iSlate Will Be Announced In

January 22, 2010

The iPad (or iSlate) Skinny

Here's our rundown of what's can, should, might and will come.  We've been working very hard on this, so  be sure to read it all and comment on what you think... Only a few days away!

1. The name: 'iPad' and iSlate have been thrown around.  I've focus-grouped it with 9to5mac readers and iPad seems to do pretty well.  Apple may throw a curveball on this and could even bring back the 'iBook' name it used to use for its consumer laptops.   Believe it or not, smart people in Cupertino and in Venice have given considerable thought to this and they'll come up with something.

2. Pricing: Analysts seem to think that there is no way in the world that people will pay the rumored $800-$1000 for this device.  One thing to consider: this thing will likely have a 3G component to it and be sold subsidized, just like the iPhone, and almost every other handset out there.  In fact, some netbooks are now seeing subsidized pricing from the carriers.  So what does that mean for the tablet?
That means the price could come down to $350 for an $800 product.  Or how about $550 for a $1000 product?  Remember the iPhone, when it was first released, was $599.  Oh and don't forget, we are talking about Apple fanboys here who will mortgage their house to be the first to get their hands on Apple's kit.  So don't worry about the price (it will come down later anyway).

3. "It will save the newspaper, book and magazine industry":  Just like Apple "saved" the music industry?  Apple will provide them a life line would be a better way to put it.
Apple already has a few quality means of getting books and magazines on the iPhone. Scrollmotion, Zineo and other iPhone app developers already bring printed magazines and books to the iPhone.  I'd be surprised if Scrollmotion (who presented at last year's WWDC and had a head start on the 3.0 - in app purchase SDK) didn't already have a head start on the tablet SDK.
Since Apple is also dealing directly with the publishers, it is doubtful that they'd want to let Amazon build an eReader app for their tablet (like Microsoft demoed on the HP tablet).  In fact, Amazon just did an about face and gave publishers a huge break on their cut of book sales this week — so I'd say Apple is making some headway here.  

4. Screen resolution - iFrame.  Have you heard of it?  This one I am far from certain on, but I find Apple's iFrame standard a bit curious.  The resolution is 960x540 which is exactly half of the height and half of the width of 1080P HD, yielding a quarter of the pixels.  Interestingly, iFrame is also about double the length and double the width of the iPhone's 320x480 resolution yielding quadruple the pixels.  This resolution is interesting because it could also give you four iPhone-sized windows to work with.

In this vein, I submit that Apple's newest computer screen – the one on the new, smaller iMac – is exactly 1080P, 1920x1080.  So what's half the diagonal of that screen? 10-11 inches, the very size of the rumored tablet, which would mean iFrame on the tablet would have the same dot pitch as the new smaller iMac, something I think Apple would be pleased with.

That being said, I would like to see one of the 720P movies on this screen natively.   1366x768, 1280x800 or 1280x720 are all possibilities for the wishlist.

5. Processor: Apple bought PA Semi to "make chips for iPhones" as Steve Jobs put it to the New York Times after the deal was made.  If that is indeed the case, then it isn't a stretch to consider that they are making tablet processors as well.  (Contrary to what a German Intel executive said last year). 

Apple is believed to be a licensee of ARM's IP and their platform would make the most sense since the iPhone and even the Newton are both based on ARM designs.  The current ARM Cortex A8 designs fill the high end smartphone world -- the iPhone, Pre, and Droid.

But are these chips powerful and fast enough to run a high-priced, high performance tablet?  Maybe not.  Therefore I am entertaining the idea that Apple has leaped forward a generation and licensed an ARM Cortex A9 design.  These mullti-core designs can run up to 2GHz and are faster than Intel Atom chips, all while using a fraction of the energy.

NVIDIA and Qualcomm both announced ARM Cortex processors at CES this year.  It is certainly possible that Apple is also releasing Cortex A9.  That's about the only hardware that can give faster than Netbook speeds on a device as thick as an iPod touch.
So how fast is a Cortex A9?  The DLink/Boxee Box uses such a chip to do 1080P mediacenter work, which up until now required an Intel chip.    Its design would give Apple a huge advantage over other Intel tablet products in terms of performance per watt, something we know Steve Jobs holds very close to his heart.  The tablet would be able to run for hours/days all the while displaying faster-than-netbook type speeds.

