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Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Why Apple’s iOS 7 Is Its Most Important Product This Fall

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I’m writing the first draft of this post on Wednesday, September 18, a few hours before Apple releases its most important product this fall. The product will cost absolutely nothing, and some might not even know about it until they see a friend with it, but within months, every iPhone, iPad and iPod touch user will have their worlds rocked, for better or worse, by it.

That product is iOS 7, a complete overhaul of Apple’s mobile operating system.

Only geeks like myself have been following Apple’s development of its next-gen mobile OS. Most don’t know about it, and probably don’t care, until they update and realize that their iPhone has become an entirely new iPhone. Then they’ll feel as though they got a new phone for free.

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Casual Friday: Dissecting This Week’s iPhone Event

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Apple announced on Tuesday what the its leaking supply chain has been saying for weeks. There were no surprises, and this is a bad thing.

On the whole, leaks-made-good aside, Apple made some good business moves today. The 5C will be legitimate second-tier phone, the MacBook Air to the iPhone 5S’s MacBook Pro. Nobody really cares about that, though, except Apple brass, as they drive to expand the iPhone portfolio. The dividends from that investment will come down the road. Then there’s the announcement that the iPhone will now be sold in China, but again — ho-hum for a highly-anticipated keynote.

Hardware-wise, the upgrades were there in the new iPhone 5S – I like the motion sensor (hello contextual computing!), camera improvements, and new 64-bit CPU/GPU architecture – but these are unabashedly evolutionary. Sure, the fingerprint sensor on the 5S is nice, and it will open doors to killing passwords once and for all and enabling iBeacon stuff, but it’s not there yet, and it’s not across all iPhone models. Here, in its nascent stage, it’s a nice way to lock your phone without a passcode and reduce the crazy nuisance of entering your Apple ID all the time. That’s a real user experience improvement, as subtle as it may be.

But if I’m on Apple’s board, I’m asking where the new disruption is. I know they’d come back and say they’re creating innovative experiences for its customers, and that’s what differentiates the iPhone from other smartphones. And they’re right. But eventually, this well is going to dry up, and incremental iPhone upgrades every year aren’t going to cut it. And yes, admittedly, it’s getting nigh impossible for Cupertino to shock and awe us with a phone anymore. The market is too mature.

Nonetheless, Apple’s shareholders and hardcore fans are looking for it to transform another industry. They’re looking for it to introduce another iPhone or iPad, but for a brand new market. Say, for instance, a smart-camera that can serve as a legitimate second body to a pro camera. Or a smack-in-the-face disruption to cable and satellite TV companies.

Before every iPhone event, I wish to myself that all the leaked news and images are intentional leaks, and that Tim and company are going to show us something completely different, shoving the leaks right back down the throat of the all-too-permeable overseas supply chain. But it never happens. (Again: mature market, not a young, green-field disruptable market. But those are out there, right?)

The ‘doubling down on secrecy’ Apple is trying to accomplish is being undercut by its very own supply chain. Heck, the Apple blogging community knew about 95% of what Apple announced today four weeks ago. The only thing it didn’t seem to know is camera details, the 64-bitness of the new A7 CPU, and the M7 motion sensor.

Lest you think I’m piling on to what other blogs are saying, let me clarify: Apple’s announcements may be perceived as boring, but they’re boring like a fox, to completely slaughter metaphors. They’ll do well to kindle worldwide iPhone growth, give Apple a legitimate, premium iPhone (people get tired of buying yesterday’s news), and the quality of UX on the iPhone will remain second to none.

The question isn’t whether that’s good. The question is whether it’s enough. Shareholders haven’t been impressed, but then again, the street (a) always sells the news, and (b) rarely understands the long-term impact of Apple’s strategy.

Incidentally, the most exciting thing Apple talked about today? iOS 7, the new operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Available for free on September 18.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Casual Friday: Is Android Better?

