Monday, November 5, 2012

Morning Brief: First impressions of the new iPad mini; Chicago Sun-Times updates iPad apps; photo quiz

The lines around Apple stores on launch day for the iPad mini were a bit of a disappointment, at least for tech websites that like to write about such things. But this weekend I was able to get my hands on a mini, and thanks to good crowds milling around the mini was able to hear first impressions of the device.

The first thing I think is important to point out is that there is an important difference between a 7-inch display, and a 7.9-inch display. For me, at least, it makes all the difference. Apple has preloaded Condé Nast's Vanity Fair into Newsstand so prospective buyers have something to look at when demoing the device. Assuming the reader has good eyesight, or good reading glasses, I think the iPad version "works".

But it is important to point out that a digital magazine, designed for the iPad, when displayed on a smaller display is no longer "native", even if the developer has to make no adjustments. The emulator used will surely be the larger screened device so the designer is hoping it all works.

Prospective buyers flocked around the mini at the retail store I visited but expressed serious concerns about price, the lack of a retina display, etc. My own impression is that the display is fine, and the fact that the resolution matches the older iPad and does not create a new screen resolution to deal with is a relief (from the perspective of a developer).

But a little personal market research does show that the mini will fit nicely into the line of tablets, with it appealing to many buyers, even if it is not a universal hit.

The Chicago Sun-Times writer Andy Ihnatko will soon be posted a full review of the mini this week and I am always interested in his reviews. In the meantime, his paper has just updated its tablet apps to tweak the interface and improve performance.

I don't know if the updates are related to iOS 6, but it seems to me that the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system is leading to a lot of developers having to update their apps – even Apple themselves. Now updates are a normal thing, especially when a new OS introduces new features. But that is not what is happening now as these updates are about bug fixes.

It just feels strange to me to see so many "bug fix" updates from apps that are not adding in new features.

In any case, looking at the Sun-Times apps, it is interesting to see the variety of apps the daily tabloid has. The paper was recently sold and so what is in the App Store is a cross between the company's new approach to apps and its old.

The old app apps reside outside the Apple Newsstand. Chicago Sun-Times is a universal app that was developed by Inergize Digital. It is one of those news apps that takes the RSS feeds and reformats them for the iPhone and iPad. A reader would find it useful on their smartphone, and of no interest on a tablet.
Chicago Sun-Times E-paper for iPad is a legacy tablet edition developed by Tecnavia Press. The third party vendor has probably the best sales staff out there, or maybe the best sales pitch, because lots of newspapers have signed up with the company despite the buggy nature of the apps and the consistently low marks readers give the apps.

Then there are the newer apps including Chicago Sun-Times for iPad and Bears Extra by Chicago Sun-Times, both of which were updated this morning. Both apps reside in the Newsstand and are native in design – they are also receiving high marks from readers.

The update says it involves "User Interface and Performance Improvements".

On Friday the Sun-Times updated Splash by Chicago Sun-Times for the same reasons. One assumes the most recently released iPad app, Bulls Extra by Chicago Sun-Times, already incorporates the updates seen in the other Newsstand apps.

OK, quiz time.
You goal is to identify the country where the picture at right was taken.

Here are your clues: the picture was taken in a country holding an election. In that country, one of the leading parties is attempting to make voting as difficult as possible, passing laws that restrict voting, putting obstacles into the way of those wishing to vote.

To make voting hard, elections are held on weekdays, often with too few polling places. Voters are harassed and often their votes are considered "provisional". Some early voting is allowed, but the number of polling locations are so few that voters must line up and wait for hours in order to exercise their right to vote.

Most people consider democracy dying in the country, and few believe that it can last much longer due to the enormous amount of influence corporations and individuals now enjoy.

You can right-click the photos to get the location of where the photo was taken.