That sounds like the kind of differentiators that will make us fanboys frothy at the mouth.

6. Cameras?  Recent rumors have suggested that the tablet won't have a camera.  This seems highly unfortunate but there might be a caveat here.  Apple patented a way for the pixels of a screen to pick up images just like a CCD in a camera a few years ago.  Perhaps a Bluetooth camera/headset will debut to replace Apple's discontinued bluetooth setup.  
Other reports say that the device will have a camera that recognizes the user using face recognition.  That would bode well for video conferencing and augmented reality browsing as well as photo and video capture.

7. Human Interface?  There have been recent mentions of Apple using a 3D navigation for multi-touch at some point in the future.  Is January the future?  I won't pretend to know this one.  The tablet will probably resemble the iPhone's interface with some sort of Mobile/Lite Finder functionality so it can be used wherever a Netbook can.
I think there will certainly be a multi-touch "language" you need to learn to use this device.  However, being Apple, it will be intuitive and easy to pick up.

8. Apps: I think Apple has to introduce some new apps for this product.  It will be pretty boring without any, especially as no one else has any specifications for it yet.  I think Apple could have a Touch Photoshop type of App at launch - the invite certainly conjures up an image of iPaint.  Apple will hopefully have a word processor and maybe even some other productivity apps as well.  iPhone apps that do video and audio could also become more "Pro" with feature additions too.
Apple is also rumored to be releasing a new version of iLife on January 27th.  The timing would seem to indicate that this version might be multi-touch and available for the tablet.

9. Peripherals: If you are meant to communicate with this thing, then obviously it will need audio in and out. 

A dock that turns the tablet into a full featured computer is a very interesting proposition.  I wonder, though, if Jobs is willing to sacrifice MacBook and Mini sales for this device.  It will be interesting to see how this tablet affects the sales of those products, dock or not. 
I don't know that Apple will let the tablet handle a Bluetooth keyboard for that very reason.  I think Apple wants to fundamentally separate this from your computer workstation .

10. When?  All signs point to March or April with overseas launches coming soon after.

The iPhone, whether Apple likes to admit it or not, is a convergence device.  Not only does it do the things that Steve Jobs mentioned above, it is also a networked camera and a map/compass/GPS.  It does one hundred other things and it does them really well.  What's more, the functions complement each other and make the others better.  With the camera you can take a picture, geotag it, then SMS it to a friend who can locate you on a map.   Any combination of its functionality can yield new uses.  Indeed new ones are invented every day at the App Store.

You could never do that sort of thing before the iPhone because a device that had this many functions and an operating system to handle them didn't exist.

The tablet is the bigger brother of the original convergence device, offering a faster processor, bigger screen and new OS but losing the all-important ability to be pocketed.  Just like we had no idea what the iPhone could do when it was released, we'd be foolish to think we can get our head around what this next device will be able to accomplish.  It could just "redefine the experience of personal computing".

January 18, 2010

Apple iVites The Faithful To Its iSlate Event On Jan 27th

Many websites (including iphonePOV) are reporting that Apple has issued invitations for a media event scheduled for 10:00 AM Pacific Time on January 27th. The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and the invitation's tag line reads "Come see our latest creation."

Apple had been rumored earlier this month to have scheduled a media event for that date and location, and the company is widely expected to introduce its highly-anticipated tablet device at the event.

January 13, 2010

iSlate - Wanted Dead or Alive

The Bozos at vallywag are offering a bounty for real tips on the pending iSlate.  While we respect their gutzpa, we're also pretty sure they're breaking about ten laws (and entering into creepy territory by offering to pay more if Steve Jobs is in the picture.)


Apple filed suit (basically a legal cease and desist) against these bozos, which probably means the offer is off the table. 

iSlate is "iPhone On Steroids"

A new rumor from a self-confessed "Master Of The Obvious" is now referring to the iSlate as an "iPhone on steroids."

Citing a close contact within Apple, somebody with only basic skills in rumor deductions on Wednesday issued a report with alleged new details and specifics on Apple's 10-inch touchscreen device. The source said the device has an internal model number of K48AP and sports an "incredibly fast" ARM-based processor.

