Tag Archives: ios

Recent Apple Announcements – Summary and Reaction

Below is a way overdue summary of Apple’s Announcements from their June 11, 2012 World Wide Developer’s Conference and my take on them.

First (since many people won’t want to read the long summary below), my takeaways:

  • For those wondering when the new iPhone will be released, I have no specific info, but the common thinking is still September/October.
  • It seems that Apple will continue to make their Mac operating system (OSX) and mobile operating system (iOS) more similar until eventually they merge into one. This is good for users that like the simplicity and usability of iOS but also means that Apple will exert more control over the Mac in terms of customization and developers (which is not good IMHO).
  • Especially in light of the above, Apple will continue to face a challenge regarding its native apps and how they allow for competition with other similar apps.Currently, in Mac OSX,one can reset the primary app for many categories to one that competes with Apple’s native app – e.g. Apple Mail vs. Microsoft Outlook or Safari vs. Google Chrome. While Apple has started to allow more competitors to their native apps in iOS (e.g. Sparrow for Mail and Chrome for browser), they cripple these apps in various ways:
    •  Competitive mail apps can’t take advantage of push technology or become the default app for mailto links.
    • Competitive browsers can’t be the default that opens when a link is clicked from another app.
    • Competitive map applications can’t be opened when an address is clicked.
  • Personally I think the native app treatment will hinder the progress of iOS and the iPhone going forward. Imagine if Mac users were more or less forced to use Apple Mail, Safari and iCal instead of GMAIL, Chrome and Google Calendar. I think you’d have a lot less Mac users.
  • Noticeably absent were any real updates to the MacPro (almost an irrelevant update announced after the keynote) and the iMac/Mac Mini. Perhaps these will be upgraded at a different date/different event. Or, it’s possible that Apple is now laser focused on their notebooks and mobile devices and won’t be rushing to upgrade their other hardware products. Maybe there’s a good reason for this (focus?), but there are still a lot of folks who buy and want to buy these other products.
  • Many of the most significant iOS6 updates will only be available to the latest devices. This will both be an incentive to get people to upgrade but also will irritate both users and developers.
  • I think that the Passbook app (described below) for the iPhone could be a pre-cursor to the release of an NFC chip for the new iPhone.  To me, this would be a huge deal.  I wrote more about NFC here.
  • Features that I continue to hope for in iOS that weren’t announced:
    • Profiles so different family members can share the same iPad in a more reasonable way (like accounts on a Mac/PC)
    • Offline maps (like Google announced for Android)

Ok, here’s the summary of the Apple announcements:

