Why 3D Doesn’t Work and Never Will

I dislike 3D and Walter Murch nails the reason why. In a letter from Murch to Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:

The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the “convergence/focus” issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and “smallness” — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

3D forces our eyes to focus and converge at different points and that’s why so many end up getting headaches.

This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true “holographic” images.

To me it’s simple: if something gives me headaches, that something isn’t a good thing. I’ve only watched one theatrical feature film in 3D: Avatar. The 3D didn’t ruin the experience precisely because the 3D effects were very subtle. I prefer the 2D version, which I also watched. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for developments in holographic display technologies. In the meantime I’ll be watching 2D.

HP Topaz Use Same iPad Display

9.7 inches. 1024×768 pixels. 4:3 aspect ratio. In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD panel. That’s what goes into Apple’s iPad.

PreCentral put up an image showing “Components” and if you look closely you’ll see: 9.7″ XGA (1024 x 768) w/IPS. The 160/160 viewing angles are less than the typical 178/178 seen on IPS LCDs, so the version that’s going into the HP Topaz might not be the top-end panel from LG Display (LGD). Instead it might be from Samsung or one of the Taiwan-based LCD manufacturers.

The next OLPC, which is a tablet, will also sport a 9.7-inch 4:3 LCD that will use Pixel Chi technology. Apple has done the heavy lifting of thinking through what the optimal dimensions of a tablet should be. The market seems to agree with Apple, and apparently so does HP and OLPC.

iPad & Retina Display

A Retina Display will make its way into the iPad; I am 100% confident. The question is: when? Only Apple knows, but since it is one of the most secretive companies in the world, all of us outside the core iPad display team will need to guess.

Kevin Rose, founder of Digg:

I have it on good authority that Apple will be announcing the iPad 2 in the next “3-4 weeks”, possibly Tuesday February 1st. The iPad 2 will feature a retina display and front/back cameras.

There is an update citing a another source that the iPad display has a “higher dpi” but is not technically a Retina Display. Of course, that begs the question: what is a Retina Display? I answer the question in iPad 2.0 Gets Retina Display?:

A Retina Display isn’t a hardware specification at all! It is simply a display that has a high-enough resolution when used at the typical “usage distance” that your eyes cannot distinguish individual pixels.

Of course, there is a hardware component to the definition, but it isn’t a rigid hardware specification. The source Rose is referring to probably is working off a different definition of Retina Display. I’d like to stick with my definition as I think it’s closest to what Steve Jobs was referring to when he introduced the Retina Display on the iPhone 4. One comment before I move on: DPI? That’s for printers. For displays it is PPI (Pixels Per Inch).

What would a Retina Display on the iPad look like?

Apple doubled the number of pixels vertically and horizontally on the iPhone 4 compared to previous generation iPhones: 480×320 → 960×640. And Apple will do precisely that with the iPad 2.0: 1024×768 → 2048×1536. The resulting resolution on the iPad 2.0 is 263PPI. That’s far from 300PPI, but you have to remember the “usage distance.”

The number of pixels were doubled vertically and horizontally making the new Retina Display able to display every single previous app flawlessly, albeit with less clarity. Based on the assumption that the iPad has a farther usage distance than the iPhone, the iPad 2’s 9.7-inch IPS LCD with a 2048×1536 pixel format looks like it will qualify as a Retina Display. But is it technically feasible to manufacture such a display?

On the LCD side cramming three million plus pixels into a 4:3 9.7-inch LCD is quite possible: LCD manufacturers are hard at work perfecting the display as we speak, according to my sources. But even if the display was possible wouldn’t it require a powerful GPU, which might consume too much power in the next iPad?

Enter the SGX543 System on a Chip graphics. According to AppleInsider the SGX535 in the current iPad will be replaced by the SGX543, a dual core GPU with 1080p and OpenCL support that offers twice the power of the SGX543. There is also speculation that it could be integrated into a SGX543MP2 with two SGX543 cores for a total of four. The quadrupling in cores and graphics capabilities makes sense since the number of pixels also would quadruple in the iPad Retina Display. I’m not certain about power requirements but if the shift in CPUs from a high frequency single core to lower frequency multiple cores is any indication power consumption shouldn’t increase much, if at all. It seems we have the LCD and the silicon to back it up.

So, will the next iPad have a Retina Display? John Gruber is pretty sure that it won’t:

Rumors are rampant that the upcoming iPad 2 will feature a higher-resolution retina display. Long story short: No, it won’t.

