Giving up my iPad mini 4

Almost a year ago I bought an iPad mini 4. I was excited when it came out. I bought the gold, 128 gb model and I used it primarily to read books and magazines while on my long daily commute. 

It served me well. It’s a great reading companion while in the subway to and from work. I took care of the ipad really well since I last bought it, with not a single scratch on the back of the ipad despite not getting a protector. 

But now that I have the iphone 7 plus, with a bigger screen, I have made my decision to let it go and pass it on to my mum who would utilise it better. Since I only used it for reading and nothing else, it would be far more useful for my mum than me. And now that I have a bigger screen iphone, it seems that the phone could be my main reading companion. I would definitely miss the bigger the screen of the iPad mini, but I feel more satisfied that it’s been to put to far greater use than merely using it only for reading. 

And why complicate my life owning so many gadgets? The new iphone 7 plus is so much more powerful than its predecessor and I personally feel that it could handily replace what the iPad mini could offer when I first bought it. 

Advertisements

Resubscribing to The New Yorker

Contribs_Eustace.gif

Sometime last year, I subscribed to The New Yorker, taking advantage of the 3 month subscription promotion for only $1 an issue for 12 issues. It was a good deal and I had not only access to the latest issue of the magazine, but also it’s archive. I loved The New Yorker. Its long form writing on most topics from science, medicine, and various social issues happening around the world is a great read. And contemporary topics covered around the world on various issues allowed me to keep somewhat up to date with what is happening around the world with a little more depth to the topic in question. While it is a weekly magazine with a few long form articles covering certain topics, it does not have the breadth of topics nor the lightning fast reporting found in other news agencies like CNN, BBC or the International New York Times. What it lacks in breadth, it makes it up for depth.

It is rare (for me) to actually enjoy the kinds of writing found in The New Yorker. Topics and subjects covered in their articles are fairly easy to understand (except for American politics which is usually skip) and quite engaging, mainly because it really delves deep into the subject matter, with excellent writing, top notch fact finding and verification, such that articles within The New Yorker are written as a story to be told, rather than facts to be reported. In almost all articles, there is always a human side to it, rather than reporting just the facts and ‘he said she said’ perspective. Investigative journalism are among my favourite kind of journalistic writing and it is abundantly found in The New Yorker.

I took advantage of the promotion but never continued my subscription ($59.90 for a year). Partly because I didn’t allocated time within the week to actually sit down and read he articles within The New Yorker. And soon, I found that I began to lag behind as more issues are released on a weekly basis. Very soon, I felt that, the more I lag behind, the more reluctant become in catching up and actually setting aside time to read those articles that I missed.

Fast forward to 2 months ago, I actually committed myself to continuing my subscription for an entire year. One of the main reason I decided to do that was because I finally bought an iPad mini 4 two month prior. Now I can read my favourite books, (Kindle), keep up to date on the news (CNN, BBC, The International New York Times) and finally have time and the platform to dedicate myself to reading The New Yorker. By using the iPad app, new issues are downloaded automatically and the magazine is formatted beautifully on the iPad Mini such that it makes reading the magazine a joy (just try the National Geographic Magazine app, it’s wonderfully formatted for tablets and it’s fully interactive). And with the iPad Mini, I can read while commuting, which is a boon, since now I can truly read my favourite books, comics, and magazines. The time spent commuting (45 minutes each way) can now be spent on reading. You have no idea how much that means to me when I finally got the iPad Mini.

So now, I am a happy subscriber to the magazine and will continue to do so, as long as those articles in the magazine continues to captivate me.

iPad mini 4

So yesterday I went to my local Apple store, and casually looked at the new iPad mini 4 that Apple just released. I held the tablet in my hands and noticed that the extra millimetres shaved from the previous iPad mini, as well as the ever so slight weight reduction over the previous iPad mini. The screen is definitely better than the previous one, on par with the current iPad air 2. There was a kid playing some games on the only iPad mini 4 on display in the store. I waited patiently for the kid to go away. Once we left with his dad, I lifted it, held in my palms, turned it around, tried the touch screen, surf a few websites. Within 5 minutes, I left the store with my own 64gb gold version iPad mini 4. It was that quick. I was just sold to just how much an improvement Apple has made to the iPad mini line.

