Tag Archive | "apple"

Apple iPhone 5 Event Confirmed for October 4th

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Some of the big name tech media have just received invitations from Apple for an iPhone press event to be held on October 4th, at which Apple’s iPhone 5 is expected to be announced. The invitation image shows the brilliance of Apple marketing. Yes, this is marketing. They market extremely well to the press and the press markets to their customers for them; that’s why Apple spends way less in advertising than many other tech companies, and has stock that trades far higher.

A lot of people are betting that Apple will bring the screen size of the iPhone 5 up to at least 4″ or even as large as 4.3″. My money is on the phone keeping a 3.5″ display. If they do change it, I can only hope that they don’t go further than 4″. Other proposed features include NFC and perhaps 4G. The latest version of Apple’s mobile OS, iOS 5, is expected to be launched on the iPhone 5, and we may see it released to existing devices during or shortly after the October 4th event.

A little while ago I speculated that we’d see Apple announce an iPhone 5 for AT&T with HSPA+ and a variant for Verizon with 4G LTE. Interestingly, Sprint is now expected to be joining the aformentioned US carriers in iPhone availability, but I’m doubting we’ll see a WiMax iPhone 5 (Sprint’s current 4G technology, which it is said to soon be replacing with LTE), which leads me to wonder whether or not Sprint will get the iPhone 5 at all. Perhaps that iPhone 4S that’s been rumored over the last few months is actually the CDMA-based iPhone 4 that Verizon currently offers, but with some tweaks and compatibility with Sprint’s 3G network?

The invitation image is quite neat after all. For non-iOS users out there, all of these icons are from core iOS apps, and each of them means something. The calendar icon says that the event is on the 4th, the map icon says that the event will be at Apple’s ‘Infinite Loop’ HQ in Cupertino, and the clock icon says that it will be held at 10AM PST.

But what of the phone icon with a missed call? I think Apple certainly wants people to speculate about this. Typically that little 1 at the top right of the phone icon means that you’ve got a missed call or a voicemail that needs to be listened to. Maybe it means Apple will only be announcing 1 phone instead of an iPhone 4S and an iPhone 5 as rumored? Maybe Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, will come on stage and at some point listen to a ‘voicemail’ on the iPhone 5 left by Steve Jobs. At any rate, it will likely tie into the event.

What do you think it means?

Changing Ecosystems From iOS to Android (and how iOS 5 could tempt me back)

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ios to androidRitchie Djamhur is a macchiato-addicted IT Buyer based in Sydney, Australia and also posts his thoughts on technology, music and anything else that keeps him up at night on www.ritchiesroom.com.

The iOS Family

My name’s Ritchie and I am a phoneaholic, of the smart variety. I’ll admit it, on most nights I have my smartphone safely tucked under my pillow, in case I stir restlessly out of sleep and feel compelled to check Facebook updates, Twitter messages and lists, LinkedIn news, or my WordPress stats. Sound familiar to any readers?

Up until recently, I had not strayed far from the iOS family. I have owned a few iterations of the iPhone, and have seen its evolution in hardware along with the massive growth of the app store. And for the most part, the iPhone has fulfilled my needs, and indeed surprised me with functions that I didn’t realise I could do with.

iTunes makes upgrading your phone terribly easy. When the next version of an iPhone is released, you simply back up your old phone, connect and register your new iPhone, and everything, including settings, email, photos, and messages will be loaded onto your fresh iPhone. That upgrade path makes it hard to break the cycle and look beyond the iPhone at alternatives that may in fact be better suited to your needs.

The iPhone 4 is a great smartphone, and it’s always been a reliable partner in my business and leisure life. The ability to print wirelessly, read books, take casual photos, use social networking apps with ease, play some great games during downtime and use Facetime to see my extended family at a moment’s notice have all made the iPhone highly regarded in my household.

There are a few things that have made my eyes wander of late, and I realised that unless I wanted to jailbreak my phone, there were a few things that I couldn’t do efficiently. For example, turning WiFi and bluetooth on/off, changing brightness or orientation settings take a fair few steps within the settings panel.

On the other hand, widgets are a standard feature on Android phones, so I could see a good reason to move across just because of that – instant access to functions I wanted regularly. But could an Android phone match or exceed what the iPhone and its associated ecosystem has delivered to me over the years?

Apple Won’t Fix My iPhone, But Jailbreaking Will

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cydiaHere’s one more reason I’d be using Android if I couldn’t jailbreak my iPhone:

The home button on my iPhone 4 has crapped out. Not entirely, but enough so that sometimes it doesn’t recognize when I press the button. For you non-iPhone users, the home button is the one you use every time you want to get back to the home screen (where all your apps are located), which means you use this button a lot.

Double pressing the button is also used to get to the task-switcher which lets you jump between apps, and holding it down activates voice control. The button has about a 50/50 chance of working, which means getting the double-press to work happens about 25% of the time.

Because the button is used so much, having it inconsistently work makes using the phone extremely frustrating!

So what to do? I call up Apple support. They generally have really good support with one major caveat, you better have a warranty!

Naturally, my phone is 20 days out of warranty (Murphy’s Law tells us that things won’t start breaking until your warranty period is over). The support person asks someone if they can give me an exception since I’m only 20 days out of warranty, but I’m turned away. The only option is to have them repair the phone out of warranty, which costs the same amount as buying a new iPhone, which I’m not interested in doing for a phone that’s still mostly functional.

So Apple won’t fix my phone. Fortunately, as a jailbreaker, I’ve got access to tools that regular iPhone users do not.

