Tablets The Ultimate Travel Companion

Tablet computers have taken the world by storm, and with good reason. With one small handheld device, you have the basic features of a computer, but in a far more portable package than even a laptop can provide, also featuring a futuristic design, exceedingly easy-to-use interfaces, fast startup and wireless capabilities on par with cell phones. With one convenient device, you can enjoy games, movies, music, television, literature and more.

For photographers, the ability to carry a portable portfolio is an added bonus, but the real advantages of tablet computers are the workflow possibilities. When using a tablet, it’s simple to email images, select your best shots, upload them to online galleries or websites, create password-protected accounts for clients and friends, and so much more. Between the bright displays, lightweight designs and extensive range of inexpensive applications, tablets allow photographers to do a lot while carrying very little.

Just in time for summer, the tablet wars are about to heat up. Apple and the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch iOS operating system is unarguably the king of tablet computing with more than 80% of the current market share of tablet computers, but even Amazon is rumored to be moving into the tablet game later this year with a possible replacement for the Kindle, and there are likely to be many more tablet computers on the table soon.

iPAD ALTERNATIVES
For those who want an alternative to Apple’s iOS, there are a handful of other tablets currently available. Most run on the Android operating system pioneered by Google. If you choose to run with Android, it would be best to select a tablet running the latest 3.0 version, named Honeycomb, which is optimized for tablet computing rather than the mobile operating systems that older versions of Android were translated from.

APPLE iPAD 2

Released only a little over a year ago, Apple’s iPad (with a 9.7-inch, 1024×768-pixel display) started the tablet revolution, and its sequel, iPad 2, was announced only a year later, adding a dual-core Apple A5 processor and twice the RAM for faster operation. Other enhancements include a 33% reduction in size, as well as front (VGA) and back (720p) cameras (the original iPad had none) that are FaceTime-enabled for chatting with other FaceTime users through the video-calling service.

iPad 2 includes a couple of fun photo apps right out of the box. Photo Booth lets users play with snapshots taken by the iPad, and the Photos app keeps images organized with GPS information and integration with iPhoto, Apple’s basic image browsing and editing software. As of right now, iPad 2 supports RAW as a storage device, but it’s unable to display these types of files within the native iPad Photos app, though there are apps available from the iTunes App Store for working with RAW files on iPads and iPhones. Capacity is available in 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB. List Price: Begins at $499.


BLACKBERRY PLAYBOOK

Most tablets range between 7 and 10 inches in size. While 10 inches is obviously better for enjoying bigger images and multimedia, 7-inch tablets are much easier to carry with you. Built to be compact, the 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook weighs less than a pound, but packs in a 1024×600-pixel screen. Dual-core 1 GHz processing with 1 GB of RAM means that it’s built for speed, as well. The BlackBerry Tablet OS operating system allows application multitasking, and the tablet has a 3-megapixel forward- and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, both of which are capable of 1080p video capture. It’s available in three capacities: 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB. List Price: Begins at $499.


DELL STREAK 7

Running Android 2.2, the 16 GB Dell Streak 7 tablet with a 7-inch multi-touch screen lets you chat face-to-face online via the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera; it also has a 5-megapixel camera on the back with a flash for taking high-resolution pictures. The Streak 7 is compatible with Kindle eBooks, and as of press time, a 10-inch Streak 10 is rumored to be available from Dell this summer. List Price: Begins at $399 (Dell Streak 7 WiFi).


HP TOUCHPAD

Available in 16 GB or 32 GB capacities, HP’s 9.7-inch TouchPad shares Apple’s interactive concept in its workflow, allowing you to easily sync between devices like the Palm Pre 3 that run the webOS operating system. Users can answer calls, receive texts and share websites between the tablet and the smartphone just by touching them together. Like Android, webOS (HP’s operating system, developed by Palm) is also compatible with Adobe Flash. The front-facing camera is a 1.3-megapixel webcam that allows live video calling, and there are a few neat accessories available, including a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and the Touchstone stand that automatically launches image slideshows when the TouchPad is connected. Price to be announced.


TOP TABLET TRAVEL APPS

What makes tablets so exciting to photographers is the variety of applications available for storing, enhancing, uploading and sharing photos. There’s an extensive amount of inexpensive—or even free—yet powerful applications available for tablets that will make your images shine and your travel fun. Here are a few of our favorites.

KAYAK compares and contrasts the pricing for flights and hotels from a variety of travel websites. KAYAK also includes rental car information, flight status and itinerary management, as well as a business- and first-class airfare search. An ad-supported version of KAYAK is free; KAYAK PRO, which ditches the ads, is only $0.99.

