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.

Is it Time for a National Stolen Smartphone Registry?

Thefts of smartphones and other high tech mobile devices have become one of the greatest fears of consumers in major metropolitan areas. While sometimes fears like this are the result of media sensationalism, the numbers that keep coming out to support this trend are staggering.

In New York City alone, between January 1st and September 23rd of this year, the NYPD have received reports of 11,447 thefts of just iDevices. That’s a healthy 40 percent jump in cases from that same time the previous year, and also barely takes into account the time of the new iPhone 5’s release. In New York, and other large cities, this has led to a plastering of ads in subway stations, street corners, and televisions that urge citizens to be more aware of their surroundings and their usage of their devices to try to trim down on theft. This has also been coupled with sting operations to catch people selling stolen devices in bulk, as well as a greater police presence in areas like subway stations where theft is most common.

For their part, Apple has long touted a free “Find My Phone” app, that can not only locate a stolen phone using GPS features, but also lock the device remotely with a password. Android users also have a range of  security apps available such as Cerebus, which can take photos of your device’s current location, perform system wipes and locks, locate your phone remotely, and even take an automatic photo if someone enters your password wrong. Even though some of the more clever burglars are becoming aware of these apps and finding ways around them, it is still somewhat reassuring to know that the manufacturers themselves are also aware of this issue and are at least attempting to take all the steps they can to help out, much like the police seem to be doing

However, given the jump in thefts even with such measures in place, there are those who feel that it’s time for phone carriers to step up and do their part.

Specifically, the movement is gaining steam in Canada where an outbreak of violent crimes relating to stolen smart devices has the country in an uproar. The government is insisting that phone companies create a stolen smartphone and tablet registry, before they must force them to do so. The idea of a registry would be to prevent the resale of stolen devices by providing an official record of them. A similar action is also being called for by some in America where the crimes are equally rampant.

While it may not represent a perfect solution to the problem, it instead encourages a measure of corporate responsibility. Why hasn’t this been done yet? The biggest reason is cost, as phone companies are apparently shuddering at the financial implications of such a movement, although exact figures haven’t been provided. Canada’s government is asking for the major carriers to provide that information to them in an effort to get the ball rolling on the initiative once and for all. There is also loose talk that a national registry would hurt the providers in the lucrative second hand markets they encourage, though this is not the official statement.

Considering the reliance people put in their smart devices, it’s uncomfortable for many users to think that the age old crime move of snatch and grab is more dangerous (and lucrative) than ever. While awareness movements prompt users to not display their devices in public places, understandably consumers feel like they should be able to use their phones and tablets somewhere besides the safety of their work or homes. It’s also a somewhat insulting idea that victims of theft are somehow “asking for it” even if there are incidents of displaying an item in high profile prior to its taking.

Whether or not it is the ultimate answer then, it seems like the only party not taking a greater leap in prevention are the phone companies, and a national registry of stolen gadgets would at least add another weapon to the fight. Otherwise, we may see more and more violent incidents of robbery, and of people misguidedly taking actions into their own hands to try and protect their prized possessions.

Could a Realistic Smartphone/Tablet Hybrid be in the Works?

I remember foolishly thinking at the time of the iPad release that Apple had finally gone off the deep end in terms of design. I mean, as far as I could tell they were basically trying to push what appeared to me to be a big iPhone. Of course what I didn’t anticipate was its uses as a superior e-reader, gaming platform, business and education super tool, video player, practical laptop replacement, and…well let’s just say I didn’t give the iPad and the tablet market as a whole a fair chance at first.

Still, I believe that much like that awkward time period where people still carried their MP3 players, portable gaming devices, and their new smartphones before realizing the latter’s amazing all-in-one potential, that the tablet and current smartphone technologies are sill similar enough that one day another all-in-one device is bound to come along that provides the best of both worlds for a price none of us can reasonably afford.

I’m not alone in this way of thinking either. There is even a terrible, must be changed now word for these devices. Phablets (the only word in existence that is scientifically proven to make you roll your eyes upon hearing it). One popular example of a phablet (*roll*) is the Samsung Galaxy Note. While it’s hybrid design of both devices fits the bill, it’s bulky shape doesn’t really seem to fit easily anywhere else, and it ends up coming off as a bulbous smartphone, or an undersized, underpowered tablet, depending on if you’re a glass half empty or glass half full type.

Despite the lack of overtly successful phablets (*roll*) thus far, designers still aren’t giving up on the idea. One of particular note out there is Patrick Eriksson’s flexible OLED concept design.

The idea is so simple it could have been a popular cartoon in the 80’s created to sell toys. The device starts off in its native phone format, but thanks to an ingenious flippable hideaway screen, it can be transformed, if you will, into a tablet size device in an instant. There aren’t many further details about the device at this time, other than Patrick’s partnership with Sony on the model, who would be handling manufacturing and distribution duties should the concept see its way to completion. That’s something they are no doubt hoping for, as the company could use a big win in light of their financial troubles, and weak market share across many divisions

Sony has also released a similar device before in the Tablet P, but that model, along with the similar, Kyocera Echo, suffered from some serious design flaws that made them come off as gimmicky and unpractical. This new model, however, is the first of its kind I’ve ever seen that looks like it could compently complete the bridge that spans the current tech gap between smartphone and tablet. While time and public reaction will of course ultimately tell the tale, there is no doubt that from a strict concept standpoint, this new device does finally bring into the limelight the almost inevitable conclusion that tablets and smartphones will not always co-exist as separate, economically viable entities.

Only please, somebody needs to invent a better name for these devices. Phablets (*roll*) sounds like a fan group name for high school girls who were way into “The Beatles.”

Pictured: The original line of “Phablets”

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.

iPad wish list

With the buzz surrounding a new iPad, here’s the wish list from consumers.

A new iPad from Apple is expected in early March, and consumers are quite opinionated about improvements they’d like to see in one of the best-selling tech devices of the past few years.

We reached out to consumers for feedback. In a nutshell, they want a USB port to connect the iPad to other devices, faster processor, expanded memory, better resolution and a lower price.

The USB seems like something Steve Jobs would never agree to, but hopefully the new Apple will add this feature.