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iPad 3 Announcement in the First Week of March

All Things D, the technology arm of the Wall Street Journal, is reporting that Apple with announce the iPad 3 in the first week of March.

In terms of trustworthiness, the WSJ is the highest on the food chain.  Directly below them is Bloomberg, and everyone else falls into the "rumor" category just below that.  Some people even think that Apple purposefully leaks information to the WSJ as a way of covertly controlling the PR message.  So in terms of rumors, info from the WSJ is the best we ever get.

At this point, I would consider an iPad 3 launch on March 7 as highly likely, with a March 14 backup date for any unforeseen issues.  However March 14 strikes me as definitely suboptimal for a launch since the second week in March is typically Spring Break for many schools.  Also, we know that SXSW is on March 9th, so they won't compete with that in the news for the launch date.  So, I think it will be a March 6th launch, with availability to purchase on March 17th.  That way it's announced right before Spring Break and SXSW, and then can build hype in the nerd community during SXSW and build hype in the student community over Spring Break. You couldn't ask for better organic marketing!

We can also say with near certainty that it will have a Retina display, faster processor, and better camera.  However, I'm still not convinced it will have 4G LTE compatibility, since the battery drain is still a largely unresolved issue.  Bloomberg has reported that it will have 4G LTE, so I'm hoping the WSJ will come out an say the same thing.  That would prove it.


What's the best _____?

That's got to be one of the most common Google search phrases.  I search it all the time.  When I need a new printer, I just Google "What's the best printer", read reviews for 30 minutes and make my choice.  In fact, this site was originally planned to tell you the results of such studies and direct you towards "the best ____".  I no longer have to do that, because the infamous Brian Lam has done it for me.  Brian was the editor of Gizmodo for 5 years before retiring and briefly disappearing to work on his other passion, the ocean.  

He's back with a site that's different than anything before.  They don't have daily posts to drive up traffic, multiple editors fighting for attention, or worries about revenue. is just a list of amazing gadgets.  You don't have to check in every single day to make sure you know what the new hot gadget is, and they don't write headlines that stretch the truth to get your attention (I'm looking directly at you Jesus Diaz).  Besides knowing his intentions are good, I can look at the site and see at least 5 items I own, just in this picture below I have the printer, razor, and GPS watch.

I'm so glad someone has finally made this site.  But I'm even more glad it's Brian.  I'll never have to worry if it's up to date and I'll never have to worry about his ethics.  Thanks Brian.


Apple post record profits

There have been numerous headlines today trying to put Apple's record quarter of $46B in revenue and $13B in profit into context.  But the one that really does it for me is realizing that this means they made (went into their pockets, not just sold) over $144,000,000 per day.  

I've noted before that the majority of Apple's profits come from the iPhone.  So it's importance cannot be understated.  Interestingly enough, the iPhone sales seem to be follow a pattern that even a dummy could predict: Each year they sell more than all of the previous years combined:

In 2009, Apple sold more iPhones than it did in 2007 and 2008 combined. In 2010, Apple sold more iPhones than it did in 2007, 2008, and 2009 combined. Last year, Apple sold 93.1 million iPhones, slightly more than it did in in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 combined. The pattern continued.

If the pattern continues, Apple will sell at least 183 million iPhones in 2012.  As usual, Tim Cook was prodded by analyst about everything for the upcoming year, and as usual he revealed very little.  When they do in fact reveal something, you can be assured that it is on purpose and for a reason.  The two things I felt Tim Cook revealed where:

  • he repeatedly said that they are look at all options for deploying their $96B in cash
  • he said "we are going to innovate like crazy" when asked about the iPad market




The State of 3G

Currently, 3G is the most used data speed in the US by the two big carriers: AT&T and Verizon.  While they are similar on the surface, there are three main differences that effect consumers.

First, when using Verizon 3G you cannot talk on the phone and surf the web at the same time.  This is because they are uses CMDA 3G which has only one "pipe" to transmit both data and voice signals.  So when voice is using the pipe, data cannot.  AT&T, however, uses GSM 3G which has two different "pipes" coming in to your phone for each signal and gives them the advantage of allowing users to talk and surf at the same time.  However, this advantage will disappear with 4G LTE since it can transmit both data and voice simultaneously.  More on this next time.

The second difference is that Verizon's 3G technology, CDMA, is not used worldwide.  Instead, GSM (which AT&T and everyone else uses) is the technology that the world adopted.  This means that in order to use your Verizon phone internationally, you have to specifically have a "world phone" which can operate on GSM networks when required.  However (same as the first point) this limitation will disappear for Verizon users once they get 4G LTE, since it is the international standard.

The third and biggest difference between the two companies 3G is that Verizon 3G is commonly slower than AT&T 3G.  Of course, this is a large generalization and the common knock against AT&T is that they have faster speeds but more dropped calls.  In my experience and the reports I've seen this is certainly true.  But, in my experience and reports it's also certainly true that AT&T 3G is faster.

