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September's Harvest of New Tech

Submitted by Jason Griffey on September 28, 2012 - 8:56am

September has become the keystone month in the US for technology announcements. This eventful month featured two major and one minor (but interesting!) announcement: Apple and the iPhone5, Amazon with their new set of Kindles, and Makerbot Industries with the announcement of the Replicator 2.

Let's start with the largest public company in the US. Apple made several announcements on September 12, but the star of the show was its best-selling product, the iPhone. Apple announced the newest version of its iconic smartphone, the iPhone 5. Considered by most to be an evolutionary step, the list of changes from the iPhone 4S appear to be  incremental but may add up to be more than the sum of their parts.

The iPhone 5's most obvious new feature is its larger screen. While Android phones have been exploding in screen size (some Android phones are up to 5.5 inch screens!) the iPhone had held steady at 3.5 inches, until now. At 4 inches diagonally, the new screen may not sound like a huge change, but as the first new resolution ever for the device, it's a big deal for developers and peripheral manufacturers. The iPhone 5 is also the first of its line to use LTE, the next-generation wireless standard that promises far higher data speeds (in areas that are lucky enough to have the infrastructure in place).

The biggest news story in the launch of the iPhone 5 is probably not about the phone at all, but instead about iOS 6 (the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system). The loss of Google Maps seems to have caused some problems for people, and the Apple maps that replaced it is clearly not quite ready for prime time. Other than the screams of those using the new maps, the iPhone 5 is on its way to being the most popular iPhone yet.

Amazon, meanwhile, took the opportunity in September to announce new tablets, a new version of the e-ink Kindle, and price reductions. Amazon announced new tablets: the Kindle Fire HD, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” with 3G. It also reduced the price of the old Kindle Fire, keeping it around, to only $159. The newest member of the Kindle e-ink family, the Paperwhite, has a greatly increased contrast ratio and a much, much nicer screen. Amazon also adjusted the prices of the other Kindles, pricing the low-end model at just $69.

Lastly, everyone’s favorite 3D printer company, Makerbot Industries, announced the newest version of its Replicator line of printers, the Replicator 2. Moving up in build material from lasercut-wood to steel, the Replicator 2 also moves the preferred printing material away from ABS plastic (which is what Lego are made from) to PLA, a far friendlier bio-plastic often made from corn. The Replicator 2 is more expensive than the original Replicator, and time will tell if the difference in build materials affects the print quality substantially.