iPhone 4S Arrives (in my hands!)

I just upgraded to the 4S and have to admit, as usual, Apple did a fantastic job at improving an already good product, not only it’s specs, but in general usability. As a user of the vanilla 4, I didn’t see much point in paying much for the incremental improvements, the same way that I skipped the 3GS. Yet luckily for me, there was a special deal from Softbank which, if I understood it correctly, allowed me to switch with all my former contract annulled, which unbelievably made it cheaper to upgrade than to stay with the 4! Hopefully such deals are the way ahead, as 2-year contracts are way too long for anyone who wants to keep up with the fast-paced advances in the mobile device space.

So, what’s changed? Well, it is a lot faster, web-browsing and the general user interface are probably twice as fast, which makes it smoother to use, a similar feeling I got going from iPhone 3G to 4, or from 4 to my iPad 2 (which has pretty much the same internals as the 4S). The camera is also far faster and from what I’ve seen and heard, ‘takes better pictures’. For me this is great, as it will give me a very nice file to work with, straight from my most convenient device. I’ve already found that the iPhone 4 has much better processing than any compact camera I’ve used, so hopefully this should increase the quality it can capture, certainly in terms of detail (8MP) and dynamic range, with its superior filters. I’ll also have 1080p video, which just in terms of detail is generally much better than 720p, which looks comparatively murky on today’s high-resolution displays.

Once I got my iPad 2, I realised that the bigger screen makes a lot of apps more fun and manageable than on a little iPhone, but there are still a lot of things that suit a phone-like device better. One is Hipstamatic, a retro-camera app that makes for some very creative results and is a lot of fun to use. It’s the fun that makes the difference, the wealth of features and focus on realism making for a lot of samey results and too much attention being paid to technological advances, forgetting that photography is an art as much as a science.

So whilst I have a new smart phone, I see it as just as much a new camera and I intend to retro the photos from it as much as I can (sometimes, anyway!), which funnily enough is the possibility I’m most excited about. You, know, maybe I’ll fire up the ZX Spectrum emulator in it, too, it should be a lot smoother than on my old phone!

Here are a few recent snaps from my ‘4’…

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The 4S Arrives

Some thoughts on the iPhone 4S. Is it an attractive phone? Yes, for sure, it has dual core, possibly 1GB Ram, the retina and dual cameras of the iPhone 4, not to mention a heavily revised camera module with stabilized 1080p video and of course ‘Siri’, the potentially useful digital assistant. Probably, with a smooth-running iOS5, it’ll be one of the best phones in the world.

Will I get one? Well, much as I love Apple products, this one’s not really for me. Why so? Because, as the name implies, its not really a ‘5’ and I already have a regular 4, which I am in fact still paying off the absurdly long 26 month contract for (with around 11 months to go). Break it early and there’s quite a penalty, involving paying back the rest of the phone at the ‘real’, inflated price rather than the subsidized one that made it so affordable, whilst at the same time of course, paying for my new one, not to mention the data fees that continue regardless. I’m pretty sure Apple knows this and spaces out the upgrades, so doing so every 2 generations will be enough for most people, in fact it is a testament to the 4’s success that it’s taken this long (15 months) to need revising.I might get my girlfriend one to replace her aging 3G, though:)

Ultimately, there aren’t really all that many changes from the 4, it’s basically just been turbo-charged to the iPad 2’s specs. In fact compared with the 4S, the APU is the same, or perhaps faster in my iPad, which since I’ve gotten, is where I use most of the powerful apps anyway. The iPhone screen is too darned small for a lot of them, so Im definitely glad to have it and enjoy the ‘true’ app ecosystem that Steve envisioned. Games or complex photo editing just doesn’t go well on the iPhone, whereas on a Pad I have something that in many ways beats a workstation for usability. It’s reached a point, for me at least, where my smart phone just has to be good enough and it’s camera likewise. The iPhone 4 still manages that, thank goodness!

What would I need from a 5? First of all a bigger screen, perhaps through slight extensions and removal of the bezel, at least around 4 inches. Just for watching HD videos this would make a huge difference, not to mention all the apps. Next would be another jump in APU, perhaps to quad-core, if it exists then, though I suppose that could take till the 5S or whatever. I’d want more Ram as I’ll be doing a lot more with it at this point, some of it plugged into a larger monitor and keyboard no doubt, making for a truly portable machine.

Other than that, some wonderful, exotic surprises that would make it irresistible. In fact it’s this sense of newness that makes it attractive at all. One thing I can be sure of- it’ll be better than anything I can imagine sitting here now.

