Choosing the right tablet when doing your holiday shopping

Ever since Steve Jobs introduced the iPad to much fanfare and the product took off and started a whole new product category, the market has been flooded with competing products as the country has basically gone tablet crazy. Even young kids basically expect some sort of tablet these days, making things very tough on parents trying to monitor what they do online. People of all ages enjoy these devices as they can be used for so many different purposes, and computer companies like HP that didn’t come up with a good competing product are getting crushed as PC and laptop sales have struggled.

With all of this in mind, here’s a great article from the NY Times that lays out many of the different options. For starters, you should simply avoid the ultra-cheap knockoff options. It’s tempting to go that way, but in many ways you’ll be wasting money.

After that you really need to consider who will be using the tablet. Kids are obsessed with games and texting. Many women and adults like to read books. Others like to surf the web for funny videos, interact with others in social media, play casino games at sites like partycasino.com, or just read the sports page. Some on your gift list may not use computers much, so you sometimes need to think about how they would love to use these devices once you point out uses for them.

E-readers have become more popular and frankly more articles, so the article linked about deals with those options as well. Consider traditional e-readers versus the new color options. Then you have the most basic choice between Apple and Android. Microsoft has also entered the debate though it remains to be seen if they can get beyond a sliver of the market.

There are tons of choices, so do your research online before you hit the stores.

The CruxSKUNK Might Provide the Perfect iPad Keyboard

For a company all about upselling (just try to leave an Apple Store without being sold a case for your iPhone) Apple themselves haven’t done a great job of providing an accessory to fix the iPad keyboard dilemma.

See as beautiful a device as the iPad is, its on screen keyboard doesn’t exactly lend itself to any use more urgent than internet browsing. This severely hinders many of the features the wonder tablet can offer. Apple, along with several other companies, offer Bluetooth keyboard accessories, but the results of trying to use one are often awkward and make enjoying using your iPad more burdensome than need be. Some companies like Belkin, Zagg, and Kensington have tried to get around this problem with keyboard/case hybrids that turns your iPad into something that closer resembles a laptop. Reactions and results are mixed on those hybrids, with many of them still coming off as awkward, causing severe limitations in mobility, or worse just plain cheap.

Where others have failed in resolving this problem, though, an unlikely savior, with an unlikely name for a savior, may have emerged from the funding fields of Kickstarter.

It’s called the CruxSKUNK (what?) and it may succeed where other, similar products have failed by using some of the same product synergy Apple is so fond of themselves. That’s because, when you put your iPad into the case, the entire unit is made to resemble a Macbook Air in weight, looks, and feel. The metamorphosis is genuinely impressive, as is the keyboard itself which features nice large type-face, full keyboard set-up and range, and a nicely thin base (6mm). Aesthetically, it is the most immediately pleasing case of its kind on the market.

But the CruxSKUNK isn’t trying to get by on its looks. Instead the real beauty of this case is its hinge that lets the user place their iPad in a variety of positions to suit their needs. The idea is to provide the perfect set up for watching movies, working on documents, or playing games all without having to remove the case. After seeing the video of the CruxSKUNK in action, its hard to believe that they haven’t achieved just that. If you do need to remove your iPad, however, the Crux also allows you to do so without much in the way of hindrance.

Currently the CruxSKUNK has already well exceeded its revamped $90,000 goal, with over $191,000 dollars earned and 20 days still left to go for funding.  The only available backing options left range from $155 for a CruxSKUNK and nice leather carrying sleeve, to $1500 plus for 10 cases and 10 sleeves. Obviously, that’s not cheap when compared to some of the competitors on the market. However, since the main complaint of those competitors is how cheap their actual products are, you ultimately have to ask yourself if your need for an iPad keyboard case is truly great enough to warrant going for the top of the line. If it is, even in its pre-production phase, the CruxSKUNk appears to be just that.

Amazon Looking to Rekindle the Tablet Wars with the Kindle Fire 2

It’s looking more and more like the launch of the Google Nexus 7 tablet is just the start of a firestorm about to hit the affordable tablet market. Appropriately then, Amazon is looking to jump back into the fray by fighting that fire with one of their own.

According to rumors first started by a report in the China Times, Amazon is looking to start production early on the Kindle Fire 2, possibly aiming for a release as soon as this summer. While details are sparse on the upgraded Fire, the word is that Amazon’s Taiwan partner Quanta has received the go ahead to start production on what could possibly be a few different models of the Fire. While all of the models are currently being predicted to retain the original Fire’s 7-inch screen (with the base model retaining the $199 price point), most likely the different units will feature increasingly larger storage capacities and work off an increasing pricing structure similar to the  Nexus 7. There’s even word going around that the most expensive unit of the three will include a built-in camera and 4G capabilities. It’s also hard to imagine that even the base model of the new Fire won’t include a faster processor, better screen resolution, and a longer battery life if it looks to keep up with the standard Nexus 7.

