Saturday, January 29, 2011

Best eBook reader: Kindle, Kobo or Sony Reader?

By Ray Nicolini
via Parenting Curious Dad
This post is part of an ongoing series on the Amazon Kindle and other ereaders.
The price of eBook readers has been dropping quickly, which has made them an attractive purchase for many people who wouldn't have considered them before (when they were $400 and up). But which reader to purchase?

I've been looking at three readers available to Canadian customers: the Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Sony Reader. I haven't looked into the Barnes & Noble Nook because buying one from Canada appears to be a bit of a hassle.

You can find lots of reviews for all three devices online.

But I thought it might be helpful to break down what I see as the most important features one might want in an ereader and see how the three devices stack up against each other.

While there's only one type of Kobo, there are two Kindles (the new "Kindle 3" model and the larger Kindle DX) and three Sony Readers (the Pocket Edition, Touch Edition and Daily Edition). To keep things simple, I'll be looking at just the Kindle 3 and Sony Touch Edition in this post. That way, for all three readers, I'm comparing apples and apples by looking at the same screen size: six inches.

Screen resolution and speed: Advantage Kindle

All three ereaders use the same "E Ink" technology which, as most of you probably already know, looks a lot like print on paper and can be read in natural sunlight. But the displays on the three readers aren't identical -- either in sharpness or speed. Both the Kindle 3 and the new Sony Readers use the latest "Pearl" E Ink display which is apparently sharper and has a better contrast between text and background. The Kobo, in contrast, uses an older version of E Ink technology which reviewers say just isn't as crisp.

The other big issue with ereaders is speed -- there's a bit of a delay whenever you want to refresh the screen. Reviewers have reported that the new Kindle 3 turns pages significantly faster than its competitors.

Weight: Tie

One of the reasons I wouldn't consider buying an iPad only as an ereader is that -- at 1.5 pounds (or 680 grams) -- it's just too damn heavy to hold comfortably for hours on end. For long periods of reading, you want something that will feel comfortable in your hands and won't make your wrists hurt. So how do the ereaders compare on weight? It's pretty much a tie. The Kindle 3 is 8.5 ounces (240 grams). Both the Sony Reader Touch Edition and Kobo are 8 ounces (200g).

Wireless connectivity: Advantage Kindle

UPDATE: Kobo just announced its new eReaders have WiFi built in.

Of the three six-inch ereaders, only the Kindle 3 has wireless support -- WiFi or 3G. Both the Sony Reader Touch and the Kobo, in contrast, require you to plug your device into your computer to get books onto them. On the face of it, this shouldn't be that big of a deal. I presume transferring books onto a reader doesn't take that long and it's not like you're going to be reading a new book every couple of hours -- you should be able to sync your device once and have enough books to keep you busy for weeks.

But the WiFi/3G support in the Kindle is a big plus for me for two reasons.

First, it's just more convenient. Plugging your ereader into a computer may not be that difficult, but it's more of a pain -- booting up your laptop, finding your cable, loading the right software -- than just selecting the book you want on the device itself and buying it.
Secondly, one of the big attractions of ereaders is that they're supposedly great for travelling because you don't have to lug dozens of paper books in your luggage. But if you want to buy a book on your Sony Reader or Kobo while you're actually on vacation, you'll need to have your laptop with you. In contrast, with the Kindle you can use 3G to access the Amazon store almost anywhere -- or just find a WiFi hotspot at a local coffeeshop. That's a big added convenience for the Kindle, in my view.

Price: Advantage Kobo (barely)
Until recently, one of the big selling features of the Kobo was its bargain basement price. Sure, it didn't have all the wireless features of a Kindle and wasn't as pretty as a Sony Reader. But it was a lot cheaper (just $149 in Canada, $129 in the U.S.) But now that the Kindle Wi Fi has dropped to $139 in the U.S. -- from $259 just a few months ago -- the price difference is negligible. (The Kobo is now down to $128 at Chapters, according to my colleague Tracy Sherlock.)
Granted the Amazon Kindle 3 isn't as good a deal in Canada -- where the $139 U.S. version is more than $165. But when you factor in the taxes you'll pay on a Kobo, the price isn't all that different.
The Sony Reader Touch is quite a bit more expensive than both, at $229 in the U.S.

