Sep 13, 2012 - technology    No Comments

Why I Love Tech Events

In the last 7 days, there have been two big tech events that I have followed closely. The first was Amazon’s Kindle event, and the second was Apple’s iPhone/iPod event. Twitter on both days (but especially yesterday, with the Apple event) was a mix of people sharing their thoughts about the event, or sharing how annoyed they are by people who share their thoughts on the event. Which, I get it — I get annoyed when people tweet every play of a game, or every segment of an entertainment awards show, or whatever. But I LOVE this stuff, and not because I am going to BUY it — but because I want to see what has been done to advance the technology. There’s some consumerism in there, sure (but there’s a lot of consumerism in pro sports and Hollywood, too) but I just love seeing how far we’ve come. The first phone I used was my home phone, and it was a rotary dial, of course, but it was also a PARTY LINE. I am 37 years old and have seen my telephone evolve from a party line to a tiny computer that lets me videochat with my sister across the country. That blows my mind, so I always watch with the hope that the next thing to come will be mindblowing as well.

So, first up, the Kindle event. I have a 1st gen Kindle that I got through work, back when it first came out. 5 years ago? or so? And it was great, I loved the e-reader concept and still do. But since then, I’ve also gotten an iPad (also through work) and since most of my reading is done in bed, I ended up using that a lot because it’s backlit. Kindles I have personally spent money on= 1, a gift for my sister in Colorado, and another yay, technology! thing about that, is that I have the Kindle under my account, so we can share books — something I really can’t do when she is 3000 miles away. When I first got my hands on the Kindle (the original) my thoughts were that it was really cool, but really expensive, and if I was paying, I wouldn’t have bought one unless I had accessibility issues. Having worked in book retail for years (RIP, Borders), as well as libraries, Large Print books are often abridged, and they are huge, monstrous things, and not every book gets the LP treatment. My very first thought with the K1 was “every book is now in large print, unabridged. Awesome.” Future kindles added text-to-speech (and then even more future kindles took it away in many models) but my first thought was what a boon e-readers would be for assistive technology.

When it came to the Kindle event last week, I really didn’t care about the Fire models. I have a tablet, I’m pretty committed to Apple for most of my technology (more in a bit) but the thing I found I didn’t like between reading on the K1 and reading on the iPad was the distractibility of the iPad. With a Kindle, I can straight up get lost in a book. With the iPad, I can read along, until a notification pops in to let me know that I got an email (“Oh, it’s from a student, I will just answer that now so I don’t have to worry about it later”) or a tweet directed to me or someone messages me on facebook, or or or — distractions that don’t come with a dedicated e-reader. But, I really liked the backlighting of the iPad (except when I try to read at lunch in a sunny spot. Then, yeah, it really sucks.) When the Nook with glow came out, I was excited — not because I was going to get one, but because I knew that Amazon would have to follow with something, and something even better. I watched the event last week specifically to see how they would do it, and it looks great. Kindle Paperwhite
has exactly all the features I want, at about 1/4 of the price of the original K1. I added it, and the leather case (in Honey !) to my Amazon wishlist as soon as the event was over.
What I love: the front-lighting looks great, it’s small and light, and did I mention only $119?

What I’ll miss: I loved the weird space age feel of that weird silvery cursor thing on the K1. I can’t explain why, I just did. I also loved buttons for turning pages, because it meant I could burrow under a blanket and turn pages and my hands wouldn’t get cold. That may sound a little weird but I live in Maine, we are cheap with oil, and when you are reading in bed in a 58 degree room, you appreciate being able to have as much of your person as insulated as possible. The Paperwhite has no buttons and a touch screen, and I haven’t found any info yet on how that will work with gloves, etc.

(Man, that hand looks gigantic. I know they want to make the Kindle seem small and light, but what pecentile does that hand fall on?!)



The other event that I always follow are the Apple events. I love Apple, I do, and I am eyeballs-deep into their ecosystem (exactly where they want me) but I love it for the reason so many people do — it works, and it works well for me, and for my general household. Like I like sharing books with my sister, I like sharing apps with my husband, or keeping our music in one pile under iTunes Match (which, we have pretty different tastes, but I like just having one account to deal with it.) My first (and thus far, only) smartphone is an iPhone4. My first iPod was the fat nano, and I sold that when I got an ipod touch in 2009 (because of where we live, while I really desired an iPhone, the AT&T service is terrible here, so I couldn’t justify it, so I did the iPod touch + dumbphone for a few years.) Dave had a fat nano that ended up being too small for his collection, so he bought a used Classic and sold the nano. I have had an iPad1 and and an iPad2 (still have) through work. Dave has a refurb iPad1, and we have a 27″ iMac* we got last summer, after using a G4 iBook for 6 years straight. I say all that to note that we are not “must have the newest, latest, greatest!” but that we tend to be pretty frugal and selective with what we DO buy.

