Christmas Tablet Technology Guide

With every passing year, the electronic gizmos are finding themselves under the tree more often. This year, we figured we would help you with the many tablet options. The tablet field is rapidly becoming a crowded one and we now we have sizes from 7 to 12 inches. I also think it’s important to understand that a relationship with buying a tablet is likely a two to three year relationship. One consistent finding is that smaller units typically support 720p and the larger units tend to support the 1080p standard, but we were surprised by two exceptions here.  It also makes practical sense but bear in mind you can take the ‘HDMI out’ to a larger screen and there is no upgrading a device from 720p to 1080p. There’s also what might fit in your wife’s purse (hint hint).

Apple iPad Mini
At 8”, it might hit a sweet spot as most are either larger or smaller. It supports 720p video on the display, yet supports 1080p video recording.  It is available in either black or white and prices range from $329 for a 16GB version up to $529 for a 64GB version. Important to note here is that it does not have the same Retina display as the regular iPad.

Retails  at $499 for 16GB to $699 for the 64GB version and is also available in black or white and the display supports 1080p video. Additionally, it’s a few more dollars for the 4G option as well.

Windows Surface
Microsoft recently introduced the 10.6” Surface, a new player to the field that is called ‘live tiles’. It is found in Windows 8 and this particular variant, called Windows 8 RT. In short, live tiles means that those items on the main menu desktop change content based on variables. This also marks the first time in my memory that Microsoft is selling direct to the public via web site. Windows is including the SkyDrive, which is similar to Apple’s iCloud. At $499 for a 32GB model, it has double the RAM of the iPad 3 that retails for the same price. Windows also has a neat touch cover for an extra $100 that integrates a keyboard for faster everything and comes in five different colors!  There is also a 64GB version, which only comes with a touch cover for $699, which is the same price as the Apple IPad 3 with 64GB of memory.  The Surface falls short on the display as for its size- it should support full 1080p. Then again, as they state that Windows 8 comes to Surface in Early 2013 starting at $899, they have now lost me as a Windows 8RT Surface buyer as the Windows 8 RT does not appear to be upgradeable to Windows 8 Pro though it appears it’s the only way you’ll ever see 1080p on the Surface.

Samsung Series 7 Slate
At 11.6”, it starts at $1,099 and goes to a whopping $1,349. It weighs in about two pounds, but will run Windows 8 Pro and comes with an Intel  i5 processor. This reminds me of the day when someone said PCs would cost less than $1,000; but I would not have imagined that tablets are getting both heavier and more expensive. I will be interested to see how this plays in the market but in my opinion, it’s a pretty high price point, especially if you consider it only supports 720p.That’s right, $1,349 and no 1080p!

Kindle Fire HD
If the full-blown tablets seem a bit pricey, Amazon’s feature-rich Kindle Fire HD and Barnes and Noble’s Nook HD are superb options. The Kindle Fire is available in four versions but for the sake of HD, we’ll stick to three of them. A  7” HD version for $199 that supports 720p and a 9” version for $299 that does the full 1080p. If you want 4G connectivity, it bumps up considerably to $499.

Nook HD
A 7” tablet that comes in either white or smoke colors and starts at $199 for an 8GB versions and bumps to $229 for the 16GB version and support 720p HD.

Nook HD+
This is a 9” tablet and is priced at $269 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB version and supports 1080p full HD.

To reward you for bearing with me, here’s something FUN AND FREE at Christmas for all. What you ask? The Amtrak Holiday Express Train

It’s 450 tons of fun !


Upgrading Apple Mobile Devices to IOS6 – “A How To”

Oh yes, the buzz and downloads are in the air. It’s time when Apple shares are up past $700 giving us the “I wish I had bought them at $600” feeling. I see them getting to $800 by February due to the iPad mini release (expected next month) and Christmas sales- not to mention the iTV replacement device.  And let’s not forget the rumored iPhone 6 spring release.

