By now, you’re probably familiar with Apple’s latest earbuds. But are they an improvement over their arguably disposable predecessor, you ask? You bet. Still, they’re not going to win out over high-end or even mid-range audio options. That’s to be expected, though — the EarPods do sound better, and, well, they cost 29 bucks and ship with all of the devices Apple announced today. The attractive white ‘buds are packaged in a plastic case that’s quite similar to the enclosure that Apple introduced with its previous-gen step-up set. They’re very lightweight, not that you had any doubts, and appear to be durable enough. The “one size fits all” design worked well in our ears — it wasn’t a snug fit by any means, but we didn’t fear that they’d fall to the ground with the slightest movement.
You’ll net the best performance in quieter settings, considering that they don’t isolate sound like some other options on the market, and if you’re a frequent air traveler or often find yourself working in noisy environments, you’ll probably want to consider other options. That said, folks who don’t need the absolute best or want to save up for a better solution should find these to be sufficient — we didn’t have a chance to do any in-depth testing and analysis, but expect that to come after we’ve had a chance to digest all of today’s new gadgets. For now, you can take a closer look in the hands-on gallery just below.
At long last, the iPhone 5. We just got our hands on Apple’s latest smartphone following its unveiling in San Francisco, and suffice it to say, it’s a beautiful thing. Some might say we’ve been waiting for this moment since October 4th of last year, but another crowd may say that the real next-gen iPhone has been on the burner for much longer. Indeed, this is the first iPhone since June of 2010 to showcase an entirely new design, but it’s obvious that Apple’s not going to deviate far when it comes to aesthetics.
Apple followers will aptly recall Steve Jobs’ quote in July of 2010 — you know, that one about “no one” wanting a big phone, with current CEO Tim Cook seated just feet from Steve as the phrase was uttered. Now, however, Apple’s inching ever closer to that very realm, with an elongated 4-inch display that enables new apps to take advantage of more pixels (1,136 x 640), while legacy apps can still operate within a familiar space. The phone itself doesn’t feel too much different than the iPhone 4 and 4S; yes, it’s a bit taller, but by keeping the width the same, you’ll utilize a very familiar grasp to hold it.
In typical Apple fashion, even the finest details have been worked over tirelessly. The metal feels downright elegant to the touch, and the same line we’ve said time and time again applies here: there’s no doubting the premium fit and finish when you clutch one of these things. Yeah, the headphone port’s now on the bottom, but avid Galaxy Nexus iPod touch users shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting.
Yes, finally — finally — Apple’s years-long headphone debacle may finally be at an end, with the introduction this morning of redesigned earbuds. Their new name: “EarPods.” Like so many things from today’s Apple press conference, the new earphones look an awful lot like a leak we saw earlier this month. Apple says the new earphones feature, “a breakthrough design for a more natural fit and increased durability, and an incredible acoustic quality typically reserved for higher-end earphones.” As seen above, they feature a main and secondary grill on each “pod,” and the iPhone version has an inline remote / microphone built-in along the wire. The set looks starkly different from past Apple earphone offerings — no rubber, distinctly less visible metal, and an all-plastic outer shell.
Rather than create a plugged-up seal as most in-ear headphones do, the pods rest at the edge of your ear canal with the main grill directed straight into it. A port on the back of each bud helps airflow to enhance the midrange, while dual ports on the bottom of each stem helps the bass response. Overall, the intention is to maximize airflow for optimal sound quality. Apple claims the design results in, “overall audio quality [that's] so impressive, they rival high-end headphones that cost hundreds of dollars more.” They’re available today for purchase as a standalone, and will ship with the new iPod Touch, Nano, and iPhone 5. A standalone set with an inline remote / mic will cost you the same $29 price point of its predecessor — and they’re already available at the source link below.
Apple refreshes iPod nano: 2.5-inch multitouch display, 16GB, Bluetooth, available this October for $149
With news of Apple’s shining star, the iPhone 5, out of the way, the company’s shifting focus to its other major pillar: the iPod. Now seven generations in, the iPod nano is getting a refresh with a 38-percent thinner profile and svelte 5.4mm thickness. The multitouch screen now measures 2.5-inches across and sports a physical home button right below. Also packed in to this evolutionary PMP leap is an FM tuner with DVR-like functionality for playback control, Bluetooth radio (for wireless streaming support), inbuilt pedometer and, of course, that slimmed-down Lightning dock connector. And, according to Cupertino, this wee media player should last for up to 30 hours, making it the longest lasting nano the company’s ever built. You can snag this 16GB lil’ fella in a near rainbow of colors — seven in all — this October when it goes on sale for $149.
