If the rumours are true, then September 9 will be the date that Apple reveals what’s next for the iPhone. When that day rolls around, some have predicted that Tim Cook will show off all kinds of new toys including an updated Apple TV and a device that industry watchers insist on calling an ‘iPad Pro.’
A new Apple TV almost seems inevitable, but I’m not going to hold my breath on the iPad announcement – typically Apple reserves a separate event for iPad launches so even if there’s some truth to an iPad Pro (yuck, I hope not), it won’t show up at an iPhone event.
With that said, here’s what I’m hoping for–with the caveat that Apple almost always delivers something else–for the next iPhone:
- Wireless charging: This has shown up on Samsung phones like the S6 line and it’s a great convenience for devices that need daily charging. Granted, Apple took some of the pain of charging away with the reversible Lightning connector (something that almost all Android phones lack thanks to microUSB), but given the high degree of interest in wireless charging (you know something is mainstream when IKEA decides to back it), this one just makes sense.
- Hi-res audio support: It’s always felt a little weird that Apple, a company that pretty much single-handedly created the market for legitimate purchases of digital music downloads, has been so reticent about supporting hi-res audio formats. They don’t sell them and their iPod, iPhone and iPad devices won’t play them natively. And yet, they own Beats, a brand of luxury-priced headphones and audio accessories aimed at exactly the kind of people who would appreciate hi-res. I’d really like to see a built-in 24-bit capable DAC in the next iPhone so that music fans don’t have to resort to clunky external DAC/amp accessories just to get a better portable listening experience.
- Water resistance: While it’s true that Apple probably makes a nice little business on repeat iPhone sales thanks to its users being butterfingers around toilets and other bodies of water large and small, surely that would be eclipsed by the number of people who would happily upgrade their existing non-water resistant iPhone to one that could handle the occasional immersion in water. Now, keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be as water proof as the Sony line of Xperia phones (though man, would that be nice!)… instead, it merely needs to offer the same resistance as the budget-priced Moto G 3rd Gen which, at $199 offers better water protection than an iPhone costing 6x that amount. We just bought one for our daughter as her first phone and the price was only one consideration – the water resistance was the other.
OK, there you have it–3 features which I think would be big, beneficial improvements to the current iPhone design and which, unless I’m badly mistaken, shouldn’t even drive up the cost to Apple by a huge amount, given that some or all of them are already in-market on phones that cost less than the iPhone.
What would you like to see on the next iPhone?
This article originally appeared on CTVNews.ca
Yesterday, at an exclusive event in downtown Toronto, members of the press were invited to the official launch of two new robotic products from Parrot S.A., the French company responsible for popularizing so-called “drones” – remote controlled quad-rotor flying platforms that contain a pair of cameras capable of recording high-definition video.
The company has had enormous success with their AR.Drone (now in its second generation), having sold over 700,000 of the $350 devices since 2010. And though there has been an explosion of growth in the drone market, both in the high-end commercial segment and the budget-friendly toy segment, Parrot has maintained a decisive lead by combining high-quality components and engineering with easy-to-master controls thanks to its use of Wi-Fi equipped smartphones and tablets as the “remote.”
Parrot’s two new products, part of a line they call “MiniDrones,” follow in the footsteps of the AR.Drone. The Rolling Spider is a $119 miniature quad-rotor flying vehicle that fits in the palm of your hand. Equipped with detachable wheels that give the Spider an angry-bee-trapped-in-a-hamster-wheel appearance, it can roll along floors, up walls and along ceilings without any danger of the tiny propellers coming in contact with nearby objects. Thanks to a plethora of on-board sensors and gyros, The Rolling Spider is simple enough for a child to operate. It even has a high-res, downward-facing camera that can snap still images during flights. The rechargeable and replaceable battery is good for about 8 minutes of continuous flight. You can fly the Rolling Spider indoors or outside, but because it’s connected via Bluetooth to your phone or tablet, the operational range is limited to about 66 feet.
In practice, the Rolling Spider is a hoot to fly. Amazingly stable yet highly responsive, it emits a high-pitched whine that makes comparisons to bees, wasps or even mosquitoes more apt than to a spider. Horizontal flight is buttery-smooth while vertical lifts and drops happen incredibly fast. Irritated by a pilot who decides to fly it too close to your head? Go ahead and swat the Spider out of your way – it will right itself and continue on its flight path as though nothing had happened. We can only assume it doesn’t take such acts of aggression personally.