The reason I was especially interested in this year’s iPhone announcement is that Dave needs a new phone. When we first switched to Verizon several years ago (because our local carrier was bought out, and because I get a discount because of my employer), he got an LGChocolate and I got an LG Env2. The Chocolate died earlier in the year, so I activated the old Env2 for him, which he’s been using, but with frustration — it pocket dials, and lately, it just turns itself off without warning, so he will come home to find his phone hasn’t even been ON, and he has missed messages. We looked for a feature phone that would work for him — requirements of “qwerty keyboard, won’t pocket dial, good ratings” and … they just don’t exist. In fact, when I asked on Facebook if anyone could recommend one (and specifically said, NOT A SMARTPHONE), I got 6 recommendations. All for smartphones. Feature phones are going away, and fast, and I didn’t want to use contract pricing on a crappy phone. But, we wanted to wait to see what Apple had for it’s next-generation.

iPhone5 is … underwhelming. LTE is nice, but we don’t have it in our area yet, and we are very infrequent travelers. The bumps to the camera seem okay, but.. not huge. That there isn’t any NFC — especially with the Passbook app — is almost… weird. And the dock connector changing — I get why they had to, but it’s probably a big reason why we aren’t going to bother with the 5 this time. I’m sure, eventually, we’ll end up with devices that use the lightning connector, but right now we have enough devices that use 30pin that we have docks and cables and car chargers and all of that, and I don’t want to deal with starting the conversion now. The things I’m most excited about are in the new iOs6, anyway, and not the actual phone. HD front camera? Eh. I do think the EarPods look like an improvement though, as I have never used Apple’s headphones because they just don’t fit in my ear, at all. I leave some at work or in the car in case I forgot my usual ones, but that’s about it. After all the hype, we’ll be getting Dave a 4s — maybe a 32gb if they go on a steep discount, but even the 16 would probably be enough. (It wouldn’t for me, but I realize I am probably a heavier user than he will be.) More exciting than Dave having a fancy phone will be Dave having a phone that STAYS ON which means I can REACH HIM.

The iPods are definitely neat looking — Ingrid has an old school CD player that was bought at Rite Aid I think (a no-name brand we’ve had around for years) and she is getting into music now. Her newest favorite is the Fresh Beat Band, and one evening a few weeks ago, I downloaded the album to my phone, on a whim, while we were outside, and when it started playing, she was SO excited. I burned her the CD when I got inside, and she’s been loving it, but it made me think “huh, when will this go the way of the ladybug record player? I wonder when she will get her first ipod?” Because, she will, some day. Not this year, probably, but I look at the Nano and it’s cute colors and think it’s totally workable by a little kid. And the colored Touch models are clearly aimed at the under18 market for getting most of the advantages of a smartphone, without the data plan.

In general, though, I was left feeling Meh. I almost feel like there was something else that was supposed to be there, in the phone — but it didn’t get perfected in time. (Also, I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Isaacson this week, so that is probably coloring my reaction, too. That maybe there was something that without the ‘reality distortion field’ around, it actually DIDN’T get done on time like with other products.) (Also, ironically, I read that book in its paper form, checked out from the library.) I’m glad we waited — either way we’ll be getting a better deal than if we’d bought a month ago, but there’s nothing to make me buy up to the latest model for this situation, and I wonder if there are others feeling the same. Especially with 4s coming in at a baseline 16 instead of 8 — it’s way more palatable. (I don’t think I could go 8gb for any smartphone, even for Dave.)

Two events, that will probably net out a total of $250 spent over the next few months. Yes, I love my tech events. But most of it is just to see what’s out there now, and to start wondering about what will be next. iPhone5s rumors… are there any yet? I’ll have to check twitter.

*My first computer was a 386 Compaq ‘laptop’┬áthat I took to college, which was followed by a Toshiba satellite, which was followed by a used G3 iBook, the G4, and then the iMac. The iPad is what led us to buy that first desktop.

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