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Paul Stamatiou’s Android Is Better post is generating a ton of attention (it made it to the front page of Techmeme, although it’s not there anymore), and I want to riff on it.

Most readers know I am an “Apple Defender”. “Defender” is an accurate word to use because I find myself in conversations defending iOS and Apple devices from inaccurate accusations and barbs, as well as defending some decisions that have (or have not, as the case may be) come out of Cupertino lately. But defense is not what I’m going to do here, you see.

Because I am not a slappy. I have used and written positively about Android and Android devices. And here, in reading Stamatiou’s post, I find myself agreeing with almost everything he writes – with one giant caveat. We’ll get to that later.

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Larry Ellison Sees Bleak Future for Apple Without Steve Jobs

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Mikey Campbell, AppleInsider:

Rose asked the tech mogul to share his thoughts on what Apple will become without Jobs. Ellison said “we already know.”

“We saw — we conducted the experiment,” Ellison explained. “I mean, it’s been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. We saw Apple without Steve Jobs. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. Now, we’re gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs.”

Strong words. Can’t say I agree with Ellison just yet, but the fact is the rate of product introduction has slowed, and some board members are starting to get antsy. Panic time? Not yet, but the market better see some of the product pipeline Tim Cook is always talking about, and soon.  I know certain folks like the constant iteration approach Apple has taken so far, but the fact is its main products have matured, and there is legitimate competition in the marketplace. We can’t just have incremental improvements all the time. Right now Apple owns the key teen/young adult demographic, but when it goes, it goes fast.

(Side note: Ellison’s view, coupled with Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster speculating that the rumored iPhone 5C will be intentionally hobbled by not having Siri, drives me nuts. But, I’m betting Munster is wrong, per usual. )

Casual Friday: Making the Facts Fit the Narrative

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As of this writing, Apple’s current stock price (NASDAQ: AAPL) is $464. Ever since Apple’s stock peaked at $702 in September of last year, Apple has indeed been beleaguered — by a media narrative, not reality. It’s as if the entire investment and media communities decided, in one fell swoop, “Okay. Apple’s had a good run. Their time in the light is over.” These sources claim all sorts of doom-and-gloom scenarios: Apple hasn’t released a new product in over nine months, it’s showing desperation in its litigation strategy with Samsung, the leadership has disappeared under Tim Cook.

All of them are bunk, some embarrassingly so. John Gruber details this phenomenon using one recent example — the bogus claims from Strategy Analytics that Samsung has passed Apple in handset profits:

So again, not to single out Murphy, but to me, his “finally” explains why so many publications jumped on this story — the belief that it was inevitable, that Apple’s market domination has been an aberration, that the company is in the midst of an inevitable decline. It’s a pre-conceived narrative driving the facts, rather than the facts driving the narrative.

I came across an example of this that drives me crazy. Yes, it’s from Gizmodo, a blog so deep in a vacuum of credibility that one could reasonably ask why I even bother to read it, but nonetheless I’m going to use it. I suppose this is what happens when, for the first time in human history, everyone with an internet connection has a voice and publishing platform, and, well…they shouldn’t.

Adam Clark Estes, in a piece called iOS7 Tracks Your Every Move and Displays Your Favorite Places, writes a hyperbolic warning about how this new iOS7 feature spies on you and uploads your daily location data to Apple servers somewhere. This is Apple being evil, see, and ohmygosh, did you see that a Hacker News commenter discovered this? See ‘hacker’ in the title there? IS THAT NOT SCARY?