Major new features. The new features include Apple’s own maps, which wholly replace Google maps including turn-by-turn GPS navigation. Siri (hyperlink) got smarter and has more current data on movies, open apps by saying “Open Angry Birds” and commands like “Launch Flight Tracker”. Passbook (hyperlink) helps you with boarding passes, movie passes or redeeming coupons. Also, if you’re at the wrong airplane terminal, Siri will remind you so you don’t miss your flight. How cool is that!

Facetime now goes over cellular where it was previously only over Wifi, but remember to watch that data usage! The new IOS 6 also has the ability to flag the more important e-mail senders so you’re not having to wade through ‘everything’ to  find if something is from a more important sender. I can only hope I am on that list for many folks!

What devices can be upgraded? Onto the IOS upgrade for those of us not ready to pony up for new hardware again. This upgrade will work on iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, iPad2 and iPad3 and the fourth generation iPod Touch as well. A good idea is to upgrade it on the computer you connect to most often where you don’t mind the data being shared.  For instance, don’t upgrade your personal IOS device on a company PC as the data will be there subject to discovery by your employer. Keeping work and personal info separate is a best practice.

How do I do it? There are basically four easy steps here. What’s important is to expect it to take 30-45 minutes and ensure your device is mostly charged before beginning. Also, it can be done over the air using your 3G/4G, but it is much preferred to connect to a computer so it can be backed up locally prior to upgrading. If you wish to perform the upgrade without connecting to a PC or Mac, you’ll need to have at least 2.5 GB free to do it.

  1. Ensure you have the latest version of iTunes installed. Most important item. You don’t get to second base without passing first base. For some, this iTunes upgrade may require a reboot. After iTunes is up to date, connect your iOS device. Then ‘Transfer Purchases’ to not lose those items that you have paid for previously.
  2. Perform a backup of the device using iTunes. A little common sense here will go a long way if it does not go ‘according to plan’. In iTunes, click on your iOS device and the click on ‘Check for Updates’.

  3. Select ‘Download and Update’. This starts the upgrade process in earnest. Some folks have reported that this did not work for them, but when they only asked for “download” then selected “update” separately, it worked for them. A little Plan B here for you.
  4. Be patient. Do not interrupt the upgrade process. There will be activity and status bars on the device during the upgrade. After the upgrade is completed, a screen will prompt for action on the iOS device. You may also want to use the App Store on your iOS device to update any existing apps that have new features unique to IOS 6.  

A Few Tips to Maximize Battery Life. In short, Apple has a history of the upgrades going pretty darn smoothly and the new features are many. The greatest shortcoming here is battery life, so it’s important that you turn off features you don’t use. Here are four easy areas to review.

  1. See what is currently running. To do this, double-click on the round “home” button. You can then hold down an icon until they start wiggling. Shut down the ones you’re not currently using. You’re not deleting anything, just freeing up a little memory. The less memory you use, the longer the battery lasts!
  2. Location Services. This one relates to both security and battery usage. Every program wants to know where you are so it can ‘help you more’. Thing is, I am not sure I want all programs to know where I am as it also tells folks like would-be-burglars that I may not be at home or be able to get there before they can ransack my house or worse. I don’t allow social media apps to access my location, but the Find Friends I allow- my wife or children may need to know where I am. Siri on Apple is infinitely more useful if it know your location as you ask for the “nearest Bank of America’ but if you don’t use Siri, you’d be well-advised to turn it off as well.  Also, as maps can pinpoint your current location if you’re lost, it’s great to know where you are at the current moment.
  3. Turn of Cellular Data when not in use. Although it’s tough to remember, when traveling and a power plug is not always close, you may want to turn off one or the other. If a fast WiFi connection is handy, turn off ‘Cellular Data’ (General, Network, Cellular Data). It keeps your phone from seeking and using cellular 3G/4G connections, but does not prevent you from receiving phone calls.
  4. Turn off WiFi when not in use. The same theory applies here as well. If your ‘Cellular Data’  is ‘On’ and you’re not looking to connect to a WiFi, understand that your phone is constantly seeking a new WiFi connection. This takes its toll on the battery as well.

In a rather large nutshell, that’s how to upgrade and how to save energy to maximize battery life on the Apple IOS devices.