Beyond The Code is now on Tumblr

I moved this blog to Tumblr a month or so ago. I feel Tumblr is a better fit for where I want to take Beyond The Code. You can still access Beyond The Code through its URL, I will not continue to update this WordPress site. Thank you for reading Beyond The Code!

Review: 2012 iPad

The standout feature of the new iPad is its ultra-high definition Retina display. Apple managed to squeeze a 2048 x 1536 resolution screen into just 9.7 inches. The screen is by far the best display I have ever seen and nothing even comes close to matching it. If the previous iPad didn’t melt away as you were using it, the new iPad certainly will. Colors pop even more on the new display and even when closely examining the device, it is hard to distinguish the individual pixels. One challenge with this new display is capturing it on camera, it is really something you have to experience for yourself.

Greater resolution comes at the cost performance, so Apple put a new chip called the A5X chip in the new iPad. The A5X has a quad core graphics processor, and although Apple’s iPad devices have never been lacking in speed, Apple’s newest device is no exception. The A5X more than adequately compensates for any potential loss in performance due to the high resolution of the display. The potential for gaming on the new iPad has also gotten brighter now that games can play faster and better looking than ever.

The third generation iPad is also available in a WiFi + 4G version. Apple included support for HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, and LTE. Unfortunately, the LTE is carrier specific, so you have to choose what carrier’s LTE network you will be using. Still, LTE is blazing fast and it is a very good addition to the new iPad.

A better screen, a faster processor, and LTE drain battery life like nobody’s business, so Apple increased the capacity of the new iPad’s battery by 70%. Interestingly, Apple managed to increase the capacity without increasing the physical size of the battery. All this means that the new iPad keeps the same battery life of its predecessor with one caveat, it takes about twice as long to charge. in practice, this hasn’t bothered me because the iPad already has such extremely good battery life, but it is still something you may want to keep in mind when charging the new iPad.

Apple also upgraded the rear camera on the new iPad, giving it the 5 MP sensor of the iPhone 4 and the optics of the iPhone 4S, making it relatively decent camera if you can brave looking like a fool while taking pictures with a device larger than your face. The new camera also shoots 1080p video, interestingly something the 5MP shooter on the iPhone 4 never could do. Sadly, Apple didn’t bother to give the front facing FaceTime camera an upgrade which is my one and only real disappointment with the new device.

Very little has changed on the software side of the new iPad. Although the new iPad is the first device to originally ship with iOS 5.1 the differences are minor, an updated Camera app for iPad, Photo Stream photo deletion, and battery life improvements are the standout features, but the third-gen iPad has one extra feature, Siri Dictation. While not Siri for iPad, the speech-to-text technology can now be used throughout the OS by tapping a button on the software keyboard similar to how iPhone 4S users are accustomed to do. This is a really great feature and it can make typing for long periods of time quicker and easier. While not perfectly accurate, it works well enough to be used often throughout the course of a day.

I took a few sample shots with the rear camera of the new iPad. I am not an
expert photographer, but some of the images seemed a little grainy to me, still this camera is a huge upgrade over the iPad 2’s rear camera.

One last thing about the new iPad is probably the most controversial part of the whole product, the name. Apple calls the third-gen iPad simply, “The new iPad.” Apple ditched the number after the “iPad” in favor of simplifying the name and making the naming scheme of the iPad consistent with that of iPods, Macs and Apple TV. The move gets rid of the unsustainable system of naming that Apple had going in previous devices. this is a positive change too much focus was placed on the naming of Apple’s latest device and in the case of the iPhone 4S, the fact that it wasn’t named “iPhone 5” hurt its reception by many who expected an “iPhone 5.” The new iPad is the largest update of the iPad since the original iPad itself. No matter what iPad you are using, it is worth at least considering an upgrade, especially of you do lots of reading on your device. If you haven’t gotten an iPad yet, there has never been a better time to buy an iPad.

