With Apple expected to unveil its newest operating system at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco next month, the digital rumor mill is predictably churning out all manner of fantasies for what we might see on our iPhones. From app-switching maneuvers to a more streamlined Settings app to an almost unanimous desire to see Apple Maps disappear, it seems like just about everyone has some skin in the game.
But let’s take a look at what’s likely. First, with iOS 6 developer Scott Forstall’s departure from the company, iOS 7 (Codenamed “Innsbruck”) was undertaken by Jonathan Ive, who is said to “wince” at design elements that include skeuomorphism. Put simply, a “skeuomorph” is a design element meant to look like some other material like, for example, the “wood” paneling on the side of a station wagon (that’s made of plastic). For iOS, what this means is that Notepad won’t look like a yellow legal pad anymore, Calendar won’t include a leather binding, and the bookshelves will disappear from Newsstand. The result will be a “flatter” look, oddly resembling what Microsoft is doing with Windows Mobile.
What many of us would like to see, of course, is a proper filing system that would give users more control over how and where they store their files. We’d also like to be able to, say, group our photos together in folders, in much the same way that our desktops allow us to do in iPhoto. And much like the folks over at CNET, we’d also very much like to see an overhaul for the Settings App. Users shouldn’t have to navigate through three different screens just to bring up the WiFi menu or adjust the phone’s brightness.
One of the biggest hassles with the iPhone involves app-switching. Cutting and pasting between apps is, at the moment, tedious enough to where it’s not even worth bothering with, and considering that easier app-switching was incorporated into the iPad with the four-finger swipe, this is a feature that at least seems realistic for the iPhone.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on what iOS 7 will bring to the table, so stay tuned!
Those of us who own iPhones are really quite fond of them, but it turns out that there are quite a few unscrupulous individuals who are equally fond of them, and who are willing to steal them. They’re not cheap, after all, and it’s a safe bet in this day and age that most people are carrying a smart phone of some sort or other, making just about everyone a potential target for theft.
The problem has gotten to the point that local lawmakers are beginning to take up the issue with the manufacturers themselves. Some have asked for a “kill switch” that would render an iPhone useless – and therefore unsellable on the black market. Others suggest that smart phone manufacturers are profiting from replacement phone sales, but in any event, phone theft is a very serious problem. According to the FCC, between 30% and 40% of all thefts in the United States involves smart phones.
Of course, when faced with a problem in the 21st century, one of the first questions someone will inevitably ask is, “Isn’t there an app for that?” And it’s true, there are plenty of security apps out there: Find My iPhone, for example, or Prey, or Hidden. The problem is that many of these apps are expensive, or require subscriptions, and in any case, you have to have at least a little technical talent to configure them to work with some other device. Additionally, it doesn’t appear to take much effort to disable an iPhone and reconfigure it to factory settings. The fact of the matter is that the stolen iPhone business is booming, which means security certainly isn’t yet what it needs to be.
Of course, should we have the misfortune to have our iPhone stolen, we’d all love it if our thieves were stupid enough to take pictures of themselves and send them to us. Unfortunately that’s usually not the case, so until a factory fix comes through the pipeline, be smart about where you use your iPhone, and where you keep it when you’re not.
A great many of us like to upgrade our smartphones to the latest model, even when that model doesn’t promise anything especially new. It’s somewhat more difficult to do the same with bigger ticket items like automobiles, of course, but these days it seems that every year brings fantastic new features like blind spot monitoring, lane drift warnings, hands-free parallel parking, or adaptive cruise control. Even the $15K Dodge Dart has its own WiFi hotspot.
Oddly enough, the coolest thing cars used to do on their own was to give us directions, but it seems that navigation systems are having trouble keeping pace, considering that turn-by-turn navigation apps can be had cheaply or for free. It’s no surprise, then, that Apple’s negotiating with auto manufacturers to better integrate iPhones and the cars they’re plugged in to.