Gruber cites his sources who say: “[…] it is too good to be true […]” He does mention that the LCD in the iPad 2 will be optically laminated to the cover glass, just like it is with the iPhone 4 bringing the LCD closer to the surface and improving all sorts of things: reduced reflectance, improved brightness, viewing angles, etc. The air gap will be eliminated and gone will be the ritual of pulling your hair out when you notice that dust is stuck in there. Optical lamination of the LCD to the cover glass will also make the iPad 2 thinner.

DigiTimes says that the next iPad will certainly sport a Retina Display:

[…] sources from upstream component makers pointed out that Apple is increasing iPad 2’s resolution to 2048 by 1536 and the new strategy is expected to widen the company’s technology gap with its competitors.

DigiTimes has a spotty record when it comes to conjecturing about future Apple products, but it does have a lot of contacts within the component supply chain for Apple products. As reported on MacRumors, there’s the “iPad 2 LCD Screen” that is being sold on GlobalDirectParts for US$218.19. That’s quite a bit more than the current iPad display for just $63.35. Makes sense since the iPad Retina Display should pack four times the number of pixels.

Avery Pennarun uses Moore’s Law to predict when the iPad will feature a Retina Display. An interesting analysis but his semiconductor knowledge fails to overcome his lack of display expertise:

Each of those successively higher resolution screens was a “new process” in semiconductor speak. With each new process came a higher density of imperfections per unit area, which is why smaller screens were the first to hit these crazy-high densities. We can assume that the biggest screens at “retina” density as of the iPhone 4’s release – 960×640 in June 2010 – was the state of the art at the time. We can also assume that the iPad was the biggest you could go with the best process for that size at the time, 1024×768 in March 2010.

Back in 2005 I had the pleasure of working on Sony’s PCG-TR3AP, which was a 10.6-inch ultraportable notebook PC. There were many other brands with 10.4-inch 4:3 LCDs that packed a 1024×768 pixel format. Sony’s TR3AP featured a 1280×768 pixel format in a 10.6-inch LCD five years ago. Was 1024×768 in a 9.7-inch the best the LCD industry could do in 2010? Absolutely not. But, to get the $499 entry point it was probably the best and only option.

We want to achieve 1024×768 times two = 2048×1536 = (2.13*960)x(2.40*640) = about 5x the physical area of the iPhone 4.

Moore’s law says we get 2x every 18 months. So 5x is 2**2.32, ie. 2.32 doubling periods, or 3.48 years.

By that calculation, we can expect to see a double-resolution iPad 3.48 years from its original release date in March 2010, ie. Christmas 2013.

Christmas 2013? Nah. Interesting analysis, but Pennarun is wrong; 2048×1536 is possible today, in 2011. But does that mean the next iPad will sport a Retina Display? I am not sure, but I will say this: I expect to see an iPad with a Retina Display announcement in 2011.

Oh, remember Kevin Rose at the beginning of this article? He claimed the next iPad would sport a Retina Display. Well, now he claims it won’t. Nobody really knows but Apple. We’ll just have to wait and see. One thing that’s cool about Apple’s product announcements is the suspense and then the, “Surprise!!!”

iPod Nano as a Watch

Nilay Patel:

And here’s the biggest problem: you can’t just glance at your wrist and check the time! The screen is completely dark when it’s asleep, so you have to reach over and hit the wake button with your other hand to see the time, and worst of all, hitting the wake button doesn’t light the screen up instantly — there’s a significant and noticeable delay of over half a second before the clock is displayed. […]

John Gruber:

The TikTok is everything I could have hoped for: the Nano fits perfectly and the wristband is supple and comfortable. But for the reasons outlined by Patel above, the current Nano just isn’t ideal for use as a full-time wristwatch. I can definitely see using this when I run though.

I check time because of maybe two reasons. First, I need to know the time right now because I don’t want to be late getting somewhere. A similar reason for wanting to know the time is to wind up each second as tight as possible so that when that person you’re waiting for finally shows up late you have all that potential energy stored up to give a proper tongue lashing. Both stem from us being madly driven by time. The second reason is just because. “Hmm… I wonder what time it is.” Time’s got nothing on me.

The iPod Nano works perfectly as a watch if time is your best friend and you have lots of it. If you’re dashing here and there, pulled, pushed, and yanked around by time, then you should use a real watch for instant gratification.