What kind of ARM chip remains unknown, though many have speculated that the reference Cortex-A9 design would be a likely candidate for any new hardware. However, one analyst recently claimed that the device would sport a Cortex-A8-based chip with a speed of about 1GHz.

In the report, the source also said that the tablet has multi-touch gestures that are "out of control," and the device runs the on the iPhone kernel. There hasn't been an update to the iPhone OS in some time, the tipster claimed, because the new build has too many tablet-related references that "Apple obviously didn't want to leak."

iSlate Rumor Guide

For those of you who like pictures more than words, we've summed up all the iSlate rumors (and their probabilities) into a nifty little graphic.  Enjoy.

Personally we don't agree with all of the predictions.  We think a webcam is a certainty--if they even release a "slate" device, which is not a certainty.

Needless to say, we'll know in 13 (or 14) days which of these predictions are true.

January 12, 2010

Camera showdown: iPhone 3Gs vs. Nexus One

Rumors cropped up last week that Apple had put down a big order for LED flashes, something useful for one thing, and one thing only: a digital camera. It doesn't take much to figure that the next iteration of the iPhone is likely to be packing one of these, since many of the latest cell phones--including HTC's recently released Nexus One, now have them included.

The Nexus One's 5-megapixel camera also has an LED-powered flash.

That got me thinking: how does the Nexus One's 5-megapixel camera and its eye-searing flash stack up against the 3-megapixel, flashless camera module of the now-aging iPhone 3GS? Is the ability to take bigger, and better-lit photos worth touting as the end-all, be-all feature among smartphone cameras? The easiest way to figure that out is to run a few tests.
Full disclosure here: I'm not a camera-testing expert. I am an avid photographer with a handful of pro gear, as well as a few high school and college photography courses under my belt. I'm not even going to try to get into things like testing dynamic range, color sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio, etc. So instead, I've set up the two cameras to take essentially the same photo in various situations, to see how the two stack up.
All photos in this comparison were taken within the same minute of each other, while balanced from a leveled tripod to maintain the same height and distance. Images were then transferred directly from the devices for analysis. All comparison shots are presented side by size, at full quality, without any recompression or conversion. Any timings were done with a stopwatch.
Basic lens specifications

Apple iPhone 3GS
3-megapixel camera (resolution: 2048x1536 pixels)
autofocus (can also be set by touching the screen to select focal point)
aperture: f2.8
focal length: 3.85mm

HTC Nexus One
5-megapixel camera (resolution: 2592x1944 pixels)
LED flash (optional)
aperture: unknown
focal length: unknown

It's worth noting that Apple is a little more liberal with the camera metadata, something the Nexus One could gain in a future software update. Right now, any photos snapped on it come without things like ISO, exposure time, aperture, and the lens' fixed focal length. However, both come with embedded GPS metadata, which makes for easy geotagging. It's just surprising that Google would have location, but not some of the more rudimentary camera info, within its metadata.
Camera speed
Time to boot built-in camera app:
iPhone 3GS: about 2.5 seconds
Nexus One: About a second
Lag between pressing the button, getting the shot, then returning to on-screen preview for next shot:
iPhone 3GS: A little less than 2 seconds
Nexus One: A little less than 2 seconds

Macro focus
Macro photo testing was done with a tape measure and a shipping box.

A camera's macro-focusing capabilities are no minor benchmark. This is how good your camera is at focusing as close to a subject as possible. This is most useful for taking shots of business cards, bar codes, and QR codes.
Between the two, the 3GS gives users a bit more control over what area they want to focus on, allowing users to simply touch the phone's screen to select the part of the photo they'd like in focus. The Nexus One, on the other hand, does the thinking for users, putting things into focus as it sees fit. In other words, users don't really know what the camera will focus on until after it takes the picture.
For our testing, we set a tape measure out across a table, and moved a labeled box closer and closer to the phone's camera, until it reached an optimal focus. For the iPhone, that length was 2.5 inches on the dot. A centimeter closer, and it lost a noticeable amount of sharpness. The Nexus One was able to pull in just a tad (and we do mean a tad) closer than the iPhone, coming in at 2.4 inches. To take it a step further, you can pull in both phones to about an inch of a subject and still have details such as text be legible. It's just not anywhere near as sharp as it is from 2.5 inches and beyond.
Both cameras' close-focusing capabilities are to be commended, but between the two, we'd happily put the 3GS out as the victor. Despite it's 0.1-inch disability, it lets you see what will be in focus before you take the shot. It also refocuses as you get closer or farther away from your subject, which the Nexus One does not.
Low-light sensitivity
Low-light performance is one of the big differentiators between these two cameras. Any camera nerd will likely scoff at the low-light capabilities of a camera phone and its tiny sensor, but in real-world use, this ends up being important. Having a camera you can use with less-than-ideal lighting can be incredibly valuable.
The first part of the low-light test has both cameras taking photos in a darkened room, with very little available lighting. And the second test compares the iPhone to the Nexus One in an even darker room, with the Nexus One's flash on.

