Tag Archives: IPad

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:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ios-6-key-features-2012-6?op=1
http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/11/ios-6-top-features/
http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/06/maps-in-ios-6-will-require-a5-processor-for-3d-flyover-navigation/
http://www.apple.com/ios/ios6/

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Why I was Wrong (& a little bit Right) about the iPad

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Now that the iPad3 “new” iPad has been announced, I thought I’d take the time to reflect. Back in January of 2010, when the first iPad was announced, I, like many tech early adopters was skeptical.  See my original posts here and here.

My initial skepticism around the iPad centered around:

1. Terrible name

2. Awkward to hold

3. Too much overlap with other devices making it a nice-to-have but not a must-have device except for specific niches.

4. Various issues with the iOS ecosystem – no background apps, onerous approval process for the App store that excluded competitors, etc.

After speaking with some of my friends and reading other opinions, I conceded that I may have been too quick to judge and that perhaps the baby boomer generation would embrace this device.

My observations from the last 2 years:

1. The name has turned out to be fine other than the confusion with saying iPad and iPod. I will say that Apple’s continued inconsistency in naming new models (e.g. “new” iPad) leads to confusion, but it seems like a much lesser issue. Shows what I know about naming…

Conclusion: I was wrong

2. Awkward to Hold -This has proven to not be a big deal as I expected.  I will say that it’s slightly heavy and awkward to hold at times, for example while lying down to watch a video.

Conclusion: I was wrong

3. Nice-to-have vs. Must-have: I still think this is true in some ways.  Clearly the iPad has been a massive commercial success. However, I contend that many (most?) of us that have bought one use it occasionally enough for it to be considered a “toy”.  There are some though, mostly baby boomer generation folks who use it as a primary device.  In my observation, these have largely been people who didn’t use a laptop before, at least not in a portable/couch type of way. Additionally, the iPad has taken hold in certain specific commercial applications, like for doctors and Point of Sale transactions. As the iPads become more and more capable, they may start to replace laptops for more and more use cases. Input methodologies are still a big issue though for a full replacement.

Conclusion: I was half-wrong

4. iOS ecosystem: Some of this has been rectified.  Apps can now run in the background (kind of). Regulatory scrutiny has meant that Apple has approved some apps from their competitors (like Google Voice) but not others (like real Google Maps (as it exists on Android with turn-by-turn directions,etc.). However, the closed ecosystem and other limitations have largely not been a big issue. It will be interesting to watch this play out as Apple attempts to close off all of their ecosystems, including Macs.

Conclusion: I was wrong

So in summary, I was mostly wrong.  The iPad has definitely been transformative/disruptive on a number of levels.  For many people, it has changed their lives and their interactions with computing/the internet/consuming media. However, for me and for many of my friends, it’s still a luxury/toy (a fun one though…).

The Biggest Phone You’ve Ever Seen

A couple of months ago, I was riding the subway when I saw a woman holding [what I now know] is the Samsung Note.  If you haven’t seen it in person, the Samsung Note looks like either a gigantic phone or a miniature tablet.  As per the critics in the article below, I thought this was an awful idea, but the consumer traction shows that at least so far there’s demand for a phone like this.

So why didn’t other manufacturers design devices like this? I think that at least one reason there is a disconnect is that many consumer electronics devices are designed by men. Like me, I imagine they think about how they could fit a smartphone in their pants/jeans/jacket pocket.  For women who carry a purse most everywhere, this might be less of a consideration.  Similarly, new consumer electronics devices tend to be designed by younger people. I have been astonished at how many older relatives and friends have asked if they could use their iPads as phones. The larger screen sizes and therefore fonts and spacing are a big reason why older people have flocked to the iPad and other large tablets, and would potentially gravitate toward a phone of this size as well.

So I think we all need to be cognizant of our biases regarding end users/use cases. (Note (pun intended): I still think this phone is ridiculous)

How a Gigantic, 5.3-Inch Smartphone Is Proving Critics Wrong

The Samsung Galaxy Note comes with easy-access note taking software and an S Pen stylus. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired Too big to be a wieldy smartphone, too small to be a generously sized tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note hasn’t received a warm critical reception.

We need this to understand how you use our service - you can take it out if you like. Cheers, your Blogspire team.

via: www.wired.com

iOS 5: What’s Great, What’s Not and What’s Missing

I recently wrote some thoughts about my new iPhone 4S. As I said, other than Siri though, the main aspects of my new phone are all available to iPhone4 owners through iOS 5 .