Parrot uses the same flight control scheme from the AR.Drone with the Rolling Spider and it is truly easy enough to learn that you can fly the Spider confidently after a few minutes of experimentation. Getting the Spider to execute an aerobatic 360 degree flip in mid-air requires nothing more than a double-tap on the smartphone’s screen.
Finally, if you can bare to separate yourself long enough from the Rolling Spider to let your kid play with it, they’ll be delighted to find that Parrot has included a set of stickers that can be used to customize the Spider’s appearance. Most of them make the Rolling Spider look like something that’s about to bite you.
Their second product in the MiniDrone line is the $179 Jumping Sumo. A quirky blend of remote-controlled car, mobile camera platform and, well, grasshopper, this two-wheeled vehicle has more in common with a Segway scooter than a garden-variety RC car. Equipped with a wide-angle front-facing camera, the Sumo can stream live video of everything it sees back to the smartphone, giving its driver a first-person perspective. The diminutive vehicle can be driven manually, using the on-screen controls and can perform impressive maneuvers such as 90 or 180-degree turns in an instant, or you can pre-program a specific route which can then be executed at the tap of the screen.
But the Jumping Sumo’s most impressive trick is, as its name suggests, the ability to jump up to three feet into the air, with a level of precision that allows experienced drivers to land it on a surface not much larger than the Sumo’s own footprint. The jumps are accomplished via a powerful, spring-loaded piston that can be primed and released in less than two seconds. Flip the Jumping Sumo “upside down” (a hard position to identify when dealing with a robot that doesn’t seem to care which way is up) and it can use the same mechanism to launch itself away from fixed objects, or “kick” loose objects out of its path. In an impressive demonstration of strength, I watched as a Parrot employee put a sizeable dent in an empty pop can using this technique.
As frightening as it sounds, Parrot has even equipped the Jumping Sumo with a “personality.” With a Furby-like set of responses, the Sumo will emit different sounds under different conditions. Perhaps most disturbing is the language Parrot uses to describe these interactions in its marketing material: “Pet its head, pat its body and it reacts to make you understand its affection for you.” Hmm. “Make you understand”… is this merely an awkward translation from French, Parrot’s native tongue, or is it a sign that we are no longer the ones who are in control? If you still have any doubts, consider this: When the Jumping Sumo finds itself in an “uncomfortable” situation, its “eyes” turn from placid green to a menacing red. Stanley Kubrick tried to warn us about artificial intelligence with red eyes…
While it’s clear that these two MiniDrones—which go on sale in August—are very much designed to be toys (parents get ready for the holiday wish-list onslaught), make no mistake, these are highly sophisticated pieces of technology that have more in common with commercial and even military drone applications than their size and price would indicate. With the exception of their operating distances, battery life and perhaps durability, these two “toys” represent cutting-edge technology.
If you’ve ever spent time wondering what your kids will be equipped to do when they enter the job market, perhaps it’s time to introduce them to a MiniDrone. It could set them up for an upwardly mobile career path in our increasingly robotic world.
See the Rolling Spider in action:
See the Jumping Sumo in action:
Yesterday’s WWDC keynote was full of surprises. It was notable not only for what it contained (updates to both iOS and OS X) but also for what it didn’t contain (no new hardware). And while most of the commentary thus far has centred around the new features of Apple’s two platforms, I think it’s worth looking a little closer at what these features mean, especially as it relates to the competition.
Blurring the lines between desktop and mobile
Have you noticed that as we’ve embraced mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, we seem to be living in an increasingly fractured world? Yes, it’s true that you can get to social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter easily from any device and there’s no noticeable difference when switching other than screen size, but what about other tasks? We’ve been forced to find workarounds to overcome the fact that our so-called desktop machines (which more and more are laptops, not true desktops) and our mobile devices don’t talk to one another. Evernote. Dropbox. Google Drive and Google Docs. Office 365. Gmail. As good and useful as these products are, they’re band-aids. They exist because mobile operating systems and their desktop equivalents have never really known how to help users transition seamlessly between them.
What’s peculiar is how accepting we users have become of this situation. Signing up for and managing a raft of products, services, accounts and passwords, all so we can keep our digital lives within easy access from whichever device we’re working on.
Well, what if all of that went away?