Jailbreaking is the de-facto term for describing the process of hacking your iPhone to release it from the restrictions that Apple imposes on it. Once jailbroken, you’ve got access to Cydia, which is essentially the jailbreak version of the App Store. Through Cydia, you can install apps and tools that Apple won’t allow in the app store because they do things that Apple doesn’t want official apps to be able to do.

Thanks to the awesome (and free) Activator app which is installed through Cydia, I can reprogram any of the phone’s buttons (or even software gestures) to do pretty much anything I’d like, including, simulating a press of the home button.

So as of now I’ve used Activator to reprogram my volume-up button so that a short hold simulates a press of the home button (a single tap still works as you’d expect).

Viola! Problem pretty much fixed (better than Apple could do for me out of warranty, anyway). While at it, I’ve also taken the liberty of making a short hold of the volume-down button compose a new text message in a pop-up (through another jailbreak app called iReal SMS), and I’ve set a short hold of the lock button to take me directly to the settings app for quick access to WiFi connection management and more.

The people responsible for jailbreaking, and developing the apps that are accessed through it, are providing extremely useful tools to those who want to take advantage of them.

This is why it’s upsetting that Apple tries to block jailbreaking at every update.

Jailbreaking has saved me money, provided support where Apple could not, and provides a bunch of functionality that I use daily that Apple’s iOS doesn’t support by default.

Not only this, but jailbreaking has been the birth place of many great improvements to iOS that Apple has stolen, or at least taken ideas from. It seems that Apple should be fostering the jailbreak community, not hindering it.

Apple Won’t Fix My iPhone, But Jailbreaking Will

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cydiaHere’s one more reason I’d be using Android if I couldn’t jailbreak my iPhone:

The home button on my iPhone 4 has crapped out. Not entirely, but enough so that sometimes it doesn’t recognize when I press the button. For you non-iPhone users, the home button is the one you use every time you want to get back to the home screen (where all your apps are located), which means you use this button a lot.

Double pressing the button is also used to get to the task-switcher which lets you jump between apps, and holding it down activates voice control. The button has about a 50/50 chance of working, which means getting the double-press to work happens about 25% of the time.

Because the button is used so much, having it inconsistently work makes using the phone extremely frustrating!

So what to do? I call up Apple support. They generally have really good support with one major caveat, you better have a warranty!

Naturally, my phone is 20 days out of warranty (Murphy’s Law tells us that things won’t start breaking until your warranty period is over). The support person asks someone if they can give me an exception since I’m only 20 days out of warranty, but I’m turned away. The only option is to have them repair the phone out of warranty, which costs the same amount as buying a new iPhone, which I’m not interested in doing for a phone that’s still mostly functional.

So Apple won’t fix my phone. Fortunately, as a jailbreaker, I’ve got access to tools that regular iPhone users do not.

Jailbreaking is the de-facto term for describing the process of hacking your iPhone to release it from the restrictions that Apple imposes on it. Once jailbroken, you’ve got access to Cydia, which is essentially the jailbreak version of the App Store. Through Cydia, you can install apps and tools that Apple won’t allow in the app store because they do things that Apple doesn’t want official apps to be able to do.

Thanks to the awesome (and free) Activator app which is installed through Cydia, I can reprogram any of the phone’s buttons (or even software gestures) to do pretty much anything I’d like, including, simulating a press of the home button.

So as of now I’ve used Activator to reprogram my volume-up button so that a short hold simulates a press of the home button (a single tap still works as you’d expect).

Viola! Problem pretty much fixed (better than Apple could do for me out of warranty, anyway). While at it, I’ve also taken the liberty of making a short hold of the volume-down button compose a new text message in a pop-up (through another jailbreak app called iReal SMS), and I’ve set a short hold of the lock button to take me directly to the settings app for quick access to WiFi connection management and more.

The people responsible for jailbreaking, and developing the apps that are accessed through it, are providing extremely useful tools to those who want to take advantage of them.

This is why it’s upsetting that Apple tries to block jailbreaking at every update.

Jailbreaking has saved me money, provided support where Apple could not, and provides a bunch of functionality that I use daily that Apple’s iOS doesn’t support by default.

Not only this, but jailbreaking has been the birth place of many great improvements to iOS that Apple has stolen, or at least taken ideas from. It seems that Apple should be fostering the jailbreak community, not hindering it.

For $15 You Can Always Have a Charge/Sync Cable for Your Smartphone with You Thanks to This Excellent Accessory

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scosche 2When it comes to technology gifts, I generally tell people not to get them for me. Not that I don’t appreciate the thought, but having a non-techie try to find a good tech gift for a tech-geek is like an atheist shopping for the Pope.

Somehow, this last holiday season, my mother actually managed to get me an awesome tech related gift which I’ve been making great use of. Check it out:

scoscheThis is the Scosche FlipSNYC USB iPhone adapter (fear not, they make Micro/Mini USB version as well!) which is incredibly compact, enough so that you can easily throw it on your keychain. I was impressed by the smart design which manages to keep it so compact, even in lieu of Apple’s relatively massive connector. This isn’t one of those “you can totally put it on your keychain!” ordeals that you might find see on a TV infomercial, where in reality the thing is so bulky that you’d never actually want to put it on your keys — it’s actually small enough to go on your keychain and not attract any unwanted attention.

I’ve always got my keys with me, so even if I run out of the house without thinking I might need to charge or sync my phone, I don’t have to worry about it; if the time comes, out come my keys and this useful little bit of kit.

I’ve been using mine regularly for about 8 months and it shows no sign of breakage or wear.

Scosche sells these things for $15, and even though mine was a gift, I’ve easily justified the price with the amount of use I’ve gotten from it. It’s so handy to be able to plug into any USB port to get your charge on in a pinch and I’d definitely recommend one to any serious smartphone user.

scosche 3Fortunately, Scoche makes the aforementioned iPhone/iPod Touch version, and they’ve also got one for the same price that has both Micro and Mini USB plugs on it, which means that pretty much the entire modern smartphone world is covered.