Library compatibility: Advantage Sony and Kobo
On most of the criteria so far, the Kindle is the clear winner.
But there's one area in which it is notably weaker: library books. A number of libraries -- including those in Vancouver -- are now offering eBooks for loan, just like paper books. The problem is that, for the most part, such loaned eBooks appear to be incompatible with the Kindle. I'm not clear on all the technical reasons for this -- I think it's because the Kobo and Sony Reader use the ePub standard and the Kindle does not -- but a lot of library eBook pages make a point of saying their services won't work with the Kindle.
This issue almost makes me not want to buy a Kindle -- after all, who doesn't want free books? But I think the library issue isn't as big of a deal as some people fear. I took a look at the Vancouver Public Library's available eBooks and the waiting list for most new releases was pretty insane. For example, when I checked there were 75 people on the waiting list for the library's nine electronic copies of Stieg Larrson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.
One of the big attractions to me about ereaders is how quickly you can get a book. No waiting for your Amazon shipment or having to see if your local bookstore has the title you're looking for. Just find the book in the online store, click and you've got it. So, for me, if the whole point of ereaders is their speed, I don't see why I'd want to wait months on end for my turn with a library eBook -- and then have to make sure I had it read in the two-week window I had before it was deleted from my machine.
Still, if you're the kind of person who has the patience to wait for a library eBook -- or is more likely to read older titles that are more easily available -- the Kindle's lack of support for library loans could be a dealbreaker.
Bottom line: Kindle is best for most people.

The lack of library support for the Kindle bothers me and I'm not confident its ebook selection in Canada is as good as it could be (more on that in a future post). But it seems to be the highest quality reader for the price at the moment, so it's the one I think I'd go for.
A quick note: The summary above is based on the available tech specs for each ereader and a number of reviews posted onlines for each. My only hands-on exposure to ereaders is a few seconds I've had with a colleague's Kindle 2 and a Kobo in a local Chapters. I'm hoping to get a more in-depth, hands-on test drive with both the Kobo and the Kindle 3 in the weeks to come. When I do, I'll post a first-hand assessment of each device. So stay tuned!
I'd also like to hear from you. Do you have any of these devices? If so, what do you think are its big pluses or minuses. And if you're thinking of buying one, which one are you leaning towards -- and why?


The Motorola Atrix is landing on Canadian soil soon – rumoured launch date is March 17th. A new promo video by Motorola has surfaced showing all of its glory. There is so much good in this Android that it takes the bland ordinary living space and adds a splash of colour to it. The specs are impressive – OS 2.2, 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual-Core processor, 1GB RAM, Flash Player 10.1, holds up to 48GB with a microSD card – plus one of the highlights is a laptop docking station. The promo vid really shows how innovative the device is…

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Virgin HTC Legend upgrade to OS 2.2 is “in the midst of rigorous testing”

By Ray Nicolini


Many Virgin Mobile members have been asking us about the anticipated HTC Legend upgrade to OS 2.2 Froyo. Virgin stated in December that an upgrade will be pushed out “mid-January”… but nothing has shown up yet. Here’s the official statement from Virgin:
“Checked into this and we’re in the midst of rigorous testing to ensure the Android 2.2 software and software upgrade process is the best possible experience for our members. We’re working offer the update as soon as possible and both Virgin Mobile and HTC appreciate the patience.”
Sounds like an official upgrade is only a few days away now…

Nexus S comes to Canada courtesy of Mobilicity (and maybe Bell, Telus, and Rogers too)

By Ray Nicolini
Canadians, you must chafe under the yoke of aGingerbread-free existence no longer, for the Nexus S is coming to the Great White North sometime in March. According to Mobilicity CEO Dave Dobbin, the handset will be available on the company's AWS band, but he also said that Bell, Telus, and Rogers will carry the Nexus S as well. If true, that means Samsung will be providing another model of the phone with support for WCDMA 850 / 1900 for it to work with Canada's big three wireless providers. We can only hope that's the case, as said model would be usable on AT&T's network -- making an awful lot of us living south of Canada quite happy. Peep the video after the break to hear the good news for yourself. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Throwback Thursday: Tamagotchis