The previous iteration was lacklustre, in terms of technical specs, with almost nothing changed aside with the addition of the Touch ID. It was just not worth paying extra for just the touch ID features. Now, the iPad mini 4 has made improvements across the board, including the new processor, almost to that of the iPad air 2, (A8 vs A8X), new rear camera, better display, lighter and thinner. This is the iPad mini that should have been years ago. And now, I bought it just so that I decide that the improvements were well worth getting it.

I did not own any iPad previously. I did bought one for my mum on her birthday several years back, but this is the first time that I bought for my own use. I have the nexus 7 from Google that I bought from Amazon, but I only used sporadically, because I wasn’t thrilled in using Android, even after trying to convince myself that it is a great mobile operation system. I guess i just find the apps lacklustre, often times buggy, slow and the overall UI not as well thought out as that from the iOS counterpart.

The iPad mini 4 is light. Really light. It’s a joy to hold, and anything that display on the beautiful screen just pops out. Its sharp, crisp, and wildly colourful. Weather you are reading text, or watching a HD movie, the screen is just captivating. The iPad mini is fast, and with 2gb ram, app switching is a breeze.

I have been using for a bout 24 hours now. I am looking for many more days of joyful use.

ipad-mini

Nexus 7 2014 tablet; 7 months on

nexus-7-new

I bought the nexus 7 tablet more than half a year back. It was cheap, and it was at that time the all-round best performing android tablet. Even I’m a hardcore Apple fan, I gave the iPad a miss due to several reasons. One, being that I foresee myself not using the tablet as often as my smartphone, so it didn’t make sense for me to spend so much more on a device that would ultimately be underutilized.

And I was right. 7 months on, and looking back, I barely used my tablet anymore. I only use it for one purpose 95% of the time; the read my kindle books. Reading on a bigger tablet screen, is a better experience than on a smartphone. Though I still read it on my smartphone while commuting to work everyday. I only read it on my tablet while I’m at home. Other than that, it just sits there on my coffee table not doing anything. Largely underutilised, I am glad I made the right decision in buying a cheap android tablet than an iPad.

That doesn’t mean that I hate the tablet. I love it. It has a gorgeous screen with colors that pop right out. But I still haven’t seen a need to incorporate another device who purpose largely overlaps with that of a smartphone. And I own the iPhone 6, a fantastic smartphone that is extremely capable. On the productivity side, I guess I am still a PC centric person. I find working using the PC much more productive than on a tablet. I appreciate the potential for tablet to improves one’s lives. Its apps offering are limitless. But still my lifestyle just doesn’t have any room for a tablet.

Digital magazine subscriptions

I have been a National Geographic subscriber for more than a year now. The subscription I am talking about is the digital version of the magazine. It has all the contents of a regular physical magazine, but you read digitally, from your iPad or iPhone. Though you don’t have the physical copy, there are several advantages to subscribing to a digital one. First, is the portability and mobility of carrying the magazine. You don’t have to add extra weight to your bag when carrying the physical magazine around. The Nat Geo app, which allows you to read the digital versions allows you to read comfortably on your iPhone or iPad. This is great for commuting, especially when you want to insert reading time in between traveling without the hassle of carrying the actual magazine.

 

The digital magazine comes packed with interactive features not found in the physical copy. Sections such as daily news, instagram photos, interactive maps, visualizations, diagrams and embedded video clips that enhances the story and articles being written and told are not found in physical copies. This makes the entire experience much more immersive, meaningful and best of all, being able to better connect emotionally to the stories being told about places, people and events around the world.

 

The subscriptions are usually cheaper. Physical magazine subscriptions usually costs more. This is mainly because of the actual printing, and distribution of the magazine to your doorstep on a regular basis right to your doorstep. With the digital version, you simply download data, digital bits and bytes that would ultimately make up the magazine itself. It is hassle free, as the downloads are usually automatic and comes on the day the issue is released, as compared to waiting for a couple of days to allow the magazine to be shipped to you. And because there is no printing involved, you save the environment along the way, saving paper and ink.