How do you get iOS 5 on your phone?  Just connect your iPhone/device to your computer and it will prompt you to download and install the new operating system.  It will remind you to do a back-up first which is a good idea.

Ok, so here are my thoughts re: iOS 5, including some hidden features.

What’s Great:

1. iMessage

Blackberry converts who have been missing BBM will be happy with iMessage. Integrated into the regular text messaging (SMS) app, iMessage lets you message other iPhone owners for free (no SMS fees).  It also shows you when these messages are delivered and when someone is typing a reply.  The messages also work over wifi.  This means you can use iMessage with an iPad or an iPod touch also.  This is a better messaging experience and it’s free, as it should be.  Many folks will now be able to downgrade their messaging plans and save some monthly fees.

Another minor thing that is cool is that you can now hide the keyboard in the messaging app by “pulling” it down and out of the way.

2. Notifications

Apple completely overhauled the way notifications work in iOS 5.  The biggest difference is that there is now a “curtain” of notifications that you can pull down to see all your recent notifications segmented by application.  You can customize notification types in settings.  This new system makes notifications a lot more useful, like a more instant type of alert e-mails for your phone.

3. Camera/photos

Quicker access to the camera- Many folks have started to use their phone’s camera as a primary photo-taking device.  But opening the camera app took too long. Apple now lets you access the camera even when your phone is locked. Simply double click the home button. On the bottom right of the screen, you’ll now see a camera icon. Click it and the camera app opens right up.

Additionally, you can now take a photo by pressing either of the volume buttons. This makes it a lot less awkward to take a photo.

The photo app now also lets you edit photos on your phone and sort photos into separate albums, helpful to make sense of the hundreds of photos you have unsorted on your phone.

4. Reader

I think this is very cool.  When you load any website in the Safari browser, you’ll see a “reader” button appear in the website address bar after the site is done loading. If you click that button, the article/text on the page will be reformatted to a very clean and readable format. It’s very much like the web tool Readability for those of you that know it.

There’s a related feature called Reading list that lets you save articles/items to read later. I already use an awesome service/app to do this called Instapaper and don’t plan to switch. I predict that Instapaper will continue to out-innovate on a focused product like this.

5. iCloud (in theory)

The concept of iCloud is fantastic, keeping things in sync across devices and backing up your data in the process.  So far though, I’ve found it complicated to understand/use and challenging in that certain devices don’t work with iCloud, specifically Macs not running Lion.

Additionally, iCloud “replaced” MobileMe which is fine but two services that were not replaced are MobileMe’s photo gallery and  web hosting. Strange/frustrating that Apple didn’t offer a migration path for these, particuarly photos which was the best option out there IMHO.

6. Keyboard “shortcuts”

This is a minor feature, but very compelling for some, e.g. my friend David. Some ex-Blackberry users will remember this feature, sometimes called text expansion. Basically you can create short abbreviations that will expand into full phrases. This is good for long phrases that you constantly find yourself retyping. See here for instructions on how to create these and some suggested ones to start with. Examples from Lifehacker include:

  • EML -> your@emailaddress.com, so you never need to type your email when sending a message to yourself or sharing it with someone else.
  • PHN -> your phone number, so you can easily share your phone number without the need to type it or even remember it.
  • FMIN -> I’ll be there in five minutes, for when you want to text someone that you’re five minutes away but only have a few moments to type it.

Note, David can tell you that you must be careful to make the shortcuts something you wouldn’t otherwise type like these abbreviations vs. actual words which can create confusing texts/emails.

7. Calendar landscape view

The calendar on iPhone and iPad are improved.  On the iPhone, try turning the screen to lanscape and you’ll see a week view. The iPad now includes a Year view.

8. Alternate routes in Maps

The map app now shows you alternate routes when showing directions. This will be welcome to those who frequently use it for navigation in traffic-prone cities.

9. Custom vibrations & ringtones

You can now create custom vibrations for specific contacts.  Those who keep their phone on vibrate most of the time will appreciate that. You can know who called or texted before taking the phone out of your pocket.  You can now more easily create custom ringtones and assign them to SMS or app alerts in addition to just phone calls. See these links for more/how-to:

Custom vibrations

Custom ringtones

iPad

1. Browser tabs

The iPad’s Safari browser now has  real tabs, more like the browser you likely use on your computer vs. separate “tabs”.  Try it out to see what I mean.

2. Separation of keyboard

This is quite cool, I think.  A problem with the iPad keyboard has been that it’s hard to type with 2 hands and hold the iPad at the same time. Now, using a keyboard gesture, you can pinch the keyboard apart in the middle. The smaller halves are then closer to each hand that is holding the device, so you can thumb out a message. It works in portrait or landscape.