Now, before I continue, I should point out that the best carrier is whichever one can provide the most reliable and fast service where you need it.  There is no carrier that is the fastest, the most reliable, and everywhere.  When considering which is best for you, I like this handy app called Cell Phone Coverage Map that uses crowdsourcing to test carrier's coverage maps.  It collects real world volunteered test so you can see exactly where the dead spots are in your city without bias. 

Now, back to Verizon 3G being slower than AT&T...  

Many sites have run tests of the 3G networks and concluded that AT&T is the fastest.  I reviewed them all and have found that Verizon 3G typically is 1-2 mbps, whereas AT&T is typically 2-4 mbps.  This also has to do with the fact that AT&T uses the previously mentioned 3G+ and the current iPhone 4S has chipsets capable of capturing these higher rate speeds.

Gizmodo performed a nationwide test of the iPhone 4S on the current 3G network and found exactly what we thought they would.  Notice that the speed is in kbps so just move the decimal 3 places to get mbps.

So in general, Verizon 3G is slower but more reliable while AT&T is faster but suffers from dropped calls in some cities. Now that we've set the stage, next week we will continue with seeing who is winning the race to 4G LTE.


What's with all these G's?

The next generation of wireless data speeds is called 4G LTE.  Initially it was called just 4G, but carriers began abusing the term by using it to describe their upgrade 3G networks.  Here's a rough approximation of the speeds of each, along with basic history.

2G:  This is called EDGE by AT&T and ExDO by Verizon.  2G was the first real data wireless network in the US and understandably transfer speeds are pretty slow, about 0.3 to 0.6 mbps usually.

3G:  This is what most consumers are using today.  There are many many 3G phones on the market, and the chips are mature enough to not significantly drain the battery of these phones.  Typical speeds are 1-3 mbps.

3G+: During the rush to roll out 4G, T-mobile opted to instead build out their 3G+ network, but somehow got away with marketing it as 4G to consumers.  Plain 3G uses a technology called HSPA, whereas 3G+ is just upgraded slightly and uses HSPA+ (that's where the + comes from).  Of course, this drove AT&T and Verizon crazy, since they were spending the money to actually upgrade the entire system and build out an entirely new infrastructure, whereas T-Mobile was doing small modifications.  In other words, AT&T and Verizon did it the right way while T-Mobile took a shortcut and used marketing to trick consumers.  The Verizon CEO joked openly about calling theirs 5G just to stick it to T-Mobile, but in the end they settled on 4G LTE.  The theoretically max of plain 3G is 7mbps, whereas 3G+ is 28 mbps.  In the real world, we don't see "theoretical speeds" instead we see speeds of about 2-5 mbps for 3G+.

4G LTE: This is the "real 4G".  LTE stands for Long Term Evolution since the infrastructure being currently built out by AT&T and Verizon is not just a quick fix, but instead an entire reconfigure of the underground lines and cell towers used to distribute wireless signal. The terminology "Long Term Evolution" signifies the carries belief that the infrastructure they are building now will be used for many years and many more evolutions of wireless speed (5G, 6G, etc).  Some phones do already have 4G LTE, but they suffer from greatly reduced battery life.  For example the newest 4G LTE phone drains battery so fast that when you are using map navigation a car charger can't even replenish it fast enough!  Real world speeds of 4G LTE are expected to be 4-12 mpbs once networks are fully saturated with many capable devices.  (Currently, 4G LTE is a ridiculously awesome 35 mbps, due to so few devices.)

Using rough numbers 3G is about 3 times faster than 2G, and 4G LTE is about 4 times faster than that!  So this is no small evolution we are talking about, this is a big jump in data speeds, and will provide your cell phone with speeds that rival some wifi speeds.  I, for one, am thankful that Verizon and AT&T are taking the time to do it right.

How does this relate to Apple? Apple has chosen to wait for 4G LTE to mature before putting it in iPhones and iPads.  They are waiting for the actual chips to use less power and the cell phone carriers to finish building out more of their infrastructure to cover more customers. 

Next post we will continue to discuss coverage in the US to see which carrier is winning the race to 4G LTE.  Eventually, Apple will put 4G LTE in the iPad 3 or iPhone 5, and we’re going to want to know if AT&T or Verizon has better coverage and speed.


iPad 3 Expectations

The original iPad and iPad 2 were released on April 3 and March 11, respectively.  For the discernable future, iPads will be released in March and new iPhones will be released in October.

In the months leading up to a new product, there is "rumor season" which is the 3 months leading up to a announcement and "leak season" which starts 1 month before the announcement.  After announcement, Apple products are typically released 1-2 weeks later.  This means we are certainly in iPad 3 rumor season and approaching iPad 3 leak season.  