It starts with iCloud Drive
If I were the CEO of Dropbox, yesterday’s keynote would have sent a cold chill down my spine. That’s because Apple’s announcement of an extension to iCloud called iCloud Drive, is a direct competitor. Dropbox is great because it’s simple. It is nothing more than a place in the cloud where you can store your files, retrieve them from anywhere and share them with anyone. The problem with simple though, is that it’s easily duplicated and improved upon. Because iCloud Drive will offer the exact same feature set, but will also be a native component of both OS X and iOS, it will be easier to use than Dropbox. Especially if you work a lot in Apple’s own suite of productivity tools: Keynote, Pages and Numbers (collectively known as iWork). And while Apple’s pricing of iCloud Drive makes it more expensive on a per MB basis that Google Drive, it’s cheaper than Dropbox. Can you guess which company Apple has targeted with this move?
It continues with Handoff
Of course, simply embedding a Dropbox knock-off into the OS isn’t going to change anyone’s world overnight (well, unless you’re Dropbox’s CEO), because being able to store files in the cloud isn’t new and it wasn’t hard to do prior to iCloud Drive. It’s best to look at iCloud Drive as a highway or rail system. You need it to help people get from A to B, but without a car or train, it’s only half of the solution.
The other half is breaking down the barriers between devices. If you’re working on a proposal on your Mac using Pages and you’ve got to leave the office or home to make a meeting in an hour, why should you have to save your work and email it to yourself (if you haven’t embraced the cloud yet) or save it to Dropbox (or even iCloud) and then retrieve that document on your iPad when you’ve boarded the subway? Or what about that detailed email you were in the middle of composing but weren’t quite ready to send yet?
With Handoff—a feature that you will forget about almost as soon as you start using it—as long as you’re signed in with your Apple ID, all of these activities will follow you from one device to another, as though you had never switched at all. At launch, Handoff will work with Apple’s core apps like Mail, Safari, iWork etc., but developers will be able to add Handoff to their apps too.
Multiple, smart environments
Have you noticed the way that Microsoft put such a huge emphasis on making all of their versions of Windows 8 look and work similarly regardless whether you were using a full PC, tablet or smartphone? On the one hand, it creates a familiar environment on all of your devices. On the other hand, it completely misses the point. When it comes to smart devices, we need smart operating systems. That doesn’t mean making all of these machines operate the same way, it means designing operating systems that make using these devices as easy and simple as possible. To achieve this, function must follow form, not vice versa.
Apple clearly gets this. Instead of doing a full revamp of OS X to make it a desktop version of iOS, or trying to cram a full version of OS X onto an iPad (ahem, Microsoft Surface), it’s letting the devices themselves dictate the right user experience, while silently and invisibly connecting these disparate device in the background.
Continuity is one more reason to buy a Mac
While I absolutely believe that Apple has made these enhancements to help their customers further simplify their lives and eliminate some of the pesky irritations that our multi-device world has created, they’ve significantly strengthened the Apple ecosystem at the same time.
Because while iCloud Drive will offer easy access to cloud-stored documents for Windows users too, in order to benefit from the full package that Handoff offers, you’ll need to own Apple hardware.
And while it’s true that more and more people are beginning to work exclusively on tablets and smartphones, there’s still plenty more who want a full PC. If that’s you, and you don’t yet own a Mac, Apple’s Continuity (the name they’ve given the suite of products and services that enable this seamless switching process) is a compelling reason to buy one.
One more thing
There’s a quote attributed to Steve Jobs that “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” It’s been true of Apple’s products more often than not. The iPod, iPhone, iPad… few of these were products that customers had been shouting for ahead of their debut, and yet, once they got their hands on them, they realized they were the products they wanted. Apple’s new direction for software, in the form of Continuity, is another example of something that few people realized they needed or wanted (because we’ve all become so used to the band-aids). But I think that once people start using it, they’ll wonder how they ever got along without it.
Despite creating a beautiful, feature-rich and well thought-out wireless speaker, Sony’s SRS-X9 fails to deliver consistently high quality sound over its wireless and wired inputs.
The wireless audio phenomenon in consumer tech is huge and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. It’s into this already crowded category that Sony is throwing three new contenders for your wireless speaker dollars. The biggest and baddest of the three is the SRS-X9, a sophisticated-looking all-in-one affair that straddles the line between bookshelf speaker and home theatre sound-bar.
