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Apple announces iPad Air 2

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Apple has announced the new iPad Air 2. We won't lie, we were expecting a more innovative name...

Somehow as soon as an Apple event rolls around, everyone already knows what's going to happen. As predicted, just a month after the release of the new iPhone 6 and iOS 8 operating system, Apple has announced its new iPad, the Air 2. 

Apple skeptics will be mockingly asking "but what's new about it?" and loosely quoting Daft Punk I'll reply: "it's smarter, better, faster and smaller." 

That's right, although the iPad Air 2 supports the same screen size as the iPad Air, it's thinner than it's ever been at just 6.1mm thick, and weighs less than a pound. Apple claims this is currently the thinnest tablet on the market. 

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Both the Air 2 and new iPad mini 3 have new retina display screens, making images look more crisp and real than real life, excellent for fuelling your Netflix addiction. Or, of course, viewing and writing documents and presentations when working on the move. 

As with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the new iPads come equipped with improved Touch ID for secure access and use of Apple Pay authentication within apps. 

The device still offers 10 hours of battery life, and it's internals support an Apple A8X chip to boost CPU.


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Sadly, although I'm sure these new devices provide a better user experience than their predecessors, it circles back to a concept I looked at earlier this year: how far can hardware innovation really go

Can devices only continue to get thinner and faster, or is there something more to look forward to? We'll have to wait to find out. 

In the meantime, the Apple iPad Air 2 is available to order online from a starting price of around $499 (approx. £309) 

Specs at a glance: 
iPad Air 2 
  • Processor: A8x 64 bit processor and M8 coprocessor 
  • Dimensions: 240mm x 169.5mm x 6.1mm
  • Capacity: 16GB, 64GB, 128 GB
  • Display: 9.7 inch Retina display 
  • Camera: 8mpx back mounted camera, 1.2 mpg front facing camera
  • Battery: 10 hours heavy usage

iPhone 6 - features and functionality

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Consumers and businesses alike have been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the iPhone 6 and the constantly-discussed Apple Watch. We wrote our predictions about what we thought the new devices would offer, now it's time to fill you in on what the new iPhone is really capable of.

The iPhone 6 comes in two sizes, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which could be called large and extra-large.

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Image: Apple

The smaller model comes in at 4.7 inches, a whole 0.7 inches bigger than its iPhone 5S and 5C predecessors. The Plus hits phablet size at 5.5 inches, and both have Retina HD displays for pictures so high def, they look like real life.

The handsets look to be at their most curvy, and also claim to be at their thinnest at 6.9mm thick for the iPhone 6 and 7.1mm thick for the Plus. The space grey colour that I love so much also seems to have made an appearance on the devices, so they can perfectly match your iPad Air or iPad mini.

As predicted, the handsets are NFC capable, and this can be used for contactless mobile payments.

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Image: Apple

The chipsets promise high-powered performance, with 64-bit architecture propping up an A8 chip and M8 motion coprocessor driving data gathering from built-in sensors.

As well as everything else, the camera has received a makeover. The iSight is capable of faster autofocus, 240fps slow motion capture, and 1080p HD image capture at 60fps.

Finally, the Touch ID feature allows the user to access the device or purchase apps password-free using their fingerprint.

Specs at a glance:

iPhone 6

    • Capacity: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
    • Weight: 129g
    • Size: 67mm width, 138.1 mm height, 6.9mm thick
    • Display: 4.7inch 1334x750 resolution, 326 ppi
    • Battery: Up to 10 hours with heavy use, or 10 days on standby
    • OS: IOS 8

 

iPhone 6 Plus

    • Weight: 172g
    • Size: 77.8mm width, 158.1 mm height, 7.1mm thick
    • Capacity: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
    • Display: 5.5inch 1920x1080 resolution, 401 ppi
    • Battery: Up to 12 hours with heavy use or 16 days on standby
    • OS: IOS 8


Both devices are available in Silver, Gold and Space Grey. Check back to the Inspect-a-gadget soon for a full iPhone 6 review.

iPhone 6: The specs we're all hoping for

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Rumour has it images of the iPhone 6 were leaked last week, with pictures alluding to a potential release date of September 9th for the much coveted next generation device.