  • New Macbooks: Apple announced updated Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros. As usual – faster speeds and similar or lower prices. They also announced a new type of Macbook Pro that has a retina display and flash memory making it much lighter than a normal Macbook pro.
  • OSX Mountain Lion: Apple announced some more details about the new version of the Mac Operating System. Most of these announcements had to do with features that make OSX more similar to iOS and increase synchronization with iOS.
  • iPhone/iPad Operating System – iOS 6– will be released in the Fall:
    • Siri – Siri will expand to the iPad (only the newest iPad 3). Siri will also add the capability to search for restuarants (using Yelp) and sports scores/info. It will also allow you to send a Tweet. Lastly, Apple announced partenrships with some auto companies to include Siri in their cars.
    • Facebook – Apple announced a partnership with Facebook that will function like the current integration with Twitter. Users will be able to post to Facebook from many different applications. They will be able to “like” apps, songs and more. Facebook events and birthdays will be integrated in the iPhone calendar and Facebook friends’ photos and birthdays will be integrated into iPhone contacts.
    • Phone – Apple announced some interesting updates to the iPhone’s phone calling application. (yup, it still makes calls! 🙂 ). For incoming calls, one will now see 2 additional options besides accepting or declining. One can “reply with message”, sending a text message back to the caller with either a canned or specific message, e.g. “I’m in a meeting, will call you later.” or they can select an option to “remind me to call back later”. These reminders can be based on time or place (e.g. when I get home). The second feature for phone is a “do not disturb” mode. This can be set for nightime hours, for example with allowance given for specified favorites and for if someone tries to call repeatedly.
    • Facetime over cellular – Apple announced that Facetime will no longer be restricted to Wifi only. This will only be for iPhone 4S and above or iPad3 with cellular connection. Some have mentioned this could consume significant bandwidth/data and possibly cause issues for most users who are now on metered data plans.
    • iCloud photo sharing – As a substitute for the photo sharing that was a part of MobileMe, iOS6 will let users create and share albums from their phone or iPad using iCloud as the host. This will only work with iPhone 4S or greater or iPad 3 or greater.
    • Mail – i0S 6 will have some feature improvements for the native e-mail application including the ability to upload attachments from any e-mail and the ability to designate “VIP” e-mail senders.
    • Maps – As I wrote about before, this was widely anticipated. The new Maps app looks significatnly different. Here’s the summary:
      • no more Google
      • turn by turn directions! (only with iPhone 4S, iPad 3)
      • 3D Flyover mode (only with iPhone 4S, iPad 3)
      • Live traffic (this will rely both on some partner sources like Waze but mostly on data sourced from iPhone users once the app is public.
      • Some big differences with the current app from a negative standpoint (see this great Gizmodo post for screenshots):
    • Safari – Safari was updated to include tab synchroniztion (tabs from the Mac will optionally synch to the iPhone/iPad and vice-versa). Also, the Safari reading list will be available offline (like Instapaper and Pocket)
    • Passbook – This is a new native app from Apple that will manage gift cards, airplane passes, concert tickets, etc. App developers will be able to leverage this app to store these dynamic “passes”
    • App Store (more here)  The iOS App Store will have a brand new interface included updated iOS app pages with a lot more data. Also, users will no longer be taken to home screen when downloading new apps. As mentioned in the Facebook section, users will be able to like an App from within the appstore.
    • Restrictions– As I mentioned in each section, many of these new features will only be available to the newest devices – i.e. the iPhone 4S, iPad 3rd generation and the new iPhone which will likely be announced around the same time as the release of iOS6. Summary of restrictions:
      •  Flyover and turn-by-turn in Maps – iPhone 4S or later
      • Siri – iPad 3rd generation and iPhone4 S
      • Shared Photo Streams – iPhone4 or later or iPad2 or later
      • Facetime over cellular – iPhone4S or later or iPad3 with Cellular
      • VIP list and VIP and Flagged smart mailboxes – iPhone4 and iPad2 or later
      • Offline Reading lists – iPhone 4 and iPad2 or later

For those that made it this far, what do you think?

Some more links:



Google preempts Apple with Maps upgrade announcement

I recently wrote about the expected change in the iPhone/iOS native Maps application.  Apple is expected to replace Google as the backend and upgrade the app to include 3D maps. This is all supposed to be announced at WWDC on Monday, June 11.

Today, Google preempted this announcement with updates of its own regarding is mobile maps app.  It specified that these updates were for the Maps app on Android but made reference to availability in the future on iOS. More coverage from Mashable, Ars Technica and Apple Insider.

The features they announced:

1. 3D Maps (unclear how this will compare to Apple’s 3D maps and how much coverage there will be to start)

2. Offline maps (this was one of my top requested features, yay!)

3. Better “streetview” for walking directions in places without roads like parks, mountains, etc. See the photo below for Google’s new rig to capture these views. This is kind of cool but seems like it will take some time to get coverage.

It’s not entirely clear when these features will be available or the specifics about how they work.  It seems that Google wanted to announce these before Monday so as to:

1. Steal Apple’s thunder

2. Soften the blow when it’s announced they’re no longer powering the native app on iOS.

Unfortunately for Google, they are not in the same league as Apple when it comes to PR, so most people will not even hear about today’s announcements while Apple’s announcement on Monday will likely be accompanied by a launch of other sexy products and features and will get covered ad nauseam.  In general, I think this competition is great. When Google and Apple have competed in mobile OS, desktop browsers and elsewhere, consumers have reaped the benefits of some of the best and quickest tech innovation ever. Bring on the maps!

