CES kicks off

The biggest technology and gadget show, CES, just kicked off in Las Vegas, and as usual much of the talk surrounds Apple:

Apple is the only company that consistently gets big buzz out of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — without even attending.

This year will be no different.

Connected TVs — TVs that connect to and can access content from the Internet — will be a big part of CES this year. And just about everyone in tech expects Apple at some point to launch such a television — an iTV — that easily consumes and shares with other Apple devices content served from the company’s media-storing iCloud.

Microsoft made news earlier by saying this was the last year they would attend CES/ Why attend if Apple gets all the buzz anyways? Maybe Microsoft should focus on new products instead of protecting its Windows/Office cash cow? Or maybe not . . .

Tips for Apple 4S battery issues

Here are some helpful tips for how to get more battery life from your new iPhone. Apple has acknowledged the problem and is working on a software fix.

Bottom line – turn off a lot of the automatic updates and notifications. I have most of mine off and haven’t had much of a battery problem.

Battery issues for new iPhone 4S

Some stories are coming out about the iPhone 4S and problems with battery life. I just got a new one and I love it, but I was a little surprised at how quickly the battery was depleted. Apple is apparently looking into it, so we’ll see if this becomes a bigger story.

Get a cover for your new iPhone 4S

The new iPhone 4S is a massive hit, so if you got one, you should be in the market for a cool case or two. Check out this review of the new XtremeMac Microshield. If you like a smooth and slick cover, this one will be perfect.

The Steep Slope of Improvements Since The First iPhone

Think your iPhone is the best version available today? Well, it is until the November release of the iPhone 5, at least. Don’t fret: in the short history of the popular platform, many versions have been overshadowed by upstarts. Take a look at this iPhone evolution infographic, and find out how it has improved over the years. The next time you’re wondering where to get an iPhone you’ll be armed with the knowledge of its past, and insights about its future.

Five New Apps that are Taking Over the World

By now, you’re hopelessly behind the times if you don’t have a smart phone that allows you to take advantage of the latest, most useful apps. If you want to get the most out of your smart phone, though, you need to know which apps will work best for you. Here are five new apps that are taking over the world.

Crackle – Free Entertainment on the Go

Smart phone developers have designed high-resolution screens so that users can do anything from watch movies to follow directions on a map. Without an entertainment provider, though, you can’t take full advantage of your smart phone’s screen. Crackle is an app that makes it easy for you to stream hundreds of movies and television shows on your iPhone. Feel like watching a comedy? Crackle allows you to stream Ghostbusters. How about a suspenseful drama? You can have The Da Vinci Code in the palm of your hand instantly.

MetroFax – An App That Finally Makes Faxing Easy

The MetroFax mobile app that was just released lets smart phone users receive faxes no matter where they are. You no longer need to feel that you are tethered to your office. MetroFax’s app allows you to access up to 200 faxes from your mobile phone. That way, you never have to feel that you are disconnected from your colleagues at work and you can always stay on top of the latest business developments.

Full Fitness – Keeping Your Body in Shape

Relying on technology can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle…except when you have the Full Fitness iPhone app. This app gives you instructions, video, and pictures that will show you how to perform over 300 exercises. You can even use it to make your own custom workout and keep track of how well you perform the exercises.

Google Sky Maps – Constellations in Your Pocket

Is the city light making it hard for you to show off your knowledge of constellations and other celestial bodies? A city that never sleeps doesn’t have to spoil your date night when you have Google Sky Map on your Android phone. Just look at the sky through your phone’s screen and you will see the stars, planets, and moons as easily as if you were standing in the countryside. Plus, Google Sky Maps provides information about the celestial bodies to keep you informed of what you see.

Ovi Maps – Know Where You Are Going for Free

Ovi Maps is a free GPS app for Nokia smart phones. Just because it is free doesn’t mean that the developers skipped important information. This app gives you access to maps in 75 countries and can read you directions in 46 languages. You’ll never have to feel lost again as long as you have your phone.

These are five of the newest apps that are taking over the world, but new software comes out every day. What are some of the most useful apps that you have found for your phone? Which ones have become essential to the way you live your life?