A number of other speculations have also been flying around, including NFC potential, heart rate monitors and wireless charging.

But what does everyone really want from their iPhone? We've reported before on how it can be very difficult to incorporate Apple products in the enterprise due to the high cost of support. This might not be solved with a new handset, but a number of SDKs were released at the WWDC 2014 to give developers a better in to the device, and enhanced device features such as NFC could bridge this gap even further.

Here's a roundup of what could be coming up in Apple's big announcement if everything we've been hearing is true:

Touch ID

Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the previous iPhone 5S have toyed with fingerprint ID to safely unlock the phone, so it would make sense it the iPhone 6 had an improved version of this technology.

NFC

A lot of other phones already have NFC capabilities built in, and with contactless-everything on the rise this is a feature that will come in extremely handy and is widely expected.

iOS 8

With a new phone comes a new mobile operating system, and the new iOS 8 promises features such as easy-to-develop applications for developers due to the new API kits available, improved messaging and smart keyboard. As far as being included in the iPhone 6 package, this one is pretty much a given.

iWatch

The wearable trend is rapidly increasing, and a number of premium vendors are now jumping on the band wagon with their own bond-style watches and wristbands. If you're like me, you're waiting to see what Apple has to offer before deciding on which wearable to invest in - and if an iWatch is on the cards as a supplementary device to the new iPhone, it looks like we'll all have a little less money by Christmas.

Check back to the Inspect-a-Gadget for further coverage on new Apple announcements. 

Apple announces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

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At this week's WWDC 2014 - the conference that tells developers everything they need to know about what Apple has planned for the future - Apple introduced its next mobile operating system iOS 8.

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The new OS brings with it over 4000 new APIs in order to allow developers more opportunity to make applications for Apple's flagship iPad and iPhone devices.

There was a focus on the new HealthKit API, which will allow developers to build apps directed towards fitness and health services. With speculation of an Apple wearable on the horizon, enabling applications such as this could be a step in the smartwatch direction.

Apple also took a leap towards the internet-of-things trend with its new HomeKit API, designed to allow developers to make apps that will allow communication with other devices around the home.

Finally, Apple lightened the restrictions on its touch ID technology, meaning that users will now not only be allowed to access their iPhone lockscreens with the touchpad, but also log into apps. This is of course only on the 5S at the moment, but may also be used with future iPhones.

Although this announcement isn't quite as exciting as the eagerly speculated iWatch, it still encourages the use of smartbands/watches with Apple devices in the future, and brings us one step closer to using our phones to control all things household.

Developers have access to iOS 8 now, but the rest of us will just have to wait.


REVIEW: The iPad Air

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A lot of people have complained that the new iPad Air isn't different enough from the previous iPads to justify the asking price. After using it though, I think that it's just different enough in all the right ways. 

It's thinner, lighter and slicker than previous iPads, not far off an iPad mini in feel, with only millimeters in the size difference, plus the black matt 'space grey' finish now available gives it an air of sophistication that the silver of the iPad 2 just didn't have. It's light to hold, and can easily be operated in almost any situation, increasing portability. 

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At less than half a kilogram, it claims to be 20% thinner and 28% lighter than previous models, and it's a noticeable difference. The bezels are closer to the screen, bringing the width in without affecting the content. 

Now that it's smaller and lighter, it's easier to fit into even the most conservative of bags, and is ideal for taking notes in meetings, or for portable working if you're on your feet all day. It also has two antennae allowing ultra-fast wifi with download speeds of up to 300 Mbps, which is almost double that of the previous iPad, suitable for those looking for a device to integrate into a BYOD plan using desktop virtualisation. Or it's perfect for sending e-mails and surfing on the daily commute. 

Where WiFi is unavailable, the iPad Air is supported globally on data networks if you have a SIM for it, ensuring connectivity around the world. It can also be used to create a personal hotspot, connecting devices around it to the internet, which might be useful when others are using less powerful devices, or devices that cannot use cellular data for web access, so meetings can be set up pretty much anywhere.

