Category Archives: apple

CES gadget showcase: Roku TV

SAMSUNG CSCIt doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that media-streaming set-top boxes are an endangered species. With the advent of “smart,” app-running, internet-connected TVs a few years ago, the writing has been on the wall for the likes of Roku and Apple TV.

Rumours about Apple producing its own television reached fever pitch shortly after Steve Jobs’ passing, with the company founder telling his biographer that he had finally “cracked” television. Of course, it’s been a few years now and we’re still waiting.

Roku has beaten Apple to the punch by combining with a pair of lesser-known Chinese TV manufacturers – at least to North Americans – in the form of TCL and Hisense to indeed produce a pair of integrated smart TVs. After checking out a demo here at the Consumer Electronics Show, I got the sense that Roku TV may very well be the first smart television whose actual smart functions aren’t all that dumb. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in apple, CES, roku


2014: The smartphone showdown ramps up

smartphones1With just about every major smartphone maker performing below expectations in 2013, it’s clear the market – at least in rich, developed countries – is starting to mature. As industry observers such as tracking firm IDC have surmised, that’s going to result in some good news for consumers in 2014 and onward: lower prices.

On the face of it, such a prediction makes sense. The likes of Apple and Samsung are going to want to continue selling people new products, yet with many smartphone owners either stuck in the middle of contracts or quite happy with their existing devices, there are going to be fewer takers than in previous years. Naturally, the best way for manufacturers to entice stodgy consumers into buying something newer and shinier is to offer it a lower price.

But, as I’ve written before, that’s not necessarily how the smartphone market works thanks to the presence of middle-men: wireless carriers. For the most part, it’s cellphone companies who buy the devices and then effectively resell them to customers, usually with subsidies in exchange for those long-term contracts. Those contracts then allow carriers to keep monthly service prices higher than they might be otherwise, since customers aren’t easily able to defect to competing providers, who might offer them a better deal.

Lower prices are thus about to butt into contract subsidies, which means that the interests of wireless carriers are about to clash with those of phone manufacturers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in apple, Google, mobile, samsung


Moto X: The best new gadget of 2013

moto-x620When I sat down to think about my 10 favourite gadgets of the year, I found myself hitting a wall – I actually couldn’t think of 10 that I liked all that much.

After a heady few years in which important new gizmos appeared just about every week, 2013 was more of an iterative time bereft of that One Big Thing. I tried to narrow my field down to five, but then figured heck, why cut corners? Why not just go with the one thing I really did like?

There were a few contenders. Obviously, I like the updated iPad Mini, which now has a sharper Retina screen. If it’s a case of what I use most, the Mini wins hands down – it goes everywhere and does everything with me. If it was waterproof, I’d probably use it in the shower. However, it is merely an iterative product that’s a touch better than its predecessor. That’s not enough for it to be my favourite new thing of the year.

I also like the Xbox one and the PlayStation 4 – both new consoles are fun and show a ton of promise. But they’re only as good as the games that are made for them, and so far there aren’t a whole lot of those, which is why I’m hesitant to bestow my Oprah-esque title on them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in android, apple, Google, motorola


Roku 3: The king of media streaming devices

Roku-3Continuing along with this week’s Black Friday gadget special, today we look at the king of media streaming devices: the Roku 3. Yes, the Apple TV is arguably better for people who are deeply hooked into Apple’s various gadgets, but Roku’s flagship product is the best alternative for those who aren’t, or for those who are looking for a broader experience.

The Roku 3 beams a wide assortment of internet channels to your TV, from the quintessential – like MLB.TV and Netflix, which is the company that ultimately spun off Roku – to the obscure, such as Kids Recipes and Autism Live. All told, about 500 channels are available in Canada.

While smart TVs are quickly duplicating many of the same features that media streaming devices such as Roku deliver, the specialized gadgets still hold a few advantages. For one, Roku has tons more channels, with the only notable one lacking being YouTube. The other bonus is that the devices are quite inexpensive: in Canada the Roku 3 goes for $109, the Roku 2 for $89 and the Roku 1 for $69. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 26, 2013 in apple, roku


Review: iPad Mini gets even better with Retina

tapped outIt’s no secret I’m a huge fan of the iPad Mini. It was my favourite gadget of 2012, simply because it was the one that changed my life the most. That’s not hyperbole, it’s actually true – I do everything with it now. The Mini is my device of choice for web surfing, sending emails, signing contracts, playing casual games, reading comic books and even writing stories when I’m on a plane or train. This year, I did away with paper notebooks – a staple in the journalism business – and now take all my notes on the tablet. I often joke that because of its indispensability, the Mini is the first thing I pack on my frequent travels, followed by a toothbrush and underwear.

The one flaw with last year’s model was its lack of Apple’s sharper Retina display. It was an unfortunate tradeoff in moving from a full-sized iPad since the most obvious result was text that almost looked blurry in comparison. Still, it was worthwhile in the long run for its size/weight and price benefits. You just can’t beat a $320 tablet that can fit in your back pocket.

So, to no one’s surprise, the iPad Mini with Retina screen is out now. It’s music to my ears but, as always, there’s a tradeoff. In this case, it’s an extra $100 on the price tag. Is it worth it? I’ve been using the new Mini for a few days now and I think I have some answers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in apple, ipad


Updated Surface tablets still don’t have a market

surface-2With Microsoft launching its second-generation Surface products and Apple announcing a refresh of its iPad line today, we might as well call this Tablet Tuesday. Yet, while Apple is certain to get the majority of the day’s headlines, it’s actually Microsoft’s products that are more interesting, mainly because they illustrate the rather decided state of the market and how difficult it’s going to be to crack.

I got to play around with the two new Surface tablets last week at an event in Toronto and I generally liked what I saw. Microsoft is bringing two new products to bear, with each apparently aimed at different markets, although both are being billed as productivity tools. The lighter and cheaper Surface 2 is the company’s main tablet competitor to the likes of the iPad or Nexus 7 while the Surface Pro 2 is the next iteration of its effort at tablet-laptop hybrids.

However, despite both devices having some neat features, upsides and improvements over their progenitors, I’m still not sure whether there’s really a market for either. I don’t think I would buy either of them for their intended purposes, if at all. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in apple, ipad, microsoft


Ebook retailers wake up to internet’s dark side

ereadersThis past weekend was a particularly bad one for just about every major e-book retailer out there, with revelations that hard-core pornographic content was rampant in their electronic stores. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and WH Smith were just a few of the e-book retailers found by The Kernel, an online muckracking website based in the United Kingdom, to be selling ebooks from self-published authors glorifying such topics as rape, incest and bestiality.

In what it describes as “an epidemic of filth,” the site says that “unlike the bookshelves in physical stores, online bookstores appear to be a Wild West of depraved content sure to horrify every parent and book-lover. Some of Britain and America’s most treasured brands are profiting from paperbacks, e-books and audio books stuffed with deeply repellant material that skirts the boundaries of illegality.”

Some of the content on sale is indeed truly repellent, with titles ranging from Taboo Acts Vol. I: Loving the Dog to Raped By Daddy: Daddy’s Sex Slave Part 1. Many of the retailers wasted no time in taking action, with WH Smith, for one, shutting down its website to remove the offending content. Depending on the individual retailer and specific countries in question, many of the companies could be in violation of several kinds of laws, obscenity among them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in amazon, apple, ebooks, sex


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