But, I’m used to using my iPhone as my only timepiece. I’ve been trained to push a button (power or home), wait a split second for the display to turn on, and then be shown the time. To me the slight delay isn’t irritating at all. As a watch I think the iPod Nano will be absolutely perfect inside the LunaTik, which I hope gets delivered soon.

CES 2011 Recap

Sin City. I’ve been making my pilgrimage to Las Vegas for about ten years, from when COMDEX was the biggest conference in North America. I fasted last year, but this year I started my trip to CES on the 3rd. I had to get there early because the first press conferences as well as the press-only CES Unveiled were on the 4th. In CES 2011: Travelling With Less I shared with you my unsuccessful attempt at connecting to Verizon’s LTE network using the Pantech UML290 USB modem on my MacBook Pro at San Jose International, how I had no black socks, and that I took only a few pieces of clothing and stuffed them into a single duffle bag.

If you haven’t been to Las Vegas in January let me tell you: it’s not that great. First, you need to be drinking water constantly throughout the day and/or eating lots of high water content foods such as fruits and vegetables. The first couple of mornings I woke up to a bone-dry throat. It is extremely dry in Las Vegas so if you’re not careful you’ll end up sick. Second, you’ll need to wear a warm jacket. I even took my leather gloves and was forced to wear them most evenings. Because it’s so cold you want to keep pressing the up button on the thermometer in your room, but don’t. You’ll end up with problem number one. Third, imagine 130,000 extra people trying to catch taxis, make reservations at restaurants and shows. It is crazy. There are lines everywhere. Just to give you an example, there were several hundred members of the press lined up for CES Unveiled. It took more than 30 minutes just to get to the doors. We looked like sardined penguins, squeezed into a line, and wobbling to get to sea.

As soon as I entered The Venetian Ballroom there was Lenovo just to my right. The company was showcasing new notebooks and a tablet, but there were about twenty people surrounding the small table. I didn’t want to wait so I went straight for the food. Prawns to be exact. I grabbed as many as I could and cranked up my visual radar for an open seat. I got lucky. My aching feet and back were thanking me. While snacking on jumbo prawns I struck up a conversation with a wonderful woman who works at CBS. We got to know each other well and 45 minutes zoomed by. There was still no sign the crowd was dying down. A few minutes later I decided I had to check out some gadgets in the room.

There were more than 60 exhibitors and only a few caught my eye. The first was the Tremont Electric nPower Personal Energy Generator (PEG), which I first wrote about back in June. According to Tremont you place the PEG in your backpack vertically and as you walk about the PEG turns your ups and downs into energy. According to Tremont:

26 minutes of walking provides approximately 1 minute of talk time on an iPhone 3

I stayed at the South Point Hotel, which is far enough away from The Strip that I had to take daily shuttles to either the Aria Hotel or Treasure Island. I did a lot of walking and even if I had the PEG I would not have had generated enough energy for all of my iPhone 4 needs. The concept is wonderful, but unfortunately the PEG doesn’t last forever and will eventually stop working. I was told that all you need to do is replace the battery inside, but that’s not possible with the first design. Tremont wanted to get the PEG out to the public as fast as possible, hence the limitations. It’s a bit heavy, too, at 11 ounces or 312 grams. The PEG is priced at US$159.99 and is currently backordered. Tremont is developing version two, which will be lighter and could have a replaceable battery. I was excited to find out that the PEG is made in the USA with 90% of the components locally sourced from Ohio. An iGo cable and adapter tip of your choice is included. Even with some limitations I think the PEG was one of the most interesting products at CES Unveiled.

The second gadget that caught my eye was the pipSqueak, “a square thingamajig that connects to your smart phone via Bluetooth.” Everyone who stashes his/her phone inside a large bag needs the pipSqueak. For the reasons why, click on the link above and find out.

I returned to my room exhausted. I hydrated in the bath, wrote the pipSqueak article and collapsed on the bed. Oh, I should note that Lori Rosen, President of The Rosen Group, emailed me regarding BlackSocks after reading my CES 2011: Traveling Light post. Normally I wouldn’t have been interested, but here I was in need of black socks! BlackSocks is a “sockscription” that ships black socks to you on a regular basis so you never run out.

[…] the ultimate time saver – delivering the highest quality socks, year round, right to your door. No more sock stress!

