We take a look back at some of the biggest gadget news this month, from Apple’s iPad mini announcement – which also came with the launch of new desktop and laptop computers, as well as accessories providing more power – to the release of Windows 8 and the wide range of compatible devices that followed. We also look at what Google has to offer from its new and improved Nexus range.
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A small tablet with a big price tag from Apple
Following closely on the heels of the iPhone 5, Apple announced more new products this month: the long-awaited iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad, a slim new iMac with an innovative Fusion Drive, and a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.
Starting at €339, the 7.9-inch iPad mini offers a third more display real estate than the Google Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire HD, but both these devices are priced around the US$200 mark. Apple’s senior vice-president of marketing Phil Schiller defended the higher price for a premium product such as the iPad mini, and the fanbois were clearly in agreement that the cost was justified as the white iPad mini sold out during the first day of pre-orders.
Announced along with new devices were some new accessories, including new Lightning adaptors. A Lightning Digital AV adaptor and Lightning to VGA adaptor have appeared in the Apple store, as well as a 12W USB power adaptor said to charge faster than the older 10W adaptors, as Apple told 9to5Mac.
The well-stocked Windows 8 bandwagon
With PC sales on track for their first decline in 11 years, the release of Windows 8 is hoped to provide a much-needed boost for the market. Even Microsoft is getting in on the hardware game, launching its own tablet computer. Surface pricing was finally revealed to start at US$499, but we’re yet to hear word on availability in Ireland.
Ahead of the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the BBC that future hardware plans are in the making, which could be a threat to PC manufacturers – though they certainly haven’t been resting on their laurels when it comes to Windows 8.
Our first look at the complete and final version of the Windows 8 platform came via a Lenovo device, but there are plenty more OEMs to choose from. Earlier this month, we checked out the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Tap 20, while we’ve seen plenty of releases from all major brands.
HP has the ElitePad 900 tablet for business customers as well as two ultrabooks and a hybrid tablet for consumers adding to its range of laptops and desktops. Dell has also covered all bases with hybrids and a tablet, ultrabook and all-in-one.
Fujitsu also has a hybrid tablet, as well as Windows 8 laptops designed just for women in the most patronising manner imaginable. Samsung is also getting in on the Windows 8 act with all-in-one desktops, a hybrid notebook and tablet PCs, while products from Asus and LG have also been announced.
As part of the Windows 8 platform, these devices will come with Microsoft apps like those for the Xbox entertainment hub, the Office 2013 suite and Skype as standard, while the likes of Netflix, Muzu.tv and more will be available through the Windows Store.
Google’s new Nexus family
Though its big New York event was shut down by Hurricane Sandy, Google went ahead and announced its new range of Nexus products via the Official Google Blog.
First, the Nexus 7 has been expanded to include a 32GB HSPA+ model, but it’s the new device sizes below and beyond this 7-inch tablet that are stealing the spotlight.
The new Nexus 4 smartphone developed with LG features a quad-core processor, 4.7-inch display and wireless charging. Using the Qi wireless charging standard, the Nexus 4 should work with charging devices made for the Nokia Lumia 920 – that’s if the Google-made Wireless Charging Orb isn’t good enough. The orb acts like a dock where the phone can rest at an angle in either portrait or landscape orientation.
The Nexus 4 also comes with Photo Sphere, an imaging tool that sounds streaks ahead of simple panorama shooting. Photo Sphere lets users take photos in every direction to create an immersive 360-degree image, much like Street View images on Google Maps.
Google also introduced the Nexus 10, which it has developed with Samsung. The 10.1-inch tablet comes with the highest resolution at more than 4m pixels. The device offers nine hours’ video playback and comes with front-facing stereo speakers. It’s also built with multiple users in mind as different accounts and profiles can be accessed directly from the lock screen.
All of these new devices will run on Android 4.2, the the latest version of Jelly Bean. This means an updated version of Google Now and other features like Gesture typing, where users can glide their finger over letters on the keyboard for faster typing, support for wireless display with Miracast-compatible HDTVs.
Google Play is also being expanded with movie purchases now available in Canada, the UK, France, Spain and Australia and music services coming to the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain on 13 November. Google has said it is working on stocking up the store with more magazines, music and movies and is in talks with publishers, record labels and productions houses to do so.
The new Nexus devices will also be available on 13 November in certain markets – Ireland, unfortunately not being one of them. But, with Google Play’s reach now spreading to more countries within Europe, there is hope that the Nexus range and enhanced Google Play services will reach Irish shores some day.
Gadgets of the Month is made possible by Vodafone Ireland