In case you missed it, Amazon told the world yesterday that for the last three months it was selling more e-books than hardcover books and in the last month it sold 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover copies. It was one of those great self-serving press releases that had a terrific headline and all the blogs and major newspapers jumped on it.
Well played, Amazon. As your CEO Jeff Bezos succinctly put it, "We've reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle--the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189.&… Read more
Since I posted an article about the features I wanted to see in the next-generation iPhone, I've received several e-mails from readers calling me out for not including a larger screen as one of the 20 feature upgrades. Most readers were polite but mildly indignant. Here's what two Texans wrote me--Larry from Austin and Mike from Houston:
Larry: You didn't mention at all a larger display or screen! You may not want a bigger display, but I do and I am sure there are lots of others too. Why can't Apple come out at least w/a slightly larger screen, i.e. 3.7" or 4"? The HTC Google/Nexus Phone has a 3.7" screen but yet the phone is still basically the same size as the iPhone. The new Samsung Galaxy S phones that are hitting all four U.S. major networks this month and the next month have 4" screens but yet the phones themselves are pretty much the same size [as the iPhone 4]...
Mike: What, a bigger screen didn't make the top 20??!?!?!? That's the main reason I didn't buy the iPhone 4. Yes, my eyes are getting bad so I need the bigger screen...and every new phone coming out now has at least 4" screens...Droid X, Samsung Galaxy S, EVO. I tried out the EVO for 2 weeks and loved it...unfortunately I have 5 people on my AT&T account. Tough to switch.
Of course, they want everything bigger in Texas (or at least they say everything is bigger there), but I gotta say, I haven't experienced a desire to inflate my iPhone's screen size. That said, these e-mails got me thinking more about smartphone screens and I reread CNET editor Eric Franklin's article that tests and compares the screen performance of the iPhone 4, the HTC Evo, and the Motorola Droid. In his shootout, he gave the nod to the iPhone 4; the Evo came in a close second, and the Droid followed up in third. However, Franklin focused more on image quality and less with the actual size of the screen.
Personally, I really like the Evo, built-in kickstand and all, but I find that as a phone it's a tad bulky. I also think the same of the Droid and new Droid X. CNET's smartphone guru Bonnie Cha has a couple new Samsung Galaxy S models sitting on her desk--AT&T calls its Galaxy S phone the Captivate, and T-Mobile has the Vibrant--that I've played around with it a bit and like the design and agree with Larry's assessment that the phone is "basically the same size as the iPhone." In fact, it's a little scary how close the Vibrant resembles a slightly trimmer version of the iPhone 3GS.
As for specs, the Galaxy S "family" has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen that's 800x480 pixels. The iPhone's 3.5-inch Retina Display offers a 960x640-pixel resolution. We measured the two screens and calculated that the Galaxy S's display offers 17 percent more overall screen area. Compare the 4.2-inch Evo's or 4.3-inch Droid X's screen with the iPhone's and you're looking at upwards of 20 percent.
So why are other smartphone manufacturers going bigger--and is it better?… Read more
Ah, there's nothing like a good platform war to stir up the emotions. We've seen plenty of battles over the years. Old stalwarts like Windows versus Mac and Xbox 360 versus PS3 always manage to light up the message boards. And I still miss all the personal attacks I got from HD DVD versus Blu-ray wars. But nothing seems to get people more worked up these days than Android versus iPhone.
Take a recent post I did on the 20 most-wanted features I'd like to see in the next-generation iPhone, which may be called the iPhone 5. The comments section immediately degenerated into a battle between iPhone versus Android backers. Here are some samples from the melee.
zizzybaloobah: "You can waste your time wishing for a phone w/these features, or get an Android phone that already has them."
javawebdeveloper: "@Bonesbautista, @slickuser No, you are giving the typical iPhone fanboy response: You are so convinced that the iPhone is the best thing since sliced bread that you cannot accept that a competing device has features that the iPhone does not have, so you denigrate them as being unimportant, hazardous, or only 'for geeks'. If they are implemented in iPhone 5, then they will magically transform into Apple innovations."