Steve Jobs backs down on subscription pricing

Steve Jobs.

A couple months back, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a number of enemies by implementing restrictions around App Store subscription pricing that included a 30 percent finder’s fee for Apple. Apparently some of that change is being rolled back, though Apple won’t be making it easy for subscribers to get content outside the App Store.

The new rules don’t go into effect until the end of the month, at which point we’ll be able to see just how well the app development world is handling the restrictions. Several publishers have pledged to comply with the new rules, but others have pledged to abandon the App Store altogether. I’ll be particularly curious to see what happens to the developers who continue on like nothing has changed. Will we see mass bans from the App Store?

To me, this change seems like a PR move. Apple knows that there are quite a few customers who are also App Store developers, and those guys were not happy when the changes rolled out. Hell, I wasn’t happy and I have no stake in the situation whatsoever.

Apple’s iCloud: How magical is it?

Apple iCloud.

Apple’s really nailed down its presentation strategy. The company doesn’t leak features before they’re absolutely ready for mass consumption (not counting the old AppleTV of course), and then it announces the product, shows just how awesome it is, and puts a release date just close enough that the world will stay excited until its release. iCloud is no different. Apple’s unveiling made Google Music look like a high-school project by comparison.

I’m really impressed by what Apple put together. There are a few recent Apple policies that have really made me question whether the company is worth supporting in any capacity. But iCloud is free, and iTunes Match, maybe the single greatest part of the iCloud rollout, is just $25 a year. None of this is to say that I think Apple has pioneered anything amazing. In fact, pretty much everything about the iCloud service has been available through Google for quite some time. It is clean, pretty, and looks incredibly easy to use, which is exactly what Apple is good at. It also further ties consumers into the iOS ecosystem, making it harder to consider leaving.

For the non-Apple users of the world, there is some good news here. Google is looking at iCloud and thinking of ways to do it better (and they can’t be happy about Apple taking the notification bar pretty much directly from Android). The next version of Android will almost certainly try to best iCloud in some serious ways. Google knows that Apple is going for brand loyalty with iCloud. Whatever the company releases to compete will have to be good enough to pull people away from iOS.

Weather Doodle now available for the iPad

The Apple iPad may already come pre-loaded with a pretty handy, no-frills weather app, but for those that want their weather forecasts delivered with a bit of style, Tiny Mammal’s Weather Doodle is just the app for you. Although it’s been available for the iPhone since late 2010, the app has finally made its way onto the iPad, and it’s currently on sale for only $0.99 (normally $1.99) through May 23rd.

Weather enthusiasts won’t find too much to get excited about — using individual weather stations within cities across the world, you can access basic info like current conditions, the 5-day forecast, and wind speeds and humidity — but it’s in the presentation where the app really shines. Instead of just seeing a static image of the weather conditions, Weather Doodle depicts it using animated art, whether it’s the moon glowing, snow falling, or lightning striking from storm clouds. There are three different art themes to choose from (with more on the way), but only one of them comes installed with the app. The other two can be purchased for an additional $0.99 each, which is perhaps its biggest shortcoming. Fortunately, the one theme that is included (titled Paperscape, which looks like a grade-school art project using construction paper) is undoubtedly the best of the bunch.

Still, for as appealing as the simple yet beautiful presentation may be (it certainly makes checking the weather more interesting than usual), the lack of any really cool features prevents Weather Doodle from being a must-have app. It’s a great deal at its current sale price, but at its usual $1.99 price point, there’s just not enough there to make it worthwhile.

The ultimate baseball app – Bill James Baseball IQ

If you’re a baseball junkie, this app will blow your mind. Bill James is the king of baseball stats, and now you can get an app for your iPad or iPhone called Baseball IQ that gives you an unbelievable about of information. Check out the video above and you’ll get a feel for all the possibilities with this app, but it just scratches the surface.

One of the best uses will be for fantasy baseball. Right now, you have access to tons of stats if you play fantasy baseball, so it’s hard to gain a real advantage over the other teams. But with this baseball app from Bill James, you get a level of information on stuff like match-ups that goes way beyond what you can find on the web.

So check it out and get that edge!