The SRS-X9, which retails for $699 CDN, is priced at the high end of the wireless speaker market, placing it in competition with the Sonos Play:5 ($499) or possibly the Sonos Playbar ($749) as well as offerings from Pioneer,Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Polk Audio and Marantz.
Set-up and Connectivity
As you would expect from such a device, it offers a wealth of connectivity including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, line-in (via mini-jack), Ethernet and USB. It’s also DLNA and AirPlay compatible.
Last week, I finally received my Pebble smart watch. You may recall hearing about the Pebble back in April of last year. At the time, it garnered a lot of press, not only because it was a pretty cool device being created by a small startup and not one of the major players, but also because it broke all of Kickstarter’s records to become the most funded project to-date.
The Pebble isn’t so much a new idea (the concept of a smart watch has been floating around in one form or another for years) as it is an evolution of popular notion: a watch that is less time piece and more a wearable computer, possibly as an accessory to a smartphone.
The success of the Pebble project immediately gave rise to rumours that Apple themselves had started work on a smart watch product. The idea gained instant currency because of the iPhone, and the inclusion of watch faces on the 6th generation of their iPod nano, a feature which spurred many entrepreneurs to devise watch bands for the squarish, touchscreen media player. Further fueling the fire were other smart watch projects from companies like Sony and Motorola. Surely Apple would join the fray.
Those rumours have only grown in recent weeks with talk of Apple placing orders with Corning Glass, the maker of Gorilla Glass, for curved glass lenses. It was just too much in the way of coincidence for those seeking verification of the mysterious “iWatch”.
But before we start readying our wallets and our wrists for this next magical and revolutionary product, let’s consider a few reasons why Apple might disappoint those hoping for a wearable with the famous bitten-fruit logo on the back.
1) Apple has a history of staying focused on products that fulfill needs that consumers don’t even know they have until Apple shows them the latest gadget. Though this pattern hasn’t been in evidence much lately what with a few year’s worth of purely iterative launches, an “iWatch” would need to have serious wow factor in order to meet the criteria for a new Apple product.
2) Apple doesn’t play around with niche products. With the possible exception of the Mac Pro, all of Apple’s current line of devices are mass market crowd pleasers. Nowhere is this more apparent than the iPhone and iPad, each of which has recorded sales in the millions of devices annually since launch. An Apple watch would be a risky play. Yes, most people wear watches. But no one company dominates the watch market. It is heavily commoditized and new styles appear every day. Watches have become fashion accessories, even amongst men, with plenty of folks owning more than one and switching up the watch they wear according to outfit they’re wearing or the event or activity they’re participating in. A smart watch wouldn’t be very helpful if you weren’t wearing it, and if you are wearing it, you’re not wearing another watch at the same time. So it had better be VERY helpful if it’s going to be the last watch you ever put on. Apple’s ability to design beautiful devices is the stuff of legend but they have never had to design a device that by its very nature, is a part of a person’s wardrobe. Phones are returned to pockets or purses when not in use. Tablets, laptops, media players are merely tools. Yes, it helps if they look appealing but it isn’t mandatory. A watch is a different story altogether. Can Apple or any company for that matter design one that will be appealing to both sexes, complimentary to – or at least not detracting from – most outfits, and still offer that wow factor I mentioned earlier? If the answer is no, Apple has a problem. Because they need to sell millions of their iWatch. The 80,000 that Pebble racked up won’t even pay for the software this thing will run.
3) Battery life is a major concern. It’s bad enough that iPhones and almost every other smartphone on the planet require charging every 24 hours or less depending on usage. But we’re reasonably content to go through this exercise in exchange for the seemingly endless number of ways these devices improve our lives. Could the same be said of an iWatch? Right now, unless you own a Pebble or one of the handful of other smartwatches on the market, you probably only think about what keeps your watch running every few years when the battery finally dies. Is the mass market ready for watches that are as high maintenance as phones? Again, the answer depends on just how useful this device turns out to be. Keep in mind, the more wonderful a watch like this is, the more power it will consume. Even the Pebble, with its monochrome e-paper display and limited processing power requires charging every 7 days according to the company’s claims – it’s probably more frequent in the real world. If an iWatch is a colour, touchscreen device with Bluetooth (all very likely specs) we can expect to have to charge it at least once every 48 hours – possibly more if it displays a watch face 24/7.