Darkened room

The iPhone 3GS versus the Nexus One, from the same height and distance (in low light). Click to enlarge.

Darker room

The iPhone versus the Nexus One in a very dark room. The third shot makes use of the Nexus One's flash. Click to enlarge.

Low-light noise

Pixel noise from the same shot, seen in its native resolution.

Worth noting is that the Nexus One had considerably less noisy phones than the iPhone in identical situations. Even with plenty of available light, the iPhone's photos still had a noticeable amount of grain, when viewed at 100 percent.
That said, the noise on the iPhone can be more pleasing. Take a look at the shot from the darkened room: there were fewer blue color aberrations within the grain, the kind you can really see when viewed on a large monitor or photo print. Such things can be removed in post-processing, but it's nice to start out with fewer.
Both cameras exhibited very little distortion--at least not enough to ruin your photos, if you're taking shots of things like buildings. Straight lines stay straight, and subjects that appear in the corners of the frame do not look bent or stretched. This isn't very surprising, given that both lenses have fixed focal lengths and aren't very wide.
Focal length
The iPhone's focal length is 3.85mm, but because of the tiny sensor's crop factor, this ends up being equivalent to a 37mm lens. The Nexus One is noticeably wider. Shots taken with it, from the same place as with an iPhone, show much more of the scene within the frame. Using the Nexus One is basically like taking a big step back, if you were to be using the iPhone. This can come in handy, if you're snapping pictures in a small room, or trying to get a tall building into your shot without having to change positions.

Other notes
• Both cameras make it easy to see what's in the frame with a large preview display. Between the two, the Nexus One's higher-resolution OLED screen presents a more vibrant image with noticeably deeper blacks. It also has a faster frame rate, leaving less on-screen blurring when you're framing your subject.

Android's camera app has a number of advanced settings the iPhone's stock camera does not offer.

• The Nexus One's camera app comes with a number of advanced settings the iPhone's stock camera app does not. This includes the options to turn the flash on and off, to tweak the white balance, to apply a digital color filter, to pick the quality and size of the shot, to change the focus mode to infinity, and to turn geotagging on or off.
• The Nexus One's camera lens is protected by the back of the phone's case, which can be removed to access the battery, SIM card, and MicroSD slot. This could lead to a wealth of aftermarket camera add-ons, which, for the iPhone, have come in the form of cases.
• Photos taken on the Nexus One are automatically stored to the microSD memory card, meaning that you can retrieve your photos, even if the rest of the phone goes kaput.

Unfair comparisons aside (we are, after all, comparing newer technology to older), it's pretty clear that the Nexus One's camera is more capable than what's found in Apple's 3GS. Was this a surprise? No. But it is great to see how big of a gap there is between the hardware packed into a device unveiled in June of last year and the hardware we're getting in January of this year.
Even better, both of these cameras can be augmented with extra hardware goodies that can make photo taking in new directions (the Nexus One especially, as noted above). Software can help a phone's camera go far beyond its stock capabilities. This has already been proven true on both platforms, which have a myriad of camera apps, though Android developers continue to have the problem of an increasingly wider range of hardware they need to support.
The most surprising difference in the two cameras is the difference in the low-light performance. When you're shooting in a dark or darkened room, you're going to want a camera with a flash. Otherwise, you end up with a grainy, almost-unviewable shot. This was most apparent in our poster picture from the darker-room test above. Whereas the iPhone came out on top in picking up the poster with no flash (likely due to a higher baseline ISO), it got blown away, in terms of colors, sharpness, and noise, when the Nexus One got to break out its flash.
Of course, neither of these phone cameras is as desirable as a point-and-shoot or, even better, a real SLR with a big, light-sucking sensor in it. But in a pinch, I'd take the camera on the Nexus One over the iPhone's any day. Even without the flash.

iSlate Webcam (Maybe Yes, Maybe No)

In classic Apple rumor fashion, various "reliable sources" are offering contrasting opinions on whether the iSlate (which incidentally, may or may not be introduced in a few days) will possess a web camera. We think yes--even shitty cell phones have a video camera--and it will be able to provide nifty iChatty Video for those of us that aren't satisfied with just "sexting." (Video chats will be limited to WiFi connections)

You heard it hear first.