For the iPad, Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences combines their favorite travel destinations with recommended activities, sights and adventures. The app acts as a guide, with ideas for enhancing your travels that are highlighted by photos from the area. For Android and the iPhone, Lonely Planet also has individual travel guide apps designated by location, including diverse destinations like New York, Rome, Paris, Los Angeles and many, many more. Price varies by location and application, with a few available at no charge.

Apple’s MobileMe Gallery app lets you browse and showcase images and files that are stored on your iDisk in the MobileMe cloud, also syncing emails, contacts and calendars between iPads, iPhones and your computers. The Find My iPhone/iPad app allows you to track a lost device from your MobileMe account, and you even can wipe information remotely in a worst-case scenario. The apps me
ntioned are all free, but a MobileMe account requires an annual fee of $99.

Pulse is a great free app for keeping up with the latest news, website updates and your favorite RSS feeds while you’re on the road. You can share stories and links through email or on Facebook, Twitter and Instapaper, and Pulse loads news stories to your device, allowing you to read them even when off the grid.

For making sure that your fan base, family and friends are updated with photos from your travels, the two current kings of social media, Facebook and Twitter, both have free apps available for updating your news feeds and publishing photos. TweetDeck allows you to combine the two, with a Twitter-like interface that supports Facebook integration so you can post updates to both sites at once, including image uploading and GPS geotagging.

Wuala from LaCie provides a secure mobile app with file encryption for accessing photos, music and files stored on the Wuala site. You can upload files from your device and save them to your device before going offline. Wuala also works on computers, and you can automatically back up files, syncing them across multiple computers. The app is free, as is the first full gigabyte of storage. After that, Wuala charges annually, with rates staggered by the amount of capacity you need, starting at 10 GB for just under $30 a year up to 250 GB at a bit under $300.

The Yelp experience should be familiar to most people living in large cities. The popular website lets users post ratings and reviews for every type of service in an area, from restaurants to stores to nightlife. The Yelp free app translates it to the little screen, with information and search results that use location finders to display matches centered on your exact location.


MOTOROLA XOOM

The Motorola Xoom is currently tops when it comes to screen resolution, with a 10.1-inch screen and 1280×800-pixel resolution. The 32 GB tablet sports a 2-megapixel front and a 5-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash, 720p HD video and dual-core processing for better performance. Available as a download from the Android app marketplace, the tablet is Adobe Flash-compatible, and an optional Motorola Wireless Keyboard with shortcut keys takes you directly to popular Android apps running on the Xoom. List Price: Begins at $599 (Xoom); $69 (wireless keyboard).


SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB

Second in popularity only to the iPad, Samsung’s 7-inch 16 GB Galaxy tablet is waif-sized at less than half an inch in thickness and weighing less than a pound, not to mention its conservative length of only 7.5 inches. The tablet runs Android 2.2, and an application tray houses frequently used applications and features for fast access. Other features include 720p video capture and a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, as well as a 1.3-megapixel front camera. Available soon, Samsung also has announced the larger 10-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v with a 1280×800-pixel screen, a huge 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS and a 2-megapixel front camera with 1080p HD video capture. Estimated Street Price: Begins at $349 (Galaxy Tab WiFi).


MEMORY CARD MOBILITY

Eye-Fi’s new Mobile X2 SDHC card is ideal for remote locations. For use with SDHC-compatible cameras, the Mobile X2 lets you stream JPEG images and videos directly from your camera to tablets, iPhones and Android devices. By setting up your card on your tablet or computer, you enable Direct Mode, where you can set up preferred settings for transferring images from great distances through WiFi connections. Eye-Fi provides a private Eye-Fi View account for sharing and immediate backup of images, accessible through the installed Eye-Fi app for iOS or Android, or you can use any of close to 50 popular photography sites, including Facebook, Flickr and Picasa.

Another exciting feature is the Endless Memory mode, which automatically frees space once files have been transferred so you can continue shooting even after the card has reached capacity. The card includes 8 GB of capacity, Class 6 read and write times, and fast 802.11n WiFi networking. The new Direct Mode is also available as a free upgrade for currently available Eye-Fi cards. For photographers wishing to upload RAW files, Eye-Fi’s Pro X2 card offers the same features, as well as RAW compatibility. List Price: $79 (Mobile X2 8 GB); $149 (Pro X2 8 GB).

Contact: Eye-Fi, www.eye.fi.


Camera Resources

Apple
www.apple.com

Blackberry
us.blackberry.com

Dell
www.dell.com

Hewlett-Packard
www.hp.com

Motorola
www.motorola.com

Samsung

www.samsung.com

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