Category Archives: Apple
New Site Added to the Wap Review Mobile Directory
9to5Mac is a popular news and rumor blog covering Apple Inc. The site was the first to report on a slew of new Apple products and features including Siri and the iPhone 4s' dual core A5 processor,
Last August 9to5Mac and sister sites 9to5Google and 9to5Toys (consumer electronics and deals) got a mobile first responsive redesign. It starts out with a simple one column mobile friendly layout and progressively adds things like retina resolution images, sidebars, an animated lightbox and desktop ads. The result looks and works very well with desktop browsers and just every mobile browser I tried including non-Apple ones like the Android Gingerbread browser, the Symbian Belle browser, Firefox Mobile, Opera Mobile and proxy browsers Opera Mini, UC Web and Nokia Xpress for S40. I even got 9to5Mac to load (slowly) and be usable in the ancient Myriad (formerly Openwave) feature phone browser.
The mobile first philosophy pays off in drastically reduced page size. In Firefox 17 on my Linux PC, 9to5Mac's home page weighs in at a hefty 7311 KB ( 2741 KB compressed). In the Myriad browser it's 502 KB, one sixth the size.
One of the most interesting things to come out of the Q&A session at the iPhone OS 3.0 launch was a statement that the latest iPhone touch contains Bluetooth radio hardware that Apple can enable with a firmware update. If you missed it it's at 11:43 AM in gdgt.com's live launch coverage.
I doubt that that Apple would ever enable the dial up networking profile. But if they did you could tether an iTouch to a cheap feature phone on the network of your choice. As a cheapskate who is unimpressed with AT&T's pricing and 3G reliability I would definitely do that.
At the iPhone OS 3.0 announcement today, Apple reacted to its growing competition from S60 touch devices, Android and Palm Pre by announcing a massive upgrade. 3.0 will ship "this summer" and a Beta is available today to all registered iPhone developers.
What Apple has done is to fill in most of the feature gaps in the iPhone spec. This is important. While the iPhone design language and user interface have been head and shoulders above the competition since day one, the lack of core features has turned off many potential buyers. For me it's cut and paste which I've been using on mobile devices since the Palm V. There's no way I'd ever buy a smartphone if I couldn't copy and paste. For others the lack of MMS, a voice recorder or BlueTooth stereo support was the show stopper.
OS 3.0 has all of the above plus a lot more. New user facing features include:
- Copy, cut and paste with undo and redo. It works across all apps, including inside the main browser window.
- All pre-installed apps now work in landscape mode with the landscape keyboard available wherever text input is possible.
- MMS is finally supported with some nice touches like sending vCards directly to and from Contacts and locations from within Maps.
- At last there's a voice recorder application and a call log.
- Search has been added to mail, calendar and notes and there's a new homescreen app called "Searchlight" that searches across all apps.
- The Calendar gets calDAV and .ics support making shared calendars and syncing with Google and Yahoo possible.
- There's BlueTooth stereo headphone support using the Bluetooth A2DP profile.
- Safari gets auto-fill of form fields, parental controls and an anti-phishing filter.
- Support for automatic login to WiFi hotspots including Starbucks has been added.
- The Stock app has been enhanced with a news streamer daily Hi, Low and PE.
Developers get over 1000 new APIs to play with which should enable some exciting new apps. Highlights include:
- The App Store gets in-app sales capabilities for subscription apps, paid app updates, bookstores, etc. In app sales are limited to paid apps, so no demo apps with an "Upgrade" button.
- Peer to peer BlueTooth networking support . While there's still not a full BlueTooth stack (support for tethering and bluetooth keyboards is still missing), iPhone apps can now use BlueTooth networking for multiplayer games or vCard transfer and can talk to "Made For iPod" compliant Bluetooth accessories. In the Q&A it was mentioned that low-level tethering support is built into 3.0 but will not be enabled until hell freezes over or operators approve it.
- Accessory APIs for building custom applications that talk to 3rd party accessories through the dock connector.
- An in app maps widget and a location API. For licensing reasons, Apple will not allow developers to combine location with the Apple supplied maps, however.
- The push notification support promised a year ago is finally available. Notifications can display a message, play a sound or, my favorite, change the appearance of an apps homescreen icon. Active idle screen icons, Woot!
- An embeddable video player
By filling in the missing pieces, Apple has made it a lot harder for Nokia, Palm and Android. The iPhone's always offered a great user experience. From what I've seen of touch S60 and Android they don't come close to the level of usability found with the Apple phone. The Pre, may but until it ships we won't really know. By adding most of the basic phone functionality that was missing with the iPhone, Apple has removed a lot of "I won't buy it because it doesn't do..." sales resistance.
It doesn't really look good for the competition. Nokia S60 needs a new UI and it needs it now, a Maemo phone maybe? The Pre better be awesome or Palm is toast. I think Android may be less impacted by OS 3.0 than S60. For one thing, it has a more modern looking and usable UI. As a free smart device OS that's available now, unlike open source S60, Android should start showing up soon in inexpensive white label Android devices appealing to new smartphone market segments at the low end and in emerging economies.