I know a few people that own the original Kindle Fire, and the general consensus that you get from them is that “it does what I need it to do,” That’s a far cry from the original mission statement of the Fire when it was still marketing itself as a rival to the iPad at a much cheaper price. Since then, the smaller, cheaper tablet has established a market of its own with the Kindle Fire being seen as the fore bearer, and even the front-runner, of the new line. Considering, though, that Apple, the company whose iPad helped kick off this new war, is allegedly looking to release their own smaller tablet, the big question is if Amazon would do better holding off and seeing what the industry’s giant is going to bring to the table first before jumping the gun with this 2nd generation Fire. Otherwise, the novelty and name power they launched the Fire with in the first place may not hold up if a rushed product that is only meant to compete with the newest kid on the block eventually turns them into another face in the crowd.

Apple Owners Rejoice! Free Apps Are on the Way

Since spearheading the Android App Market and launching the Kindle Fire, Amazon has seemingly been on a mission to promote themselves as the kinder, gentler Apple alternative. While stopping shy of ever viciously calling out their rival, the message is clear that they believe themselves to be more of a service “of the people” than their counterpart. One of the ways they have done this is by offering a Free App of the Day service that allows its users to snag a free download of an app selected by Amazon. Ranging from games to useful services, it’s a must have feature that, until now, has provided Android owners with another feature to rub in the face of the iMasses.

I say “until now” because it looks like the empire has caught on to the rebel plans.

Yes, its happy days again Apple owners. Apple is now offering its own free app service, only this one will be a free app of the week and not of the day. The good news is that the first app of this service is the brilliant and addictive “Cut The Rope: Experiments“ game, which went from “should be essential” to “no conceivable reason not to download” courtesy of the new promotion. Not content to just borrow from one rival, though, Apple has also introduced an “Editor’s Choice” feature (seemingly a replacement for their staff picks and game of the week features) that highlights the newest and best apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The initial showcases are Facebook Camera, “Extreme Skater,” “Air Mail” and Sketchbook Ink.

Of course, all jokes about theft are actually jokes. Developers have been running their own free app promotions since the start of the market, and independent sites have been offering the same, as well as highlighting the best new apps for the same period of time. In truth it is refreshing to see Apple offer these services on their own, and considering that the Apple app market is richer and fuller than that of its rivals, even an app a week instead of one a day is an astoundingly good deal that should produce something of must have quality each outing.

Although it should be noted that the “App of the Week” feature hasn’t officially been confirmed as a permanent addition. However since they’ve launched a new Twitter tag for it, not to mention those large banners for the service on their site, things look good. It’s going to be interesting to see if Apple looks at the success of this initial offering to judge if it will continue in the future. It’ll be interesting because we can’t know if Apple will look at giving away lots of free merchandise as a positive marketing ploy, or the root of all known evil.

Again, joking.

Engadget catches iPad 2 case at CES

iPad 2 case.

The first iPad 2 case has peeked its head above ground at CES. The case is even sporting a mockup iPad 2 model, giving us a chance to see what the next piece of hardware might look like.

As you’ve no doubt guessed, there are dual cameras, supporting the FaceTime platform of course. It’s also interesting that the current generation iPad wouldn’t fit inside the new case because the new model will actually be a bit slimmer. The case Engadget found also had a fairly large speaker cutout. The home button has also moved a bit closer to the bottom edge, which could mean a slighter slimmer bezel.

You can read all about the original find and see more pictures at Engadget.

iSkin Back-to-School contest offers $1000 in prizes

iSkin BTS Contest

I’ve covered some iSkin products here in the past and been very pleased with them, so I’m happy to pass along the news about this upcoming Back-to School contest from iSkin. By entering your name and the school you’re headed for in the fall, you could be eligible to win up to $1000 worth of iSkin products to furnish that new dorm room.

Here’s what you win:
- Apple iPad 64GB 3G
- iSkin Vu for iPad
- iSkin silo Messenger Bag
- iSkin Eartones
- iSkin Cerulean RX

That’s a hell of a prize package if you ask me. The contest is only available to US and Canadian residents.