The most important app on your iPhone is about to change

There have been persistent rumors over the past month or so that Apple will be replacing (upgrading?) the current Maps application with the new version of the iPhone operating system (iOS 6).  This has been expected for a while as Apple has purchased a variety of companies that work on parts of the map ecosystem. The screenshot above is a speculative screenshot of what the new app might look like in 3D view.

I’ve written before about how Maps may be the most important app on the iPhone.  Many people use the Maps app every day and it certainly has changed life for many folks – no more having to print directions or write them down before leaving the house on a drive, walk or trip. Despite any flaws or missing features, the Maps app has been a key part of the transformative experience of owning an iPhone.

Many people refer to the Maps app on the iPhone as Google maps.  It’s true that for now the underlying data comes from Google but like all the native apps on the iPhone, the app has always been built and maintained by Apple. Ever since Google launched Android and incurred Steve Jobs’s wrath, it was assumed that Apple would replace Google as their backend and it seems now is the time.

The rumors are that the app will receive a full overhaul – the backend will be owned by Apple and the visual look and feel will change to, particularly to include a 3D viewing option.

I will withhold judgement on whether or not the app will be an upgrade, but to me, the most important things that should be done to improve the functionality of the maps app are (I’ve written about these before):

1. Include turn-by-turn directions.  This means that rather than having to push “next”, the phone automatically tracks your progress and visually and orally provides the next set of instructions (just like your car’s GPS does).  It also corrects the directions automatically if you go off-route. Google’s app for Android does this well. The reason this used to be hard is due to licensing costs for using the underlying map data in this way. Google got around that by creating their own set of map data.

2. Include an option to download offline versions of maps for specified metro areas.  The GPS doesn’t require the cellular network to work and the app could be fully functional with offline maps. This would serve 2 functions:

  • Maps would load when network service is slow or unavailable (e.g. subway underground). There is nothing more frustrating than being lost and late to a meeting and watching a map try to load in the background.
  • When roaming outside one’s core country, one could use the maps app to navigate in an unknown city without paying exorbitant data roaming charges.
I’m not convinced that Apple will build an app that has great features and functionality vs. just more interesting design and views (e.g. 3D). So, I  hope that once Apple replaces Google from its backend that Apple approves a native Google Maps app for the app store. I also hope that Google builds and submits such an app that’s as good or better than their Android Maps app. Real competition for an app that is as core as Maps would be very healthy.

The S in iPhone 4S stands for…

These are my impressions so far of the iPhone 4S . I’ll be writing a separate post about my impressions of iOS5.

Brand-new iPhone 4S

Image by Yoshikazu Takada via Flickr

Back to the title. So what does the S in iPhone 4S stand for?

S is for Speed – Well, there’s a faster processor and the camera is faster to take photos but it doesn’t feel blazingly faster than the iPhone 4. Those upgrading from older devices will definitely notice a difference though. Also, if you get a 4S on At&t (see more below), you’ll see faster data speeds, but not on any other carrier.

S is for Sucky Battery Life – for some minority of users (myself unfortunately included), it seems that there’s some software bug causing sub-optimal battery life. Apple has announced that they’ll be putting out a new release in a few weeks to fix these bugs. It seems to be specifically due to something that happens when restoring from an older back-up. I am hopeful that a software fix/patch will fix this in the next few weeks. In the meantime I’ve changed a lot of settings to manage for now.  This doesn’t seem to be affecting most people.

S is for Siri (not for Speech)- Aside from the aforementioned relatively minor performance gains, the main difference the iPhone 4S brings is Siri.  Siri is a personal assistant that was developed by a company of the same name acquired by Apple.  Conjecture is that Siri requires a lot of processor power and hence only (for now) works on the iPhone 4S.  Contrary to popular understanding, what makes Siri remarkable is not speech recognition.  Siri uses the same state-of-the-art speech recognition (from Nuance) that most companies use these days. What makes Siri unique is its artificial intelligence. Siri understands natural language commands and questions.  This is what’s remarkable, you can speak to it like you would a real person and it understands what you mean an astounding percentage of the time. To clarify what I mean, speech recognition simply translates what you say to text.  Natural Language Processing actually interprets that text to try to figure out what you mean based on context, idioms and more.

