After months of speculations from various web sites: iLounge, Fast Company, 9 to 5 Mac, Mashable and The Unofficial Apple Weblog The day for Apple to review the punch line to their statement in the invitation is finally here.

Come see what 2011 will be the year of.

At 10:00 this morning (US Pacific Time) Steve Jobs reviewed the new "iPad 2". In short it is faster, lighter and more feature rich than the previous generation. Along with the new iPad Jobs and company also announced the release of Photo Booth, FaceTime, iMovie and GarageBand for the iPad. The latter two will be available at USD4.99 via the iTunes App Store. All of these along with iOS 4.3 will be available March 11th, and the prices of all 6 models remain the same with the new version. iOS 4.3 will be available for iPad, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod Touch (3G and 4G). The most significant feature; that I look forward to, will be the Hotspot feature. This will allow the iPhone 4 or iPod Touch (3G and 4G) create a WiFi hotspot for up to 5 devices.

Specifications iPad 1 iPad 2
CPU 1GHz Single core Apple A4 1GHz Dual core Apple A5
LCD Screen Resolution 1024 x 768 pixels at 132 pixels ppi
Dimensions (HxWxD) 9.56" x 7.47" x 0.5" 242.8mm x 189.7mm x 13.2mm 9.50" x 7.31" x 0.34" 241.2mm x 185.7mm x 8.8mm
Weight 1.6 lb. (730g) 1.33 lb. (601g)
Colours None
  • Black
  • White
Radios
  • Wi-Fi + 3G model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • Wi-Fi + 3G for Verizon model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)
Storage
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 64GB
Sensors
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
Cameras None
  • Back camera: Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; still camera with 5x digital zoom
  • Front camera: Video recording, VGA up to 30 frames per second with audio; VGA-quality still camera
  • Photo and video geotagging over Wi-Fi

With iPad 2 we also see that the availability of two new accessories for the iPad: Apple Digital AV Adapter and a Smart Cover.

The new Video Adapters joins the other video adapters Apple has for the iPad to support the iPad 2 video output:

  • Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple VGA Adapter are able to provide video mirroring up to 1080p.
  • Apple Component AV Cable is able to provide video out at 576p and 480p.
  • Apple Composite AV Cable is able to provide video out at 576i and 480i.

Again Apple is doing a progressive roll out of the new iPad 2. Of course the US will get their first shipment on March 11th, with 26 or more countries on March 25th.

Phrase 2:
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • UK
Phrase 3:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Hungary
  • Luxembourg
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Unfortunately, this time Hong Kong is not part of the 2nd or 3rd phrase roll out.

Along with the announcement Jobs also wanted to emphasis a message to the consumers (and competitors in this market):

It's in Apple's DNA that technology is not enough. It's tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it's the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive.

Recommendations

The new iPad 2 is very impressive on paper and it has several cool features, but for someone who already owns an iPad (now 1G) this new version is not a worth while upgrade. Especially if your iPad is less than a year old. I personally will wait and see what the rumored iPad 3 will be like later this year.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_d6_gbb90I

On Wednesday, October 20, 10:00 (US PDT) Apple hosted their "Back to the Mac" event in Cupertino, California, USA. During the event they introduced the new iLife '11 with the same suite of 5 applications: iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb, iDVD. They also gave a sneak peek of the next Mac OS X version 10.7 (aka "Lion") and FaceTime for Mac. The "one more thing" as this announcement was the brand new MacBook Air (late 2010).

iPhoto '11

Most features are the same here. Steve Jobs highlighted the following features:

  • New full screen modes
  • Facebook enhancements
  • Emailing Photos
  • New slideshows
  • Big leap in books
  • Letterpress cards

Apple greatly enhanced the user experience of creating photo books. With the addition of Letterpress cards this will challenge the needs to purchase physical cards any more.

iMovie '11

Apple added some very impressive features to this version. Jobs highlighted the following:

  • All new audio editing
  • One step effects
  • People Finder
  • News and sports themes
  • Movie trailers

Of the five applications in the suite iMovie '11 enhancements seem to be most impressive to me. Apple added audio graph to every clip view, including the Project view. The new audio editing feature is of professional quality, with very simply interface for adding special effects to audio.

