Dec 20

My 3 favorite gadgets of 2011

iPad 1: We got ours the day they came out, and we’ve used them for hours every day since. Primarily I use mine for reading Web articles through a variety of interfaces, mainly the Web browser, Instapaper, and Reeder. I also use the iPad a lot for Twitter and Facebook.

I skipped the iPad 2 because it didn’t seem to offer enough bang to be worth the upgrade. There’s a rumor of an iPad 3 coming in the spring, with a faster processor and Retina display. My mind isn’t made up whether to upgrade; we’ll see what else it offers.

I’d love a 7-inch iPad, about half the size of the iPad’s current 10.1-inch display. There are rumors that’s coming in a year. I don’t know whether to believe the rumors. A year is a long way away; I’m not going to worry about it.

iPhone 4: It’s never far away from me, not when I’m sleeping, not when I’m working at my desk, not when I’m out and about. I use it to track meals and exercise for fitness, to participate in social media, to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, to get directions where I’m going, as a camera, to write notes and to-dos for myself, as an alarm clock and, incidentally, as a phone. I didn’t go for the 4S for the same reason I didn’t buy the iPad 2: Not enough of an upgrade to be worth spending money on.

Kindle 4: I bought one of these in October when they came out, and it’s fantastic. I switched to ebooks when the Kindle app came out for the iPad, and didn’t look back; I’ve bought a couple of dozen ebooks in the past year, but only two print books, in both cases because they weren’t available electronically. The Kindle is lighter and more comfortable than reading on an iPad, plus it holds a charge for about a month. Julie has a Kindle Touch, which is the same as mine but with a touchscreen.

Not on the list: We watch a fair amount of TV at our house, and we have a DVR issued from our cable company, Cox Communications. We loathe that DVR. We miss our old TiVo, which, alas doesn’t support HD programming. And a new TiVo that supports HD would be too expensive. I’m thinking we might want to do something homemade with a Mac Mini configured as a server, either running iTunes or Myth TV. But there’s a question of (a) Time to set it up and (b) Expense.

I suppose I might want to put our new Samsung TV on this list. We certainly use it every day. But it’s just a TV; it’s not that interesting. If we put the TV on the list, we’d have to also add the microwave, toaster-oven, and electric water kettle, and where does it end?

Sep 30

Immediate gratification, FTW!

I just ordered the $79 Kindle Wi-Fi after reading this convincing argument against touchscreens on dedicated ebook readers.

Shorter version of the argument: When you’re reading books, you don’t need to tap and swipe all over the screen, getting the display all shmutzy. The main thing you need to do is keep turning pages, and for that a hardware button does the job nicely.

Not mentioned in the article: I’d have to wait nearly two months for the Kindle Touch, but the Kindle Wi-Fi will get here Saturday.

Sep 29

My two cents on the new Kindles

I expect the tablet will finally be the one to grab some serious market share from the iPad.

People talk about the “tablet market,” but there really is no “tablet market.” There are iPads, and then there are a million other tablets, none of which have sold any significant market share.

I expect the Kindle Fire will change that, because of the Amazon brand and the low price. I haven’t played with it myself, or read any credible reviews, so I can’t speak to the quality of the product — whether it’s a well-designed machine or shoddy merchandise like all the other iPad competitors. But Amazon did a great job on the Kindle, so we can be optimistic that the new tablet will be a good machine too.

We’d already decided Julie is getting a Kindle reader (she seems to be leaning that direction at the moment, rather than a tablet). She has trouble holding the iPad for long periods, because of its weight. Because mostly what she does on the iPad is read, a Kindle is a natural choice for her.

And I think I’ll get a Kindle reader too (not the tablet), for similar reasons. Unlike Julie, I am comfortable holding the iPad for long periods, but a lighter-weight and smaller device would be even more comfortable. Like Julie, I mostly use my iPad for reading. So a Kindle seems like a natural choice. I’d been holding out because of the price, and because the keyboard strikes me as a waste of real estate. Both of those problems seem to be fixed on the new Kindles. I’m not sure which model I’ll get, but I’m leaning toward holding out for the high end, which I think comes out in November (?).

All in all, an exciting announcement. And Apple’s new iPhone comes out next week! A great month for personal tech.

So far, of all the endless speculations about the iPhone announcement, this SplatF post seems to be the only one worth reading. It’s a short post, with three questions of things to watch out for. Two questions are interesting to me:

(1) Will Apple even mention iAd?

(2) Will there be an Apple TV announcement?

If there’s a new software update, I’ll be doing the happy dance. New software is always fun! If it’s new hardware, I’ll be a bit frustrated, since we just bought an Apple TV. But on the other hand, the Apple TV is cheap.

If Apple announces the rumored flatscreen Apple TV, well, I’ll just be weeping like a character in The Oatmeal, because we just shelled out large coin for a 52″ flatscreen TV and it’ll be at least seven years before we’re due to buy another one.