January 11, 2010

iPhone, Droid, Nexus One, and Eris capacitive touch screens compared

iPhonePOV Touchscreen Analysis from iPhonePOV on iPhonePOVision.

So smartphone hardware is smartphone hardware right?  They probably all use the same capacitive touch screen parts from the same suppliers in China right? Actually no.  And this test from MOTO proves it.  According to their (frankly a bit unscientific) tests, the capacitive touch screens from Motorola and HTC aren't nearly as accurate as the one that Apple uses in the iPhone.  Whether this is related to software or hardware isn't certain, but it is clear that Apple's iPhone has a distinctive lead in touch screen accuracy, which in turn leads to a better touch and typing experience.  Perhaps this is yet another example of Apple's hardware/software integration proving to be an advantage.

January 6, 2010

iSlate Coming

Well well. It looks like we're on the verge of receiving a giant "iPhone" from good old Steve. Here's the skinny and what might happen:

Several sources close to iPhonePOV have reported that the product will be announced in the last week of January (though there is some disagreement about whether that will happen on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week). A source for Bloomberg is corroborating that an Apple tablet will be unveiled at the end of the month. Echoing a report from Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Bloomberg's source also says that the as-yet-unnanounced tablet will go on sale in March, so consumers shouldn't have much of a wait to get their hands on the device. (Incidentally, Bloomberg's source once dated iPhonePOV's source, so we're inclined to believe this is all true.)

Apple is also expected to unveil an SDK and tablet "simulator" for developers to prepare apps for the new device, according to sources for French Mac website Mac4Ever. The SDK may already be in the hands of a select number of developers asked by Apple to modify existing iPhone apps to work with a larger screen. Those apps would be demoed during the product announcement. (We have no source for this, but a little birdie told us, so we believe this is true, too.)

That developers could modify existing iPhone apps to work on the tablet suggests that it will have an interface and user interaction very similar to the iPhone. However, the tablet is expected to have at least some new "unexpected" UI features. Apparently that new UI will come with a steep learning curve, according to information supposedly gleaned from an anonymous Apple employee. (We don't believe this... If you don't count their numerous dysfunctional mouses (be they mighty or magic) Apple Inc. spends millions to reduce learning curves.)

"This person is an employee of Apple and had just had a meeting regarding some of the new things coming," a reader told Cult of Mac. "He/She would not go into details, but did say that he/she hoped we liked learning." That doesn't sound very Apple-y to us, but using the iPhone's onscreen keyboard, which is second nature now, took some getting used to initially. (We think the "hoped we liked learning" has more to do with the positioning of the devise--as a student aid for textbooks and classes--than the UI.)

Lastly, it looks like Verizon customers will finally get some Apple love. Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall cites several sources saying that rumors of a Verizon partnership for providing mobile networking for the device are in fact true. "The tablet will be supported by multiple carriers, Verizon and others," Marshall told Computerworld. "Definitely Verizon. I've been told that's a certainty." (This is hard to believe because very few internet devices (actually none) are compatible with multiple networks--some are technically capable of it, but that doesn't mean different competing telcoms will allow them on their networks.)

The rash of leaks from anonymous sources may be part of a concerted effort by Apple to keep the hype up in the face of numerous announcements of mobile products during CES this week—especially a rumored HP tablet set to be unveiled during tonight's keynote. Of course, Apple is officially keeping a tight lip about what's in store. "We are not going to comment on rumors and speculation," Apple spokeperson Steve Dowling told Bloomberg. (Hmmm... Isn't not commenting on rumors a form of commenting?)

Iphone controlled Drone

This is equally cool and scary. We've already got a unit and are testing it as we write this. We'll have a full review soon.