The iPhone/iPod Touch version is also sold in red or white, just in case you’re too stylish for plain old black.

Scosche is also selling a second version of these called the FlipSYNC II, but they cost $5 more and the only differences seem to be a USB plug with full metal casing (rather than a ‘half’ plug) and the key loop is slightly larger. You can find those here (iPhone version) and here (Micro/Mini USB version), if you’d like to see for yourself.

Apple MacBook Air Update matches Samsung Series 9

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Both the Samsung 900X1B and the Apple MacBook Air that was announced today should be available from tomorrow. Both weigh the same. Both use a similar ‘Sandy Bridge’ platform, both offer an 11.6″ screen, both look sleek and both cost about $1000.

One runs Windows 7, the other runs the newly-available Apple OS X Lion operating system.

 VS 
Click for specs

Both are, in my eyes, Ultrabooks. Intel may not agree when they finally publish their Ultrabook sepcifications but for the time being, this is about as close as it gets to 1KG, high-capability mobile computing.

For a few dollars and a few ounces more you could go to the 13″ versions of these with even more power and capability but the real fight here is between Windows and IOS, with a touch of fan-leverage too. Early reviews of Lion (there’s a huge one here at ARS Technica) make exciting reading.

Read the full story

When Will Apple Jump on the 4G Bandwagon?

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4gWe’re not into Apple rumors here at Carrypad, but what we are into is informed speculation. Join us for some healthy analysis about when and how Apple will make the move to 4G.

Based on Apple’s Q3 sales figures that were just released today, it’s clear that Apple is doing extremely well, even without a single 4G product in its stables.

This is interesting because 4G is one of the only areas where the iPhone and iPad are behind, rather than being ahead of, or at least on-par with, the competition.

For all intents and purposes, let’s consider HSPA+, LTE, and WiMax all ‘4G’ networks, as they’re all capable of delivering speeds that are well beyond earlier 3G connections.

The Competition

Verizon has now launched three 4G (LTE) smartphones, and is poised to launch at least one more (the Droid Bionic) toward the end of this summer. They also have the 4G enabled Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, as well as the Motorola Xoom which is supposedly going to be the recipient of a 4G hardware upgrade at some point. Additionally, they’ve got a 4G MiFi wireless hotspot and 4G USB modem. [See this article for a roadmap of Verizon’s upcoming 4G smartphones and devices].

AT&T has three 4G (HSPA+) smartphones currently launched, along with a 4G USB modem.

Sprint has fourteen 4G (WiMax) devices available. They’ve got smartphones, tablets, laptops, mobile hotspots, and USB modems. Though WiMax technically has the capability to support 4G speeds, the research I’ve done has indicated that Sprint’s WiMax is sorely lacking in speed, but I’m still putting it on the list because the tech that supports high speeds is already in place in these devices.

T-Mobile has claims to have twelve 4G (HSPA+) devices. They have 7 smartphones, 2 tablets, 2 USB modems, and a mobile hotspot.

What Form Will Apple 4G Come In?

Because Apple currently makes iPhone 4 and iPad 2 models for both AT&T Verizon, it holds that we’ll continue to see those two carriers supported for upcoming tablets and smartphones from Apple.

For the short term, AT&T is relying on HSPA+ to provide 4G speeds to its line of HSPA+ equipped phones; the company often sticks ‘4G’ to the end of the phone’s name to indicate the additional speed (even if some don’t consider HSPA+ to be ‘4G’ from a technical standpoint). In the long term, AT&T is planning on moving in the LTE direction starting this year.

Verizon jumped directly to 4G in the form of LTE, and they seem to have the best 4G speeds so far.

With the two currently supported carriers either already using LTE or eventually moving to LTE, my best guess is that Apple’s first 4G devices will be LTE compatible rather than WiMax or HSPA+, though as you’ll see below, we might end up with a combination of these.

Why Doesn’t Apple Already Have 4G When Others Do?

The technology for Apple to launch their devices with 4G exists, but I believe two factors have held Apple back so far.

Coverage
It doesn’t make sense for Apple to fork over additional money for 4G chipsets if the coverage isn’t already there. If Apple launched a 4G (LTE) iPhone 4 when it announced the Verizon iPhone back in January, it wouldn’t have had a big demographic to sell to because a relatively small number of areas where covered at the time. Passing on the price of 4G hardware to all customers, when only a small portion are actually in 4G covered areas, wouldn’t be good for Apple’s bottom line. It made more sense for them to keep the price attractive until 4G LTE sees widespread coverage.

Battery Life
Battery life on existing 4G LTE devices is still much shorter than 3G devices. I’ve been using the HTC Thunderbolt and LG Revolution and both 4G equipped devices from Verizon have had a hard time providing me with usable all day battery life. Battery life is a major concern for Apple, and I know that they aren’t willing to release a device without all day battery life under typical use.

With every release of the iPhone, Apple has increased performance and battery life. Releasing a 4G iPhone before the technology can come down to a reasonable power consumption level wouldn’t be acceptable for Apple.

When Will it Happen?

The real question is not if, but when. Apple has been wildly successful with the iPhone and iPad, even though the market is already brimming with 4G devices, but that won’t last forever.

Ideally, Apple would launch a 4G iPhone and 4G iPad when the two above factors, coverage and battery life, align. Unfortunately, Apple is now being pressured by all of the other 4G devices on the market.

Verizon’s 4G LTE forecast indicates that they hope to have their entire 3G network area covered with 4G LTE coverage by 2013.

