Apple iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 – my reviews

Late night shopping is excellent. Perfect for browsing all the latest and greatest tablets or I should say iPads from Apple.

First up, here is my review of the iPad Mini 3. WOW (sarcastic). It costs you £100 more for a finger print sensor and gold finish if required. So not worth buying if you have an older version of the Mini. Also, if you have the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPad Mini is redundant.

Next my review of the iPad Air 2. So lets salivate over the 6.1mm thickness, a minor reduction in weight, a more advanced screen build which features less air gaps and less reflective, a new A8X processor, new improved 8mp camera and shooting modes, Touch ID and a new gold finish. STOP. No need to salivate. All the spec improvements made no difference to the original iPad Air. The screen and weight and thickness make no difference and are not really noticeable versus the original iPad Air. Let me rephrase that. There is no difference period. The A8X processor is faster. It feels faster on an empty iPad with no apps and games and the 2Gb ram meant more web browser tabs could be left open. But really, unless you use iMovie, GarageBand or similar or are a hardcore gamer, there is no obvious benefit. Touch ID is convenient but not essential. In fact, you lose the mute switch , and battery life tests from early reviews say it is not as strong as the original iPad Air.

So if you have the first iPad or the second model, the Air 2 is a great update. Otherwise, I just cannot recommend upgrading in any way, shape or form!

Apple iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 and available in stores to buy today

So are you stampeding to your nearest Apple store to purchase a new iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3. This device is totally not on my radar. So have you ordered one or picking one up today?

Now, the iPad Air 2 is a class leading product but unless your current tablet is faulty or your just in the mood for the latest and greatest, there really is no reason to buy this device. The iPad Mini 3 is really a poor choice since for £100 more all you get is Touch ID. There are no other changes other than the choice of a gold finish.

Apple’s Master Plan to lead with world class apps and games

Let’s face it a month or so ago android apps were equal, slightly ahead or slightly behind in look and functionality with their equivalent Apple iOS app.

But Apple pulled a master plan out of the bag and now is starting to make the app gap greater once again on iOS over android.

How is Apple achieving this? Two fold. iOS 8 with all its new functionality and then Apple launches 2 new screen sized phones, a 4.7 and 5.5 inch screen. Of course all the old apps scaled or zoomed to fit these new screen sizes, but lets face it some apps totally look dreadful all zoomed out. And Apple knew this would happen. It also knew users would mock poorly designed apps. So now developers would have 2 motives to update their apps, whereas previously with a 4 inch screen where was not any massive incentive to update any app or game. But now it is not just the added visuals but the added functionality like share sheet which are making developers apps stand out from the crowd.

But as we are talking about Apple they now have gone one step further and given a cutoff point of Feb 2015 for all apps and games to be supporting iOS 8 and 64 bit or be banished for good.

So now there is a deadline for developers to complete this task. This in turn means developers will produce gorgeous and feature rich apps in a timely manner, instead of as and when.

If you do not believe this will happen, I have already seen some stunning app updates for my 6 Plus which really make this stand head and shoulders over any other phablet on another competing platform. And this means the iOS app advantage is starting to gain momentum once again.

The new iPads – review embargo’s lifted – this is what everyone had to say so far

Apple’s iPad Air 2 is an entire millimeter thinner than the original iPad Air, has a new A8X processor, Touch ID fingerprint support, an anti-reflective screen coating, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and an improved 8-megapixel rear camera. So what did the main press say –

Walt Mossberg, Re/code.net:
So when Apple brought out new iPads last week, and I had a chance to test them over the past four days, you might think I’d be pretty excited about them — but I’m not. They are, in most respects, the best iPads ever made. But for average users, they represent only a modest evolutionary improvement over last year’s models, not the kind of big change that the first iPad Air or the Retina display iPad mini did last year. The Air 2 didn’t allow me to hold or carry the tablet longer and more comfortably than the Air. Its weight of 0.96 pounds isn’t discernibly lighter than the Air’s weight of one pound. And its thickness of 0.24 inches is a barely noticeable reduction from the Air’s 0.29 inches.”

Nilay Patel, The Verge.com
The Air 2 has a vibrant, sharp display that looks almost painted on. Apple says the new antireflective coating on the Air 2 reduces glare by 56 percent, but I didn’t really notice it making a huge difference; you definitely can’t use it in bright sunlight. Inside the iPad Air 2 lies Apple’s new A8X chip, which is a variant of the A8 found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus with additional graphics capabilities. It’s ridiculously fast — noticeably faster to load web pages and launch apps than my iPad Air, and it has so much graphics headroom that I’m eager to see how game developers take advantage of it.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch.com
The 6.1 mm chassis just makes all the difference when it comes to the Air feeling like something that you could comfortably hold for long periods of time, and even for all-day computing, should you need it (and it’s easy to imagine an event coordinator, for instance, needing exactly that). Our review unit came in Apple’s gold finish, and let me just say that on the iPad, that means there’s a lot of gold going on. Apple’s take on this particular metal color is better than most, but this definitely isn’t my favourite finish. The Air 2 in either space grey or silver still looks fantastic however, and the gold is definitely going to stand out in a crowd, especially if you’re also using the iPad as a camera.