 

Of all the magazines that I’ve looked at, National Geographic is by far one of the best. It has its own dedicated app to download, manage and read the magazine. The magazine is also formatted correctly depending on whether you are reading the magazine from your iPad or from your iPhone. This maximizes comfort when reading text and and interacting within the pages no matter what the screen size is. Therefore, they actually have a dedicated team ensuring that the experience you get out from reading the magazine is consisted throughout, regardless of where you read it form.

 

I have contemplated subscribing to other magazines such as The New Yorker, Discover Magazine and perhaps American Scientific. However I am still hesitant, as the digital counterparts are not as robust and mobile-friendly compared to National Geographic. However, one distinct advantage is that you can read all the articles featured in the magazine from your PC, from their website, just by logging onto your account. Paywall articles will become accessible to you once you are a subscriber. If you wish to read from your phone or tablet, you can ready the PDF versions of the magazines. However, I find the PDF versions to be clunky, and difficult to navigate, and it is not different than reading a scanned copy of the magazine with no way to reformat the article to suit the screen size of your tablet or phone. The New Yorker however has its own dedicated app to read the articles just like National Geographic, but that magazine features articles that touches on topics like the Arts, politics, general interests and current affairs. I’m still not sure if the articles in the magazine would be enjoyable to read, considering the topics that are featured, despite its excellent reporting.

 

Discover magazine and American Scientific have apps that allows your read the digital versions on your mobile or tablet, but they simply offer simple pdf versions of the magazine, which like I said, makes reading clunky as the documents are oversized, and you have to constantly zoom in and out to read that little snippet of text somewhere in the magazine. Simply put, it is not optimized for reading on your mobile devices. What makes it attractive though is access to the articles from the website itself, and the website has a very good layout to begin with with regards to reading long-form articles. Simply log in and you have the full access to all the articles and materials found in the actual magazine itself, and they even throw you access to past editions as well. Subscription is also very cheap, considering they are waiving the cost of printing and shipping the physical magazine.

 

So there you have it, the pros and cons of reading digital magazines. I am most probably going to try out subscribing to Discover magazines, because they have an offer of subscribing 2 years worth at a very very cheap price.

Nexus 7 2013

google-nexus-7-2013

2 weeks ago, I decided to purchase the Nexus 7, 32Gb, 2013 edition from Amazon. This will be my first ever android device that I will use. It took me weeks of research before deciding to get one. I was very hesitant at first, making sure that I am covering my ground and justifying the need to get the  Nexus 7. I read reviews, watched review videos, read user experiences on various forums and even watched all the unboxing videos on Youtube. While I am a strong supporter of Apple products and would have bought an iPad mini with retina display within a heartbeat if there is a strong need for one, I decided that Nexus 7 could fulfil me needs better for a tablet, and allow me to save some money in the process.

The biggest draw is sadly, the cost (sorry Apple, I know you tried really hard to win me over, but this time, the Nexus 7 wins in the pricing department). Ordering online from Amazon, would translate to roughly SGD310. Compared to the iPad mini retina base model at close to SGD550, the cost saving is just too hard to pass it up. Furthermore, I am getting the 32Gb model, which offers twice as much space that cost so much less than the iPad mini retina base model.

Sure you may argue, using the iPad would definitely give you a much better experience in just about every aspect of tablet usage. From the speedy response to the touch screen, to the marvellous app and the app ecosystem just for the iPad. But I feel, that when i comes to my needs (and i really analysed my need and my specific usage for such a device down to the very app that I would be using on a day to day basis), the Nexus 7 could just perform as well. I have taken a look at the actual device itself. It can easily be held in one hand, which makes is a great replacement to my kindle. The side bezel is narrow, which reduces the overall size, making it suitable to hold the device in one hand. The 16 by 9 aspect ratio screen is gorgeous with retina like display. The colours from the display just pops out without over saturation and the response is just as good as on the iPad. I’m not terribly picky about the response rate down to the millisecond. So I am happy that the Nexus 7 is able to perform well enough based on my needs.