AT&T is launching its first 4G LTE coverage areas this year, but the rollout is going to take time, and they’ll most likely be lagging behind Verizon in 4G LTE coverage in 2013.

The iPhone 5 is expected to be released in 2011, and the iPad 3 likely won’t come until 2012. In terms of coverage, the time is not ideal for Apple to launch a 4G iPhone 5 or 4G iPad 3.

I think that Apple would rather wait for two more product generations before releasing 4G devices (so that power consumption can come down and coverage can increase), which would mean 4G LTE compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPad 4, but I doubt that they can wait that long.

An interim HSPA+ iPhone 5 might be more practical for Apple, but it would leave Verizon users in the rain as Verizon has no HSPA+ infrastructure.

A compromise could be for Apple to release a 4G (LTE) iPhone 5 on Verizon and a 4G (HSPA+) iPhone 5 on AT&T. I would expect that release in 2011, but the iPad 3 will likely not be released until 2012. At that time, LTE network coverage should be more favorable for AT&T, and Apple may launch a 4G (LTE) iPad 3 for both networks, then eventually bring LTE to their AT&T iPhone offering with the release of the iPhone 6 in 2012. This is a bit confusing in text, so I’ve put together a timeline (apologies if the large timeline runs off the screen on mobile browsers!):

apple 4g timeline

Some might see the release of a separate HSPA+ and LTE iPhone 5 and iPad 3 as unlikely, but it should be considered as Apple currently has two separate versions of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, one for AT&T’s HSPA 3G network, and one for Verizon’s EVDO 3G network.

Though the LTE coverage is not quite optimal for the upcoming iPhone 5, Apple can’t ignore 4G as it’s starting to be expected from the latest phones (and every major US carrier is pushing the buzz word like their life depends on it). I can’t see Apple releasing the iPhone 5 without 4G, whether that be HSPA+ or LTE.

I would certainly reconsider purchasing the next iPhone if they release it without some form of 4G. How about our readers – does 4G availability influence your smartphone purchasing decisions?

Google Maps for Android Update Adds Offline Access and Transit Directions, Is Still Lightyears Beyond Maps for iOS

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mapsOn Wednesday Google updated their awesome Maps for Android application to include the ability to download portions of the map for offline access, and full-featured transit directions. With these updates and other features that Maps for Android has had for a long time, the Android version of the application is lightyears ahead of Maps for iOS, read on to find out why.

Google Maps is now running version 5.7 on Android devices, and users now have global access to transit directions. Just pick an address and Google will tell you how to best get there through a combination of public transit options – trains, busses, subways, etc. Here’s how it works:

In addition to transit directions, which are immensely useful when you’re within city limits, Google has added a new feature to the Labs section of Google Maps for Android: Download Map Area.

Download Map Area allows you to download the map in a 10 mile radius around any location that you choose.

To enable the ‘Download Map Area’ feature, launch Maps 5.7 on your Android device. Press the menu button while you’re looking at the map view then press the more button then press Labs. Scroll to the bottom of Labs to find the ‘Download Map Area’ item and click on it to enable it. You will see a green check mark next to the item letting you know that you’ve enabled it.

To use the feature, go to any Places page (places pages are the informational pages about a location that you find when you search through Google Maps. At the bottom of the Places page, you’ll find the ‘Download Map Area’ button which. when pressed, will initiate a download of the entire area within 10 miles.

You can also download the area around any location, even if you can’t pull it up through search. Just press-and-hold any location on the map to bring up a location marker, then press the arrow button on the right of the marker. You’ll find the same download option at the bottom of the list.

map download areaThanks to vector tiles which were implemented with Google Maps for Android 5.0 back in December, a brief download gives you all the data you need to see street-level detail within the downloaded area, even if your phone is in airplane mode. The map will show an outline of the area that is available for offline access.

Google Maps for Android Dominates Google Maps for iOS

I’ve been an iPhone user since the iPhone 3G. Through the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4, Google Maps has been one of my most consistently used applications. Still, I’ve always been jealous of Google Maps on Android. These recent updates to Maps for Android just put it that much further beyond Maps for iOS.

One Reason Why Maps for iOS is Behind

Maps on iOS works very well, but is seriously lacking in the features department and lacks a crucial component that Maps for Android has: updatability.

Back in the early days of Android, core applications like Maps could only be updated through firmware releases, which were relatively far between. Later changes to Android allowed core applications to be updated through the Android Market just like any third-party application. This meant that the Maps for Android team could push updates through to Maps for Android whenever they wanted, rather than waiting for entire firmware updates. This has been key in keeping Maps for Android lightyears ahead of Maps for iOS.

It’s unclear whether or not Maps for iOS can be updated through the App Store like third-party apps, but what is clear is that Apple has never pushed a single update to Maps in this manner. They appear to be stuck updating Maps whenever major firmware updates are released, which are few and far between (perhaps once per year).

No Turn-by-turn Directions, Co-pilot Mandatory

Google’s completely free Navigation app for Android provides best in class turn-by-turn navigation to any Android device that has GPS. It’s arguably even better than most dedicated GPS road units.

Maps for iOS will obligingly give you great walking, driving, or transit directions, but there is no turn-by-turn navigation. When finding a route on Maps for iOS you also have no option to view alternate routes, no option to avoid toll roads, and no way to automatically route around traffic.

The best you get is a visual map of your route, or a list of directions. Trying to following directions on Maps for iOS while driving by yourself is dangerous because of the total lack of turn-by-turn guidance. In these situations, having a co-pilot to track your progress on the route, tell you which turns to take, and when you should be turning, is a must. For me, this is the biggest weakness of Maps for iOS.