Now that I’ve thrown cold water in the whole iWatch idea, it’s probably worth mentioning that such a device would have to offer at least a minimal amount of water resistance, if not the ability to withstand showers and the occasional dip in a pool. The Pebble can do this and it drastically increases the likelihood that owners will wear it during key activities like working out.
Bottom line: I don’t think Apple is going to be launching an ‘iWatch’ anytime soon.
So what about that whole curved-glass thing? Am I saying that was all just B.S.? Not necessarily.
When it comes to curves in the Apple design language, they seem reserved for the corners. Keyboards, mice, iMacs, iPads – heck even Apple TVs all have curved or rounded corners. But the screens on these devices? Flat. Very flat.
The only product that I can remember ever possessing a curved glass screen was the 4th and 5th generation iPod nanos. They were gorgeous devices, with a double-curved body (thus the need for a curved lens for the screen) and a built-in camera on the 5th gen. Interestingly, this was the last of the non-touchscreen nanos.
But there’s one other product that Apple still makes that features a very similar double-curved body. The Apple remote. It ships with the Apple TV and is a delightfully understated chunk of solid aluminum with a simple set of controls embedded in the top, curved surface.
So bear with me now, because here comes the crystal-ball part: What if Apple is nearing completion of its heavily rumoured yet still unannounced next-gen Apple TV product?
Much has been speculated with regard to this theoretical product, mostly because of the tantalizing quote from Walter Isaacson’s bio of Steve Jobs in which he said:
I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use […] It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.
Words like those are hard to dismiss. While I’m still not convinced that Apple is ready to market an actual TV set, I strongly suspect that they are hard at work on the next generation of remote control. If I’m right, it will share much of its physical DNA with the existing Apple remote, but with a much more advanced set of capabilities. It will need a screen. That screen will be curved.
If that doesn’t seem like a stretch, this next part ought to get you questioning my sanity:
That curved screen will not be touch-sensitive. I know, crazy right?
But here’s the thing with using touchscreen devices for remote controls: they suck.
A really great remote becomes an extension of your arm. You can leverage its most commonly used functions like changing the channel or muting the volume without ever looking down at the device. Touchscreens simply can’t deliver that kind of experience. You need buttons. Well-placed, well-shaped, buttons.
If you’ve used the existing Apple remote, you know what I mean. The raised surface of the round directional ring, the slightly depressed design of the centre enter key, and a similar difference in tactility between the menu and play/pause buttons – these elements combine to make the Apple remote a device that you never need to look at. Within minutes of picking it up for the first time, your thumb knows exactly where it need to go.
I predict that Apple’s next TV product will combine this kind of superb blind-operation with a display capable of giving you more information when you want it.
Now if you’d like a rumour to back up this wild speculation, here it is: Apple is supposedly in talks to acquire Loewe, a high end European consumer electronics company that builds HDTVs and – you guessed it – remotes with built-in screens. The rumour has been circulating since mid-2012, and just like rumours of an Apple TV product, it refuses to die.
Okay, your turn… does this all sound like a reasonable interpretation of what we know so far or should I be paying my doctor a visit for a re-evaluation of my meds?
Feature image credit: Gizmag.com
Today, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced two major departures from the company’s senior management.
SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall will be leaving the company sometime next year, as will SVP of Retail Operations John Browett who had only recently joined the company, replacing the man who pioneered the Apple Store and Genius Bar concepts, Ron Johnson.
While Browett’s departure likely won’t signify big changes for Apple’s products since retail is a secondary focus for the company, Forstall’s influence has been significant.
Forstall was the person behind the development of the iPhone’s software – now known as iOS – software which powers the vast majority of the products that Apple sells from a revenue point of view. If you’ve ever swiped, tapped or downloaded an app on one of Apple’s iPhones, iPods or iPads, you’ve experienced Forstall’s work.
And though there’s no question that iOS has been an unqualified success, lately there has been a certain amount of criticism that its user interface is stuck in the past, supposedly suffering from its reliance on skeuomorphism. That is the $100 word which designer-types use to describe software elements like icons, which resemble their real-world counterparts. One famous example is the faux leather-and-stitching that is visible around the border of Apple’s Calendar app. This skeuomorphism has been a hallmark of Apple’s software design language for years, and the practice can be credited with giving all of Apple’s technology a friendly, approachable look that places people immediately at ease, thereby reducing any stress or anxiety that might come as a result of using an unfamiliar gadget. This success notwithstanding, it has been reported by some sources that this element of graphic design is not viewed by everyone at Apple with the same enthusiasm.