Apple added iPhoto Faces facial recognition technology to iMovie, giving the new Movie Trailers feature the ability to isolate clips of a given individual simply selecting their name.

Speaking of Movie Trailer, this is a new feature that makes creating quick trailer to a movie very simply. Not sure how practical it is for home movies. I guess in the case of home movies these are not trailers but the actual movie you will want to share with family and friends. Because we all know how boring watching someone else's home movie can be.

This Movie Trailer feature comes with a storyboard to guide the user through the creation of the trailer, but there is no mention of how easy it is to customize those storyboards aside from changing the text in each.

GarageBand '11

Most of the features here are the same. Jobs highlighted the following for GarageBand '11:

  • Flex Time
  • Groove Matching
  • More guitar amps & effects
  • New piano & guitar lessons
  • "How Did I Play?"

The Flex Time and Groove Matching appear to be great enhancements for musician, but since I'm not a musician I cannot comment fairly on it. That applies to the other highlighted features also.

iWeb '11

There are not much that was changed. Apple added the ability to add widgets to web pages. They supply nine of them:

  • Adding photos from MobileMe Gallery
  • Embed YouTube videos
  • Google Map
  • Google AdSense integration
  • Take photos using the iSight camera
  • Capturing movies with the iSight camera
  • Add a countdown clock
  • Create a RSS feed
  • Include HTML code snippet

I kind of hoping that Apple releases an application to create interactive iBooks, and enhance audio content for iTunes Store. May be next version.

As always iLife '11 will be shipped free of charge along with each new Mac and the upgrade price is USD49.00 (HKD448.00) for Single User and USD79.99 (HKD688.00) for the Family Pack.

FaceTime on Mac

Finally FaceTime will be available on the Mac. Although in beta right at the moment, users will be able to FaceTime with iPhone 4's and iPod Touch 4G when it is released. If you have a Mac or one of the new compatible iOS device you can download the beta to try.

Mac OS 10.7 (aka "Lion")

Nothing much can be said since it was just a sneak peek at the OS. As Steve Jobs explains, iOS is based on OS X and now it is time for OS X user interface to be redefined base on lessons learnt from iOS. Details of what to expect can be best seen in Apple's video. It is expect to release in the Summer 2011.

One new addition to OS 10.7 that we get end of this year is the new Mac App Store. This new store will be similar to the App Store that existed for the iOS devices. Apple will offer the same deal to developers and developers will have to apply to have their apps included in the App Store.

The idea of the Mac App Store is great and has been discussed since the appearance of the App Store for iOS devices, but how well will developers receive this new method of distributing their apps? Given the troubles many have encountered with the current App Store approval process. I'm sure the smaller software developers will welcome the idea, but the adoption of the Mac App Store but large software developers like many of Apple's competitors: Adobe, Microsoft and Google, will be a sign of approval for this approach.

What happens for software that are not distributed through the App Store? Are they placed in a sandbox on the user's Mac? We will not know until Apple begins to release more information regarding the Mac App Store.

For Macintosh users the Mac App Store will be a huge step towards a ease of mind. The user no longer have to rely on the software to check for updates, or manually search for these potential updates themselves. Not sure if this approach will eliminate malwares, given the number of hacks that existed in apps that got pass Apple's App Store screeners.

For the latter, does Apple have some new method up its sleeves? I just hope that Apple can do a better job than the iOS App Store approval process.

With the Mac App Store Apple will finally closes off the last hole for their products, they will be able to maintain total control of the user experience for their products. For long time Mac users this should not be a surprise, it has always been Steve Jobs [Apple's] gaol from the start. Some may call this a "wall-garden" and some may call this a "peace of mind".

MacBook Air (Late 2010)

This is Apple's thinnest and smallest Mac they've ever made. The thickest part is only a mere 0.68 inch and it tappers to an incredible 0.11 inch.

All MacBook Air models will come with the following:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache
  • 2GB of RAM on board and an maximum of 4GB
  • NVIDIA GeForce 320M with 256MB shared memory
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • headphone jack
  • a built-in microphone
  • Airport Extreme WiFi (802.11n that is 802.11a/b/g compatible)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

The battery life on these new MacBook Air is very impressive. A conservative estimate with wireless web surfing during testing gives a battery life of 7 hours on the 13-inch, 5 hours on the 11-inch and a staggering 30 days standby time for both.