Farewell to Steve Jobs

Today it is almost as if the technological world I follow so closely has come full circle. The man with the vision that practically started it all and certainly helped keep on its self-perfecting course has passed away, leaving a rich legacy of devices that have not only changed the way we interact, but what we expect from that amorphous concept ‘technology’. Whilst for many years there has been an esoteric air around Apple products, which seemed so stylish but could do so little for the uninitiated, they have risen to prominence by either adopting common standards or creating them anew. For me, Apple’s greatest breakthrough was the iPod- as it brought their love of simplified interfaces and artistic design to ‘the masses’, saving them financially and giving them the very platform that expanded into the iPhone and iPads. There are many dreamers, inventors and daydreamers, but it takes a true poet to bring all these concepts together and make a household name out of them. Steve Jobs was that man.

Just think that only ten years ago, the first iPod emerged. Being expensive, I of course bought into the competition, in this case Creative’s Zen, but if it hadn’t been for Jobs, the entire idea wouldn’t have come to life. Now, there were digital music players, but they were clunky and undesirable by comparison, just as the early smart-phones or tablet computers failed to catch on. I personally love Apple for all they have achieved, but as with any company, there are things to resent as well as love (in fact there was the time they dissed Jobs, for one), so I’ll leave that aside for now, but the fact that they could become the world’s number one tech company under Jobs says a lot about him. Jobs embodied the technological boom we are living through, the great liberal ideas and progressive grasp of the realities of our world and through this made it possible to literally have some of the greatest technologies man can make in the palm of our hands.

Steve is known as an expert in the fields of design, technology and business leadership, but to my mind the depths of his inspiration lie in something deeper. In fact, it is all an expression of his genius, his tapping into something far greater than himself, to share it with the world as a whole. Apple, devices, presentations are all just ‘devices’ or ‘apps’ in them-self. The vision behind them comes from his appreciation that there is more to this life than we casually see. In short, Steve must be remembered as a master- a master who like other masters spent time travelling in India and immersing himself in the great mysteries of the East, emerging from this in his own particular way adapted for his own particular generation. In our time and for our purposes it was the birth of personal communication devices to help create an international, networked culture in which there would be a measure of digital equality such as the world has never experienced in other fields- a natural and instantaneous technology that would be more fun to use than cumbersome. To my mind, to this point, it has culminated in the ever-evolving iPad. Sure, there will be similar devices by others, even better ones in certain respects. But they will be iPads more than ‘tablets’ if they are to succeed. They will be personal, cosy, usable and attractive . For Jobs wasn’t dreaming of consumer devices. He was dreaming of devices to help the average consumer, even to do things they had never thought of doing before. It was an expression of great wisdom and compassion, of a dedication far beyond the norm.

For this, he will be timeless and is, from the Perfect Futures perspective, undoubtedly continuing his existence on other spheres as we speak, his work here done to perfection. Just think of the success, not, I may add the success in the face of competition, as in many ways he helped to create the very field in which the competition took place! People have personal computers, laptops, iPods, smart phones, iPads. In many of these areas, right now, the most attractive options to many people are in Apple’s stable, as evinced by sales. Even when seemingly cheaper options exist. Now, in the world of the PC this is more complex, as I really can’t say that Apple’s options are always the best value and in the world of the smartphone there are already a lot of other attractive options. but Apple, through Jobs, managed to be number one. That’s saying something, that’s saying a lot. Not so much about Steve Jobs himself, but more about whatever it is he tapped into, the great universal energy, or the spirit of liberal progress in humanity. I’m not sure exactly. But we shouldn’t turn this occasion into ego-worship of a man who had clearly to a great extent left his personal ego behind. We should celebrate the wonder of creation and our incredible capacity to co-create within it. We are no longer cavemen and to a great extent, this is thanks to what Steve Jobs showed us we can do. Any of us… if we just put our mind to it.

RIP, Steve Jobs, though I am sure you are, or will be, creating ever greater things, wherever you find yourself. If anyone helped to bring about a Perfect Future in their lifetime, it was you.

The iPad 2- The Tech Talk Review (Technologies)

The iPad 2- what to say that hasn’t already been said, perhaps better, by someone else already? Well, here we have the perfect tech talk device. New and revolutionary in it’s approach, like it’s predecessor, it is a machine not so much based around it’s hardware, amazing though it may be, but around what you can do with it. Right now, with other tablets thin on the ground and lacking many of their own apps, it currently faces little serious opposition, though of course will probably change.

My ‘review’ of the first iPad was as a non-buyer, disappointed that opportunities to make the most of it’s form factor had been lost with the sparse hardware given. Much as I wanted to jump on the train heading towards tablet/slate/pad bliss, I just couldn’t justify the expense for a machine lacking in so many areas. The iPad’s defenders at the time argued that they were esoteric features that only tech-heads would want, but I’m not so sure. It seems that Apple agrees with me and fixed many of the issues in this update and from what I’ve heard, as with the response to newer versions of the iPhone, sales are rocketing as never before. So what are the improvements over iPad 1?