I thought it was fascinating and asked Lori if she could send me a pair. Come to think of it, I do spend more time than I should shopping for socks online (reading reviews) and at brick-and-mortar stores. I’ve been thinking for some time how nice it would be to have socks that were all the same. Finding and matching the right pair of dozens of socks after they come out of the dryer can be a pain, and a waste of time. (Note: As I was working on this article, I came across Khunu, an adventure-wear company pioneering the use of yak wool from the Tibetan Plateau and Mongolia. The name comes from the first Mongolian dynasty. Here are some facts about wool from yaks: 10-15% warmer than merino wool, odor resistant, breathable, soft as cashmere. Unfortunately it is made in China, something I’m not terribly fond of with very few exceptions.)

End of day one. The next day was press conference day at the Venetian. Vegas runs on tips (and gambling, of course). I needed some cash, for tips naturally, so I took out my handy iPhone and searched for “Chase ATM” before heading out the door. There weren’t many, but thankfully there was one at CVS right next door to the Aria Hotel, which was one of the shuttle stops. It also meant that I had to make the trek from the Aria to the Venetian on foot. “It’s good to walk and it’s good to save $4.50 in ATM fees,” I convinced myself. The $4.50 fee at hotel ATMs is extortion I tell you.

The Venetian, like many other hotels in Vegas, is so big it’s easy to get lost. I don’t mind asking for directions, and I did, but it still ended up taking a long time. Eventually I got queued up behind a line 200+ strong. The Samsung press conference wasn’t going to start for another ten minutes and the line was just starting to move, but just then someone announced that the room was completely full. I looked at the card she handed out and there was information to access a real-time stream of the event. “You must be kidding!” I was barely able to pull down emails and there was no way a video stream was going to work. So I did what 100 others did: went downstairs and got in line for the Panasonic press conference, an hour early.

It’s nice to have someone to talk to when all you’re doing is standing in line. I was spared from the hour-long boredom with conversations. I owe my gratitude to David Kender, VP Editorial Management at Reviewed.com. Fifty minutes breezed by and I was sitting toward the front and near the center. As I was getting comfortable and getting excited over all the pre-press conference chatter a thought broke the spell, “What the heck am I doing here???” I was certain Engadget was here. Wired, too, as well as a dozen other media outlets. These guys do an excellent job of jotting down everything that happens during these press conferences. I stood up, walked out and didn’t look back. Later that night I browsed through Engadget, Wired, and others and as expected they did a thorough job of combing through every gadget and technology at all of the press conferences. Unfortunately there weren’t much that interested me: 3D stuff, tablets, smartphones, TVs. (Yawn.) It turned out CES was much the same.

Before I turned in for the day I made up my mind not to attend another press conference if possible especially if an Engadget or Wired was present. I just didn’t want to waste my time, in line as well as sitting down. I also did one more thing: I gazed at Calvetica, my go-to calendar app on my iPhone, and started right-flicking all the meetings that I thought weren’t necessary. Those included any meeting before noon: I needed my rest. What was left were just a few. The dry smokey air was slowly doing me in and I wanted to take it easy the next three days. I fell asleep already feeling better.

3M, Eton, Parrot, and Samsung Mobile Display were four of the very few companies that had products and/or technologies that caught my eye during CES. But there was something completely non-high-tech and wonderful, too. You remember I didn’t pack any black socks because for some odd reason they were left out of the laundry bag? Well, a package arrived Thursday and I had a feeling it was from BlackSocks. The business center was already closed and had to wait until Friday. I’ve been telling everyone about my black socks story and wanted it to have a good ending. After waiting in yet another line, I told the person behind the counter my name and my room number. Some of my enthusiasm deflated when I was told there was a $5 “processing fee,” but I had enough excitement to veto the growing irritation.

Black socks. I had a pair of black socks. And these were high quality. I was impressed. These were made with Merino wool in Italy. No fancy decorations and were very comfortable. During the “A Day at CES” test my feet were dry, warm, and comfortable. As I was walking around I wiggled my toes just to check for moisture or any discomfort: my feet were happy. At the end of the day I was impressed. These Merino wool socks were good. Now these aren’t the very best you can get from BlackSocks. The Cashmere Silk socks are: 58% cashmere, 25% silk, 17% polyamide (toe, heal reinforcement), $27. I can only imagine how good a pair of Cashmere Silk socks would feel. I might have to find out.

Eton. I’ve never heard of Eton before but a dancing booth babe (she was the only one) caught my attention and I just had to check out what she was so excited about. There were some solar powered gadgets I was introduced to, but I was really interested in the American Red Cross-branded gadgets, especially the Rover TurboDyne emergency weather radio, flashlight, USB phone charger. This beautifully designed gizmo has a nifty crank or “self-powered hand turbine” that generates electricity. The idea that I can generate electricity to power the gadgets I use is exhilarating. The Rover is expected to ship early February and priced at $49.99.