Some tech bloggers, most notably Sam Biddle at Gizmodo, have openly criticized Apple’s ongoing use of skeuomorphism, while his colleague Jesus Diaz, suggested that Apple’s SVP of Industrial Design, Sir Jony Ive, was no fan of the practice either.
Forstall’s exit from Apple could signify a victory of sorts for Ive. According to GigaOm’s Erica Ogg, he will “become responsible for a new Human Interface.” Of course, there’s also a chance that Fortsall is being made to pay a hefty price for the decision to launch Apple’s in-house Maps app, before it was ready-for-primetime.
Here is the full press release from Apple:
Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services
Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi Add Responsibilities to Their Roles
MARKHAM, Ontario—October 29, 2012—Apple today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.
“We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple’s history,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The amazing products that we’ve introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services.”
Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design. His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade.
Eddy Cue will take on the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps, placing all of our online services in one group. This organization has overseen major successes such as the iTunes Store, the App Store, the iBookstore and iCloud. This group has an excellent track record of building and strengthening Apple’s online services to meet and exceed the high expectations of our customers.
Craig Federighi will lead both iOS and OS X. Apple has the most advanced mobile and desktop operating systems, and this move brings together the OS teams to make it even easier to deliver the best technology and user experience innovations to both platforms.
Bob Mansfield will lead a new group, Technologies, which combines all of Apple’s wireless teams across the company in one organization, fostering innovation in this area at an even higher level. This organization will also include the semiconductor teams, who have ambitious plans for the future.
Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple. A search for a new head of Retail is underway and in the interim, the Retail team will report directly to Tim Cook. Apple’s Retail organization has an incredibly strong network of leaders at the store and regional level who will continue the excellent work that has been done over the past decade to revolutionize retailing with unique, innovative services for customers.
Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.
Could this be the start of a whole new look to Apple’s software, on all of their devices? It certainly looks that way.
Sync readers, do you feel it’s time for a change in Apple’s software, or are you happy with the current look & feel?
Revere him or revile him, there’s no denying that Steve Jobs was one of the most influential people of his generation. The mark he made on computing, consumer electronics, music and film was enormous and his influence will likely be felt by all of these industries for years to come.
Today is October 5, 2012, one year since Steve Jobs passed away from complications relating to his fight with pancreatic cancer.
As a tribute to their fallen leader, Apple has created a fitting memorial in video form – a highlight reel of Jobs’ biggest accomplishments during his time at the company he founded, accompanied by some of his more memorable quotes and a hauntingly beautiful cello soundtrack performed by one of Jobs’ favourite musicians, Yo-Yo Ma.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO since Jobs’ death, added his thoughts to the Apple.com homepage today:
Steve’s passing one year ago today was a sad and difficult time for all of us. I hope that today everyone will reflect on his extraordinary life and the many ways he made the world a better place.
One of the greatest gifts Steve gave to the world is Apple. No company has ever inspired such creativity or set such high standards for itself. Our values originated from Steve and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. We share the great privilege and responsibility of carrying his legacy into the future.
I’m incredibly proud of the work we are doing, delivering products that our customers love and dreaming up new ones that will delight them down the road.
It’s a wonderful tribute to Steve’s memory and everything he stood for.
[Video/photo credit: Apple Inc.]
Early predictions for the iPhone 5 were nothing short of miraculous, with some analysts going on record with a sales target of 10 million units sold in the first 30 days. Others went so far as to suggest the mighty iPhone would contribute a whopping 0.5% to the entire U.S. GDP. Keep in mind, we’re talking about a phone here, an expensive one at that, and thus not a necessity for anyone. I agreed that there was pent-up demand for Apple’s latest device, but these numbers seemed liked hype and not reality.
But I’m beginning to think the bulls were right.
TechCrunch is reporting that today, as pre-orders for the iPhone began at midnight, the demand for the iPhone 5 obliterated the previous sales records set by the iPhone 4 and 4S. Unlike the older models which took 20 and 22 hours respectively to sell-out of Apple’s first week stock, the iPhone 5 hit this milestone after 60 minutes.
Now, we need to be somewhat circumspect with our amazement, after all, only Apple knows the true number of units this represents. It’s quite conceivable that they simply had fewer units available for the September 21st launch date than with their previous models. And yet, there’s no question, despite lacking a single big “wow” factor feature, the iPhone 5 is likely going to be the most popular iPhone yet.