Missing Features

Simply put, Maps for Android does a whole lot more than its iOS counterpart. Here’s just a short list of the things that Maps for iOS is lacking.

Vector tiles: Maps 5.0 for Android introduced vector tiles which have a number of advantages. Here’s what we wrote about Maps 5.0 from our review of the first device that got that update, the Nexus S —

The latest version of Google Maps looks quite similar to the old, but the underlying system is vastly different. Instead of using static image tiles at varying zoom levels, Maps is now using vector tiles which boast a number of advantages. Vector graphics can be dynamically scaled to any resolution and still retain their sharpness. Now, instead of downloading one tile for each zoom level, you may only have to download one tile for a particular area and then it is scaled to any level of zoom. This means less downloading (less data usage) and easier caching (storing for use later/offline)

Vector graphics also allow the map text to stay right side up even as you rotate the map. Additionally, you can now use two-fingers to tilt the map to get a different angle (again, thanks to vector graphics). And you’ll be able to see 3D buildings in places where it’s supported.

Latitude Built-in: Maps for Android puts your Latitude friends right there on the map, and allows you to ping other Android phones for quick location updates. Maps on iOS lacks Latitude entirely. Latitude does exist as a separate app, but using the two interchangeably (ie: getting directions to a friend’s location) means switching back and forth between the apps, and the Latitude app on iOS doesn’t support quick location updates between you and your Latitude friends.

Topographic Maps: Maps for Android will give you terrain maps of pretty much anywhere. Not only can they be interesting to look at, but they are also useful for planning hikes and other trips.

Biking Directions: Maps for iOS provided public transit directions a long time before Maps for Android, but now that Maps for Android support transit directions, it can give you directions in every way that Maps for iOS can, and in one way that Maps for iOS can’t – biking directions. When finding biking directions, Google specifically looks to use bike trails or lanes on your route, and uses terrain data to avoid big hills whenever possible.

No Google Account Integration: When you launch Maps for Android, everything is in sync with your Google Account. I can pull up custom maps and routes that I’ve made on the computer, all of my latitude friends are there, and I can see the places that I’ve starred. Maps for iOS doesn’t even consider your Google account, and in fact may not even know that such a thing exists.

Offline Access: And now, as we’ve seen, Maps for Android has offline access, allowing you to choose precisely where you want to download the maps for offline use. Offline map access in Maps for iOS is fickle and unpredictable. Despite the iPhone 3G and beyond having built-in GPS, the phones often act as though they don’t have no idea that they posses GPS chips when they lack a data connection. This is really bothersome when you’re in and out of data coverage, especially when hiking.

And that’s just a few of the big items! Here’s a list Google cooked up comparing Maps for Android to Maps for iOS:

ios maps vs android maps

All these things combined put Maps for Android lightyears ahead of Maps for iOS in my book (even though it works well for what it does), and is definitely the #1 thing I’m jealous of as an iPhone user.

MacBook Air Update Could Qualify as First Ultrabook

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Image2I don’t recall Intel saying anything about Ultrabooks having to run Windows so with the MacBook Air highly likely to get an upgrade to Sandy Bridge soon, it could quality as the first Ultrabook. The 11.6” version starts at under $1000 and it’s one of the thinnest, lightest 11.6”-ers you can get.

The latest on the Sandy Bridge upgrade comes from AppleInsider who’s source has told them that a initial production-run using the 32nm Sandy Bridge architecture is scheduled for June. Expect devices to be available soon after, obviously.

Via Slashgear

Apple Finally Takes My Suggestion and Adds a Split Keyboard to the iPad

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dial keys ipadOk… it’s rather unlikely that they even saw my old story, but back in June of 2010, I wrote an article titled ‘I’m dying for Dial Keys on the iPad‘, the gist of which was that Apple should add a split-keyboard to the iPad to make it thumb-typeable. I used Dial Keys, an old ultra mobile PC program, to make a mockup of a split keyboard on the iPad, but it won’t be until nearly a year later, with the coming iOS 5 update, that Apple will add such a keyboard to the iPad.

I remember prior to the announcement of the first-generation iPad, back when it was just rumors and speculation, I was hoping that if Apple released a slate, they’d do something that would improve the typing experience on such a large device.

Apple totally revolutionized touchscreen typing with the original iPhone by equipping it with a much more responsive capacitive touchscreen, and programming a very smart on-screen keyboard (OSK). I wanted Apple to revolutionize large touchscreen typing in the same way that they did on the smartphone, but unfortunately that didn’t happen at launch and we were stuck with a sub-par typing experience on the device (I think I can type faster on my iPhone than on the iPad).

Once I got the iPad in my hands, I was still wishing for a form of split-keyboard because thumb-typing in portrait required an annoying stretch, and thumb-typing in landscape was near impossible (which meant you couldn’t effectively type without setting the iPad on some surface)

Apple is finally adding a split keyboard to the iPad with the iOS 5 update (coming this fall).

ipad split keyboardApple’s implementation is smart because it allows you to place the keyboard anywhere along the screen, which means you place it toward the center to balance the weight of the device.

One of my complaints with the Xoom is that typing in portrait is annoying because the keyboard is at the bottom of the screen, then you’ve got the weight of the rest of the device working as leverage against your hands (this is exacerbated by the 16:9 ratio of the device). Needless to say, holding all that weight while typing with your thumbs is not an ideal experience. Placing the keyboard toward the center of the screen, I thought as I used the Xoom, would make the weight a non-issue.

The split keyboard on the iPad will work in both landscape and portrait modes, and can be split or recombined on-the-fly without having to dig through the Settings app.

iOS 5 Still Lacks Basic Podcast Handling

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rssFor a company that invented the product that is the namesake of the term, Apple has done a paltry job of handling podcasting on iOS devices.

