Saturday, September 19, 2015

Family Tech: Good geek month – lots of new products coming - September 18, 2015

September is a good geek month. Apple usually announces new iPhones and iPads this month; and they didn’t disappoint this year.

And later in the month, Google is expected to announce new Nexus phones.

The most interesting thing is Apple announced the iPad Pro, a 12.9-inch version. Standard iPads are 9.7 inches.

The Pro model is aimed at Microsoft’s Surface market – a powerful tablet with a near laptop-sized screen. It can be mated to a keyboard for a laptop-like experience.

While the Surface runs Windows 10, the iPad Pro will run IOS. With Apple’s productivity software or Microsoft Word for the iPad, users can get a lot of work done. IOS was originally built as a phone operating system, but Apple has upgraded it to be closer to a PC OS.

The iPad Pro starts at $799 for a 32-gigabyte model. The 128-gigabyte version is $949. A keyboard is $169.

And the iPad Pro is the first iPad with a stylus. Steve Jobs said some disparaging things about products with styluses in the past, so wags claim that is the reason Apple is vehemently not calling theirs a stylus, but rather the Apple Pencil.

The Pencil is rather clever. The touch system senses when the Pencil is being used. The touch system measures the Pencil’s location, pressure and tilt. Pressing harder can make the line you are drawing heavier, while tilting the pen changes characteristics of the line as well.

The Pencil will charge for 30 minutes of use in just 15 seconds and will charge itself when plugged into the iPad Pro.

The Pencil costs $99.

Both the iPad Pro and Surface – once the accessories are added – costs more than most laptops, but they do make for a lighter product to carry around. One user of a Surface says she loves the ability to make handwritten notes on the tablet portion. She feels it is less intrusive than typing as someone is speaking. And those handwritten notes can be stored electronically.

Apple also had a couple new phones, the iPhone 6s and iPhone Plus 6s. They have screen sizes of 4.7- and 5.5- inches displays respectively. They begin at $649 and $749 respectively, although your phone provider may have financing or subsidized- programs available to make costs more manageable.

They have a 12-megapixel camera and can shoot 4K video.

And of course, they have faster processors than their predecessors, fingerprint security and new colors.

The primary feature though is what they are calling 3D Touch. The touch system senses not only touch, but pressure. A harder press can invoke an action, perhaps a pop-up menu or to a drill-down to more information. The screen even offers a tactile feedback to your fingertip.

And, for a monthly fee between about $33-$45, you can receive a new iPhone annually for no additional cost through a new Apple program. This is in addition to your provider’s price for service.

And, Apple updated its Apple TV product. Not an actual TV, but a box that links into a TV and displays programming from the internet not unlike a Roku box or Chromecast device.

What is unique is a search capability that will search across apps such as Netflix, Hulu and iTunes for a desired program.

And, it supports apps so developers can create their own programs to run on your television set.

It can even play games on your TV. The updated remote acts as a game controller. The remote also supports Suri so you can control your streaming with voice commands such as, “Show me some funny programs.”

There are a couple models available, beginning at $149.

Finishing up its announcements, Apple discussed some new Apple Watch options. And, the new Apple Watch OS will be rolling out soon. The biggest improvement is the Watch OS2 will allow apps to run on the phone exclusively without requiring a phone nearby.

IOS 9, the newest operating system for homes and iPads will be rolling out for free soon. Both it and the Watch OS2 rolled out Sept. 16.

The newest Mac OS, El Capitan will roll out Sept. 30.

The Apple ecosystem is getting stronger – tablet, phone, watch and TV – all using the same OS and sharing information among them and with Apple Macintosh PCs. Apple’s isn’t the only digital ecosystem out there, but is certainly is a well-designed and attractive one.

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