The new A7 chip makes it twice as fast and graphically capable, and it certainly comes across that way. It also includes an M7 co-processor for that bit of extra juice. The battery also seems to last an age, especially in standby. 

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The touch screen feels oddly spongy, but is crystal clear, and perfect for graphical work or watching film and TV. The parallax blur effect that everyone has been moaning about was a nice novelty, not quite as exaggerated as I thought it would be, and even works when you set your own background. Staring at the screen for too long can hurt the eyes, but the brightness can be adjusted depending on taste and requirement. 

If you've been clever about backing up a previous device, the setup is simple. Only previously having an iPad 1, I was worried that the difference in iOS would be an issue, but the upgrade to iOS 7 came alongside the backup from iTunes. Unfortunately backing up from iTunes meant that some information had to be entered twice, such as the wifi password, but it's a small price to pay to get up and running quickly. The new control panel with iOS 7 brings all of your needs to the flick of one finger, a simple change that makes a big difference.

Upon entering the app store, I was directed to download a host of free Apple applications for business use, including pages, numbers and keynote, all for free to allow you to seamlessly transition to portable working if needed. Of course if you have iCloud, integration of e-mail and calenders is also available for reminders, appointments and e-mail on-the-go. 

iOS 7, although a big step forward, is refreshing in comparison to iOS 6. The vibrant colours, rounded edges, and plain stylisation makes for a trendy update. 

This gadget is a nice improvement on previous Apple products, or a good first tablet, perfect for the run up to Christmas. 

Thank you to Ebuyer for providing the iPad air for review. Take a look at Ebuyer's 12 days of Christmas competition starting on December 1st, where prizes will be given out every day for the first 12 days of the Christmas month. You can enter every day, and could even win your very own iPad Air.
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Apple announce new iPad Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro and free operating system

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There has been a recent rise in competition in the tablet market, including the new Nokia Windows tablet and Windows Surface 2. Analysts have also been speculating about the fall of desktop machines in favour of their portable counterparts, so it's not a big surprise that Apple has done its best to update the iPad with the new iPad Air and improvements to the iPad Mini. As well as these tiny tablet devices, Apple announced updates to its other ranges including the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro. And to top it off, a free operating system. 

iPad Air

The new addition to the iPad family, the iPad Air is thinner, lighter, and has a sharper 9.7-inch Retina display. Weighing just one pound, the Air contains the new A7 chip for power efficiency, and has a battery life lasting up to 10 hours. How much will it set you back? Around £399 for the 16GB model. 

iPad Mini with retina display

The iPad mini with retina display has a 7.9-inch screen, and the new Apple-designed A7 chip. Around 3.1 million pixels will be packed into the Multi-Touch display, delivering an iPad experience in a portion of the size. The price to pay for having the upgraded display, however, starts at £319, around £100 more than the original iPad Mini. 
Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro promises to redefine pro computing, and has been dubbed the "most radical Mac ever". The new pro desktop includes the latest Intel Xeon Processors, dual workstation-class GPUs and ultra-fast ECC memory, but is one-eighth of the size of the previous generation for the starting price of £2499.

MacBook Pro

The new generation of MacBook Pro now has a lower starting price of £1099 and a high-resolution retina display. With the promise of performing up to 90% faster than previous MacBooks, it is also lighter with better battery life. It also now comes with free iWork and iLife included. 
OS X Mavericks

Apple also announced that the 10th major release of its operating system will be free to download from Mac App Stores. It includes features such as iCloud keychain, multi-display support to increase ease of using multiple screens, and Finder tabs and tags for better organisation of files, and is free to download now from Mac App Store.