What’s Good

* Front and rear cameras capable of HD video (though with unfortunately poor resolution), so now Facetime and soon Skype can be used with this. Whilst iPhone 4 has Skype, like many other functions (see more below), it’ll be far more satisfying on the iPad’s larger screen

* Slimmer, lighter and with a thinner bezel around the screen, which makes it easier to use with one hand and a lot more slick and stylish. Being that few mm thinner should be enough to entice many hardcore Apple fans to update in and of itself (!)

* Faster, dual core processor of a newer generation (A5 vs the former, single core A4)

* A claimed 6x increase in graphical abilities

* Double the ram (512mb vs 256mb), and of a newer type running at twice the speed

* Through an adapter, allows HDMI screen mirroring or, with video and photos, 1080P output, which is perfect for seeing video on an HDTV, or making presentations or slideshows. It’s also great for audio if you want that digital clarity.

* A similar IPS LED 9.7 inch screen, some say with better colours, which makes photos and videos look amazingly good even off-angle, far better than on most most laptops or netbooks.

What’s Not so Good

* No true USB, just an ability to transfer from some cameras

* Small memory of only up to 64gb and expensive at that.

* No SD slot of any flavour, making it basically unexpandable (though the cloud could fix this.

* The same screen resolution as before (1024×768), no-where near the pixel density of the iPhone 4’s retina display (132 ppi vs. retina’s gorgeous, print-like 326dpi). I was hoping this would be updated, but maybe next time?

* The poor cameras. They might not get used much, but by having lower resolution than the screen itself (some say they are probably the same as those in the latest iPod), they may well never get used again, save for video. Which is a shame, having a decent digital camera with a 9.7 inch screen would be quite an experience.

For me personally, this time around, the pros outweighed the cons and I got one.  Having a webcam ensured it could be enough to take only my iPad on a trip and still video-call home if I wanted. The HDMI output also makes it a better portable computer or HTPC if needed and I find it great for sharing many things in a way the former VGA just couldn’t suffice. Also, by being faster it is far more capable and smooth to use. With the first edition, I couldn’t stand the idea of paying so much for something that was actually less powerful than my iPhone 4, which had double the ram. Also, the weight of the first one was off-putting, giving it a chunky rather than hi-tech feel, which was more than fixed in this update, which raised the bar again on what is possible for a tablet/slate/pad or whatever they actually are (I’ll just say tablet from now on, as it’s a term everyone recognises).

So, basically, I see it as a decent leap up from the first iPad, in my view enough of one to make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone on the fence before. Of course, there are already rumours of a newer model coming out as soon as September, with possibly double the screen resolution and presumably a newer graphics/ quad-core cpu to feed it with. It wouldn’t totally surprise me, especially if we start seeing Android tablets coming out over the summer with similar abilities and Apple finds a need to compete with them. Tablets being so ascendant, I’d hope that soon we’ll see 6-monthly updates, much as we see with laptops which might not be irresistible upgrades, but would more quickly push the technology into areas where the laptop still reigns supreme, such as graphical design. Once that starts, we really will be in the ‘post PC era’. Yet, it is perhaps more likely that Apple will stay with it’s yearly cycle (although they broke this with the iPhone 4, which is still to be updated), as even higher-tech tablets will take a while to challenge the iPad on the software front.

This post has focussed mostly on the technical advances and advantages of the iPad 2 over it’s predecessor. Although it’s not perfect, I feel it gives a good balance of features which make it a worthy purchase. Like anything in the world of tech, there is bound to be a better one around the corner, the main question for a lot of potential buyers being how far away that corner is and if in itself the one now is good enough. You could well end up waiting for ever and not being able to enjoy the experience of using one. On that note, my next post will be more about why I think it is a special device simply in the way that you use it and that even if you think it’s a waste of time, could actually show you a new way to do familiar things that makes them far more enjoyable.

YouTube – ‪iPhone as DSLR‬‏

However ridiculously ungainly this may look now, here we have the future of digital photography. You know, think about it. A super-slim smart phone, like a credit card that you slot into the back, becoming (maybe through blu-tooth) the camera’s touch-screen LCD. Editing, uploading, managing the photos from it without needing a computer, at least for most usage. You have a highly portable and connected imaging device, realising the potential of digital far more than ever before.

Why is the iPhone 4 the most used and uploaded photo-taking device in the world now? Because it’s so convenient to take the photo and even edit it beyond all recognition. Secondly, it’s always connected, with various apps making it even easier to post and annotate the image to whatever site you desire. Built for communication and sharing, whereas, despite all their advances in technical image quality, even compact cameras are reliant on a computer to do most of their editing and to upload. I know, there are some exotic solutions like the Eye-Fi card, but they are far cruder than the iPhone and rely on more expensive purchases, which equals a lack of a purchase for most. So merging the two devices in some way could well be the next step forward, not just for compacts, but for higher end digital cameras.

Journalists can get their shots up faster as much as bloggers and they can be high quality ones shot with extreme lenses, rather than just the iPhone camera. I really see potential for this kind of convergence. Forget about the iPhone, say hello to the Eye-Phone!

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

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