Screen Size CPU Speed Solid State Drive Price (USD) Price (HKD)
11.6 inch 1.4 GHz 64 GB $999.00 $7588.00
11.6 inch 1.4 GHz 128 GB $1199.00 $9088.00
13.3 inch 1.86 GHz 128 GB $1299.00 $9888.00
13.3 inch 1.86 GHz 256 GB $1599.00 $12,488.00

In the past because the MacBook Air does have a built-in optical drive, it was difficult to reinstall the OS. With the release of the new models Apple has decided to ship a Software Reinstall (USB flash) Drive with each MacBook Air.

From the gallery of images on Apple.com for the new MacBook Air, they review what appears to be a SD card slot on the right side of the MacBook Air, like those available on MacBook Pro since mid-2009. Strangely there is no mention of such a slot in the Tech Specs on the site.

[Updated: October 21, 2010, 10:00] The apparent difference is that the 11-inch models do not come with a SD Card Expansion Slot where as the 13-inch models do. This can be clearly seen on Apple's MacBook Air comparison page for the new models.

You can watch the full keynote on Apple's Events web site.

Last night Hong Kong time (10:00 US PST) Apple announced the next generation iPhone, the "iPhone 4", and renamed its OS from "iPhone OS" to "iOS 4", during Steve Jobs' keynote speech at their WWDC '10. During the keynote Jobs highlighted 8 of the new features in iPhone 4. These are:

  • FaceTime
  • Retina Display
  • Multitasking
  • HD Video Recording
  • iMovie for iPhone
  • iBooks
  • Gyroscope
  • 5-Megapixel Camera with LED Flash

Aside from these 8 features mentioned there are a few more that worth mentioning.

  • External antenna
  • Front facing camera
  • 7 hours of talk time on 3G

I will leave the summary of these features to Apple's excellent web pages for the iPhone, what I will do instead is explain how these features should or should not affect your purchasing decision of the iPhone 4.

Feature Benefits

Before we understand how these features should effect your purchasing decision, we should understand how these iPhone 4 features will benefit you.

FaceTime

This is simply video chat on the iPhone. Unfortunately, it currently works only between iPhone 4's and only if these iPhones are connected via WiFi to the Internet.

Fortunately, FaceTime is based on open standards: SIP, h.264, AAC, STUN, TURN, ICE, RTP and SRTP. Apple will submit FaceTime to the standards body to get it accepted as a standard, like they did with QuickTime for MPEG-4.

The important point to note here is the SIP standard used in FaceTime. This means that other SIP video chat service can potentially work with FaceTime. One such service is Gizmo5, now a Google property, but Google has yet to integrate it with Google Voice or shut the service down. One popular video chat/VoIP service that FaceTime will not work with is Skype, because Skype uses proprietary technology to establish connections between users.

Due to the current limitations of FaceTime, this feature should not have much value in your decisions to purchase an iPhone 4. Also in the near future, if you do not know anyone who has an iPhone 4 and is significant enough to want to video chat with, this definitely will be one feature you will not use.

The Camera

In the new iPhone 4 there are two. A 5-Megapixels camera with 5X digital zoom on the back with built-in LED flash, and a VGA quality front-facing camera on the front. Both of these cameras are capable of capturing still photos and videos up to 30 fps. The former is capable of also capturing HD videos at 720p.

You may notice these capabilities do not appear to be new for smartphones, and you will be right. Apple isn't always the first to implement a particular technology, but they usually do it better than most competitors. In the case of the 5-Megapixels back side camera, unlike other manufactures, Apple achieved this megapixels not by reducing the size of the pixel, therefore the captured image is a true 5-Megapixel image.

If you are the type that always like to have a high resolution camera with you this feature will be great. Or if you are a parent with a young child this will be perfect for those special moments you like to capture for prosperity.

Retina Display

This brand new LCD display technology has 4 times as many pixels compared to previous iPhone models, paceked inside the same 3.5" LED-backlit display, hence producing a display of 960 x 640 pixels display with 326 ppi pixel density.