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Top five most expensive iPhones: some of the most costly smartphones in the world

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The iPhone 5S and its golden Bond-style finesse has us all thinking about technology upgrades. The 5S is fancy, and 5C may be colourful, but if you're going to cough up for an stunning phone, you want it to be exactly that. Just an iPhone isn't enough; you want to own the most expensive, sophisticated and shiny iPhone on the market. So here are 5 of the most expensive iPhones in the world, whose price tags would shock even the richest among us:

Amosu Couture Gold Swarovski iPhone 5 

This luxury iPhone is the 5C of high-end iPhones, costing only £2999. It's covered in 24 carat mirror gold, and the sides and menu button are dusted with 600 Swarovski crystals. If that's not fancy enough for you, the phone comes with a case made of calf leather in a colour of your choice. It might seem decadent, but once you've seen the other phones on offer, this phone will seem like a child's model.

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Continental iPhone 5 Rose Gold Collection

As if covering an iPhone with gold wasn't enough, Continental have gone one further and covered an iPhone 5 in Rose Gold, giving it a pink tinge. They've then topped it off with diamond-cut bevelled edges and thrown on some diamonds for good measure. How much will it set you back? Only £12,499. Bargain. 

This isn't the only phone they do either, they offer phones covered in all sorts of different coloured diamonds. They also offer a 4S in vivid and fun colours, such as 'Wasabi Green' for £999. Unfortunately the introduction of the colourful 5C, and its reasonable price tag, has made these models a little redundant. 

Gold Genie Solid Gold Superstar iPhone 5S

Branded a "work of art", this phone by Gold Genie has a textured pattern printed into gold plating surrounding the phone's exterior. What it lacks in diamonds it makes up for in gold, as the casing is made entirely of solid 18 carat gold. Costing a massive £48,000, you'll be glad to know it also comes with a cherry wood display case to keep it in when you refuse to leave the house with it through fear of being mugged. 

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Gresso Time Machine iPhone 4

Although only an iPhone 4, this luxury handset is still pretty swanky. The back of this phone has been replaced with mineral diamond-coated glass, and houses six Swiss watches which keep the time of the six busiest business cities in the world. You'll never miss and international conference call again. This will only set you back around £3700. If you're looking for a fancier version, however, there's the Lady Blanche model, which features three watches and three insets containing diamonds, costing around £18,595. I think I know which I'd go for. 

Stuart Hughes Black Diamond iPhone 5 

Stuart Hughes are well known for their high-end iPhones, with one of their models including a platinum storage chest which is encrusted with rare stones such Opal, Rutile Quartz and polished bones from a TREX skeleton. Now they've outdone themselves with what has been dubbed the most expensive smartphone in the world. The £10 million phone is covered in over 100g of solid gold, 600 white diamonds and 26 carat black diamond. To top it off, the touch screen is made of Sapphire Glass.  If that's not luxury, I don't know what is. 

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What's the most you'd be willing to shell out for a 'luxury' iPhone? 

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Apple tightens security with iOS 7

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From an enterprise perspective Apple appears to be tightening up security and at the same time loosening it in iOS 7.

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From an enterprise perspective iOS 7 includes a per application VPN and managed applications that have authorisation to open email attachments. In a recent blog post Srinivas Krishnamurti, a VMware senior director on the Horizon Mobile programme says the email lock-down feature in iOS 7 will enable  IT to prevent data leakage from and negates the need for a separate email application for corporate use.

the built-in fingerprint scanner has the potential to boost enterprise security - through two-factor authentication using a biometric fingerprint. But the scanner will only authorise iTunes transactions. Potentially, it could be opened up to third party developers such as to secure internet banking, but, as one of my colleagues mentioned, Apple appears to be playing its cards close to its chest. What it probably wants to avoid is another fiasco like what happened when it ditched Google Maps last year.

Now the bad news...Well, AirDrop is one of of the shiny new features in iOS 7, to enable people to share content with friends easily over a peer-to-peer wireless connection. There is clearly a big risk of data leakage here, and there is a very real risk that your wireless network could be spoofed 

Apple launches iPhone 5S and "cheaper" 5C model

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Last night, with the pomp and ceremony we've come to know from big technology launches, Apple announced the latest additions to the iPhone family.