The next item is the DIA from Parrot. I wrote about this marvelous digital photo frame back in December and I had the opportunity to see it in real life. Théodore Sean, Chef de Groupe Marketing at Parrot, shared his time and knowledge regarding the story behind the DIA. As you can see from the photo I took the DIA looks incredible. The visual effect from separating the backlight from the LCD cell brings about that experience of looking at slides, which was the inspiration that led designer Jean-Louis Frechin to develop the DIA:

Today, screens are all the same. So, with my partner Uros Petrevski, we had to find a different type of screen, without falling into the category of “do different just to be different”. We started to handle slide film, to dismantle screens, to play with transparency of light. DIA frame was born from the idea that it is impossible to represent a printed image on a photo frame. So our frame is close to a slide film, with the quality of transparence, light and format of professional ektachrome.

My visit to 3M’s booth was fantastic. The multi-display multi-touch technology and product showcases were impressive, but more than that the people who work at 3M were genuine, down-to-earth, and emanated a strong sense of family or community that I haven’t felt since returning from an extended trip to Korea last year. Jeff Han, Founder, President and CEO of Perceptive Pixel, was also on the 3M floor giving demonstrations of his ground-breaking work in implementing multi-touch in large displays. The two companies worked together to develop the multi-touch display demonstrations at CES. One technology that was mentioned but I didn’t get to witness was the ability to physically untether a multi-touch multi-display. Imagine being able to slide a photo from your display to another that’s thousands of miles away. I can imagine playing virtual air-hockey with friends from all over the world. How fun!

The lines were long. So instead of waiting for a bus, shuttle or a taxi, I started walking away from the Las Vegas Convention Center toward the Mirage, where I was invited to check out 3M’s suite. The Maps app on my iPhone frequently reassured me I was walking in the right direction. After 30 minutes (John B. tells me this can only be achieved running, was probably more like 45 minutes) and almost four miles I arrived the Starbucks huffing and puffing, and late. Stephani Simon, President of Orange Communications, was more than understanding and helped navigate through the hotel maze and up to 3M’s suite. As I walked in I recognized a couple of friendly faces and several I met for the first time. My shoulders and back screamed of pain so I quickly found a place to put my backpack down.

Craig Sykora, Product Development Manager at 3M Electronics Markets Materials Division, explained the technology behind some of the interesting prototypes that were displayed. I can’t talk much in detail about them, but let’s just say I’m looking forward to all sorts of gadgets with flexible multi-touch transparent displays in the near future.

After the briefing I sat down with sliced watermelon, honey dew, pineapples and a bottle of water that simultaneously quenched my thirst and hunger. I came to CES looking for the latest and greatest display products and technologies; I also found warmth and kindness. I was soaked in genuine hospitality, which washed away the stress from a long CES day. For that I especially thank Evelyn Baldwin, Assembly Solutions Manager. (I have a terrible memory so forgive me for the other gentleman who was so kind to share his valuable time and funny stories from Minnesota.)

Friday was another day where the focus was on people, five to be exact. But they are mostly personal in nature so I’ll skip to Saturday, my last day at CES 2011.

Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) was the only meeting on Saturday and very last at CES 2011. Transparent OLED displays. Flexible ones. OLEDs with extremely thin bezels. A Samsung Galaxy Tab with an OLED display. There were many interesting products being showcased. I was particularly fascinated by the flexible OLED display, whipped out my iPhone and started taking a video. A Gran Turismo 5 video was being looped so I wanted to capture one complete cycle. As I was hunched over with my hands acting as rudimentary optical stabilizers, someone came around and stood right beside me. I waited for the GT5 loop to end and so did he, who turned out to be Brian Berkeley, VP OLED R&D Center and SID President-Elect. Brian is exceedingly brilliant and knows all there is to know about LCDs and now OLEDs. We talked about possible future applications for OLEDs and one thing stuck: OLEDs with embedded photo sensors. There are three ideas that are fascinating. First, a display that is also your camera. Second, a display that self-powers. Third, a display that is a self-powered camera.

While I was writing this article I bumped into REC, a camera designed by Dongyeon Kim that has a rotating transparent display. The REC is nifty, but what if that transparent display was also the image sensor? If what Brian say is true, that image sensors can be embedded into OLED displays, then my insane idea can become a reality some time in the future. Cool. The limits of your imagination gain another dimension when you interact with folks like Brian. Mine sure did.