Facebook’s IPO, What It Means For You

Facebook has grown to become the largest social network on Earth. It has changed a lot since when it launched in 2004, and has more than 800 million users worldwide. As you know, they just filed for IPO. Filing for IPO essentially means that they will be publicly traded on the US stock market. This marks the fact that they have become a very large company. This means they will be expected to act like a large company and will be more visible to the public eye. This is disruptive to startups because now Facebook has graduated from being a startup, to being a Silicon Valley giant. It will likely be run in a way similar to other big businesses, something not always good for the people who use the service. Every change made to the service will also come under more scrutiny from investors, possibly causing it to slow down the steady stream of changes it makes to the site. The biggest effect it will have for any one person is Mark Zuckerberg, who will now be incredibly wealthy thanks to the IPO. For you, the user, not much will change. Facebook will still be Facebook, for better or worse.

Why Safari and iWork have Not Been Updated

Mobile Safari > SafariI read M. G. Seigler’s piece on why Safari hasn’t skyrocketed like Chrome and it helped me realize why Apple’s products like Safari, iWork and their professional apps have been neglected. It all comes down to How Apple deals with things it does not value any longer. Products like Xserve, the iPod Classic, and others have been discontinued or severely neglected. This is because once Apple decides it wants to move on, it cuts off the resources it puts into that product. Take iWork, Apple is pushing the iPad as the forerunner of the post-PC era, so why pour resources into iWork for Mac if you are trying to (slowly) remove the Mac from the equation? iWork for Macs last received a major update in early 2009, iWork for iPad has received four major updates since it launched with the iPad in early 2010 and one of those updates also brought iWork to iPhone and iPod touch. Safari was last updated to support OS X Lion and a few small features like Reading List, much in the same way as iWork was updated with iCloud support, but nothing else. Safari on iOS however, received several features with the advent of iOS 5 with the Reader view, tabbed browsing on iPad, and Reading List support. Mobile Safari has also gotten attention in previous software updates like iOS 4.3, bringing JavaScript Nitro and better AirPlay support.

Clearly, Apple is not improving on its desktop products as much as its mobile ones. Apple does this because it sees iOS devices as the future and rather than dumping its resources into the waste bin of the past (cough cough Windows and OS X) it puts its resources into the garden of the future. (iOS devices) In the future, expect more of the same. Expect Apple to vigorously iterate on its mobile software, and expect OS X and Windows software to suffer as a result of growing neglect. It may seem like a bad idea for Apple to do something like this, but when mobile devices overtake PCs, Apple’s iteration on mobile software will have paid off.

iCloud’s Importance

Like many of you, I unboxed an iPad this Christmas. After using the iPad for a few hours I picked up the box, fascinated by how tightly everything in the box fit together. As I set the box down, it noticed that on the bottom edge of the box was an iCloud logo, just opposite of the side on which the Apple logo rested. Everyone knows how sparsely Apple decorates their products, so why would they put an iCloud logo on the box? Only if it was extremely important. More important than iOS 5, the A5 processor, FaceTime, iMessage, iTunes, or the App Store. Apple didn’t put logos for any of those things on the box of the iPad, no, it put the iCloud logo and nothing else.

So, why is iCloud so important to Apple? Is it because it syncs everything? No. iCloud is so important because it not only syncs your content, but it provides the stepping stone to the continuous client experience that has become the pinnacle of usability. Continuous client, if you don’t know, is simply the ability to stop reading a book or watching a movie or playing a game or doing anything, and picking up where you left off on another device. This is something Apple has the unique ability to do better than anyone else because its devices are so popular and Apple’s famous “closed” ecosystem allow it to spread iCloud’s adoption faster than anyone else.

iCloud can help Apple make the transition to PC-free iOS devices. This is important because Apple is moving the world beyond PCs and iCloud is now the forerunner of this transition. This is only the first of many transitions that will be made in the future and iCloud can help people make these transitions easily and painlessly.

iCloud will gain more features in the future, and it also provides a stairway right up to cloud-based apps and even devices when the time is right. iCloud could make transitions to, say, HTML 5 based apps and devices seamless because rather than having to plug-in to iTunes and backup, then plugin your new device and sync for an hour, you can have not even left the Apple Store with you new phone and your apps can be downloading in your pocket from a cloud-based backup. This gives Apple the ability to drastically alter the architecture of iOS in the future and keep the transition experience for customers a good one.