Siri’s utility is limited to a few specific apps for now (mail, weather , stocks, SMS, Yelp, Wolfram Alpha, send a search to Safari) but I’m sure it will get opened up to other apps soon.  It’s quite an amazing demonstration of technology but I’m not sure it will become part of my daily or weekly use of the phone just yet.  I’m still not used to using voice to interact with my devices.  The transcription is pretty great though for writing quick text messages or emails, particularly for the car.

S is for Service – this is really what it means just for me, as this is why I bought the phone.  I switched from At&t to Verizon and the difference in service is nothing short of astounding.  I can make calls anywhere and they don’t get dropped. I get data access in parts of NYC where I never would have tried with the iPhone4.  Unfortunately Verizon has their own issues, namely poor customer service, high prices and like all carriers, hidden fees and complex plans. The availability of the 4S on Sprint gives another option for those eager for a working device in NY or SF. On that note, for those folks, S is for Sprint.

S is for Steve Jobs – A lot of folks made this connection.  The unfortunate timing of the device’s launch before Steve’s passing will connect it for many people to Steve (even if it’s not the quintessential representation of the stuff he built or even a device he personally worked on very much).  I am late to the game to write about Steve so I will just reiterate that he was a truly rare individual that disrupted so many different industries: technology, computing, telephony, music, film and retail.  We need heroes in our cynical era and Steve was a hero, despite many flaws.

What do you think it stands for? Do you have one, like it?

My top 5 iOS 5 Wish-list

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Update: Looks like we got #1, #3 and #4, possibly parts of #2 (details weren’t provided). Not sure about #5.  Look forward to more details.

It seems that Steve Jobs will unveil, amongst other things, the newest version of the iPhone/iPad operating system today, iOS 5.  While he may or may not unveil  new iPhone hardware, software could be pretty exciting itself.  Here’s some of my biggest wishes:

1. Improved alerts/notifications

I think that mobile alerts could become one of the most important parts of the mobile ecosystem, with the power of e-mail and SMS combined. Alerts on an iPhone are pretty primitive, they are delayed and they don’t get archived, so if you have multiple alerts queued up, it’s hard to navigate/remember what they were. Even alerts that one has new updates to install don’t work properly.  Most of the time, it doesn’t show that one has new updates until one clicks on the App Store icon. The alerts system on Android and WebOS are both superior, I assume Apple will catch up here.

2. Improved Maps Application

It’s a shame that Apple’s issues with Google have handicapped perhaps the most useful app on the iPhone.  Google Maps on Android has far surpassed the iPhone’s Maps app. It seems, per Erik Schmidt recently, that Apple and Google have renewed their relationship here, so hopefully we can expect some improvements here.  My top requests?

  • Turn by Turn directions
  • Offline option (why not let us download one city of offline maps so as to avoid problems with network congestion (and subway)?

3. Improved E-mail Application

The other most important app on the phone could use a refresh. I would ideally like Apple to allow a GMAIL native client here, but don’t see that happening. In lieu of that, it would be great if Apple could learn from what BlackBerry did to revolutionize mobile e-mail. Better shortcuts like “mark all as read”, better search (any real search would be helpful), and a way to activate push notifications without killing one’s battery life would be great.

4. Synch over the air

This is one that is widely expected in some form, given the iCloud announcement. But fundamentally, the fact that we still have to connect our iPhones and iPads to our computers for any reason seems silly in the “post-PC era”. Even if this was just available over wifi, it would be a start.  This would be a huge step though.

5. Background processing for loading data

What do I mean by this? Right now, the only apps/processes that can run in the background are music and location-based processes. I would love it if news/RSS/instapaper could be updated in the background, without necessitating me opening the app completely.

These are my top 5, but some of my others include:

  • Adding profiles to the iPad OS so multiple family members can use without confusion.
  • Fixing underlying issues to improve call/network quality and battery life.
  • Improving the App Store and app discoverability.

What do you think? Will these happen? Other wishes?