October product announcements

Mon Oct 20, 2014

October is when most companies hope to grab some mindshare in the run-up to the Christmas shopping season. These days, I’m mostly interested in what Google and Apple have to offer. But there are some intriguing developments blossoming elsewhere as well. Here are my thoughts.

Let’s start with Apple - this month they announced the iPad Air 2 and an iMac with a Retina 5K display. It’s no surprise that bigger smartphones are slowly squeezing iPads out of the market. But while sales growth has declined, Apple still sells millions of iPads every quarter. Now on its sixth generation, I can appreciate how Apple has already made this product thinner and lighter than last year’s model. The fingerprint scanner and 8MP camera are nice additions too. But having owned the iPad Air for about a year now, I’m pretty happy with it. Indeed, my wife’s iPad 3 seems just as snappy as the newer models. There isn’t much impetus there to upgrade, especially seeing as Apple still insists on a paltry 16GB for its base model. Let’s be honest - a Retina MacBook Air would deal another serious blow to iPad growth, when that day comes (and it will be soon I think).

On the other hand, The new Retina iMac is one stunning machine. I am sure every professional who works with photo and video will be begging Apple to take the $2500 out of their wallets. My 2010 iMac is still serving me well enough though - I don’t have any immediate plans to ditch a desktop computer that mostly works just fine for what I use it for (which isn’t much). The real chokepoint on my iMac has to be the agonizingly slow hard drive - solid state is the way to go.

On to Google. The day before Apple’s iPad announcement, Google quietly updated their blog with the latest goodies. To counter the iPad, Google announced the Nexus 9, a 9-inch HTC tablet to showcase Lollipop - the latest Android version coming soon. It looks like a very capable tablet, although personally, I think anything less than 10 inches on a tablet makes the line between tablet and phablet a bit too blurry for me. I’m also concerned that developers haven’t really embraced Android tablets, leaving the Android app market a bit lacking. I’m looking forward to reading the reviews though.

Google also announced the Nexus 6. I’m quite disappointed with this one. I’m looking ahead to the end of 2015, which is when I’ll be in the market for a new phone, and the Nexus line has always been most promising. The Nexus 5 was an amazing sub-$400 device. But the Nexus 6 is in the region of $700 and its ridiculously large 6-inch display is just not pocketable, unless you have your pants altered, like they’re doing in China these days. Maybe next year’s Nexus will return to a smaller form factor, but it’s not looking good.

The best budget phone of the year has to be the Moto G2. But flagships? I just don’t know. The OnePlus One is finally opening up pre-orders at the end of the month, but their weird marketing tactics and on-demand approach to manufacturing really irks a lot of people, including myself.

What else is piquing my interest? Well, Amazon released a souped-up version of the Kindle Paperwhite, called the Kindle Voyage. The 300ppi display loos killer but the $200 price tag needs to come down before I’d even consider it, and I read on my Kindle every day. I’ve also been keeping an eye on FitBit and just today there was a leak on a smartwatch they’re working on which has legitimately awesome fitness tracking capabilities such as built-in GPS, and presumably a long battery life. Once again, I’ll wait for the reviews. But maybe I could be persuaded to buy in on a smartwatch after all, especially if it does one thing really well and is not trying to be everything to everybody.

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