This is why iCloud is so important to Apple, it is the new iTunes, the tool that they will use to make transitions buttery-smooth, and it provides the foundation for continuous-client experiences.

Review: Cosmonaut

The Cosmonaut from Studio Neat aims to be the first in a new breed of stylus. It is not shaped like a pencil or a pen, which its creators say promotes holding the stylus at the tip and therefore touching the touch screen which results in unwanted interaction. Instead, the Cosmonaut is shaped like a whiteboard marker, making it a better fit for touch screens because you instinctively hold it differently.

Design: The Cosmonaut is very minimal, only using three different visible materials on the outside. You have a choice of buying it with an aluminum end cap or a wood end cap. The aluminum end cap is a particularly nice touch as it matches the aluminum on Apple devices. The only visible branding is the word “COSMONAUT” etched towards the back-end of the stylus. It is only about half a centimeter taller than an iPhone, so it should fit into your pocket just as easily.

Feel: The stylus is surprisingly heavy, but it is not much of a concern for practical usage. The surface of the stylus is tactile and won’t let fingerprints stick to it, unfortunately bits of dust and other small items will cling to its rubbery surface. The surface of the tip of the stylus is very smooth which makes using the cosmonaut on glass surfaces an absolute joy.

Use: The Cosmonaut is more useful than you may think. The stylus comes in handy while editing photos as it is more accurate than your finger and gives you more control. When using the Cosmonaut to draw on an iPad, its original use case, it shines. The tip glides across the glass like a piece of ice. The Cosmonaut also comes in handy when you are wearing gloves because you can just pull out the stylus instead of having to take off your gloves. It is also just a nice change from using your finger to manipulate touch surfaces, although it really isn’t quite as practical for everything as just using your finger. 

Conclusion: The Cosmonaut is a solid stylus, the best I’ve ever used. However, its use case is limited because your finger is great for doing most tasks on an iPad or trackpad, but if you do a lot of drawing or photo editing, it might be just the thing you are looking for. The Cosmonaut retails for $25 at Studio Neat’s website and comes with your choice of a wood or aluminum end cap.

Good Stuff

  • The design is nearly flawless
  • The tip glides very smoothly across glass
Bad Stuff
  • The body can attract dust particles

Twitter Fly

Twitter just launched a redesign of its iOS, Android, and web apps. The new design is centered around four sections: Home, Connect, Discover, and Me. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said that the redesign was more of a refinement of their existing product, revealing a larger strategy for Twitter. Rather than adding more features, like Facebook and Google+ are well-known for, Twitter dug deeper into the core of their product and attempted to extract what makes Twitter unique. If you are on Twitter, you are well aware of hashtags (#) and at signs (@) which sort of make up a language which Twitter users use. In the new Twitter design, this language is brought to the forefront by using at signs and hashtags as navigation buttons to the new sections of the site. The new design is also more consistent across multiple devices, and as the design is pushed to other products such as the iPad and Twitter for Mac, its consistency will only improve. Tweets can now be embedded into websites, allowing for more interaction around a single tweet. An example of an embedded tweet is at the bottom of this post. Twitter is also looking for ways to help brands better connect with their customers, therefore they are launching new brand pages for a few brands that should help them connect better with users across the social network. Twitter’s redesign is certain to encourage more people to adopt the service, which has in the past been confusing for new users.

If you don’t see the redesign yet, here is a small gallery of pictures of the new design to tide you over.

Here is the tweet announcing this post.

Inverse Relationship

The smaller the world gets, the farther apart we are

The world is shrinking. As the lyrics to It’s a Small World become prevalent in our culture, we seek out ways to connect with friends and family across the globe or simply across the street. People have always sought out better ways to communicate, faster, farther, and more effectively. Today, this has not slowed down a bit with the introduction of social networking that lets us communicate across the globe with close friends, or complete strangers.