3. Gestures  for iPad2

If you have an iPad2, you can use new 4 and 5 fingered gestures.  See here for more.

What’s Not Great:

1. Wireless Sync

This is a nice concept, but its execution leaves me underwhelmed.  You can now synch your iPhone to your computer wirelessly.  In order to do that though, you need to have your computer on (on the same wifi network), iTunes open and your phone plugged into a power outlet. This is only a minor improvement over having it directly connected. Sure, you can synch from another room, but having to have it plugged in is a  bummer. And iTunes is not an app I like to keep running.  Lastly, it seems to me that iCloud should take care of all of this, making this extra synching confusing.

2. Reminders

This is a new default to-do/reminders app from Apple. Maybe it’s great, but it seems that being so late to the game is kind of silly. There are hundreds, if not thousands of these apps in the store. Why would Apple suddenly release a native one?

3. More things to accidentally select

As Apple adds cool features like the camera selection from the lock screen and Siri, there are less places to put them and less key shortcuts to access them.  I’ve found myself constantly invoking Siri by accident, just trying to hit the home key.  And on the keyboard, the Siri dictation button shrinks the rest of the keyboard and makes me much more likely to hit it by mistake.

What’s Missing:

1. Better Maps App

There was a minor improvement to Apple’s maps app (powered by Google) as mentioned above regarding alternate routes. However, it seems clear to me that the bad blood between Apple and Google has hindered updates to this app. The Google Maps app for Android has far surpassed Apple’s app. Turn-by-turn directions would be a major improvement as well as speedier performance and an option to download offline maps for particular cities (great for no/slow network access and international travel without roaming).

2. Swype

Others have mentioned this, but the Swype keyboard is one of the most loved available features/apps on Android.  See more here, but basically Swype is a quicker way to type on a touchscreen keyboard. Apple should either license or buy this technology.

3. Better e-mail search

GMAIL has recently launched their own native iPhone app, although it was recently pulled from the store to address bugs. Perhaps this will motivate Apple to improve its mail app.  Searching mail “on the server” has never really worked. This is a key and necessary function for any e-mail service IMHO.

You can read more about all the new iOS features at Apple’s site here.

What do you think? Did I get it right? Miss any? Stay tuned for my next post on my recommended iPhone/iPad apps.

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?

iPad Follow-up

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Unfortunately I haven’t blogged in a while, I aim to remedy that….

I wanted to follow-up on my iPad post now that I’ve had a while to think about it and that it’s almost out now.  There were a lot of people criticizing the critics of the iPad and basically calling them geeks that were too obsessed with features and miss the point of the transformative nature of the device.  They specifically pointed to the early critics of the iPhone who were adamant about some missing features.  I thought this was a somewhat justified criticism and point and decided to examine it.  I remember those critics and the associated missing features, as I was one who lamented those features and thus waited to buy the 2nd generation (3G) iPhone.

Initial things that bugged me about the iPhone:

– At&t Network – had terrible reputation even then

– No 3G data

– No removable battery (worried about replacing after deprecated battery life)

– Completely closed platform (no 3rd party apps at all)

– No physical keyboard

So some of those concerns were addressed in the release of the 3G and some I learned to live with (e.g. keyboard). However, those issues that remain are still some of the most frustrating things about the iPhone, frustrating enough to make me consider Android for my next phone:

– At&t Network

– Battery life is terrible

– Platform is still controlled by Apple – hence Google Maps is crippled (no turn by turn directions for example) and no Google Voice

So, while the argument has some merit, I’m not sure that the criticisms from my original post should be dismissed offhand.  With all its faults and frustrations, the iPhone has transformed the world of mobile and computing, and my own life as well. I’m not yet convinced that the iPad will be such a transformative device, but remain open to seeing how it plays out.  I was certainly much more excited about the iPhone even though its initial feature issues kept me from buying one for a full year until the 3G came out.

My biggest gripes with the iPad are:

1. Seems that the iPad will be awkward to hold/use while typing and perhaps even just while passively reading/watching.

2. I still can’t decide which device this would replace for me.  Since the answer right now is none and most people don’t have tons of spare cash laying around these days, unconvinced about widespread adoption.

Certainly early demand for pre-orders and associated hype show that there are a good number of people who are anxious to try it.  I’m anxious to see how they like it and will adjust my opinions when I see/try it in real life.

What do you think? Are you ordering one?

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