Update, September 17: Looks like the early reports of sell-outs weren’t just the result of low-inventory. Apple says that the iPhone 5 shattered the previous first day-sales record for an iPhone – the company sold more than 2 million units in the first 24 hours. That’s nearly double the amount of iPhone 4S units sold in the same period post-launch.
If you’re a Canadian looking to hop on the iPhone bandwagon, we’ve got good news: The $199 starting price quoted by Apple at their launch event on Wednesday is the U.S. contract price. Here in Canada, with our longer 3-year terms, the starting price is a little lower: $179 for a three-year term with all of the major carriers.
There’s not much to say when you look at the graphic above – other than a) There is indeed going to be an Apple event on September 12th, and b) it’s a virtual lock that at least one of the product announcements will be the next generation of the iPhone – which I think we can agree based on the shadow numeral above – will be called the iPhone 5.
Will there be other announcements such as the heavily rumoured smaller, iPad Mini? Or more details on the shadowy presence of an improved Apple TV? We’ll let you know as soon as we know!
I’ve got some bad news for folks who are expecting the next iPhone – widely predicted to be launching next month – to be a total ground-up redesign of the iconic smartphone. It won’t be.
But I’ve also got some good news: It doesn’t need to be.
Take a look at these photos pulled together by Chinese repair shop iLab. They tell a story of an iPhone that is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Surprised? Don’t be. This, for the foreseeable future is going to be Apple’s approach to their existing products.
Here’s why I think Apple will be “doubling down” – to employ an over-used expression – on their established formulas instead of ushering in completely new devices.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it
The first iPhone was a surprise. Not just to the industry but to Apple as well. They knew they had created something that was different and unique, but the degree to which consumers started rabidly buying up the iPhone was a shock – even the iPod, Apple’s most successful product in terms of sales, had never enjoyed this degree of enthusiasm.
After that, the course was set. Apple’s belief in the power of an all-touchscreen device and the versatility of downloadable apps had been vindicated by consumer demand. From here on in, the challenge was to find ways to improve on that formula, without disrupting what had become the hallmarks of iPhone’s design language.
Faster chips, better screens, a sleeker case design, better software, improved cameras… each and every part of the iPhone has undergone incremental improvements while maintaining an experience that would be as familiar to an owner of a first generation device as it would to someone whose first iPhone was the 4S.
Especially when you consider that a) the iPhone 4 and 4S have been ridiculously successful despite being identical on the outside, and b) nearly every Android phone on the market is simply a variation on Apple’s design, what would compel Apple to rethink their most profitable product along dramatically different new lines?
Just Enough To Make You Want One
These photos have already garnered criticism amongst Apple die-hards. They feel the design isn’t revolutionary enough, given how similar it looks to the current iPhone. But by now, these people should know that Apple prefers to tweak successful designs instead of reinventing them. Here’s how the next iPhone will offer up improvements over the current model:
– Slightly bigger screen. Apple already has one of the best mobile screens on the planet, so the trick will be to give it more real-estate without compromising the measurements of the phone itself which Apple spent a great deal of time and money developing. You’ll notice that the home button now has a little less breathing room above and below it, and the FaceTime camera has been relocated above the ear-piece speaker grille from its current side-car location. These changes, plus a slight lengthening of the phone’s body itself could yield a small but nonetheless noticeable increase in overall screen real estate. The current size is 3.5″ diagonal. A new iPhone could hit 3.9-4.0″ with the re-jigged design.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple manages to bump the specs of the screen too. Better contrast, better brightness, better off-angle viewing? All likely. It doesn’t take a lot to make a screen better when compared to an earlier model. When Apple released the iPad 2, they didn’t even mention that the screen was better than the first iPad – yet to anyone looking at it, it was obvious that they had made some improvements.
– 4G LTE. 4G, or LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the latest standard in high-speed data connectivity for mobile phones. Where supported by carriers, it enabled speeds of up to 150Mbps which is significant leap over the previous 3G standard. As such, this one is the most obvious feature for the next iPhone. The new iPad already has it, and given the increasingly wide-spread availability of the new high-speed wireless standard, it’s time for the iPhone to get the new technology too.