While iOS 5 undoubtedly added a lot of features that people have been wanting for a long time, I’m sorry to say that podcasting management appears to be as awful as ever in Apple’s latest version of the mobile OS.

For the uninitiated, podcasts are essentially internet radio shows. They are recorded, then offered up for download, generally on a scheduled basis. Apple’s very own iTunes is home to a huge number of podcasts that you can ‘subscribe’ to, but that doesn’t mean much.

The whole idea of a podcast is that you can subscribe to it, then get the episodes as they are released, rather than having to search around to find out if there’s a new episode.

You can actually access any of the podcasts that iTunes offers directly through the iTunes application on any iOS device, but it’s up to you to check back to find out when a new episode has been appeared, and you have to download each episode manually.

If you want to get your podcasts in a semi-automated way, you’ll have to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes on the desktop, then keep checking back to find out when a new episode has been found, then sync your iOS device to iTunes to get the latest episode. This doesn’t really solve any of the problems though (and might even be less useful then checking manually on the device itself).

Is it so much to ask that Apple allow me to subscribe to a podcast directly on my iPhone, then allow my iPhone to not only check automatically for new episodes, but download them without my intervention?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up and see a notification on your homescreen: “A new episode of your favorite podcast is ready for listening inch, then with a simple tap you could begin the podcast along with your morning routine? This sort of functionality is long overdue.

It seems really simple, but Apple has not taken podcasting very seriously (probably because Apple doesn’t make any money from podcasts).

iOS 5 is removing the need for a PC or Mac to set up and manage an iOS device. However, this means that people who choose to operate their devices in that way will lose out on the only (limited) podcast subscription support that Apple offers. They won’t even be able to sync the latest episodes from their computer, so their only option will be manually digging around, or using a third-party application (which can’t download new episodes in the background).

Perhaps with a little push, we can get Apple to get serious about podcasts with iOS 5. I’m talking: automatic checking/downloading, on-device subscriptions, the whole bit. A bonus would be if the place where you left off while listening would be synced to all of your devices through iCloud so you could pick up where you left off on any one of them.

With serious podcast functionality, I’d finally be able to easily keep up with Chippy and the guys making the great Meet:Mobility podcast!

iOS 5 and iCloud Overview

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ios 5Yesterday at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Steve Jobs took the stage to talk about iOS 5 and iCloud. Going against tradition since the first iPhone was announced, WWDC didn’t see the announcement of the latest iPhone hardware. We did, however, see the latest changes coming in iOS 5 and see the announcement of Apple’s new iCloud service. Before we get into it, you should know that consumers will see iOS 5 released to existing devices this Fall. iOS 5 will support the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad, and iPad 2. Or you can jump in on some beta action early if you download the latest version of iTunes and are running the very latest version of iOS (4.3.3).

As a long-time iPhone user and current iPhone 4 user, Apple’s announcements fell into two categories for me: 1) Useful new stuff, 2) It’s about time. And I think this is exactly how I’ll present them:

Useful New Stuff:


imessage logo

imessageThis is a new app from Apple which everyone is equating to the BBM service on BlackBerrys. Simply put, iMessage is a messaging application for any iOS device. It’ll run on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and allow those devices to communicate by sending text, photos, or video messages (Apple TV runs iOS, but there’s no mention of it being compatible with iMessage).

Apple is only going to strengthen it’s hold on this area of the market with this new app as people are encouraged to pick an iOS device over the competition because it means that they’ll be able to communicate quite seamlessly with friends that already have iOS devices.

Unlike SMS, you’ll be able to see delivery and read notifications as your recipients receive and read the messages that you’ve sent. You’ll also be able to see when friends are in the midst of composing replies to your messages if you happen to have the conversation open as they are typing. Conversations will also be synced between all of your iOS devices which is definitely handy.

newstand logo

newsstandNewsstand is two things. First, it’s an icon on the homescreen that will open a custom folder view to show any magazines or newspapers that you’ve subscribed to. The latest issues will be downloaded automatically in the background and updated on the bookshelf-style interface.

Second, Newsstand is a place where all newspaper and magazine apps can be found in one place so that customers can easily browse and subscribe; just hit the Store button right on the open Newsstand.

reminders logo

remindersReminders is a new application that that allows the user to create ToDo lists. This would be boring if not for some nifty options surrounding individual items on the list.

You can associate tasks with dates as you’d expect, but more interestingly you can also associate them with locations. You could, for instance, set a reminder to pick up some groceries on the way home from work. You do this by specifying a location along with the task, then you can ask it to remind you when you are entering that location or leaving that location (in this case you’d obviously select leaving).

Reminders will be synced across all of your iOS devices.

multitasking lgoo

multitasking on ipad

New four-finger gestures that Apple has had in the works for some time are now going to be available on the iPad in the consumer release of iOS 5. You can now pinch with four fingers to get back to the Home Screen, swipe up with four fingers to reveal the app switcher, or swipe left/right to switch quickly between apps. This will certainly increase the speed of app navigation as you will be able to leave your hand right on the screen rather than having to reach over to tap or double-tap the Home button.

airplay logo

ipad 2 display mirroringApple introduced display mirroring to an HDTV with the iPad 2 but it required a $40 wired dongle to make it happen. If you’ve got an Apple TV, you can now mirror the iPad 2’s display to your HDTV wirelessly. Display mirroring is exactly as it sounds… you’ll see exactly what’s shown on the iPad 2 while using this feature (including support for both orientations).

This will no doubt be excellent for sharing photos from the device rather than having everyone crowd around the computer.