And my needs are simple. First of all, I want to reduce my dependence on using my computer at home. I want the nexus 7 to be able to do everything  I do on a daily basis with my Macbook Air, that is, check email, surf the web, watch youtube, use social media, watch videos, stream music and read books. That’s all there is basically. And I want to do without being tethered to my desk. I have my bed and my comfortable sofa in my room that I just want a small and smart looking tablet to perform all those tasks that I usually do on my computer.

I have an iPad 2 and a kindle. The iPad 2 is starting to get clunky and slow. Due to the iOS update, the hardware performance is no longer able to keep up with the performance demands of the iOS software and the app that comes along with it. It’s starting to get sluggish and switching apps is slow. It no longer provides me with a robust and responsive experience. The kindle? I love it. The e-ink is unmatched when it comes to reading texts. The size is small, light and portable. I never had much complaints about the kindle. I still love it. But i feel that I could get a better looking tablet that combines both the functionality of the iPad2 and the kindle together. Now I can read and do my daily computer activities on just one device. It will be my ‘go-to’ device when I reach home after work. I will still bring it to work, because I can use it to read books on my nexus 7, and then when I get back home, I will use it to surf, and watch videos all at the comfort of my sofa.

There is another reason that really tipped my decision in buying this tablet. Since I started working, I have some flexi benefits given by my company that entitles me to spend on certain things. One of which are electronic devices. The flexi benefit had to be spent before the end of the financial year, which is by March 2014. Seeing as I had nothing else in mind to spend on that are eligible to claim the flexi benefits, I decided that the nexus 7 would benefit me the most. I will not totally offset the cost of the tablet itself, rather only about half of the total price, since that was all I was given, considering that I joined the company in the beginning of the year. So the flexi benefit is in turn, pro-rated as well. But even then it is a huge savings, I only had to fork out SGD160 on my own to get a nexus 7! I think it is a sweet deal, since although I am not a huge fan of using tablets, but I feel that this situation has presented me with a unique opportunity to really integrate tablet usage in my daily life that is meaningful and without spending too much on it.

The tablet should arrive soon, in the coming weeks. I am pretty excited about it! Will update again on my android experience in future blog posts!

National Geographic magazine app

June-2012-iPad-cover-634x488

 

The National Geographic magazine app is my favourite app for the iPad. I am huge fan of Nat Geo and I subscribed to their magazine for several years way back when I was young. This time, the app allows your to read the Nat Geo magazine all at the comfort of your iPad. It offers subscriptions, around SGD 39 a year, giving you access to 12 issues, or around SGD 3.90 on a monthly basis. Why is this my favourite app for iPad?  The magazine is totally interactive.

Unlike some magazine apps, the Nat Geo magazine that you download for your iPad is a total revamped, different from the printed edition, and  it is optimised to take advantage of the full range of interactivity you can get out of reading the magazine through the iPad. Each issue, as you download them, is choked full of interactive features. You can zoom in at pictures, interact with maps and visualisations, contain lots of videos within each issue that you don’t get out of a traditional magazine. Recently, it even comes with audio narration of several articles in the magazine itself, often narrated by the writer of the article themselves. Listening to them read the text for you, is a great alternative than just reading it. The pictures are gorgeous on the iPad and the format is optimised to the dimensions of the iPad. Everytime a new issue is released, it automatically downloads it to your iPad and the magazine cover is fully animated, rather than static. Everytime I open the magazine to read, I am thoroughly immersed and focused on the content that is in front of me. And it is so much cheaper than buying the magazine on newsstands.

If you think that the digital magazine only filled with “PDF” version of the printed magazine itself, you are wrong. Just try subscribing a month’s worth of subscription and you will be amaze at what the iPad version of the magazine has to offer. It offers so much more at such a great price. This magazine is truly worth subscribing for reading on the iPad.

Other magazine app worth checking out are Wired, The Economist, TRVL, The New Yorker, Time.

Wired-1