Booq makes a purty iPad bag, too

Boa push iPad bag.I haven’t really tried to hide the fact that I love Booq’s line of products. The bags are stylish, classy, and functional in a way that makes your laptop bag never want to show its face at laptop bag school ever again. Booq’s gone and made a slick little iPad bag for all the tablet lovers in the world, too.

Here’s the official feature list:

booq: Boa push features include:
• Elegant and compact way to carry your iPad, iPhone, credit cards, and other necessary items
• iPad compartment lined with non-scratch fabrics, exterior pocket sized perfectly for the iPhone
• Equipped with easy to use snap button flap closure and super-comfy seatbelt nylon shoulder strap
• Made from genuine Nappa leather and durable booq Twylon
• Equipped with Terralinq service, helps reunite you with your lost and found bag
• Available in sand or gray

The Boa push iPad bag is available for $89.95 at www.booqbags.com.

What the iPhone 4 tells us about the next iPad

Steve Jobs with an iPad.I have never been so happy to not be an early adopter. I wanted an iPad and I wanted one badly, but I figured I’d wait. No sense in buying the first generation of a device that Apple will just improve in a big way for version two. After the iPhone 4 announcement, it’s clear just what we’re likely to see on the new iPad.

First, a new screen. That “retina display” will be the envy of every iPad owner. Granted, it won’t likely be scaled to iPad sizes – there’s no way the chip could drive that dense a display – but the original iPad screen will likely get a refresh for version two.

Next up, you can bet on at least one camera. Steve Jobs said during the keynote that there would be “tens of millions of FaceTime devices this year so there’s going to be a lot of people to talk to.” No way Apple is selling tens of millions of iPhone 4 units, so there’s got to be something else. That’s where the iPad comes in. FaceTime doesn’t thrill me on the iPhone. It looks small, shaky, and mostly unnecessary when a computer is typically close at hand where there’s a Wi-Fi network. With an iPad screen, though, FaceTime could be more appealing.

As a longshot I’ll also suggest a body redesign. I love what Apple did with the iPhone 4 body. That’s the kind of engineering that makes Apple unique. If that design improves reception, I’ll be even happier. I could see the same happening for the iPad, even though the current design seems fine.

Two million iPads are in the wild


It took Apple just under two months to move two million iPads. Yes, two million of the tablets are now out in the world, lighting up the their owners’ faces all across the world.

It really was the worldwide launch that seemed to vault sales to what most consider a highly successful figure. Really, two million is pretty great for what could easily be considered the pioneer for an entire product line. An Apple press release announced the, ah, historic figure.

CUPERTINO, Calif., May 31 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Apple® today announced that iPad™ sales have topped two million in less than 60 days since its launch on April 3. Apple began shipping iPad in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK this past weekend. iPad will be available in nine more countries in July and additional countries later this year.
“Customers around the world are experiencing the magic of iPad, and seem to be loving it as much as we do,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We appreciate their patience, and are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone.”

iPad allows users to connect with their apps, content and the Internet in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before. Users can browse the web, read and send email, enjoy and share photos, watch HD videos, listen to music, play games, read ebooks and much more, all using iPad’s revolutionary Multi-Touch™ user interface. iPad is 0.5 inches thin and weighs just 1.5 pounds-thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook-and delivers up to 10 hours of battery life.*

Developers have created over 5,000 exciting new apps for iPad that take advantage of its Multi-Touch user interface, large screen and high-quality graphics. iPad will run almost all of the more than 200,000 apps on the App Store, including apps already purchased for your iPhone® or iPod touch®.
*Battery life depends on device settings, usage and other factors. Actual results vary.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

iPad numbers herald the death of netbooks

iPad vs. netbooks.You had to see the death of the netbook. The little laptops are unbearably cramped, with crappy keyboards, tiny touchpads, and screen resolutions that could make even your grandparents beg for more. Netbooks were the lame intermediary while tablets waited for their messiah, and now that they have one, the tablets are taking over.

According to a study by Retrevo, some 70 percent of netbook buyers were courted by the iPad and 30 percent made the final commitment. Though those other 40 percent still stuck with their netbooks, I’d imagine the decision was largely financial. It’s hard to beat $200 for a semi-functional computer to kick around. It’s hard to put a price on not looking pretentious, too.

That 30 percent isn’t exactly the blowout you might expect, but it is a signpost pointed at the heart of the netbook industry. Manufacturers like Dell would do well to pay attention. The great thing about netbooks was portability and nothing else. If you can get the portability with more interesting device, that netbook is going to start to look pretty crappy and you might want to look into a more powerful Lenovo notebook computer, or just go for the iPad if ultimate portability is what you’re looking for.