What's Hot in Tech - September 16

Amazon announces new Kindle Paperwhite, starts shipping September 30th

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It's been nearly a year since Amazon last refreshed its Kindle product line and right on time they've announced the impending release of the next iteration. Pre-orders are open now and the online retailer will start shipping the new Kindle Paperwhite come September 30 sporting an improved display with higher contrast for reading in direct sunlight; a feature called "Page Flip", the digital equivalent of flipping back through a book while keeping your place with your thumb; and integration with Goodreads, a book-reading community acquired by Amazon earlier this year. 

Also announced was MatchBook, a feature allowing customers to buy the Kindle edition of a print book they already bought on Amazon. Kindle matches will cost $2.99 or less, but match availability will depend on publisher participation in the program. MatchBook launches in October. 

Apple announces two new iPhones, both available September 20

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After a deluge of rumors and speculation, Apple announced it'll be releasing not one but two new iPhones on September 20th.

First is the iPhone 5c which is essentially an iPhone 5 sporting an all-new exterior including five color options (white, red, yellow, blue, and green) and an awfully attractive price tag starting at $99. Despite the technology inside the phone not being any different than the iPhone 5 we already know, this remains one of the top smartphones on the market. Its colorful lineup and new, lower price will be enticing for a lot of people and is definitely worth a look. You can pre-order the iPhone 5c now.

Second is the iPhone 5s which features the same exterior as the iPhone 5 but has all-new technology inside along with a new addition to the color palette: gold. As a result, the iPhone 5s comes in silver, gold, and gray (a lighter shade of the current "black" iPhone 5). The iPhone 5s will be priced starting at $199. A breakdown of the new technology inside: 

  • Overall speed of the device promised to be twice as fast—apps will open and function faster, websites load quicker, etc.
  • Much improved camera including photo quality, especially in low-light conditions thanks to a new flash system.
  • Ability to efficiently track motion—previously possible using GPS and wifi signals but was a big battery drain. This capability will be huge for fitness and navigation apps. 
  • Fingerprint scanner for unlocking your phone and authorizing purchases of apps, music, books. This feature is called TouchID and will save you from entering a numeric passcode to unlock your phone.

The iPhone 5s promises to be a fantastic device and an exciting upgrade even for iPhone 5 owners thanks to the increased device speed, improved camera, motion tracking, and TouchID. When it comes to motion tracking, imagine your GPS app knowing you've parked your car and seamlessly switching to walking directions to get you to your destination. TouchID is limited to a security feature for now, but will hopefully be accessible to other apps in the future. 

Apple's next version of iPhone and iPad software available September 18

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The next version of software for the iPhone and iPad, iOS 7, will be available for download September 18 at no cost to device owners. iOS 7 features a myriad of new features including: 

  • completely overhauled visual experience for a much more modern design feel 
  • new method for multi-tasking / switching between apps 
  • Control Center provides quick access to important settings and apps  
  • all-new Notification Center  
  • new camera experience including a square format  (perfect for sharing on Instagram!) 
  • much improved organization for photos  
  • more capabilities for Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant  

I've been using a beta version of iOS 7 this summer and it's a big, big improvement over iOS 6 and a huge step in the evolution of Apple software. On September 18 (likely in the late morning or early afternoon), open Settings on your iPad or iPhone, open the General category, and select Software Update to download iOS 7.  

Oyster, the Netflix for books?

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Oyster for iPhone made its debut, being described as a "Netflix for books" app.  For a subscription fee of $9.95 per month, users can access any book at any time and even download the book for offline reading. Oyster launched with 100,000 books in its library with the promise of a wider selection in the near future. Oyster is invite- and iPhone-only for the time being.

Foursquare adds ability to search for menu items  

In addition to searching for places by name or category, Foursquare has added the ability to search for specific menu items. Foursquare features over 500,000 places and 43 million menu items, now easily accessible through search. As fall arrives here in the US, it'll be that much easier to find the nearest hot chocolate or apple cider!

Opera launches Coast browser for iPad  

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When it comes to browsing the web on your iPad you can opt for Apple's Safari (which comes pre-installed), Google Chrome (my personal favorite), or one of the many other browsers in the App Store. Opera, another player in the browser market, has released a new and innovative option called Coast. With Coast, Opera has re-imagined what a web browser should be by removing most of the interface buttons you've come to expect and relying on gestures to do things like go back and forward. Bookmarks and recently visited websites are accessed through a grid of icons, similar to how one accesses apps on the iPad. How we use web browsers hasn't changed all that much since we started accessing the internet and I really like how Coast has approached their reinvention.

Quick Hits

  • Google teased the next version of Android (version 4.4), named KitKat. The candy bar company got in on the fun itself launching an all-new website announcing "KitKat 4.4". 
  • Facebook is testing a Skills section in user profiles, perhaps in an effort to directly compete with LinkedIn when it comes to professional networking.
  • The "private" social network Path introduced private sharing, inner circles, and a premium tier which promises free photo filters, stickers, and an ad-free experience for $14.99 a year. Path continues to limit your friend list to 150 friends for a more intimate experience. 

 

As a tech enthusiast, early adopter, and avid reader, I come across a lot of gadgets, apps, websites, and more. Few things excite me more than sharing and discussing these finds with others.  Follow me on Twitter where I share even more tech news and trends.

 

 

Chris Fohlin

Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA