Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Little Something to Share Event

Apple sent out invites to the press and in an atypical move decided to live stream the event. I certainly hope they continue to do this going forward. It makes it much easier for me to cover as a blogger. They started with the numbers. More than 5 million iPhones were sold on opening weekend. Over 200 million devices are running iOS 6, making it the fastest upgrade rate in history. Over 125 million documents have been uploaded and stored in the cloud in the last year. iMessage users have sent 300 billion messages in the last year. Currently iMessage averages about 28,000 messages per second. Over 70 million photos shared with Photo Stream sharing. Finally in the area of numbers Mac has out grown PC for six straight years. Apple now has the number one desktop and the number one notebook computer in the US. Apple has also been rated number one in satisfaction and reliability. In new news Apple is releasing a new version of iBooks for the iPad. In addition to the traditional page turn they have now added a continuous scroll option for those who would prefer vertical scrolling. Ties to iCloud have been improved with better bookmark syncing and the ability to update books. Also with new social media features quotes can be shared with Twitter and Facebook. iBooks also now has support for 40 languages. Also iBooks Author has been updated with additional themes and the ability to embed fonts. Apple started with revving the 13” Macbook Pro dropping one pound of weight, adding dual microphones, dual Thunderbolt, and USB 3 ports. Also adding a Retina Display to the line up and tossing in an HDMI port. Now apple has two Retina Display notebooks in the lineup making them both the highest resolution laptops made. The 13” display has a resolution of 2560x1600 with four times the pixels as the previous model. The new display has a 178 degree viewing angle, and with the new laminating process glare is reduced by 75%. The 13” comes with an Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics card and no discrete graphics card like its 15” sibling. The new 13” has shed some weight, thickness and the optical drive. The updated Mac mini gets the Ivy Bridge architecture with an Intel HD Graphics 4000 card, USB 3, up to 1TB hard drive or 256GB of Flash storage, and Bluetooth was upgraded to 4.0. Entry price $599 and the server version is $999 with 2 1TB hard drives. The Mac mini is the most energy efficient desktop made today. The iMac is truly a thin, fast, and drool worthy machine. Sporting an incredibly thin 5mm edge and utilizing a process called friction stir welding to fuse the back and chin of the machine together. Friction stir welding is apparently a method used in aero space, and other industries. Also by making the screen thinner and removing the air gap between the glass and the LCD panel improves color, reduces glare, and makes the over all image look better. To top it off Apple is now color calibrating each individual panel in the factory. Finally they have added dual microphones to the iMac for beam forming. The system supports up to 32GB of RAM and up to a 3TB hard drive or 768 GB of Flash. The Apple Fusion Drive is a build to order option on the new iMac. It pairs a 128 GB Flash drive and 1 to 3 TB of spinning storage to take advantage of the speed gains of SSD while keeping the large capacities of traditional hard drives. There is some software magic going on under the hood with this device. According to Apple Mountain Lion evaluates and moves programs and data between the flash storage and the hard drive to optimize performance. According to the benchmark numbers the Apple Fusion drive is only slightly slower than an SSD alone. Hopefully it will be nothing like the disappointing hybrid drives we have seen from Seagate. Finally even with more power and a brighter screen Apple has managed to reduce the power consumption of the iMac by 50%. 100 million iPads have been sold since the launch of iPad in 2010. 2,500 schools are using iBooks in their curriculum as replacements for standard text books. Over 80% of the High School Core curriculum is now available on iBooks. Apple introduced a minor update to iBooks Author to include embedding of fonts, new templates, a mathematical expressions module and multi-touch widgets. The iBooks app itself now includes updates so books can be updated after they have been downloaded to a device. In a stunning move Apple introduced a 4th generation iPad just seven months after the launch of the retina iPad 3rd generation. With a beefed up A6X CPU, improved graphics chip, FaceTime HD Camera, expanded LTE capabilities, improved wifi performance using MIMO, and sporting the new compact lightning connector. It doesn’t seem like a huge update just an incremental change mostly aimed at getting rid of the aging dock connector. The new 4th generation iPad is priced at the same price point as the previous iPad. Also new adapters were announced a USB, Secure Digital, HDMI, and VGA to lightning connectors. No surprise at all is the new iPad Mini. With an all new design it is as thin as a pencil and weighs the same as a pad of paper at .68 lbs. LIke the iPhone it is available in white/silver or black/slate. It is a 7.9” diagonal screen with a resolution of 1024x768. It is the same pixel count as the iPad 2 in a smaller form factor. This is a 162 pixel per inch display which isn’t quiet retina. It seems strange as Apple pushes retina displays into every product the newest one is missing a retina screen. It is also interesting they didn’t take the opportunity to make the Mini-iPad a 16:9 screen. It was never mentioned if either of the new iPads contain beam forming microphones to improve performance of audio pickup for Siri and dictation. All new Apple products in the handheld or tablet categories are at least coming with Siri.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

iPhone 5 in The Real World

I have now been carrying an iPhone 5 for several weeks now of real world work and reading the evaluations of others. First of all as Apple is prone to hyperbole when promoting its products and Apple users tend to have very high expectations and Apple critics tend to be hyper critical. This tends to create an echo chamber of comments that exacerbate complaints that have merit and create ones that don’t. Just the other day I was in a local electronics store and listened to the sales girl behind the counter tell a customer she didn’t want to trade up an iPhone 3Gs to an iPhone 5 because the maps were terrible. This customer had an investment in apps and the sales person was pressing her to look at other phones. I asked the sales girl. Have you used an iPhone 5 yet? She told me honestly no, everything she was sharing was just what she heard. I pulled my phone out and showed them how it worked. Once the sales girl actually held my phone and played with it a little she changed her tune. Now the customer still couldn’t buy the iPhone 5 because the store didn’t have any in stock which likely had more to do with why the sales girl was steering this person away from an iPhone 5 than anything else. Maps PastedGraphic-2012-10-14-15-05.pngMaps should not have been advertised as the best mapping system ever. It is a good mapping system don’t get me wrong and I have been using it for weeks, using my car navigation, Google Maps, and Apple Maps together. So far in both cities I have tested it in the mapping system and turn-by-turn works fine in the areas I tested. The integration with Siri makes it easier to get direction and it seems as though the iPhone 5 uses far less power when giving turn-by-turn directions. The mapping system also includes a report a problem button on the settings page. If a user fiends a problem they can report it and it will be fixed. A week after launch Tim Cook issued an apology for the issues with the iPhone maps suggested a few alternatives for users while Apple Maps is being worked on. Apple has acquired several companies and worked years on this new mapping system. It will improve over time. I think most users complaints stem from becoming so dependent on mapping apps on our devices. We need it to work, work well, and work every time. The 3D features are stunning and the 3D renderings of building footprints is helpful when navigating. The other huge loss was mass transit direction built into Google Maps. When requesting mass transit directions Apple Maps lists the apps that have the information and allow you to download and install them. The best feature has to be the information card that includes Address, Phone number, and Yelp information with beautiful photographs and subtle Tim Burns effects and dissolves making the cards feel elegant. Battery Life PastedGraphic1-2012-10-14-15-05.pngFor the first few days with my new phone it seemed like the battery didn’t perform as well as my older phone. That could have been due to using it more as I explored the new features or older apps needing upgrades to make it work well with iOS6. It could also have been due to the lack of lighting cables available to charge the iPhone. I heard reports of people who said they had gone two days without recharging. I never got that kind of life with my iPhone 4 but I could make it through a normal usage day if I recharged while at my desk or used a Mophie Juicepak when charging times are not available. Now with extra cables lying around and recharging at random intervals when I am not using my iPhone it seems as though I have plenty of battery power now. It will still be nice to have a Mophie Juicepak again when Mophie makes one for lightning connectors. Scratches People have been testing phone by scratching them with keys dropping them etc and with mixed results. I haven’t put a case in my phone, I just put it in my pocket and get it when I need it. So far I haven’t had any scratches or scuffs. Their have been a number of reports of nicks in the aluminum from drops exposing the natural aluminum under the anodized coating. We carry these devices with us more than just about anything else and it is bound to get scratches and scuffed over time. The iPhone also looks like a piece of art and we want to protect it and keep it looking nice. So far it has been durable and I have no complaints in that area. Dock connector PastedGraphic2-2012-10-14-15-05.pngDropping the 9 year old 30 pin dock for the 80% smaller 8 pin lighting connector to me isn’t about obsolescence or making us buy more devices. After all most of the dock items that are sold are sold by third parties and not Apple. I believe this was a technology decision to make the devices thinner and more user friendly by making the cables reversible. With all of the options to sync wireless, use airplay, iCloud we have plenty of ways to get data on and off our device and the lightning connector is mostly for charging. It is however digital and we might be surprised with what we see come from lightning in the next few years. Speed PastedGraphic3-2012-10-14-15-05.pngBetween the 5 Ghz 802.11n, the faster CPU, and LTE wireless, this is by far the fastest smart phone I have ever used. Page loads are faster, apps open faster, it is a pleasure to use. The iPhone 5 feels so much more responsive and capable I have tried things with it I haven’t attempted before. On Oct 13th I gave a presentation at the Las Vegas Mac Uses Group delivering the presentation from my iPhone. Using an Apple TV hooked up to the projector I was able to deliver a full keynote presentation right from my phone. To demo features of iOS I would occasionally drop out of the presentation and show the mirrored desktop. Walk users through a feature and then quickly jump back into my presentation right where I left off. This is an impressive feat for any smart phone and unthinkable just a few years ago. Camera PastedGraphic4-2012-10-14-15-05.pngIt is the best smart phone camera I have used and with each iPhone has gotten progressively better. Panorama’s are simple to shoot just tap on options and choose panorama from the camera app. When shooting video simply tapping on the camera button while recording let’s you take great stills at the same time. No more choosing between shooting video or taking still photos. The resolution is now equivalent to my aging DSLR and since the iPhone is always with me it is now the only camera I regularly use. Overall we have come to expect a lot from Apple products and when we feel Apple didn’t deliver we don’t just feel let down as users. We seem to experience betral and that leads to the negative press the iPhone 5 has gotten. Despite the naysayers iPhone 5’s are flying off the shelves and millions of users are happy with their device. It is no more of an evolution than a revolution but the devices is more useful and more capable than all the ones before it. If you are using an iPhone 4s it is a good phone. Wait for your contract to end and upgrade. If you are using an iPhone 4 or older this is a massive upgrade. In two years when the iPhone 7 is out I am sure those of us who enjoy our iPhone 5 today will be ready to upgrade.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

iPhone 5 Announecment

On Wednesday the 14th Apple held a press conference to roll out some new products that users have been eagerly for some time. First of course they had to start with the stats of the new Apple Stores like the new one that just opened in Barcelona Spain in a building restored using local limestone. Now being the total stores to 380 in 12 countries along with the announcement of one coming soon to Sweden making it the 13th country to get Apple Stores.

Mountain Lion the 9th Major Release of the Mac OS and the first with iCloud built right in. PC Mag rated it as the Best Consumer OS ever. With over 7 million copies installed since the launch at the end of July.

Apple has been #1 in notebook market share for the last three months. As of July they had a 27% market share in portables. That is a year over year growth of 15% where PC’s only grew at about 2% annually making this the 6th year in a row that Apple has grown faster than the rest of the industry.

The new iPad has also been a hit with 17 Million iPads sold in the April - June timeframe. With a total of 84 million iPads sold through June. Last year Apple had a tablet market share of 62%. With all the new tablets being introduced they have grown to a 68% market share. iPad also accounts for 91% of all tablet web traffic with 94% of Fortune 500 companies now testing or deploying iPads. Enterprise’s have also started investing in building custom apps for their businesses.

The app store now hosts over 700,000 apps and 250,000 of them designed for the iPad. 90% of those apps are downloaded every month and the average customer is using over 100 applications. I have over 400 apps installed on my phone and use probably two dozen of them daily, another couple dozen weekly and a handful when I travel.

To date Apple has sold more than 400 million iOS devices and now they have unveiled there next iPhone.

The first iPhone was released in 2007. It was hailed as a breakthrough that changed the mobile phone industry. Time magazine called it the Innovation of the year “The phone that has changed phones forever.” The first iPhone was a huge shift in smart phones. Since I got my first iPhone 3G I couldn’t imagine doing my job, traveling or living without my smart phone now. It has truly made me more accessible and allows me to do my job from anywhere.

Apple announced iPhone was the number 1 selling smart phone. It is undoubtedly the hottest selling phone around selling more than any other single Android handset. But Apple battles back and forth holding about half of the smartphone market against Android and Windows phone.

Beautiful Display

The iPhone 5 is all glass and aluminum and looks amazing. It is the thinnest and lightest phone Apple has made weighing in 112 grams and being on 7.6 mm thick. The Retina Display is still 326 pip with a 1136x640 with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This will be great for watching movies and looking and in portrait mode reading longer documents. The phone is no wider than the original iPhone allowing it to still be usable while being held in one hand. It adds an extra row of icons great for those who use lots of apps and in landscape mode the calendar shows a five day view of your appointments.

All Apple apps have been updated to take advantage of the new display. If you have an app you like that isn’t optimized for the new display not to worry. Apps are now letter boxedd and centered nicely on the screen so they still look great. I would imagine the effect is much more subtle on the black phone than on the white model due to the blending of the black bezel with the black letter boxing on the screen. As far as color goes with the touch sensors integrated into the screen not only is the device thinner but the color saturation is 44% better making it compliant with the SRGB color spec and making the screen sharper and reducing glare.

Ultrafast Wireless

With this phone for the first time any company has integrated GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HDSPA, and LTE into a single chip, single radio, and created a dynamic antenna system. This is huge for a phone and I am sure other manufactures will start copying this as fast as they can. Not only does it make for a smaller phone but it allows one phone to work anywhere in the world on any carrier. So when might we see iPhone officially on T-Mobile? I am guessing end of the year.

In addition to the wireless tech the iPhone 5 is also getting 802.11 a/b/g/n running at both 2.54 Ghz and 5 Ghz. Moving our phones out of the very crowded 2.4 Ghz band and into the 5Ghz is sure to bring some performance improvements.

Performance

Apple’s new A6 System on a Chip sports:

2x CPU
2x Graphics
22% smaller and reduced power usage

All this means that apps load twice as fast on average and brings enough power to the iPhone to compete with console gaming systems. interactive.

Battery LIfe

All this extra power and connectivity should cost battery but according to Apple it doesn’t. The new iPhone battery allows for 8 hours of talk time, 8 hours of 3G or LTE browsing, 10 hours of Wifi, or 40 hours of music play back. We won’t know for sure until we get them in the real world but Apple is usually pretty close on the estimates for battery life. I wonder how much the newer GPS apps will drain the battery. You may want to order a new Mophie Juicepak when they are released.

iSight Camera

8 megapixel camera with a 3264 x 2448 resolution, backside illuminated sensor, IR filter, five element precision aligned lens and a sapphire crystal lens cover. This combined with a next generation image signal processor, spatial noise reduction and smart filter that can determine what should have texture like a wall and what shouldn’t have texture like the sky will take amazing photos. The iPhone could replace many people’s point and shoot cameras. Of course as all photographers tell me the best camera in the world is the one you have with you and who ever leaves home without their iPhone? The camera also shoots 1080p HD video, with improved stabilization, face detection, and you can now take pictures while recording video. The front camera has been upgraded to 720p and a backside illuminated sensor. The camera app has been upgraded to take faster pictures and includes a panorama mode to take 28 megapixel images automatically stitched together and automatically removes echo artifacts from the image.

Apple has also announced FaceTime will now work over cellular.

Enhanced Audio

The iPhone 5 has three microphones one on front, one on back, and one on the bottom. This allows the phone to use beam forming to enhance noise cancelation and improve speech recognition performance. The speakers have been upgraded with a five magnet transducer to enhance sound reproduction and a new noise canceling ear-piece. Apple is also including a new technology called wide-band audio to make calls sound more natural. Think of it has high definition for your ears. The wide-band audio does require carrier support and so far it hasn’t been announced which carriers are rolling it out.

Connector

In 2003 Apple introduced the 30 pin dock connector. Nine years was a good run for the connector but for the phone to evolve the connector had to change. Today the iPhone has bluetooth, wifi, airplay, wifi syncing and the iCloud to get data in and out of the phone. Apple has changed the old 30 pin analog dock connector a to a new digital 8 pin, durable, reversible, and 80% smaller connector called lightning. As many of you undoubtedly have many devices that use the dock connector don’t worry Apple is also selling an adapter that will convert lightning to a 30 pin dock connector to allow you to continue to use your legacy dock devices.

This adapter isn’t cheap at $29.99 but it does include electronics built in that convert the digital lightning signals into the analog 30 pin dock signals required by older devices.

iOS 6

Next up was another look at iOS 6. Maps have been built from ground up to use vectors for smooth transitions with new info cards that include Yelp reviews and photos. The new maps app also has free turn by turn directions. The Maps app includes 3D turn by turn directions with cinematic camera angles. The foot prints of buildings are correct making it easier to identify where you are heading.

What’s missing from maps? Well there are no mass transit directions in the new maps app. Which is a huge omission for regular travelers to other cities who like to use mass transit or for city dwellers who like to use Google Maps to get bus and train schedules.

The updated Notification Center now includes rapt to tweet or post to Facebook widgets.

Safari has a full screen mode to fill the display and allows you to open your tabs on other computers from your iOS device with iCloud Tabs. Left a browser open at work and need to access a tab? Just grab your iOS device and pick up where you left off.

Mail now includes a VIP feature to collect messages from those who are important to you in one location and to allow your device to let you know when an important message arrives and not when the lower priority emails come in. You can now also flag emails easily in iOS.

Passbook allows a user to collect all their passes in once place. keep your movie tickets, board passes, coupons store cards, baseball tickets, and concert tickets in one place. Passbook also integrates with the lock screen so the appropriate pass is loaded when you arrive at the airport. This sounds like a great feature but looking at it over the last two days it has not been obvious how to use it just yet. We may have to wait for app developers to update apps for this feature to become more useful.

Siri is getting smarter learning more about sports, movies, and now being able to launch apps for you. She can now find movies at nearby theaters and sort them by review ratings. Siri can find restaurants and make reservations using Open Table. Siri can even post on Facebook on your behalf.

The iPhone 5 comes in black/slate and white/aluminum finishes. Apple has also changed pricing on the iPhones slightly. Bumping the top end phone to 64GB of storage and keeping the 4s and 4 in the lineup.

free with contract        iPhone 4 8GB
$99                                iPhone 4s 16GB
$199                        iPhone 5 16 GB
$299                         iPhone 5 32 GB
$399                         iPhone 5 64 GB

iPhone 5 will launch in 100 countries with 240 carriers by the end of the year. Making this the fastest iPhone launch ever.

Preorders started last friday. Within 1 hour before ship dates slipped to 1 to 2 weeks. As of this writing it was at 2-3 weeks.
In Store pickup starts on Friday 21st at 8:00 AM.

Music

Apple has also made significant upgrades in the land of music. The music store now has 26 million songs in the catalog and customers have bought over 20 billion songs. iTunes is available in 23 countries and as of now is available in 64 countries. Currently there are more than 400 million iTunes accounts with cards on file enabling one click purchasing. More than 2/3rd of downloads are now coming from iOS devices.

Apple is also introducing a new design for app, music, movie, and book stores to make it easier to use the stores on iOS. Apple is also adding Facebook like features and Tweet features. You can now also continue to browse while listening to previews.

Apple claims that iTunes is the number one media player. Many people have complained that it has become old and clunky and Apple has announced that iTunes 11 will be available in October. Since iCloud was launched over 200 million subscribers have signed up and have downloaded 15 billion songs. The new iTunes has a much simpler interface. Clicking the album expands it in place and analyzes the album art to theme the expanded section. Artists can share photos right in the music library.

Up Next shows you what songs are coming up next. You can rearrange or jump to a song. Users can also add a song to up next from the album view by clicking a song and choosing up next. The all new mini player includes roll over for controls, search built in, see song and artist with album art, and Up Next is still built into the mini player. iCloud is built right in to the new iTunes. Now you can pick up where you left off on your iOS devices.

The iTunes store artist page allows playing of previews while you view concert dates and artist information.

iPod

Since the introduction of iPod more than 350 million have been sold. Apple has announced the iPod Nano and in old swift move Sherlocked an entire industry of watch band makers. But the new Nano is thin, light, has a large screen, big easy to use buttons, and a lightning connector. They have even color matched the wall paper to the color of the Nano. With a 2.5” multi-touch display you can watch movies in 16:9 aspect and use every pixel on the screen. When listening to music you can see the artist, title, track, and album art all at the same time. The built in FM tuner now has pause and record options. Bluetooth is built right into the Nano now for wireless headphones.

iPod Touch

The new iPod Touch is great for gaming. With over 150 million Game Center users it is easy to find people to play games with and discover the games your friends are playing. The 5th Gen touch is just 6.1 mm thick and weighs just 88 grams making it the thinnest touch and almost the thinnest iPod. LIke it’s iPhone counterpart the headphone jack, speaker, and lightning connector are located on the bottom of the device. The new iPod Touch also shares the same display as the iPhone 5. The camera system from the iPhone 4s finds it’s way to the iPod Touch and gets the panorama feature and sapphire crystal lens cover.

That is where the similarities end. The iPod Touch gets the A5 CPU with up-to 7x graphics performance improvement. Airplay now comes to the Touch along with Siri thanks to the updated CPU. The iPod Touch also gets a hidden button to attach the loop wrist strap to keep your iPod touch secure in your hand while carrying it around.

Shuffle

The iPod Shuffle is also getting a color refresh to match the 7 new colors of the iPod Nano.

Headphones

Apple spent 3 years in design for new headphones for the entire line of iPods and iPhones. After doing 3D scans of hundreds of ears and finding the commonalities they designed the EarPods. The EarPods don’t seal in your ear to allow outside sound in so you are not cut off from the rest of the world. Apple has also included multiple ports to optimize the sound. The rear port is optimized for midrange sound, the port in the stem for bass also allows more air flow to allow the speakers to work effectively.

EarPods were available immediately.

Pricing for the new iPods are:

$49                 iPod Shuffle available in 7 colors
$149        iPod 16GB
$199        iPod Touch 16 GB
$249        iPod Touch 32 GB
$299         new iPod Touch 32GB
$399         new iPod Touch 64GB

The new devices will be coming in October.

This was a huge announcement for Apple with only a few surprises. I didn’t see any rumors about iTunes 11, I was surprised that NFC was left off iPhone 5, and after many rumors about an iPad mini none materialized and it even looks like there is no space in pricing of devices for one at this time. Apple is continuing to make products that most people want and most other manufactures wish they could make. Analysts are predicting that opening weekend Apple will sell 7-8 million handsets. Given the number of preorders and the number of people in line in countries around the world that is not an unrealistic estimate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

3/31 TechBits Podcast

     
    TechBits Podcast    
   
TechBits - Episode 35
March 31, 2012 at 7:02 AM
 

‘This American Life’ Retracts Show on Foxconn Working Conditions over Fabricated Claims, AT&T drops plans to Appeal, Defiant Lightsquared says FCC Action would violate rights, HTC starts rolling out 4.0 updates, Obama's 2012 is watching you, July 12 ISP's become copyright police

Media Files
TechBits-Episode35.mp3 (MP3 Audio, 40.2 MB)
   
     
 
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4/7 TechBits Podcast

     
    TechBits Podcast    
   
TechBits - Episode 37
April 7, 2012 at 3:57 PM
 

We Discuss the FAA Lifting the ban on Electronics, Akamai moving to IPV6, AT&T to stop cramming phone bills, Red Hat worth over $1B, Apple and Australia regarding false advertising claims, and our discussion regarding bringing your own devices to the job site.

Media Files
TechBits-Episode37.mp3 (MP3 Audio, 38.9 MB)
   
   
TechBits - Episode 36
April 6, 2012 at 9:28 PM
 

Listen to Jeff complain about HTC and goof up the SPDY protocol. Paul will over Apple and Rob Reed.

Media Files
Techbits-Episode36.mp3 (MP3 Audio, 30.3 MB)
   
     
 
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