Looking back at CES 2011 the most memorable were the people I met. After all, these are the people that invent, build, and market these amazing products and technologies. While going through the hustle and bustle of CES I decided it was going to be my last. As I am writing this article I’ve changed my mind. CES 2011 certainly won’t be my last; it will just be my last where products and technologies are the focus. I’m looking forward to CES 2012 already.

PS: Thanks for making CES a pleasure: Michael K., Karina B., Allison G., Anita K., Chris C., Kathleen J., German F., Noelene M., Estaban K., Heather G., Sychuang N., Martin L., Kevin K., Edward M., Hanna C., Kristen B., Jeff H., Melanie P., Jill L., James R., Roberta D., Richard B., John M., Eui Tae K., Derek D., David F., Kristina H., TS K., Joshua S., Robert K., Jay Y., Ryan K., Richard B., Tim P., Chris M., Sunghoe Y., Angella Y., Yoo-gyung K., David Y., Bret H., Tony D., David H., Tim H., Tom R., Eric P., Sung P., Henri S., and Neil M.

Verizon iPhone 4

Verizon iPhone 4: it’s official. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam announced that the CDMA version of the iPhone 4 will be coming to Verizon Wireless on February 10th. Apple and Verizon have been working on the Verizon iPhone 4 since 2008 and it has been tested for a year already. Current Verizon customers get first dibs and can pre-order on February 3rd. The rest of us will have to wait until the 10th.

The Verizon iPhone 4 works on Verizon’s CDMA network that makes use of EV-DO 3G data networks. Unfortunately, Verizon’s next-generation LTE network isn’t supported with the current version of the Verizon iPhone 4. (I’ve been using Pantech’s UML290VW USB LTE modem on my MacBook Pro for the last couple of weeks and let me just say this: LTE is fast.) Apple COO Tim Cook on why the Verizon iPhone isn’t LTE via Cult of Mac:

Two reasons: the first gen LTE chipsets force design changes we wouldn’t make. And Verizon customers told us they want the iPhone now. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been asked, “When will it work on Verizon?”

Soon after the iPhone was first introduced, AT&T’s network buckled. Many have complained bitterly about their iPhone experiences on AT&T’s networks, especially from those living in New York and San Francisco. Some expect Verizon’s reliable network to undergo growing pains like AT&T did. Others disagree. According to Gartner analyst Phil Redman as quoted on Gizmodo:

[Verizon has] had more time to plan than anybody else and knows the repercussions of not preparing enough [and] put in more work than AT&T did at the start of their venture. [Verizon has] increased their CDMA capacity over the last 12-18 months [and are] more aggressive than others increasing their backhaul capacity.

Will that be enough? AT&T also added considerable capacity to its networks but a 5000% growth in data usage since the launch of the iPhone brought it down. That kind of growth probably won’t happen when the Verizon iPhone 4 gets in the hands of users and Verizon is known to have the most reliable cellular network in the US. Here’s hoping that Verizon iPhone 4 users will experience impeccable connectivity for voice as well as data, but of course not both at the same time.

So, what is the difference between an AT&T iPhone 4 and a Verizon iPhone 4?

First, let’s look at what didn’t change. Both iPhone 4s get the same talk times: 7 hours for 3G voice, 6 hours for 3G web, and 10 hours for WiFi web. The overall design as well as the size of the display is the same. The front and back are made of glass. The display is the same 3.5-inch Retina Display. Pricing is the same: $199 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB. Just like the AT&T iPhone 4 there are no additional carrier logos. Five physical buttons remain the same: one home button on the front face, power/sleep button on top, one mute lever, and two volume buttons. And this leads to the first thing that’s changed.

The antenna separator next to the headphone jack moved to the side pushing down the mute lever and volume buttons just a bit. And that means some cases will not work on the Verizon iPhone 4, including Apple’s Bumpers. There is an additional notch on the top right corner and the SIM slot is gone.

Apple COO Tim Cook confirmed the antenna design was optimized for the CDMA baseband chips leading to this change. These changes seem to have improved signal retention: initial death-grip results are positive.

Ars Technica:

Ars contributor Chris Foresman reported that bridging the remaining gap on the Verizon iPhone (using the “death grip,” he says) did not result in any kind of CDMA signal attenuation. He also placed a call while death gripping and said that there was no noticeable signal loss.

PCMag:

Sitting at the demo bar, I managed to knock one bar off of the phone’s signal indicator by tightly gripping the phone with both hands, covering all four antenna marks. Just covering the bottom of the phone didn’t do it. But the demo room has excellent signal, and attenuation problems really show themselves in fringe signal areas. It’ll take a real lab test to see how much Apple has improved the antenna here.

Keep in mind there are few areas where Verizon signals don’t reach while there are many fringe signal areas for AT&T. Ultimately we will find out when Verizon iPhone 4 users from all over the country report on any connectivity issues.

SlashGear:

We put our hand in the standard “death grip” location, making sure that we covered up all of the right spots, and held onto the device for up to a minute. When we started the test, the device was at four bars. It should be noted that full service is represented on the iPhone 4 with 5 bars. So, the test started with only four bars being shown. As we held the device, and we timed it at a minute, we watched as only one bar disappeared.

We then put our fingers over certain points on the device. Making sure to cover up the “new” top portion of the antenna, and we still couldn’t reproduce the “death grip” symptoms that plagued the initial launch of the iPhone 4. You can check out the images from our test below, but it looks like Verizon’s confidence in the iPhone 4 on their network seem to be pretty sound.

I’m quite excited. An iPhone on Verizon means no more dropped calls and excellent data connectivity no matter where you are. It would have been fantastic to have had a Verizon iPhone 4 during CES: AT&T 3G signals at the Las Vegas Convention Center were terrible. 2G didn’t work that well either.

Mobile Hotspot: The AT&T iPhone 4 doesn’t have it; the Verizon iPhone 4 does. The mobile hotspot is optional and if current pricing for other smartphones on Verizon is any indication, it will cost $20 per month with a data cap. Exact pricing and data limitations have not been announced. Five devices can connect to the WiFi mobile hotspot, which is built right into the Verizon iPhone 4 running on iOS 4.2.5, a more advanced version compared to the version currently on AT&T iPhone 4s: 4.2.1. Just note that when a voice call comes through the data connection might be terminated.

Data network connectivity is the name of the game and there are rumors that suggest Verizon iPhone 4 customers might be offered the option of an unlimited data plan for $50 per month.

The AT&T iPhone 4 is better than the Verizon iPhone 4 in three fronts: global roaming capability, faster Internet connectivity, and being able to talk while accessing data. Of course, all of this doesn’t matter if you’re not able to get a robust voice or data connection in the first place. That last bit about being able to talk while you do other stuff using the data connection may be critical to some: most expect your data connection on the Verizon iPhone 4 to disconnect when a call comes through.

AT&T is fighting back. AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:

We are ready for it. The short- and long-term viability of AT&T will be good whether we have exclusivity or not. We are much bigger than this.

AT&T PR boss Larry Solomon via Business Insider:

The iPhone is built for speed, but that’s not what you get with a CDMA phone. I’m not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane.

A slow and reliable lane is better than one filled with potholes. Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Chaplin estimates 1.3 million iPhone users will defect from AT&T to Verizon through 2012. Those 1.3 million iPhone 4 users are those who no longer want to tolerate sub-standard voice and data connectivity by AT&T. Most probably live in New York and San Francisco. For those that have excellent AT&T signals there really is no reason to jump to Verizon. But if you simply must get out of your AT&T contract and get a Verizon iPhone 4, Lifehacker has some good tips on how you can do that.

Finally, if you can wait, wait. All indications are Apple will be unveiling a brand new iPhone later on. My bet is that it will be an iPhone that runs on new LTE networks. There will be a single model that runs on both AT&T and Verizon. Verizon has a head start on LTE deployments, but AT&T will be lighting up LTE signals by mid-2011, about the time the new iPhone will be announced.

2011 CES Unveiled: pipSqueak

Only this little gadget made me think, “Cool! That’s exactly what my wife needs!” Today I had the privilege of attending CES Unveiled, a press-only event and although there were many cool products that were showcased, for me this little device took the show.

Let me explain the need: 80% of the time I can’t get a hold of my dear wife. What drives me nuts is that I am 100% sure she has her iPhone with her. I also understand that she’s stretched a bit: she works, takes care of three kids, cooks, cleans, etc. and carries around a lot of stuff in a large bag, which is where the iPhone is. I think, I know, this little gadget will help.

There are some hilarious videos on Seeker Technology‘s website that shows why all of us who carry phones in large bags need this little device. It’s called pipSqueak, a square thingamajig that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. It has a clip, like an iPod nano, so you can attached it to almost anywhere, like for instance the outside of a large bag.

