Apple USB hubs

Ever since the launch of the original iMac back in 1998, Apple fans have liked to ensure their peripherals match the casing of the device they’re using. The ‘hockey puck’ style USB mouse is a prime example:

Surprisingly, however, Apple doesn’t produce an ‘official’ USB hub, despite the increasing number of gadgets we’re connecting up to daily. If you happen to own a non-Lightning and a Lightning device, such as an iPhone 5 and third generation iPad, you’ll probably want to keep both cables plugged in at once to a desktop machine. If you own the recently announced iMac, you might wish to plug in a DVD or Blu ray drive too, as the inbuilt optical drive has now disappeared. Before long you’ll probably be looking for more ports.

For a short time, MIC Gadget offered a four port USB hub complete with a glowing Apple logo. However, this was soon discontinued.

Fortunately, Apple sells a range of approved USB hubs through the Apple Store, mostly from Belkin. For example, this four port powered hub fits nicely under the iMac. However, it doesn’t support iPad charging, which is rather a disappointment.

For users needing even more capacity, there’s also a seven port hub.

Of course, if you’re not too concerned about aesthetics, it’s also possible to plug in any USB hub, from any manufacturer.

Apple event announcement round-up: iPad mini, new iPad and more

Apple have announced a smaller version of their tablet PC offering, which is to be known as the ‘iPad mini’.

The new device features specifications similar to the iPad 2, but in a smaller casing, which Jonathan Ive refers to in the product video as more ‘concentrated’. This is mostly because Apple have chosen to reduce the width of the bezel in order to make it easy to hold in one hand, rather than just scaling it down from the larger size. The screen is a non-Retina display, running at the same 1024 x 768 resolution, but it has a slightly increased pixel-per-inch count due to it being squeezed into a 7.9″ frame. Apple is keen to market one of the benefits of this design choice, namely that any applications in the App Store will work straight away, without needing to be rewritten to accommodate the smaller screen.

Aside from the size of the device, there are few other notable features. The iPad mini uses the A5 processor found in the iPad 2, and just like the iPhone 5, uses the new Lightning connector. Compared with the iPad 2, the iPad mini gains a FaceTime HD camera and allows full 1080p video recording, and supports 4G networks in the UK, according to Apple’s useful LTE guide.

Today’s surprise, however, was the announcement of a new iPad, just a few short months after the introduction of the last generation back in March. While there had been rumours of a Lightning connector update to bring it into synchronisation with the rest of the Apple range, few had expected that a new A6X processor would also make its debut today.

The new device has been updated to bring 4G support in the UK, and an upgraded FaceTime HD camera too, to further bring it in line with the iPhone 5 and iPad mini.

Apple also announced a all-new iMac today, which seems incredibly thin when compared with previous models:

A lot of this reduction has been achieved by removing the optical drive, which I believe is a sensible option. Apple have refused to accept the growing demand for Blu ray players, as they’d rather customers use iTunes to download content from them. As most software comes via the internet, including larger packages such as Adobe Photoshop CS6, the optical drive can go for months without being used on a single occasion – just as floppy drives once were.

The new screen is claimed to have 75% less reflection, which is achieved via a process called ‘full lamination’ to eliminate a 2-mm gap between the LCD and the glass. This new manufacturing process was introduced on the iPhone 5 first – an interesting example of where mobile design is now inspiring the desktop.

Apple also announced a new 13 inch MacBook with Retina display today, running at 2560 x 1600 at 227 pixels per inch, to complement the 15 inch version introduced earlier this year. It’s still possible to buy non-Retina MacBooks too.

Lastly, after a massive 461 day wait, Apple have finally introduced a new Mac Mini, bringing the base-model price down to just under £500. Just like the iMac, it has all new processors and new storage options including what’s being marketed as a Fusion Drive – which combines a 1TB hard drive with 128GB of flash storage.

Considering the marketing slogan on last week’s media invite, ‘we’ve got a little more to show you’ – it turned out Apple actually had quite a lot to reveal. I’ve no doubt the iPad mini will be a commercial success in the run up to Christmas, although many third generation iPad owners will be disgruntled to have learnt today that their devices have prematurely ceased to be at the ‘cutting edge’.

‘iPad mini’ event announced

Apple have invited members of the press and development community to a media event on Tuesday 23rd October, where the company is widely expected to announce a smaller version of the iPad in time for the lucrative Christmas market.

The tagline of the colourful invite – “We’ve got a little more to show you” – seems to suggest a smaller version of something, and that something will of course be their current tablet offering.

Although Apple have typically not responded quickly and directly to demand in the past, many customers are starting to buy smaller tablets such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 – and the company’s hold on the market is at real risk. If it acts decisively now, it can stop the rot; the more it waits, the much less chance it’ll have of introducing new customers (and retaining old ones) into the whole ecosystem.

The ‘iPad mini’ is reported to have a 7.85 inch screen, with the same 1024 x 768 non-Retina display found in the iPad 2, simply scaled down. This would mean that apps wouldn’t need to be rewritten for the new device. There’s debate about whether the ‘iPad mini’ will have cellular data access – it’s possible Apple will leave it out on purpose, to force users to spend more money on an iPhone or iPad for this functionality.

There are also rumours that the current 9.7 inch iPad will be updated with a Lightning connector and 4G, although I don’t expect to see this until next March as Apple stores will be busy enough over the coming months.

The event starts at 6PM UK time and I’ll be updating the blog with all the important announcements as soon as it’s finished.