Brad Molen, Engadget.com
A thinner profile comes at the expense of battery size. The new Air’s is 5.1Whr smaller than the old one, but Apple still promises that you’ll get the same 10-hour battery life because the A8X is more power-efficient. Real-life use shows that the original Air still rules the roost; after a day of heavy use, I typically went to bed with around 20 percent left in the tank. If you’re only using it moderately — say, for casual content creation or consumption — you should get a little over two days. In our video test, in which an HD movie plays through the life of the battery, the Air 2 squeezed out 11 hours and 15 minutes, significantly lower than last year’s Air and about an hour short of the Samsung Tab S. The Air 2 also doesn’t have a mute switch, which I didn’t think would be a huge loss until I actually found myself trying to use it and becoming frustrated more frequently than I expected. Your new options are to press and hold the volume down button or go into the Control Center and press the mute key; if you used the switch to lock screen orientation, you’ll need to do that in the Control Center as well. A microphone now sits where the mute switch once was; there’s another one right next to the camera.

Joanna Stern, The Wall Street Journal.com
That anti-reflective screen also makes a great, though admittedly ginormous, viewfinder for snapping nature shots with the revamped 8-megapixel camera. It takes much crisper shots than before, and in many cases, ones as good as those I can take with my iPhone 6. But I won’t bring my iPad to some mountain peak, as some Apple promo shots suggest.
Besides, when I set the iPad Air 2 down for a second on a bench, it slid off and hit concrete, shattering the screen. Sure, I’m to blame, but if Apple wants me to climb every mountain armed with nothing but an iPad, ruggedness should be as important as anti-reflectivity.

Harry McCracken, Fast Company.com
The weirdest fact about the iPad Air 2 is that Apple isn’t publicizing (or even acknowledging) one of its best new features. The tablet now has 2GB of RAM, up from the rather cramped 1GB allotment in the original iPad Air. (Some competitors, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, have even more.)
Doubling the RAM means that the iPad can keep more apps and browser tabs in memory without having to reload anything. That results in a speed boost which which is very apparent as you hop between apps and load new web pages.

Lance Ulanoff, Mashable.com
To get an anecdotal sense of the performance, I installed a pair of console-level games: Asphalt 8 Airborne and Modern Combat 5: Blackout. Each of these games is notable for rich imagery and physics including smoke, water, rain, and reflections. The games looked and worked great on the original iPad Air and worked just as well — if not better — on the iPad Air 2. However, Apple isn’t just blowing smoke when it says the A8X is more powerful. I ran Geekbench 3 on both Airs and found that that Apple’s A8X has 3 cores (the A7 had 2) and that the multicore score for the iPad Air 2 is nearly double that of the original Air. The singlecore score for the iPad Air 2 is only slightly better than that of the iPad Air.

There are other reviews available too, but it shows that if you don’t need the power and Touch ID and prefer longer battery life then stick with what you have got already. Also the iPad Mini 3 hardly gets a mention. If you do buy one please let everyone know your thoughts below.

Apple’s Q4 earnings call in detail

Apple last night announced its Q4 2014 earnings results reporting that the company earned $42.1 billion in revenue and $8.5 billion in profit during the quarter. Not a bad start!

Apple’s financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 37 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

So far so good.

App Store downloads have now topped 85 billion up from 60 billion around a year ago.

In addition to reporting its earnings, Apple has disclosed sales numbers for its main revenue generators. The company sold:

iPhone: 39.272 million, up 16.2%
iPad: 12.316 million, down 12.5%
Mac: 5.52 million, up 20.7%
iPod: 2.62 million, down 25.1%
iTunes: $4.208 billion, up 8.2%
Accessories: $1.486 billion, up 12.7%

Other headline figures –

Revenue: $42.123 billion, up 12.4%
EPS: $1.42 per share, up 20.3%

Apple CEO Tim Cook had the following to say regarding the results:

“Our fiscal 2014 was one for the record books, including the biggest iPhone launch ever with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With amazing innovations in our new iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, we are heading into the holidays with Apple’s strongest product lineup ever. We are also incredibly excited about Apple Watch and other great products and services in the pipeline for 2015.”