Its name is enough to send CEOs into cold sweats, which is why the rest of the mobile world spent last week announcing their hardware back-to-back to steal a march on this handset. Now, after all of the rumor, speculation and leaks, Apple’s sixth iPhone has finally been unveiled in San Francisco. We’ve got around 45 minutes before the world begins idly speculating about next year’s iteration, so let’s spend what little time we have delving into what’s changed between now and the last time we were here.
Now we’re intrigued. It’s a common (if unconfirmed) belief that the next iPhone will support LTE-based 4G, but the Wall Street Journal now understands through the ever-present “people familiar with the matter” that Apple is taking 4G worldwide. Where the current iPad only supports two LTE frequencies and drops to HSPA+ outside of the US and Canada, the new iPhone will supposedly cover parts of Asia and Europe as well. The exact countries haven’t been outlined, although it’s easy to imagine Apple going for those countries where 4G speeds matter the most: there’s been rumblings of talks with KT and SK Telecom in South Korea, but we could also see France, Germany, Japan and Scandiavian countries in the mix. The rumor hasn’t been confirmed, of course. That said, the iPhone was already purported to be using a new cellular chipset — and a number of carriers, most often in the US, have long said they won’t carry new smartphones unless LTE is part of the package. We’ll know the full scoop on Wednesday.
We haven’t seen weather stations garner the same level of clever mobile integration as other pieces of household gear — like, say, thermostats. Netatmo wants its newly available Urban Weather Station to inject a similar dose of life into a category that some of us still associate with the thermometer by the window. The aluminum tube design certainly gives a fresh look to the WiFi-linked indoor and outdoor sensors, but the real trick is the matching iOS (and eventually Android) app. It’s for more than just gauging the wisdom of biking to work: the free app tracks historical trends and shares them with fellow users in a network that Netatmo hopes will provide a better understanding of wider-scale and longer-term trends. The sensors go beyond just obvious air quality, humidity, pressure and temperature conditions as well, flagging noise levels and warning if the CO2 levels are high enough to warrant airing out the house. The $179 price for the Urban Weather Station isn’t trivial, but neither is knowing just how well you can cope with your environment.
If your company doesn’t have a camera with WiFi sharing somewhere in your lineup, many will say you’re not even in the photography game. Fujifilm is definitely playing: welcome the FinePix F800EXR, its first camera with wireless sharing as part and parcel of the experience. Its centerpiece is a free Photo Receiver app for Android and iOS devices that will catch as many 30 images at a time from an ad hoc WiFi camera link. The matching (if unceremoniously named) Camera Application can return the gesture by geotagging shots as well as finding existing photos on the map. Fujifilm will even pre-Instagram the photos through six new on-camera filters for those who can’t stand posting images online without at least some Lomo or tilt-shift effects thrown in.
As for the actual camera part of the camera, Fujifilm is keeping afloat in the competitive waters with a 16-megapixel, CMOS-based EXR sensor that can widen the dynamic range or lower the noise if sheer resolution isn’t all that vital. An equally noteworthy 20x (25-500mm equivalent) lens out in front will zoom in a lot closer than any phone camera — well, most of them. We’re otherwise looking at the technology we’d expect in a point-and-shoot of this class, such as full-resolution burst shooting at up to eight frames per second, 1080p video and a RAW mode for image quality sticklers. Stores should have the F800EXR in August for about $350, or about as much as the Galaxy Nexus that just might serve as its companion.
The wait between iOS 6′s unveiling and its planned fall release just got a little bit shorter, as Apple has just pushed out beta 2. If you’re in the developer crowd that can try it out, don’t expect any revelations: the primarily focus is on the bug fixes that nudge the software closer to a final release. As in past years, multiple additional betas are expected between now and the time the iOS 6 is ready to come to the general public, so there’s likely still lots of room left for Apple to polish the release to a shine. Those paid up on their developer accounts can grab the update through the usual means and see just how much luster has been added since WWDC.
AOC has a bit of a long-term memory issue: it claims the Aire iPlay E2343Fi is the first computer monitor to have a built-in iPhone and iPod docking station. Nope. But don’t let that deter you from checking out the new 23-inch LCD, whose cradle in the base will both keep your Apple gear topped up as well as play movies and music through the display. The 10-watt speakers won’t exactly bring the house down, though they will let you take the headphones off. As an actual computer display, it’s a typical TN-based panel with a 1080p resolution, a quick 2ms pixel response time and a boldly claimed 50,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Those who find a separate dock or (gasp) wires too much can officially spend $280 for an Aire iPlay of their own today; Amazon and other shops have already knocked the price down to a more palpable $230.