Ebraheem: "Anyone thinking that ports are a synonym for holes really shouldn't be talking about security. iOS has 65535 ports, Android has 65535 ports, Windows has 65535 ports, and pretty much anything that has a TCP/IP stack has 65535 ports! Typical non-geek mentality, thinking you understand technical details when you don't."
Sourdust: "So the author [David Carnoy] basically wishes the iPhone were more like an Android phone. As other have written, just buy an Android and be done with it. It seems the real wish here is for Android phones to run the iPhone OS. But that would have been a much shorter article (one sentence) and might not have been published."
bonesbautista: "Typical response from Android fanboys. Too much kludge with stock Android, too many complaints of poor RF with most of the HTC smart phones. The new iOS is missing a Today screen and better notifications. Android? Meh."
slickuser: "Typical geek (Android) mentality! By the time iPhone 5 is out, Flash would be on a lifeline."
MaLvaDo39: "Why do you want an Android? Just another fake iPhone...follow the leader is all Google and Microsoft could ever do."
NeonRazor4: "Since you seem so eager to write about missing features, why not write an article about the features you want from the Motorola Droid 2 or the Blackberry Storm 3? Why do you feel such a need to nitpick the iPhone? Sure it's missing a few features, but there are many other phones that are missing some features we wish it had. Yet, they don't get the same amount of vicious scrutiny as the iPhone does..."
Chandyyyyyy: "Alrighty. So I'm not a geek or a nerd, but I understand the argument and what each person is saying if that helps you understand where I am coming from. I have an iPhone along with thousands of other consumers. I'm not a fanboy. But I couldn't care less about which phone is better. I'm very happy with my iPhone, and I see many more iPhones than droids htc or whatever. What the iPhone has that other phones do not is an iPod. That's no better than any other mp3 player, but it's the top brand of mp3 player. It's convenient and easy to use, even older folks have one."
As you can see from these comments, some lines are being drawn and some stereotypes are being formed. Here's how I envision the two sides see each other based on some of the vitriol going around. (Yes, these are sexist descriptions, but 85 percent of our readers are male. If you're part of our female audience, feel free to comment with your views on all of this). … Read more
Let me start by saying that I bought my iPhone 3GS in October of last year and have no plans to upgrade to the iPhone 4. Luckily, while the new iPhone--antenna issues aside--has certainly been enhanced, the differences between the new model and my "old" 3GS aren't huge, especially now that I've installed iOS4. However, even if there was a big difference, I knew going in that I would largely be ignoring whatever next-generation model Apple put out because I'm not a serial upgrader.
But recently I've been thinking about how long a … Read more
I've written articles in the past explaining various TV technologies, including the differences between 720p and 1080p and 120Hz and 240Hz LCD TVs. But with Samsung, LG, Sony, and other manufacturers pushing so-called LED TVs these days, it's high time that I--with an assist from our resident video guru, David Katzmaier--sort through all the marketing mumbo jumbo and provide some insight into just what an LED TV is. Here goes.
1. An LED TV is not a new kind of TV.
I appreciate a good marketing ploy as much as the next guy, but an LED TV is just an LCD TV that's backlit with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of standard cold-cathode fluorescent lights (or CCFLs). And though they became well-known last year with Samsung's ultrathin models, LED-backlit LCDs have been on mainstream store shelves since 2007, when Samsung's LN-T4681F debuted.
Unlike plasma and OLED, which are emissive technologies where each pixel is its own discrete light source, LCD is a transmissive technology where each pixel has to be illuminated from behind, or backlit.
2.There are two LED backlight configurations
Initially, LED-based displays like the Samung LN-T4681F were backlit by what's referred to as a "full array" of LEDs behind the LCD, across the back of the panel--just like a standard CCFL backlight. But to create even thinner TVs, engineers needed to eliminate that extra layer of LEDs and move it to the sides of the display. With this form of backlighting, the LEDs are affixed to all four sides of the TV and light is projected inward to the middle of the TV via "lightguides." These types of TVs are commonly referred to as "edge-lit" LED-based LCDs, and are by far the most common available today.