– Bigger, longer-lasting battery. Increasing the size of the case doesn’t just allow for a bigger screen, it means a bigger space for the battery too. And if the next iPhone is going to have LTE, it will need a bigger battery. LTE is fairly power-hungry technology and presumably Apple doesn’t want battery life to suffer. So while the next iPhone may last longer between charges if you restrict it to 3G, running LTE will probably result in the same life you’re used to now.
– NFC. NFC or Near Field Communication is a relatively new technology which lets devices communicate with one another over very short distances, without using WiFi or Bluetooth. In mobile phones, NFC can be used to let people “tap to share” (e.g. photos or web links) or “tap to connect” (instead of needing to configure a Bluetooth speaker – just tap it), but the biggest feature of NFC is its ability to enable mobile wallet applications. This is how you can pay for purchases using nothing but your smartphone at retailers that can accept NFC payments. NFC on the next iPhone might be a long-shot, especially given that the technology has so far been very slow to be adopted at retail in North America. However, it is progressing and there’s no question that if Apple wants to play in the digital wallet space as they undoubtedly do, NFC is pretty much mandatory.
– Smaller, possibly mag-safe-based dock connector. There have been far too may rumours pointing to this: The new iPhone will absolutely have a new, smaller dock connector. Yes, that will mean that all existing docks and accessories will now require adapters in order to work with the next iPhone, but the 30-pin dock connector is now 10 years old and wireless technologies like Bluetooth and AirPlay have made it largely unnecessary for anything other than charging. A smaller connector also means they can now move the audio-jack to the bottom of the phone.
– Audio jack on the bottom. Why does this even matter? Well, for folks who never use the jack, it doesn’t matter at all. But those who do will have noticed that it is kind of inconvenient to stick your iPhone in your pocket with the bottom of the phone facing down. Not only do you have to flip the phone around when you pull it out, but it’s much harder to reach for the home button quickly. And given the importance Apple has placed on Siri, being able to grab that home button when you’re on the go is definitely a benefit.
– A little thinner. The newest Android phones from HTC and Samsung have put an emphasis on ever thinner dimensions. The next iPhone will lose a few millimetres too. Take a close look at the photos above. They clearly show that the metal sides (which double as the phone’s antennas) will be bevelled and the front and back surfaces will sit flush to the edge. The current design is 9.3mm thick, with at least a millimetre or two of front and back surface extending beyond the metal rim. The new iPhone could easily come in at 7mm or less. Given that the world record holder, the Oppo Finder comes in at an anorexic 6.65mm, 7mm seems realistic for a new iPhone.
– Another spec bump on the processor, possibly to quad-core, and more memory. This will be mostly to keep pace with the rest of the industry and because faster chips means more powerful applications – the life-blood of the iPhone post-sale revenue.
Am I convinced that these photos are 100% what the new iPhone will look like? No. There are a few details that don’t seem right:
– The power/wake button at the top looks like it has almost no height to it at all, which would make it difficult to press.
– In picture 6, it looks as though the front face of the phone starts flush with the metal sides at the top of the phone but then progressively ramps away from the sides as it meets the bottom edge. That definitely seems out of place. It may be that the folks who assembled this mockup didn’t fit the pieces together quite right.
– There are visible seams where the top and bottom pieces of the phone meet the back plate. Given that Apple went to great lengths to make the current design nearly seamless, I can’t imagine they would now be ok with seams. But this could easily be a pre-production mockup, with the final product getting a much smoother finish.
– There is a strange, small hole sitting between the LED light and the rear camera lens. It could be a mic, and I’d place bets that’s what it is, but why is it there? The current design doesn’t employ such a visible mic so it’s hard to imagine why the new design calls for it to be so prominent.
These reservations aside, I think we are looking at the next iPhone. It’s a design that is in keeping with Apple doing what they do best: Give owners of an iPhone 4 or older model a strong reason to upgrade once they’re free of their contract, while not making people who just bought an iPhone 4S feel like they’re the proud owners of obsolete technology. This iterative, evolutionary approach to their product development can be seen across Apple’s line of devices and the next iPhone will follow this model.
Now, in case you’re sitting there feeling glum that Apple won’t be surprising and delighting you with a new, magical and revolutionary product come the fall, don’t fret just yet.
There’s still plenty of reason to think that Apple will finally make good on its much-rumoured move into the HDTV space, plus we keep getting hints of a new, smaller iPad model. This may yet shape up to be one of Apple’s most interesting years.