Apple CFO Luca Maestri added this:

“Our strong business performance drove EPS growth of 20 percent and a record $13.3 billion in cash flow from operations in the September quarter,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “We continued to execute aggressively against our capital return program, spending over $20 billion in the quarter and bringing cumulative returns to $94 billion.”

Some of the key takeaways of the Q4 earnings -

- Strongest revenue growth rate in last 7 quarters
– Legacy models are helping drive sales due to lower price points
– Apple will class Apple Pay and Apple Watch as new categories. Apple Pay will be in its Services category. iPods will now move into Other Products category.
– Apple ended the quarter with $155.2 billion in cash, down $9.3 billion sequentially
– Retail Store revenue last quarter was $5.1 billion, up 15 percent from a year ago. 10 new stores were opened with 25 more expected in 2015 most of which will be outside of the USA.

So no surprises. iPad and iPod sales are declining. The iPod is dead as Apple clearly aren’t investing in its future. Even the iPad Mini didn’t really receive much of an update last week. Clearly the larger iPhone 6 Plus will be the new Mini. Also I don’t believe the newer iPads will stop the decline. However, they are a few factors which may prevent this happening, that being iPads in business and the new IBM enterprise deal which starts in November 2014. This will be rolling in of the following areas – banking, government, insurance, retail, travel and transportation, and telecommunications. Apparently there is strong demand from the business sector.

Which ever way you cut these figures it was a great set of numbers.

Of course the press will now say Apple is doomed!

My iPhone 6 Plus Home Screen layout design and why it’s this way

IMG_0871.PNG

First and foremost I hold my iPhone 6 Plus in my right hand. Therefore my thumb swipes in an arc from the right corner like a windscreen wiper. Therefore all high frequency apps need to be within or close to this swipe.

Apps used but not as often are placed in folders. Apps on the left column are only used when holding the iPhone with two hands.

So to reach the top half of the screen is a double tap on the home button to lower the screen (this is reachability in iOS 8) and once again the arc thumb swipe action is enabled.

But the layout design doesn’t finish with the home screen. Let’s open the media folder near the top right.

IMG_2930.PNG

In each folder I place the apps I use the most on the right side of the folder as I’m holding phone with my right hand. This means it’s possible to use the 6 Plus one handed for many operations.

By using folders, it means all 161 apps and games are accessible on a single home screen.

So have you any tips?

iPhone 6 Plus – camera video samples

Yesterday I took my dogs for a walk on Dartmoor. I only filmed a few minutes footage, but with the help of iMovie, which Apple include free of charge, I quickly joined a few video clips to make 2 different types of movie memories. All this was produced on the iPhone in a relatively short time.

It has been a while since I used iMovie, but it seems to have a few more effects and even looked simpler to use. iMovie has many different themes, effects, filters, animations and other options but after 10 minutes or so it’s really simple to create a lovely video.

First up I decided to create a film trailer, which is shown below. This is not meant to demonstrate my artistic skills, as it clearly doesn’t, but to highlight what the trailer option does to the video footage. This was produced in 15 minutes. The trailer is just over a minute long. Make sure you see the film credits at the end which all are editable in iMovie. What’s rather clever is that when creating this movie, iMovie tells you the sort of video clip you need to insert into the different slots. It is so customisable and simple to use. And such great fun. It also allows you to select whether you want to use slow motion effects on a portion or not.

Once again video embedded below.

So the next movie is just all the short video clips merged together. This footage has not been edited in any way. I was filming in slow motion at 240fps to see what could be achieved. And I was holding the iPhone, so not using any tripod.

Again be sure to watch the video right to the bitter end to see the last effect. It’s only 2 mins 48 seconds. Certainly a fun way to create a memory of a day out.

Photos app on iOS 8 – it’s brilliant but this is what I really like about it

Apple really has added some neat tricks with iOS 8. The Photos app has had a big overhaul and offers really advanced editing. But it also allows you to edit the photo with another app without ever leaving the Photos app.

IMG_0865.PNG

So first select your photo. Next tap edit. Then select the circle icon at the bottom with 3 dots in the middle. Depending on what apps you have installed and selected to show you could be presented with the following –

IMG_0866.PNG

So let’s have a look at these apps. Tapping Diptic creates a two framed photo with the GPS data map. You can select to have the map above or below and a few other options. The end result is this.

IMG_0853.JPG

Let’s look at another app Camera 360. Here you get access to all its features. Ideal for selecting an effect.

IMG_0867.PNG

Another app Afterlight will give you access to the following options.

IMG_0870.PNG

IMG_0869.PNG

Above is the options for Camera+. The beauty is you can edit the photo and when finished you are still in the Photos app. Let’s hope all photo apps add compatibility with this iOS 8 feature. It makes for a great way to add a filter from a particular app without ever having to leave the main Photos app.