Again Apple did not do what it's competitors have done, they invented a new way to fuse the LCD to the Multi-Touch screen, therefore removing any possibility of air leaking into the gap between the two layers. This produced an effect as if the pixels are painted directly on the glass surface, with a superb viewing angle. This display also has the same IPS technology used in the Apple LED Cinema displays and iPad, as a result the screen has a 800:1 contrast ratio, producing the darkest darks and whitest whites.

If you read a lot of documents or images this Retina display will be perfect for that. Almost like looking at real printed paper or glossy printed photos.

External Antennas

The iPhone 4 has strips of stainless steel which make up the edges surrounding the phone, aside from serving as structural rigidity and mount points for internal components, they are also part of the GSM/UMTS and Bluetooth/WiFi/GPS.

This new design produces a very thin phone and better reception compared to the previous iPhone models.

The iPhone 4 also has 802.11n WiFi support at 2.4 GHz only, but this will also improve the speed of WiFi connectivity when 802.11n access point is available. Although, due to the lack of 5 GHz support this will not improve the WiFi range of the iPhone 4.

Gyroscope

The iPhone 4 has a built in 3-axis gyroscope, along with the accelerometer it will provide a 6-axis motion sensing.

This addition sensor will help application developers produce even more imaginative applications. During the keynote game control was demonstrated using these 6-axis motion sensors, but I believe there will be many usage in the area of augment reality applications.

Last Friday Read Write Web reported that Google may release Google Goggles iPhone app. With the additional sensor it will greatly improve the accuracy and user interface of Google Goggle.

Conclusion

Now you have some ideas how these new features in the iPhone 4 can be use, I will begin to help you with the decision of choosing the right iPhone. What I will not do is get into the discussion of whether to get an iPhone. I will assume you have already made the decision to do so.

First I need to separate the readers into two groups: ones who already own a model of iPhone, and ones who do not own iPhones.

Do Not Yet Own an iPhone

Your decision right now should be whether to choose the new iPhone 4 or an iPhone 3GS.

This decision should not include the iPhone 3G; even if you can find a store that still carries it. Therefore, second handed iPhone 3G and first generation iPhone (aka. iPhone 2G), should also be avoided.

The main reason for this is because Apple has discontinued future OS supports for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 2G models. The last iOS that fully supports these iPhone models is iOS 3.1.3. So these models will not be able to take full advantage1 of the features and enhancements from iOS 4 onwards.

I will assume you are not the type that wants the latest greatest gadgets, since it took you over 3 years before you decide to purchase an iPhone. Also because doing so with any technology is an endless uphill battle. Having said that, I believe a new or used iPhone 3GS can be a good choice for you. Especially when Apple has lowererd its price.

You Already Own an iPhone

Among these users there are three types:

  • iPhone 2G (first generation iPhone) users: it is definitely time for you to upgrade to iPhone 4. You had waited 2 years and you had been missing many of the modern features of the iPhone. While your iPhone may still worth something in the 2nd hand market, you should sell your iPhone.

  • iPhone 3G users: like the iPhone 2G Apple has discontinued future OS support for this model, and you may have notice your iPhone is a bit slower than your friends using the iPhone 3GS. You may have correctly thought that the iPhone 3GS was a minor upgrade to your iPhone 3G. You did not care about the faster processor, better battery life and digital compass back then. This time the iPhone 4 will be a much better upgrade in the same three areas.

  • iPhone 3GS users: for you you may want to hold off on upgrading to the iPhone 4. Yes the new features may be nice, but will you be able to fully utilize it? Plus iOS 4 will give you many of the same features, which you can upgrade your iPhone 3GS to when it becomes available. So I will recommend you upgrade the iOS on your iPhone to iOS 4, use it for a while and see if the iPhone 4's additional features are worth the upgrade. Remember though, the longer you wait the less your iPhone 3GS will be worth in the 2nd hand market.

In the above analysis I mentioned the 2nd hand iPhone market. At the moment, the largest market for iPhones is mainland China, but the "officially" sold iPhones do not have WiFi support. Therefore, gray market iPhones from around Asia; particularly Hong Kong due to its officially fully unlocked versions, and 2nd hand iPhones are still in great demand. This should always be a consideration when you are planing to upgrade to a newer model of iPhone.

1 You can install iOS 4 onto the iPhone 3G but most of the features will not be available. Most evident will be the Multitask feature.