In rumor season we can expect reports based on hearsay and industry sources.  We usually don't get any hard evidence and there will be many conflicting reports and ridiculous claims such as an iPad 4 coming in October (ha!).  So far there has only been one credible rumor in my eyes.  It comes from who has a history of being slightly far fetched, but this one lines up perfectly with my expectations:

  1. A few next-gen iPad notes, ahead of the show. Both cameras are getting upgrades. Front goes HD, rear becomes iPhone 4/4S-like (bigger).
  2. Body of the next iPad is, as we previously reported, getting just a little thicker to accommodate new parts - little = 1mm give or take.
  3. Curve radiuses on the body will change only a little to accommodate the added thickness, not dramatically. Think iPad 2 Pro, not a redesign.
  4. Looks likely that iPad 2 will stick around at lower price point, say $399, and next iPad with high-def screen + cameras will sit atop it.
  5. Incidentally, our source believes that the next iPad’s rear camera will be the same as iPhone 4S’s, b/c camera hole is very similar.
  6. If Apple is in fact moving the front camera to FaceTime HD, calls from the next iPad to current Macs + vice-versa will look _much_ better.
  7. Source thinks date will be similar to iPad 2’s. Correctly says a January launch (never likely) would anger holiday 2011 iPad 2 recipients.

I agree with every point, except I'm not so sure the camera upgrade will be that much. 

In leak season we can expect small parts and components from the supply chain to start leaking which lets us put together a mental image of the iPad 3.  When we start to see multiple parts leaking (such as the display, buttons, back covers, etc) then we know we are getting close to announcement.  An even better indicator is the same part leaked through multiple web sites.  There has already been one credible leak so far which points towards a retina display (double the resolution of the current iPad 2 from 1024 x 768 to 2048 x 1536 pixels!).

 As you can see there are 3 brown ribbon cables leading from the screen itself to the circuit board. The small brown cable to the far left is the power cable, while the other two wide cables are for display data. This configuration matches with the top display in the leaked photo (though the power cable is missing). 

The claimed iPad 3 photo shows 3 wide ribbon cables that might be used for data. The iPad 3 is expected to carry a high resolution screen of 2048x1536 which is four times the number of pixels of the current iPad 2, so the need for additional data bandwidth would be understandable. 

At this point I expect a March release, A6 processor, retina display, and iPad 2-like form factor.


Steve Jobs Created...

Recently, someone tried to tell me that Steve Jobs wasn't that great.  This person's argument was that Steve happened to live at the right time and just got lucky.  Let's look at the history of creations by Steve Jobs and Apple. 

- The personal computer

- The computer mouse

- The most popular music player of all time

- The most popular music store of all time

- The first animated film company, which created the industry

- The touchscreen smartphone

- The touchscreen tablet

- The most profitable retail store per square foot

That's a hell of a lucky streak.


iPhone Camera Comparison Pictures

The most immediate improvement I noticed with the iPhone 4S was the camera quality and speed.  Here's a nice comparison from the creators of Camera+ app showing pictures from all 5 of the iPhones.

And here's the slide from the actual iPhone 4S announcement that shows the speed improvements.  In fact, multiple sources have reported that Apple engineers began working on the speed improvements immediately after the previous iPhone shipped.  Camera speed and quality was seen as a major selling point and engineers were told that every 1/10th of a second mattered. 


How Apple makes Money

In the most basic sense, there are just two parts to Apple.  

- Software:  iTunes, App Store, iOS, Mac OS X

- Hardware: iPad, iPhone, iPods, and Mac

One of Apple's core principals is to make things beautiful and easy.  This includes both hardware and software.  They make things that they themselves would want to use and they make it simple.  So how do these two businesses work together to make Apple so profitable? Let's look at the gross margin breakdown from

Notice the iPhone in grey that makes up 57% of Apple's gross margins!  Then notice that the software components of this chart (there are just two), Music in purple and Software in green, and they are miniscule.  The rest is hardware.

So there we have it: Apple uses their software to make money on their hardware. They make iOS, Mac OS X, iTunes, and App Store beautiful and easy to use so that you continue purchasing new iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Macs.

Admittedly, once you start using Apple services it's not particularly easy to stop - there are not many "export" buttons in Apple software.   And moreover, why would you want to stop when it's even easier just to continue - just keep buying songs, apps, TV shows, and movies with one click. Therefore, the software is dual purpose: 1) It entices you in the door because it's easy to use and fully integrated 2) And then it keeps you there because it's easy to use and fully integrated.

Keeping you in the ecosystem is important because it keeps you buying Apple hardware. Which is where they make their money.

As Steve always said: Don't try to make great profits, try to make great products.  Profits will follow.


My Only Must-Have iPhone Accessory 

The iPhone comes with a 3 foot charging cable, which is jussst long enough for a bedside table.  But then when you want to use it from bed or the couch you end up in that awkward sideways lean position where you are halfway off the bed. Longtime iPhone users know exactly what I'm talking about and if you don't - you will.

Enter, the xlSync 6 foot charging cable.  I tried about 3 brands before I finally found this one.  It's made with the exact same quality parts as the original charger that Apple supplies - it's just longer.

When I bought an xlSync I also noticed they make a 3" and a 9" cable.  I picked up a set and now I love those too.  I use the 3" for syncing and just leave it with my laptop. I use the 9" as my compact charger when I travel.

The 6' xlSync is literally my favorite Phone accessory and I've had it for about 2 years.  I highly recommend it and while you are there pick up a set of the smaller ones too.  You'll find them handy.

CableJive 6 foot iPhone Cord: Buy it on Amazon

CableJive 3" and 9" iPhone Cords: But in on Amazon