Apple says it’ll work great for games too, but after seeing some videos of wireless display mirroring in action, it doesn’t look like it’ll respond fast enough to use the HDTV as the primary display for gaming (ie: it’ll have no problem showing the image, but the lag will mean that you’ll want look at the iPad 2’s display while playing, rather than the HDTV).

It’s About Time:


notification center logo

notification centerJust about a year ago, I tweeted, “Apple, you better not make us wait until iOS 5.0 for a decent notification system. It is NOT fun playing Sherlock when your phone vibrates. inch

Unfortunately this came true.

Ever since notifications existed in iOS, they’ve been annoying and difficult to handle. Notifications would always pop-up right in the middle of whatever you were currently working on, and you had to deal with them (by either dismissing or acting upon them) until you could get back to work. The irony is that iOS has been the best mobile OS when it comes to receiving notifications, thanks to a great push system, but when it came to actually organizing those notifications, iOS failed pretty hard.

Apple is finally fixing this, and they’ve stolen a page directly from Android and perhaps at least one jailbreak developer.

The new notification center is accessed by pulling the menu down from the menu bar, just like on Android. It’ll organize all of your notifications and give you access to them on the lock-screen as well.

Notifications will no longer pop-up in your face, but rather they will have a mostly non-intrusive animation from the top of the screen that alerts you to their presence. You can click on the notification to go straight to the app that sent it, or you can leave it alone and it’ll go away shortly without bothering you.

From the lock-screen, you’ll be able to go straight to the applications that sent the notifications by swiping the icon to the left, similar to the unlock slider.

It would appear as though some visual flair has been lifted quite directly from the great jailbreak app, LockInfo, which I’ve been using for at least a year now to supplement Apple’s awful notification management:lockinfo ~ cydia

To be fair, Apple did file some lock-screen related patents as far back as 2008 that look quite similar to their current implementation, so whether or not it’s right to call them out for stealing the LockInfo aesthetic all together is still up in the air. Regardless, properly managed notifications in iOS is going to be beneficial to a huge number of people.

Apple hasn’t said whether or not notifications will be synced through iCloud (more on that below), which is concerning because there’s nothing more annoying than sitting on the couch at the end of the day with an iPad that’s filled with notifications that you’ve already read on your iPhone.

twitter logo

twitterApple has finally decided to get onboard with native Twitter integration. You’ll sign in to Twitter just once within the OS, then third-party applications will be able to ask you for permission to use your Twitter account (similar to how they can ask to use your location data).

Apple will let you Tweet directly from Safari, Camera, YouTube, and Maps, but I’ve got a feeling that people will be quick to say “not enough! inch and be begging for a gesture that let’s them compose a tweet from anywhere in the OS (expect this to be quickly added by jailbreak developers, if Apple doesn’t already add it by the time iOS 5 launches in the Fall).

In addition to auto-suggesting users that you are mentioning, you’ll be able to sync your Twitter contacts to your Address Book, which will append Twitter usernames and pictures to your contacts if you choose. You can also attach a location to any one of your tweets. It also appears as though multiple Twitter accounts will be supported.

Looks like we’ll have to wait until iOS 6 for Facebook integration. I guess Apple can only handle one social network per update.

camera logo

cameraApple quickly pulled the Camera+ app from the App Store last year when it included a hidden feature that would allow users to use the volume button on their iPhone as a shutter button for the camera. Apple never allows third-party developers to alter hardware button usage, but naturally, Apple isn’t bound by it’s own App Store rules.

Camera enhancements in iOS 5 include the aforementioned ability to snap photos using the volume-up button while you’re in the Camera app and the ability to access the camera from a single button on the lockscreen.

Unlike the sliding gestures used to access notifications and unlock the device from the lockscreen, the camera access button appears to only require one tap. This is somewhat odd as the sliding gesture is used to prevent accidental unlocks while the phone is in your pocket. Accidentally tapping the camera button on the lockscreen would put the phone into the camera app and possibly even start snapping photos which would be a huge waste of battery. I’m surprised Apple isn’t using a slide gesture for quick camera access.

You’ll also be able to use a much more intuitive pinch-zoom gesture to zoom while shooting photos, rather than having to tap on the screen (initiating a refocus) in order to bring up the zoom bar. There’s also grid-lines to help with photo composition and the ability to lock focus and exposure which is actually the reason I purchased the Camera+ app a few months back.

photos logo

photos

Apple is finally adding basic photo editing to iOS. While you once had to find a third-party application to modify your photos in any way, now you can crop, fix red-eye, use one-touch photo enhance, and hopefully you’ll be able to rotate as well.

safari logo

safari

Along with performance improvements, Apple is finally adding tabbed browsing to the iPad. Prior to iOS 5, you had to hit a button in menu bar, then select your site from a list of thumbnails, and watch as it animated back up to your screen. This was way too slow. I’ve been using Atomic Web for more than a year now, primarily because of it’s quick tab switching through gestures and tabs.

I can’t believe it’s taken Apple this long to catch on and realize that the old way of switching was painfully slow. Now you’ll be able to tap on tabs to quickly switch your page and drag to reorganize tabs.

Sadly, it doesn’t look as though tabbed browsing will come to non-iPad versions of Safari, which means I’ll definitely still be using (and recommending that others use) Atomic Web on my iPhone.

They’ve also added Reader and Reading List.

Reader will take text and photos from a website and reformat them to be easier to read. This’ll also cut out all of the extraneous stuff like ads and irrelevant graphics. Additionally, Reader will combine multi-page articles into one continuous page for easy reading without interruptions.