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re rewinding time just fifteen short years back to 1996. A time when the Macarena was on top of the charts, the Olympics were in Atlanta, and fanny-packs were still moderately socially acceptable. We’re talking toys, and today we’re talking about Tamagotchis.
First sold in 1996, Tamagotchis were portable, digital pets often seen dangling from keychains and backpacks. Before you could care for Sims on your PC, you could purchase a Tamagotchi from your local toy store, activate it, name it, and care for it from its infancy all the way through its twilight years. The more love and affection you doted upon your digital pet — by feeding it, playing with it, and picking up after it — the better behaved it was (meaning: the less time you had to spend with it; ironic we know). Neglect your little, digital friend and it woulddie. The Tamagotchi came in a host of different forms: dogs, cats, zoo animals, humans — you name it and you could virtually care for it. Parents and parent groups were enamored with the toys; thinking they were an excellent way to teach children responsibility and hard work… or something like that.
How about it? What was the name of your Tamagotchi?

BlackBerry Torch 2 Leaked With 1.2Ghz Processor – Q3 AT&T Release

By Ray Nicolini
BlackBerryTorch 2 leaked
Today keeps on getting better and better. When RIM first shipped the Torch everybody was kind of pissed that the device was underpowered in comparison to the competition. According to details the BGR learned RIM has finally decided to fix that in a HUGE way. We now have the rumored specs for a device that looks almost exactly like the BLackBerry Torch but with a silver finish. It includes features like a 1.2Ghz processor (Finally!!!) along with a VGA screen, 8GB memory, NFC, and more. It only has 512 MB of RAM which is odd but I guess you cannot have everything.
Other things worthy of noting are the HSPA 14.4 data connection which will make the device scream on the latest “4G” HSPA networks. Oddly the device still has a 1300mAh battery so I have no idea how it will last all day with this beefed up processor. I was asking for RIM to double the processor speed AND the battery size to accommodate it but I guess they found a way to do one without the other!
Full specs that were leaked:
  • 1.2GHz processor
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE
  • Tri-band HSPA 14.4Mbps
  • 3.2-inch VGA 640 x 480 capacitive display
  • 8GB built-in memory
  • 512MB RAM
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • 5-megapixel camera with flash
  • Magnetometer
  • Accelerometer
  • Proximity sensor
  • 1300 mAh battery
  • BlackBerry OS 6.1
  • OpenGL ES
  • 14.6mm thin
Anybody else excited? Rumor has it the Torch 2 is looking for a release on AT&T in late Q3 of this year!!! I will be dropping my current Torch like a hot potato when it comes out. This is the device RIM should have released instead of the current Torch.
Kudos to the BGR team on all the leaks today. Way to show RIM wont be going down without a serious fight!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why do I keep checking for new email on my BlackBerry even with notifications turned on?

By Ray Nicolini

Because I’m addicted.  By demand, I fiend for my email to be pushed at all times.  Makes me feel more connected, and “organized.”  Maybe not just email, but messages directed towards as through BlackBerry Messenger and text messaging as well.  Even when we have our notifications turned on with a vibrate or loud ring, we find ourselves checking consistently if there are any new messages.
For me, my “sickness” started on with my mornings or when waking up in the middle of the night.  As soon as my eyes would open, I’d reach for my BlackBerry and to see what I had missed while sleeping.  Sadly we look at it as “missing out,” and that’s why we’re so tuned into new notifications.  Later on, I stopped using holsters and belt clips just because my BlackBerry was always in my hand.  It never was away from me, and I’d be on top of a message as soon as it was received.
So back to the title, I always find myself checking and refreshing when my notifications are turned on anyway.  You get the idea.  We have become really addicted to receiving data on our mobiles.  That’s what the new thing is.  And it doesn’t only apply to BlackBerry, but all you Apple fanboys on iPhones and Android abusers too.  How is your smartphone addiction? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eye-Fi ‘Direct Mode’: wireless camera to phone image transfers