Here’s what bothers me about this piece, which is clearly designed to fit neatly into the current anti-Apple narrative:

  • Android does the exact same thing, as has for a while now. Google Now, an excellent ‘assistant’ technology on Android that’s like Siri, only better, ‘learns’ your behavior by parsing your email, web searches and location patterns. From this data — which no doubt resides on Google’s servers, but we’ll get to that in a minute — Google Now offers you notifications about package tracking, your favorite sports team’s scores, traffic information, and a host of other things. And bear in mind that when Gizmodo reviewed Google Now for iOS (once it shipped for iOS devices), they called it great.
  • Location services on modern smartphones are used continually and voluntarily — see Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp, Urbanspoon, OpenTable, and Waze among dozens of others. People use these apps every day to share their locations, check into their favorite establishments, and even vie for mayorships and social media deals offered by these services. You don’t hear much outrage about these, because they’re opt-in services, right? Right.
  • So speaking of opt-in, Estes devotes a single sentence to a fact that derails his entire post: this iOS 7 feature, called ‘Favorite Locations,’ can be turned off with a single switch. Boom. Problem solved. (Yes, you can argue the point that the default setting should be off and the user could enable it, but I suspect by the time iOS 7 ships to the public, this service will be off by default. My hunch is that it’s on by default during beta for testing purposes.)
  • Estes states that he’s concerned about where the data iOS 7 collect is going, and the implication is that it’s going somewhere nefarious (he even reiterates this concern in the comments of his post). Where do his Google searches go? Where does his Yelp data go? What about his search history in Spotify? What about his phone call metadata? What about his IP data as gathered by his ISP? If you want absolutely privacy and your data to literally go nowhere, fall of the grid, ditch your computer and smartphone, use only cash, and live off the land. The ‘where does my data go?’ argument is so specious that I can’t believe Estes isn’t throwing it out there as a ridiculous strawman and nothing more.

I’m not asking for blogs to present perfect point-and-counterpoint arguments to everything they publish, because the nature of op/ed is to proffer an opinion to your readers. I’m simply asking for them not to publish hyperbolic headlines backed by flimsy 213 word posts that seem designed for one thing only: pageviews and complete congruency into an established narrative, in this case the anti-Apple one that’s everywhere you look.

What’s that you say? That’s the game in a nutshell?

Whoops. My bad.

Apple’s iOS7: Thoughts and Impressions

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Last week at its annual WWDC conference, Apple gave us a preview of iOS7, the next-generation operating system coming for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch this fall. As any regular reader knows, I am an entrenched Apple slappy, but I consider myself realistic. Here are my thoughts on what Apple showed us.

ios7

Design

The big change is the banishment of the skeumorphism we had under Scott Forstall and an introduction a new design language led by Jony Ive. The new look is mininal, with bright, colorful, flat icons, more generous whitespace use, and a revamped system typeface. From what I can see so far, it’s nice looking, but I suspect between now and GA iOS7’s look will mature beyond what we were shown last week. Right now, it’s a bit too bright, and the color palette seems…off. But I’m not worried, because it will mature. More on this later.

I think the current iOS (v6) is getting tremendously stale in light of what Android and even Windows Phone are offering today. A new design aesthetic is welcome. But is it a total rethinking? At a visual level, not quite. There’s still the familiar rows of rounded-corner icons, still the folders with limitations. The new look is a blend of a revamped veneer coupled with a GUI structure well-known to iOS users everywhere. And perhaps that’s the point: Apple isn’t going to ape Android or create some brand new UX when its devices – arguably the most successful mobile devices in the world in terms of actual usage – are so well understood by a legion of users across multiple demographics. New for the sake of new when the tradeoff is usability is not something Apple is keen to do.

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The Social Stress and Status of the iPhone

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Bianca Bosker, writing for HuffPo Tech, interviews 14-year-old Casey Schwartz about Schwartz’s iPhone. Specifically, what really happens on a teen girl’s iPhone, and how it becomes a source of stress and social status among Schwartz’s peers. Some excerpts are below, but you owe it to yourself to read the whole interview. Parents of teenage girls, doubly so.

Some highlights:

“I’ll wake up in the morning and go on Facebook just … because,” Casey says. “It’s not like I want to or I don’t. I just go on it. I’m, like, forced to. I don’t know why. I need to. Facebook takes up my whole life.”