The idea of creating a full-fledged laptop companion to a smartphone isn’t new — just ask the former Palm team — but rarely has it come across as so pretty. Clamcase’s upcoming Clambook, while it has more than a slight hint of MacBook Air about it, is really meant as a large canvas of sight and sound for an Android phone or iPhone. Although the Clambook can at least be used as a big, 16:9 ratio display for an iPhone, the emphasis is clearly on more Google-inclined users that can use an MHL port: the one cable provides audio, video, power, an Android 4.0-native keyboard and a multi-touch trackpad. More recent Motorola phone owners might get the most out of it, since Webtop’s full-size Firefox browser and windowed interface will kick in without needing one of Motorola’s proprietary docks. We’re still waiting on many basic details, like exact device support and the all-important matter of pricing, but the Clamcase should be ready for supersized Real Racing sessions by the holidays.
Android and PlayStation Vita owners have felt the Music Unlimited love on their respective devices for quite some time now, but the Spotify / MOG / Rdio competitor has finally made its way to the App Store, bringing with it yet another option for streaming music on iOS. The free app appears to be optimized for iPhone and iPod touch (though it’s also compatible with iPad), and will enable on-the-go jammin’ with a $4-per-month Basic subscription over 3G, 4G or WiFi connections. You can pull in tunes from the millions of tracks in Sony’s collection, or access songs on your PC using the Music Sync service. The app is currently only available in the New Zealand App Store, but it’s expected to hit other Music Unlimited countries soon. For now, you can hit up the source link for the Kiwi App Store preview, or head over to the Music Unlimited site to sign up.
What you see above is the gTar, an upcoming electronic musical instrument from Bay Area-based startup, Incident Technologies. It’s got what appears to be an iPhone docked in the pick-guard and it looks pretty cool lit up in the teaser video after the break. Beyond that, there’s not a ton of information about the thing available online, but we did some digging and have pieced together a pretty good idea about the thing. The device made an appearance at South by Southwest earlier this month, and bits and pieces have made their way into the web by way of startup site AngelList and social networks like Facebook, Twitter and, of course, YouTube. A posting on the former describes it as “a consumer electronics device that enables an interactive music entertainment experience to anyone without any kind of previous musical knowledge.”
From the looks of it, the thing is a little bit Guitar Apprentice and a little bit Tabber. Unlike the plasticky Guitar Apprentice, however, this device looks like a genuine guitar (strings and all), albeit one with a light up fretboard for Tabber-like educational purposes and a “docked mobile device.” The guitar also makes it possible to share music socially, though it’s not entirely clear whether this is accomplished via the docked smartphone or an external output like a PC, though given the company’s connections to the developer community, we suspect that both will be options, be it through built-in functionality or available APIs. The gTar is also being positioned as a music creation device, rather than simply an educational tool (à la Tabber) or a simple overblown Guitar Hero-style controller.
Check out a flashy, if rather uninformative teaser after the break.
Anecdotal reports have been pouring in since iOS 5 landed that battery life had suddenly dropped off on some people’s iPhones. A full 15-percent of you who responded to our poll reported suffering from the issue. Now Apple has officially confirmed that several bugs are negatively affecting battery life. In a statement given to All Things D the Cupertino company acknowledged the problem and said it would “release a software update to address those [bugs] in a few weeks.” In recent days the complaints in both the Apple forums and our own tips box have reached a deafening volume but, sadly, Apple isn’t offering any temporary work arounds or advice for those constantly attached to a charger. So there you go folks — Apple is working on it. You’re the patient type, right?
Update: Well, iOS 5.0.1 Beta, which includes the aforementioned bug fixes, just landed for devs. So Apple isn’t just working on it, they’ve fixed it… theoretically. Lets hope this test run is a bit shorter than expected.
The most surprising thing about the iPhone 4S is that people were surprised by the iPhone 4S, for there is ample precedent to the company both confining upgrades largely to a speed bump and to saying no to a host of potential new features. As to the former, the iPhone 4S is straight out of the playbook of Apple’s successful upgrade of the Apple 3G to the 3GS, although the competition wasn’t as strong as it is today.
Similarly, when Apple first lowered the price of the iPod touch below $200 in 2009 amidst widespread speculation that it would add a front-facing camera for FaceTime (which it did in the next generation), the company noted that it didn’t think the product needed any more “stuff.” So, what, then, defines the iPhone 4S? The differentiators can be thought of as four “Ses.”
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It’s not an iPhone mini or anything, but it’s the first iPhone with Siri. And that has to count for something, right? Right? While it’s no iPhone 5 (not even close, really), the iPhone 4S is far from being “last year’s iPhone,” and the greatly enhanced camera, bolstered A5 dual-core processor and inbuilt voice command should provide plenty of reason for folks to upgrade if they’re near the end of their contract. Furthermore, having the option on Sprint — despite Apple almost announcing it as an afterthought — is bound to make folks already entrenched on the Now Network think twice about what their next phone will be come upgrade time.
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