Reading List is a short-term bookmark list which will sync across devices. You’ll be able to add/remove items to the Reading List on any device that supports Safari, including on PC or Mac. Syncing means that you’ll easily be able to queue up items on your PC that you may want to read later on your iPhone.

pc free logo

pc free

Since the beginning of iOS history, you’ve had to plug your new device into a PC or Mac to set it up. Apple is finally moving the setup process to the device itself.

This has much larger implications than it might seem. This change is paving the way for iOS devices to become the only devices that a user might own.

For people like you and me, it’s unlikely that we’ll be rocking out an iOS device as our only computing device. For people like my 84 year old great-aunt, who recently bought and iPad 2, this feature would be perfect. While my aunt doesn’t really understand how to use a traditional Mac or PC, she’s grasping the iPad 2 surprisingly well, and using it for things like email and FaceTime. She doesn’t own a computer, so her son had to set it up for her. Once iOS 5 hits the streets, iOS devices will be able to setup and update directly on the device, making them completely free of any computer dependency.

Older folks aren’t the only people that this change will benefit. Apple is also looking at other parts of the world where the majority of households don’t own a PC or Mac. This change will now allow such households to purchase an iOS device and set it up as their only computing device. Very cool, and certainly beneficial to the sales of iOS devices and customers alike.

wifi sync

People have been asking, nay, begging for this one since the iPhone was released. You’ll finally be able to sync your iDevice to your computer over WiFi instead of having to plug in.

Apple also says that they’ll automatically sync and backup your device over WiFi once per day which will be undoubtedly useful.

mail logo

mail

Somewhat hilariously, Apple is finally allowing some simple text formatting within their mail application (though I suppose most other mobile OSs are doing this yet). You’ll be able to bold, underline, and italicize text through the pop-up highlight menu. Additionally, you’ll be able to adjust indents and drag email addresses between the To:, Cc:, and Bcc: fields.

More useful is the ability to create and delete inbox folders directly on the device. There’s also now a flagging capability to mark/star important messages that you want to come back to.

Apple is also finally adding the ability to search the body of email messages whereas they used to only let you search by sender/recipient/subject which was a serious joke (I use Gmail as my provider and I’d always load up the web client if I needed to search).

iCloud

icloud

I’m not putting iCloud in either of the above categories. On one hand, I think the type of functionality that it aims to provide has been desired for a long time, but it wasn’t necessarily practical or expected.

Apple has made some major investments in data centers over the last few years and they believe that they have the capability to scale iCloud to the more than 200 million iOS devices that have been sold so far.

iCloud aims to automatically keep all of your devices in sync with one another. Apple is putting a big emphasis on seamlessness and autonomy. Jobs pulled out the phrase “it just works inch more than once during his WWDC keynote.

The first thing you should know about iCloud is that it is free. iCloud is supplanting the MobileMe service that Apple used to charge a yearly subscription for.

iCloud functionality is built into a number of apps and ties your devices together with your Apple ID. iCloud generally serves the same purpose for all the apps we’ll talk about: keeping everything in sync.

icloud beamingFor instance, Apple is touting a feature called Photo Stream for the photos app. Photo stream is a rolling list of 1000 of your most recent photos. Take a photo on your iPhone and it will be sent up to iCloud then sent down to all of your iOS devices (including iPhoto on the Mac, or the Pictures folder on Windows). This will only happen over WiFi. On Mac or PC, all of your photos will be stored, rather than just the last 1000.

On your other devices (including Apple TV), you can open the Photos app and you’ll find an album called Photo Stream where your last 1000 photos taken with any of your devices will be stored. You can add the photos that you want to keep for good into permanent albums on the device which will sent sync across all of your devices.

iCloud itself will store any photos that you’ve taken in the last 30 days, which Apple says will be more than enough time for your iDevices to connect to iCloud and download them.

Once you understand this model, it’s easy to see how most of the other apps will work with iCloud.

iTunes, for instance, will work with iCloud to distribute any songs that you purchase to all of your devices. If you buy a song through iTunes on your PC or Mac, you’re iPad and iPhone will automatically download it without requiring any bothersome iTunes syncing.

You’ll also be able to look at your history of previously purchased music and download anything that you’ve previously purchased to any of your devices.

Other apps that support iCloud are:

  • App Store
  • iBooks
  • Documents (iWork apps)
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Mail

And they all work very similarly… make a change on one device, it’ll travel through the cloud and find it’s way to your other devices.

If iCloud works the way that Apple says it will, it’s going strengthen the desire to purchase more than one iOS device. I’m almost wishing that I still had my iPad hearing about all of the iCloud functionality.

iCloud also backs up the following daily:

  • Purchased music, apps, books
  • Photos and video in the camera roll
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • SMS and MSS
  • Ringtones

Apple says that restoring a backup to a device is as easy as plugging in your Apple ID (and presumably waiting quite a while as everything downloads).

Apple is also offering app developers APIs that will allow them to send data through iCloud. For instance, it could be possible for game-saves to be uploaded to iCloud and sent to other devices to allow you to continue your game of Plants vs. Zombies where you left off.

iTunes Match

Apple also introduced a new service called iTunes Match. For an annual fee of $25, Apple will scan your library for music that hasn’t been purchased through iTunes and afford that music all of the benefits of iTunes-purchased music (which means making all of that music available to any of your devices, and backing it up).

Any songs that they can’t scan and match will be uploaded to iCloud and become available to any of your devices.

Apple is also offering to upgrade any lower quality music to decent quality 256Kbps AAC for no extra fee.

iOS 5 is bringing adding a lot of features that should have been there for a long time, and iCloud is adding a lot of features that are going to seriously automate the content management of their iDevices. This is certainly impressive considering that Apple is offering iCloud for free, and Android and other mobile operating systems are going to have a harder time convincing the average consumer to pick up devices that aren’t iOS based thanks to these new features.

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