Eye-Fi today announced they will updating their X2 wireless memory cards in 2011 with a new ‘Direct Mode’ feature. This new mode sounds pretty neat and helpful and it uses resources from the wireless memory card technology and the mobile Eye-Fi apps. Basically, the mode lets you instantly, wirelessly transfer pictures you take on your camera to your phone, tablet, or devices with supported Eye-Fi apps (App Store).
Eye-Fi also announced a new feature that allows users to wireless backup videos and pictures saved to the wireless Eye-Fi x2 card to their online Eye-Fi accounts. This will really help out folks who need to quickly get pictures onto their computers and mobile devices and will also eliminate the need for constantly transferring photos of SD cards. Look out for the backup feature starting today and the free direct mode upgrade later this year. If you’re at CES, Direct Mode is being previewed there.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Facepad for iPad may be just what Facebook users are looking for

By Ray Nicolini

Facepad for iPad is a a brand new Facebook application that just recently hit the app store. It may be the Facebook app most iPad users have been longing for. Facebook has made it apparent they don’t think an iPad specific app is necessary. I strongly disagree. Browsing Facebook through Safari isn’t painful but how do I upload photos or videos? I can’t. Apps like Friendly for Facebook step in to fill this gap but they aren’t perfect.
Facepad is definitely a step in the right direction but it still leaves room for improvement. As of now there isn’t currently a way to upload photos and video. Friendly for Facebook does offer this. The reason I say I think this app may be the one iPad users are drawn to is the interface. It’s absolutely gorgeous. It reminds me a lot of a default iOS app or Twitter for iPad.
For a 1.0 release, you can already tell it has potential. I did experience a bug when viewing photos. Sometimes while scrolling through pictures, the photo window would just disappear and I’d have to reload it. Hopefully this will be something that’s fixed in an update. I’m excited to see what the developers can do with this app. Facebook hasn’t been too great at supporting their own native iPhone app so I’m definitely willing to see if someone else can do better. What about you guys? What features would you like to see implemented in an update?
Hit the jump for a couple more images!

Windows Phone 7 bug may send out extra data, cause overages

There’s some disturbing news on the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 front, as it appears that the platform will increasingly send more data over 3G even if WiFi is available. This could potentially lead to users sending out more data then they’re aware of and this could lead to costly data overages.
Over at the Windows Super site, a reader writes:
On December 22nd I received an email from AT&T saying that I was close to my 2GB data limit which truly shocked me as I feel I do not use data that much. I went and looked at my AT&T account online and noticed that my phone was sending huge chunks of data seemingly in patterns. For instance on November 21-24 it sent between 30 and 50 MB of data at 10:41pm each day and Dec 1-4 it sent between 30 and 50 MB of data at 9:41am each day. On December 23rd I turned on airplane mode so my phone could no longer send data. I turned airplane mode off briefly on December 23rd and the phone sent 400 MB of data. I called AT&T yesterday, December 28th, but they said that there was nothing that they can do to figure out what was happening on my phone.
Paul Thurrot, who wrote a book on Windows Phone 7, concurred with this and said it appears that devices like the Samsung Focus send this data over 3G even when the WiFi is available and turned on. Microsoft has yet to publicly acknowledge this or address the issue.
So, are any of you seeing this issue? If you are, I’d be pretty pissed if this led to me going over my plan with AT&T or T-Mobile. We’re sitting down with Microsoft in a few days and will ask them directly.
In the meanwhile, this Windows Phone 7 bug should likely be fixed with the upcoming software update and this could released within days.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Urbanears Plattan Headphones - ship worldwide

plattan60.00 USD
We designed Plattan to be the perfect classic headphone, utilizing inno vative functions and performance with today’s technology. It is a full size headphone allowing for rich, secluded sound. You can fold it down to the size of your fist for maximum mobility. Plattan also comes with a “zound plug” on the earcap, allowing for a friend to plug in and enjoy your music.
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