Fortunately for the competition, Apple left a few of small windows of opportunity to exploit, namely the lack of multitasking, an open application distribution model, tethering or official unlocked phones. S60 has all four. Currently the G1 and the Pre don't tether and except for the Android Dev Phone are only available locked to a single operator (per country) but I see that changing when Palm launches a GSM Pre and additional Android devices become available outside carrier channels.
3.0 will be a free upgrade for iPhones, and will cost $10 for the iTouch. It will be available for all iPhones but some features like MMS and A2Dp won't work on the iPhone 2G.
Image Courtesy of Apple.
Disclaimer, I've never owned an iPhone so I'm not particularly qualified to comment on the new version announced at WWDC yesterday. But like everyone else I'm caught up in the hype and wanted to record my impressions.
The original iPhone was a major disruptor especially in the US market were it finally made the mobile web fashionable. I expect version 2 to have an even bigger impact. Although no one outside of Apple seems to have gotten their hands on the new model, we do have plenty of information about it's specs, features and pricing. As I understand it, version 2.0 has:
- High speed UMTS/HSDPA 3G on 2100, 1900 and 850 mHz plus quad-band GPRS/Edge making it compatible with most, but not quite all non-CDMA networks. Not supported are the 1700 mHz 3G that T-Mobile USA is starting to rollout and 900 mHz UMTS, which is gaining ground in Europe and Asia.
- Built in assisted GPRS.
- Installable applications available only from the Apple Application store. Some are free, others cost an average of $10. Developers and Apple split the revenue 70/30.
- Calendar and contact synchronization, media sharing and push email using an optional $99/year web based service called Mobile.Me.
- The end to the iPhone's unique pricing and activation models. iPhones will be subsidized and only sold by carriers. Apple will no longer receive a share of voice and data revenues from carriers.
- A price "reduction" to $199 for the 8GB model. Carriers are apparently free to raise the cost of plans and ATT has already announced a $10/month increase to theirs. In addition ATT iPhone plans will no longer include 200 text messages unless you pay another $5/month.
- Minor changes to the form factor; more rounded edges, a headphone jack that will accept all standard plugs, and a plastic rather than metal back casing
Of course, the iPhone's best features are retained. The incredibly slick, immediately grokable UI and beautiful industrial design that have been hallmarks of Apple products since the the first Mac are there along with an unsurpassed mobile browsing experience. I don't know were Jobs finds them but he's got a team of design geniuses. Apple is so far ahead in user experience that there is really no competition at the moment. iPhone lookalikes are starting to appear, I've tried two of the first, the LG Voyager and the Samsung Glyde and they don't come close to the real thing. Both phones superficially look like iPhones but are marred by clumsy interfaces that are inconsistent across different applications and touch screens that seem bulky and unresponsive compared to the iPhone.
3G, the end of revenue sharing and the price "cuts" should help to sell a lot more iPhones. 3G and AGPRS are essential features for an advanced mobile handset today. Their lack cost Apple a lot of sales particularly among sophisticated mobile users.
Carriers hated the idea of sharing revenue with Apple. Even though ATT made money under the deal, I think many carriers refused to accept Apple's terms as something that would set a dangerous precedent. With revenue sharing dead, carriers are falling all over themselves to pick up the iPhone.
ATT's new plan prices actually increase the total cost over the life of a two year contract, but the sad fact is that most of us live paycheck to paycheck and a $199 ticket is a lot easier to swallow than a $399 one.
What about the rest of the handset industry? I think Nokia, Symbian, Microsoft, HTC, SE, Samsung and LG must be in full battle mode. Apple is a threat to both market share and prestige for them, they must counter the iPhone. The Korean manufactures seem to have a shorter design cycle, it took them less than a year to bring to market phones that copy the iPhone look if not the feel. Nokia, RIM and Samsung have announced touch screen smartphones for later this year that, at least on paper, seem to be more worthy competitors. Self destructing Motorola hasn't even shown a prototype yet.
It's relatively easy to copy the iPhone look and feature set, but creating a better user experience than Apple is nearly impossible. It may not be necessary. After 13 years of development, Windows is still generally perceived as having inferior usability to the Mac. But Windows outsells Mac by 12 to 1. Why? Much bigger software library, more hardware options and lower costs.
The iPhone is a single handset on a closed platform, with arbitrary restrictions on developers and proprietary synchronization and software distribution models. I think the way to beat Apple is with an open, expandable mobile OS with low barriers of entry to both hardware manufacturers and software developers - where anyone can create and distribute compatable devices, software and services. This is the Android model but it's also close to the Windows Mobile and Symbian approach of licensing the OS to multiple vendors. More software and device choices make for a more powerful phone that meets the needs of more users. As Windows vs Mac shows, power and choice can beat a slick design and user experience.