To start things out, it would be helpful to preface this with a short history of how humans have communicated. It all started when humans learned to speak with one another. Later, traders established a written language so people could communicate without being in each other’s presence. Things really started to take off in the mid eighteen hundreds with the invention of the telegraph. In 1875, the first phone call was made. Fast forward over 130 years. Today, many forms of communication exist, most of them electronic. Social technologies such as video calls, texting, Facebook, all help us communicate with one another.  Social networks are one of the most popular forms of communication, allowing you to share your life online with other people. Video calling is an up-and-coming form of communication that is much like I phone call, save that you are watching a live video feed of their face as you speak with them.

Most people would agree that social networking and other technologies can help to build a relationship with other people. The disagreement comes when you ask whether or not social networking can replace physical communication. Social networking does not replace physical relationships.

Do social networks really help us connect with one another? Good relationships can only be created, improved, and maintained in real life. Unfortunately today, we are blinded by the rote idea that some website can improve our relationships with real people. However, this belief has been repeated so often that we have come to accept it as truth. Starting a friendship on Facebook is not a good way to meet someone for the first time. Imagine that someone has accepted your friend request on Facebook. Is your first move really to send them a message introducing yourself as someone who has seen them or just knows who they are? Obviously, this is not a way to start a successful relationship. Another issue with online relationships is consistency. When you see a friend, you usually see them at a certain time and place regularly, otherwise you don’t have consistent contact with that person. Facebook and video chat do not fill the void left by not seeing a person on a regular basis. First, Facebook can’t be a full relationship. Virtually looking over a person’s shoulder and commenting on what they do does not fulfill what is needed to form a relationship. Second, Facebook shares all your actions on certain sites, and the number of such sites is increasing. All this does is make the influx of information coming in more meaningless. Before, someone would have to specifically click a “Like” button or share something. This made it so that you had to at least have some liking for the song or other content you were sharing. Now it is meaningless, you could see that a friend listened to two albums on Spotify, that gives me very little useful information in deciding to listen to music because I have no idea if my friend even enjoyed listening to these songs. Now, video chat. Video chatting is handy, certainly, but when you receive a video chat the person essentially enters your world uninvited. Remember that we are used, as people, to see others in regular fashion.

Some people say that social networking really helps others connect with old friends, but this does not work in practice. Whenever someone moves away, the fact that there is no longer the regular, physical communication effectively kills the relationship. Having a time when you usually see someone, whether you like it or not is invaluable to relationships. The issue with social networking and other technology is that you have to remember to call or communicate in some way with that person.

In conclusion, many people have failed to recognize how social technologies have affected our lives.  Many more have failed to recognize that their relationships are not being sustained by some website alone. Relationships require a real life component to be sustained. Social networks and other forms of electronic communications aren’t all bad; they have their place. Their place is as a supplement to the communication that is already happening in real life.

Nokia’s Unimpressive Comeback

In recent years, namely those since the iPhone, Nokia has slowly fallen out of favor and lost market share. When Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO announced their switch to Windows Phone, there was hope.

Nokia’s mentality behind their switch from MeeGo to Windows Phone was that they made great hardware, but the software, MeeGo, was holding them back. So they announced their switch to Windows Phone (a very solid platform.) Unfortunately, shortly after they announced this switch, the software was improved and it shipped on the Nokia N9. This created a quite bit of sympathy for the MeeGo platform. Nokia had worked itself into a sort of corner with many people still liking its older platform, but at the same time it was committed to moving to the Windows Phone platform.

So Nokia had a rare chance to start anew, with a brand new platform, a refreshed user experience, and a potential for bringing its brand back to the forefront. So what did Nokia do? It released the Lumia 800, an N9 running Windows Phone. This phone did not even live up to the expectations set by other leading Windows Phones. In addition, the Lumia 800 does not have any of the software tweaks that Nokia promised for its Windows Phones. In essence, it feels outdated at launch; a phone that is only a stop-gap solution.

In short, Nokia had a chance, and they blew it.

Not all hope is lost for Nokia, they will still make great hardware, and one day they will go on to improve the Windows Phone 7 OS on their devices. Unfortunately, you only get one shot at a first impression and Nokia did not use it wisely.

iPhone 4S Hands On

This is my second ever hands on video, detailing the iPhone 4S. Thanks for watching!