Global TV Tech Buzz: New Fall Phone / Tablet Announcements

You don’t have to go to Costco and see the aisles of Christmas trees, ornaments, and cards to know that the major consumer season has already begun. The past week’s announcements by some of technology’s biggest names is also perfectly timed to have their toys on shelves in time for the holiday.

Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Motorola, and Nokia have all unveiled new products in the past week and a half. Here’s what you can expect the little elves at the North Pole to be assembling for the good girls and boys this season:

iphone 5 and ipodiPhone 5 $699
It’s taller, and thinner. It’s faster, and the access ports have changed. The camera has been improved, and it can take lightning quick shots. But, really, what’s so great about the iPhone 5? (70% of Global Calgary viewers said it’s not a significant upgrade) It’s one of those magical Apple things, according to Ryan Block of gdgt, you don’t think you want it until you touch it.

Apart from the taller design, giving it a near 16×9 aspect ratio when held in landcape mode, the dock connector is the biggest change to the iPhone. Gone is the 30 pin connector to be replaced by a slimmer 8 pin one. That means all your cables, accessories, and the like you’ve been amassing for the past 5 years are obsolete. Apple, however, will sell you a bulky adapter for $29. Sigh.

All in all, iPhone 5 is being greeted with the same muted enthusiasm from critics that fell in the wake of iPhone 4S. Still, the pre-order inventory sold out in under an hour.

Many iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S users will be just as happy with their current device when the new edition of iOS comes out next week. The software upgrade includes more than 200 features like Siri, new maps, and deeper Facebook integration.

iPod Touch $299 – $399
It’s an iPhone without the phone part. As is the case in the past, the iPod Touch (not an iTouch, there is no such thing), looks exactly like it’s big brother, but it’s the guts that are different. The new iPod Touch doesn’t have an 8 megapixel camera like the iPhone 5, settling instead of a 5 megapixel edition. Still, this could be a point and shoot camera killer, as Apple has included a clever loop strap with each device so it can slip on to your wrist – just like a camera can.

iPod Nano $149
The updated Nano is the thinnest player Apple has created. Just 5mm thin, this device is light, yet still holds 16 GB of music. The screen is multi touch, but it doesnt run custom apps – you’re locked with the ones Apple provides (hey, just like the first gen iPhone!) That said, it has everything you need. Music, photos, and videos are easily accessible along with some extras. There’s bluetooth to play through a car, or wireless headset. There’s also built in Nike+ app and pedometer making it ready made as a fitness partner.

apple earpodEarPods
Apple has finally admitted what we have all known for a decade – the ubiquitous white earbuds that were a hallmark of early iPod marketing are terrible. The new EarPods were supposedly engineered after much research, but they’re still generic in size, and according to early reviews, only marginally better than the older version, and not any more comfortable.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Whereas Apple strives to make money on the device, and the purchases after, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said the Kindle line is all about the after market purchases. In the end, it doesn’t matter. While the iPad can be global because it’s a hardware play, the Kindle Fire is, once again, mostly a US only device and will not be available in Canada.

Microsoft Surface
Earlier in the summer, Microsoft gave some nebulous details about their Surface tablet. A release date, and pricing wasn’t very forthcoming, at the time. October 26 now been circled on the calendar and Microsoft will be selling the device only from their retail outlets. Expect a pop up store in Edmonton this fall, but none here. It’s still wait and see for the Surface, but Windows 8 looks intriguing.

nokia lumiaNokia Lumia 920
THIS is what I wish an iPhone redesign would bring. I am a fan boi, I’m in the Apple ecosystem and I don’t imagine I’ll be changing anytime soon. That said, after holding Nokia’s Lumia at CES earlier this year, I was immediately wooed by this device’s elegant interface. Flip through one of these for a while and when you go back to your iPhone, you’ll sigh at the messy mosaic of tiles versus the sleek Windows Phone interface.

The Nokia Lumia 920 also brings a feature many were expecting Apple to drop in the iPhone 5, namely NFC. Near Field Communication is the future of telephony and commerce. Transactions can be complete just by touching devices, and Apple is lagging as other manufacturers jump on board. We’ll get more release information when Windows 8 is released this fall.

Motorola Razr
The mobile phone brand, Motorola, is now in the Google fold and this was their first big product announcement as part of the company. A trio of Razr’s were unveiled, each slim and showing off a buttonless face with a huge screen. Android fans should look for Razr HD, Razr HD Maxx, and Razr M in Rogers stores this fall. They’re calling this LTE edition “the all-day phone” as a way to emphasize the battery life on the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Samsung is off the mat after getting whalloped by Apple in court over patent infringements. The company continues to tack away from a copycat past by blazing a new trail with phablets – phones that are almost as big as tablets. The spring saw the launch of the Galaxy Note and fall brings a sequel (and people think Apple releases skus too quickly). New features include an instant on when you remove the stylus, an Air View mode whereby just hovering over the screen will bring up previews, and picture in picture to pop up videos while you browse. It’s still beefy, commanding a 5.5″ screen. Look for the device to be in stores in October.

You’ll notice there’s one company missing from this rundown, RIM. The biggest headline they made this week was anecdotal evidence that some retail outlets are going entire months without selling a single handset. The company won’t release it’s next generation software until next year, missing out entirely on this busy economic season.



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