Of course, many of us already take calls and stream music through our cars’ Bluetooth, and still others among us have attached third-party docking stations to our dashboards and air conditioning vents. But Apple’s not merely looking for a more convenient dock for our iPhones. Rather, once you plug your iPhone into the car, all of the pertinent auto-related apps will become available through steering wheel controls and displayed on the car’s console screen, and proprietary navigation systems would be replaced with an optimized version of Apple maps.
Another feature that will be included is Siri “Eyes-Free”, which currently allows users to send texts to anyone in their address books, play music from the user’s iTunes libraries, and accesses calendar functions, all without ever having to touch the phone.
Newer, more car-friendly iterations of the “Eyes-Free” feature would allow for voice controlled navigation. For the moment, only two car models make use of this particular technology, but nine other car manufacturers (Toyota, Honda, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Land Rover and Jaguar) say they’ll link Siri with their cars.
The union of the automobile and the smartphone is both welcome and inevitable, and the way things seem to be developing, we suspect it won’t be all that long before Apple introduces an iCar. In the meantime, however, we hope they’re putting their energies into making sure the iOS 7 Apple Maps will get us where we need to go.
Apple released its second-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, and while CEO Tim Cook acknowledged that Apple’s growth slowed, business is still pretty good. Apple beat its targets, sold 37.4 million iPhones, 19.5 million iPads, and had its best quarter ever in China.
There’s also a lot of good news for mobile techies and iOS app developers alike. Apple saw a significant 20% increase in the number of iCloud users as well. iCloud was launched eighteen months ago to replace the MobileMe service, and allows users to sync their content across all of their Apple devices. iCloud added 50 million users since January alone which, considering the nature of the service, speaks well of Apple users’ loyalty to the brand. (Of course, that staggering growth rate might have something to do with iCloud’s outages of late.)
As for mobile apps, well…one of the stark truths of the mobile app economy is that it’s pretty crowded at the moment, and newer, less established mobile app entrepreneurs are having to get more and more creative, both in their development as well as their advertising, in order to stand out from the crowd. While this certainly presents a challenge to untested (and unevaluated) developers, it’s worth mentioning that while there are an awful lot of apps in the store, over the course of the last quarter Apple reached a total of 45 billion downloads – 5 billion in the last quarter alone at a rate of eight hundred downloads per second.
What does this mean for developers? For one thing, Apple has shelled out a total of nine billion dollars to independent mobile app developers, at a rate that’s increased over time to a grand total of one billion dollars per quarter.
So if you have a great idea for an iOS mobile app, give us a call and we’ll get you set up with reputable developers who can help turn your idea into a reality, and quite possibly a profitable one.
You may not have heard about it, but late last year astronomers from all over the world discovered a “livable planet” about twelve light years from Earth. It’s about five times the size of our planet, so you’d need to spend a bit of time at the gym to be able to walk around without effort, and sure, it would take quite a few human lifetimes to get there with current technology. But who knows? Maybe we could turn a space ship into its own self-sustaining ecosystem. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.
Whenever we see news like this, it fires up our imaginations, so this week we thought we’d take a look at some great astronomy apps that might help make sense of the universe:
- SkyGazer: Once upon a time, GPS was a lot more primitive than it is today, and required considerable knowledge about the positions of the stars in the sky and their positions relative to each other. SkyGazer is an awesome app for astronomy beginners that can help you see and understand what exactly is up there.
- Star Walk: Just point your iPhone or iPad at the night sky and Star Walk will tell you what constellations or astronomical bodies you’re looking at, and whether they’re stars, constellations, nebulae, or even planets in our own neck of the woods.
- Hubbell: If you want to see what the professionals are seeing, this app is a must-have. Whether you’re interested in dark matter, supernovas, the possibility of alien life, or even if you just want to have a look at the perfectly breathtaking images taken by the Hubbell telescope, this free app can keep you up to date on what’s happening in the universe.
- Planetarium: If your interests are a little more local, this fantastic app can give you the tour. By using 3D visualization and flight simulator software, Planetarium allows you to travel throughout the solar system on your iPad or iPhone.
Keep your eyes on the skies!