An upgrade from the iPhone 5 - the iPhone 5S, as well as a new, yet "cheaper" model, the iPhone 5C.

But sadly, yet again, the company has failed to wow me in terms of innovation.

The iPhone 5S

Now available in 'space gray' (black, with a bit of grey), 'silver' (white with a silver back panel), and now 'gold' (I think you mean champagne - and no, just no!), this is the first time the iPhones have defiantly stepped away from tradition.

The aluminium backplate was a small step away from the typical black and white, which was first seen on the iPhone 5, but these say to me that Apple wants to appeal to its user's character.

But at the same time I feel it has also cheapened the brand by introducing a champagne colour to its flagship model the 5S, and an array of pastel shades for its 5C.

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The colour is not the main focus of the iPhone 5S, this device has come with fingerprint technology which will allow users to unlock their phones with a touch of their finger.

But while the technology debuted on the iPhone 5S could revolutionise smartphone security, Apple has no plans to allow the Touch ID sensor to be used for more than unlocking phones or verifying iTunes purchases, say US reports.

The technology is built into the home button and is made from laser-cut sapphire crystal which directs the image of your fingerprint  to a capacitive touch sensor, which reads beneath the outer layers of your skin to get a detailed print.

While this seems like a futuristic piece of innovation from the technology giant, in fact the Motorola Atrix launched a phone with a fingerprint sensor two years ago - c'mon Apple, pull your socks up. I want to see real innovation, not copycat skills that will be sent stratospheric due to your brand name.

While staying the same weight and size as its predecessor, the iPhone 5S sees a new A7 chip with 64-bit architecture, as well as an M7 motion coprocessor, which Apple claims makes it twice as fast than the previous generation models, while preserving more battery.  

More expensive than the iPhone 5, the handsets will cost £549 for 16GB, £629 for 32GB and £709 for 64GB.

The iPhone 5C

Well, the 'C' in iPhone 5C certainly does not stand for cheap.

It was a first for Apple to launch two iPhones at the same time, Tim Cook announced the 5S and 5C would allow the company to serve even more customers.  

"Apple's never had an offering for the mid-range smartphone market, leaving Samsung - with a phone for every budget - to clean up. The 5C could well be the trump card needed to trounce Android's hand," said Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com.

But at £469 for 16GB and £549 for the 32GB model, I don't consider that mid-range.

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The iPhone 5C is "for the colourful" with five pastel shades of green, blue, yellow, pink (or red depending on your eyesight) and white. Coloured handsets and cases has been popularised by the mid-market smartphone, with Apple staying clear away from novelty. But the phone might catch the eye of the Chinese market. 

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum said: "The cheaper iPhone is critical for expanding the addressable market, because many people in China and elsewhere simply can't afford to buy a current generation iPhone, especially when it's not subsidized. However, the key risk for Apple in launching a cheaper iPhone is that it may cannibalize sales of the high-end phone."

Both devices will be running out-of-the-box the new operating system iOS7, and will be available from the 20 September. 

Keep reading the Inspect-a-Gadget blog for a hands-on review coming soon.

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MessagEase - the alternative touch keyboard

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We started off texting using a numerical keypad on our Nokia 3310s. Slowly and painfully keying out "How r u m8?" by repeatedly sequencing through a group of letters sharing a button with a number on your handset. 

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Next came predictive text, where our phones acted clever and would try to guess what you were typing through single key presses. But this didn't always go to plan. 

One of the decent things BlackBerry did was popularise the QWERTY keyboard, so we all went back to typing out full words on our smartphones, fingers frantically moving across the screens.

Now, there's MessagEase, a new text input technology designed particularly for smartwatches, smartphones, wearables, tablets, and smart TVs. The keyboard is designed for two finger usage - capitalising on new technology's small retail estate. 

The video below shows how the nine large keys can be used with only two fingers. It looks rather baffling - but so did predictive text messaging when it first came out.

Ready as an app for iOS, Android and Windows 8 tablets, the technology could revolutionise typing if it can get on the smartwatch bandwagon - a screen which is particularly smaller than what we are all used to. 
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