PipSqueak notifies you whenever your phone is receiving a call. The notification can be adjusted to any of several levels, including “vibration only” to “vibration, light & sound”. Upon being notified, you may simply retrieve/answer your phone.

President and CEO James Randall explained another really neat feature that helps when you need more time to answer:

If your pipSqueak notifies you of an incoming call but you need more time to answer, you simply tap the button on the pipSqueak to activate the “extended time feature.” PipSqueak immediately answers the call, notifies the caller that you are about to answer but need a bit more time, and periodically repeats “Please hold” until you answer.

You can even download a celebrity voice or record your own custom message. How neat is that? And one last thing: the pipSqueak vibrates and/or makes a sound when it is out of range from your smartphone, and that may mean the difference between keeping your smartphone and losing it, in the cab for instance.

* The pipSqueak seems to have an OLED display that remains invisible when nothing is happening, but displays in white the number, caller ID, or the “Phone Lost” message.

Iomega SuperHero iPhone Dock: Backs Up Contacts & Photos to SD

I dread having to connect my iPhone to my MacBook and sync using iTunes. The whole process is cumbersome and takes too long, especially when all I want to do is get some photos into the computer. Using a digital camera with a SD card is so much easier; I don’t even need to use iPhoto.

This new SuperHero iPhone dock by Iomega backs up contacts and photos unto a SD card: just what I’ve been waiting for! I can manage my own filing system, know exactly where my photos are, and use a lightweight program like Seashore to crop and upload to DisplayBlog. The SuperHero is a great idea, but it will cost you: US$69.99.

10 Million Samsung Galaxy S Smartphones Sold

Bloomberg:

Samsung sold 10 million units of the Galaxy S model in 2010 after introducing the device in June, the company said in an e- mailed statement today. The Suwon, South Korea-based phonemaker aims to double sales of smartphones this year as more customers use the device to make video calls, read electronic books and use social networking sites.

Goldman Sachs expects Samsung to ship 61 million smartphones in 2011.

CES 2011: Travelling With Less

I’m currently at the San Jose International Airport connected to a free WiFi signal. Unfortunately, the Pantech LTE modem I purchased from Verizon Wireless a few days was only sending packets for some reason. If only all airports had free WiFi… This is the first time I’ve been in the newly remodeled section of SJC and I must say it is a beautiful building. Thankfully I was neither sprayed with x-rays or fondled when going through security. I was nervous though.

Some interesting observations: the departures and arrivals digital signage displays are all Samsung. These are big and in portrait orientation. I didn’t see any color or brightness shifts at different angles. Good for Samsung. LG was able to supply all of the displays within the shops: LeBoulanger, BRIT, illy, Pizza My Heart, etc. These displays are smaller (still big around 50-inch) but there are quite a few at each retail location. SJC was being diplomatic it seems.

I decided to travel extremely light this time around. I just have one duffle bag with a few shirts, a jacket, underwear, socks, a couple of books, my MacBook Pro and iPhone. I’ll be taking photos and videos using only the iPhone this year. Hopefully it’ll all work out. I also decided to bring a small waist bag thingamajig to put my business cards, notepad, and pen. I hope I don’t look too geeky.

For some reason when I did my laundry last night all of my black socks were left out. So I packed a few non-black ones and will need to purchase a few. I guess I’ll be putting to practice what I’m learning from The 4-Hour Workweek: Ferriss, the author, recommends traveling as light as possible and if we absolutely need something to buy it when we’re there. I’ll definitely be needing clean socks!

Unsurprisingly, the 5:20pm Southwest flight to Las Vegas is late. I’ll be lucky if I get on the plane by 6:00pm. Hopefully I can catch my hotel shuttle at 8pm. If I lose that shuttle, it’ll cost me and I don’t want that.

I’ll be attending CES Unveiled tomorrow at the Venetian with a focus on displays. Stay tuned for updates.

Update: Ah, I missed the free shuttle by five minutes. Spent way too much on a cab. The Pantech LTE UML290 modem doesn’t work at the South Point Hotel where I’m staying. There might be two possible reasons: I’m too far up (23rd floor) or I’m too far way from the main strip. So I’ve switched to the 2GB + Tethering option on my iPhone. I’ve read somewhere that the best way to live without stress is to be flexible. I’m just glad I get a 3G signal from AT&T here. Who would have guessed!