3. Each configuration may also offer "local dimming."
All current LED-based LCDs with rear-placed, full-array LED backlighting--except the Sharp LC-LE700UN series from 2009--feature a technology called "local dimming." With local dimming, portions of the backlight can be dimmed or brightened independently when different areas of the picture get darker or brighter. For example, the LEDs behind the words in a credit sequence can illuminate while the ones behind the black background remain dim.
Being able to dim portions of the screen helps reduce the amount of light that leaks through to darkened pixels, and the end result is blacks that appear darker and more realistic. Since black levels are crucial to contrast ratio, the deeper the blacks, the more the picture--and colors--appear to pop. Also, the image as a whole will seem crisper. A couple of examples of local dimming done right are Samsung's UNB8500 series and LG's LH8500 series--respectively the best and second-best LCDs we've ever tested.
One downside to local dimming is an effect called "blooming," where brighter areas bleed into darker ones and lighten adjacent black levels.… Read more
At least once a week I get an e-mail from a friend or reader asking me whether I think a Verizon iPhone will be announced on June 7 when Steve Jobs is expected to unveil the fourth-generation iPhone at Apple's WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference). A lot of the folks who e-mail me have fulfilled their contracts and are free to go to whichever carrier they want but are anti-AT&T. Others, of course, are simply loyal Verizon subscribers who refuse to switch to AT&T to get an iPhone.
"Have you heard anything on the Verizon … Read more
Recently, Scott Turow, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, including "Innocent"--his just released sequel to "Presumed Innocent"--was named president of The Authors Guild. That Turow, a practicing lawyer, was named president is probably no coincidence, considering the myriad issues that authors and publishers now face as digital books and e-book readers not only disrupt the marketplace but leave it vulnerable to that nasty little vermin commonly known as piracy.
In an interview with Media Bistro's Galley Cat (see video below), Turow talked about how author royalty rates for e-books were too low, but the larger problems for authors and publishers involved piracy. "It has killed large parts of the music industry," he said. "Musicians make up for the copies of their songs that get pirated by performing live. I don't think there will be as many people showing up to hear me read as to hear Beyonce sing. We need to make sure piracy is dealt with effectively."
Why this suddenly more-alarming tone? Well, though Turow recognizes that the iPad has clearly taken the e-reader to a whole new level, he doesn't specifically single out the iPad as the No. 1 catalyst for pirating. But I am.
To put it in the context of the music world, it goes something like this: You remember the first MP3 players to catch on? They were from a company called Rio and the early ones used SmartMedia memory cards as their storage medium. Then there were more Rios, and most of them were really pretty good (I still run with a Rio Chiba). I look at these players as the Kindles, Nooks, and Sony Readers of the e-reader world. … Read more
We've put together a few roundups of top Blu-ray discs, but for some reason, trying to do a list of the best concert Blu-ray discs was more challenging. Part of the problem is that music--and musical tastes--are such personal things that it's hard to declare something the "best" or "top" when it's more than likely that a lot of people will think the pick is bad because they simply don't like the artist or band.
That's totally understandable, so I apologize in advance if some of these picks don't appeal … Read more
You know the story by now. Some Apple guy leaves his iPhone prototype in a bar. Some guy finds it. A few weeks go by. He then leaks photos of the thing to both Engadget and Gizmodo. Then he sells Gizmodo access to it for $5,000.
It's a good story, with a lot of ins, outs, and what have-yous, as Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski would say. But while a lot of attention has been focused on whether it was, like, cool, for Gizmodo to have paid for information, man, the real question is what would you … Read more
"Where's iBooks?" the man was asking. "I want to see iBooks."
An older guy, one of the half dozen or so Apple sales associates on the floor, didn't know exactly what he meant at first. But then he figured out the man just wanted to see an e-book on the screen. That's why he'd come to the Apple Store: to see what an e-book looked like on an iPad.
The customer peered down through his fairly thick glasses at the James Patterson novel the sales associate had opened for him.
"Is it backlit?" he asked.
"Sure," the sales associate said. "It's an LCD."
For some reason the guy seemed shocked to learn the truth.
"I will go blind reading this," he declared.
"Why?" the sales associate asked.
"It's backlit. I will go blind."
The sales associate asked him the next obvious question: Did he use a computer? … Read more