“I bring it everywhere. I have to be holding it,” Casey says. “It’s like OCD — I have to have it with me. And I check it a lot.”

Not having an iPhone can be social suicide, notes Casey. One of her friends found herself effectively exiled from their circle for six months because her parents dawdled in upgrading her to an iPhone. Without it, she had no access to the iMessage group chat, where it seemed all their shared plans were being made.

“She wasn’t in the group chat, so we stopped being friends with her,” Casey says. “Not because we didn’t like her, but we just weren’t in contact with her.”

“We’ll be sitting on a couch next to each other, texting each other,” she notes. “We text in the same room. It’s weird, I don’t know why.”

The most important and stress-inducing statistic of all is the number of “likes” she gets when she posts a new Facebook profile picture — followed closely by how many “likes” her friends’ photos receive. Casey’s most recent profile photo received 117 “likes” and 56 comments from her friends, 19 of which they posted within a minute of Casey switching her photo, and all of which Casey “liked” personally.

“If you don’t get 100 ‘likes,’ you make other people share it so you get 100,” she explains. “Or else you just get upset. Everyone wants to get the most ‘likes.’ It’s like a popularity contest.”

“If I’m not watching TV, I’m on my phone. If I’m not on my phone, I’m on my computer. If I’m not doing any of those things, what am I supposed to do?” Casey says. “I think that in a few years, technology is going to go back and people won’t use it anymore because it’s getting to be a lot. I mean, I don’t put down my phone. And it makes me wish that I did. It’s addicting.”

Google Glass

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Check out Google Glass. It’s the next big thing: wearable, context-aware computing.

Google’s doing this with Glass, Apple is chasing the same goal with its rumored smartwatch.

This is quite literally the next web, surpassing the semantic web. It’s contextual computing, and everything’s headed here. If post-PC computing (iPads, tablets) was the last gold rush, context-aware computing is the next. I like Apple’s chances, because it has a huge install base of post-PC devices (iPhones, iPads) and no doubt an ‘iWatch’ will integrate with your iPhone to combine sensor and computing power for the overall user experience.

For the record, I also like Google Glass, too, but I’m not keen on having to wear an optical computer around all the time. Then again, I’ve never used one, so maybe impressions will change. I do think that using a optical approach gives user a true HUD experience, something that won’t be matched by a wrist-mounted computer.

We’ll see. Whatever happens, it will be exciting.

Hundreds

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I’m going to send you into the weekend with my new iOS game obsession: Hundreds. It’s a wonderfully simple game in which you grow circles until their collective value reaches 100 — but you cannot let them touch anything else while they grow. Oh, and there are things (like razor circles) that will ‘pop’ your circles and reset their value to zero. Maddening, but the one of the most addictive games I’ve played. Worth three bucks, easy.

Here is a gameplay video, because looking back on my description the game sounds horrifically boring. It’s anything but.

Thermonuclear

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Jim Dalrymple over at The Loop posted what I’ve been thinking since Apple’s decisive victory over Samsung last week:

Because it was so blatant in its copying, Samsung was the most obvious target and allowed Apple to set precedent for its patents. That was the precursor to going thermonuclear.

Google says its not worried about the verdict because “most of these [patents] don’t relate to the core Android operating system.” However, as Seth Weintraub points out, some of the patents relate directly to Google, like the rubber band effect.

Google should be worried. Steve Jobs’ thermonuclear promise is coming.

So, let’s be super clear: Apple won a decisive victory, but yeah, it didn’t get everything it wanted, damage-wise.

My feeling says the precursor is exactly the right word: imbued with even more confidence, Apple now gets to set its sight to … where?

Google seems like the next target —if Jobs’s thermonuclear dictum is still a cultural directive in Cupertino.

Will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Let’s recall what Jobs said about Android, which was detailed in Walter Isaacson’s Jobs bio:

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

“I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”

Being in the mobile phone business today means you have to have (a) lots of cash and/or (b) a deep patent portfolio. Weird times.

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