Recent posts

by Jehuda Saar

WhatsApp with you ?


Disturbing news: FaceBook might be interested in buying WhatsApp. The question is of course what FB is after. If all they need is the long list of WA users, WA won't be long for this world. If they truly want to continue to provide the WA service, the concern raised at the end of this piece is quite right: how will free and advertising-driven FB deal with the advertising-free and not so free app model that drives WA ? Could make for a messy marriage.


I see the light

While browsing around in one of London's Apple Stores I came across a product I had heard about before but hadn't paid much attention to: Philips' Hue Personal Wireless Lighting. The video you can see here makes the product look cool, even though I am not yet sure how useful such a product is once the novelty wears off.

But it was clear that before long someone was going to tinker with the system and come up with some new uses for it. In this case the honour falls to a young man by the name of Brandon Evans who realised that by using the Siri development plugin combined with the fact that the HUE bulbs are IP-controllable, you can end up walking around your house issuing verbal commands to lights and see things change all around you as if my magic. The shape of things to come.

SiriProxy Hue from Brandon Evans on Vimeo.



Truth in Advertising

When Apple introduced the iPad Mini last month, they of course ran an ad for the new machine. The ad was cute, it was the piano ad shown below.

But you knew more would come soon. And Apple did not disappoint. Two new ads were just issued. I find one of them much better than the other and I won't even force you to guess. I think the ad showing off iPhoto is a lot better than the one with iBooks, but judge for yourselves.


No Speculation Zone...OK I'm lying

​Tomorrow Apple will holding what is expected to be the great iPad (mini) event. Just like with the introduction of the iPhone 5, a lot seems to be known about this new product. Spy photos of pretty much every part of this smaller iPad have been circulating around for weeks now, so not much is left to the imagination. And yet, some crucial things are not known yet:

  • What will be the product's name​ ?
  • What price points will it sell at ?
  • What sort of screen will it have ?
  • Will it have just WiFi or LTE as well ?

I won't speculate on much of the above. ​Others are much better equipped to do so. I will make one prediction though. No it won't be about the price. If Apple wanted to deal a death-blow to the rest of the industry, it would price the entry level model at $199. Even the Kindle Fire wouldn't survive that. But, hey, this is Apple we're talking about. Could they sell it at such a price and still make money ? I believe they could. Chances are the display will be non-retina. Apple have achieved economies of scale with the iPhone 3GS and the iPad2 that would enable them to go really low on this one. But they won't. We've heard rumors of prices hovering between $249 and $329. I have no doubt that even at those higher prices Apple will break sales records with these machines, but it won't be as "market-dominating" as pricing at below $200. 

No, my prediction is about something else entirely. Last January Apple took pains to unveil their iBooks strategy, and specifically the iBooks Author program that enables mere mortals to easily create beautiful textbooks for school and college going students. ​The main bottleneck for the success of that program was the price of the vehicle it required. Very few school districts could afford to buy large quantities of iPads for their students. So the tools were there, but the vehicle went missing. Until tomorrow. I believe that Apple will tout this new iPad category as the ideal school and college companion. I have a feeling much of tomorrow's presentation will focus on that particular function for this new device. Chances are they will introduce a new version of iBooks Author, and maybe even a new version of iBooks itself. 

Of course there will be other highlights: maybe a new retina 13 inch MacBook Pro, possibly a revamped Mac Mini, but in my opinion we should be paying attention to the iBooks move. Many people have had the vision of "a computer for every child"​ for years now, but this new iPad, whatever its name, could well bring this vision that much closer to reality.



Synergy Squared

I will be the first to admit: I am a sucker for fancy notebooks and beautiful pens. A few years ago this led me to discover Moleskine notebooks. As much as I enjoy using computers and other digital gear to get things done, ​I would always come back to manual note-taking for telephone conversations and certain face to face meetings. 

On the other hand you all know me as a sucker for tech and getting things done digitally whenever possible. ​A few years back this has led me to discover Evernote and I have never looked back since. With Evernote nothing ever gets lost, ideas get recorded and saved to the cloud instantaneously, and you achieve "total recall".  

Now imagine these two concepts somehow meeting: the Moleskine notebook and the Evernote online service. Sounds crazy, right ? Not really: the two companies got together and came up with "The Evernote Smart Notebook designed by Moleskine".​ I can finally indulge those two seemingly opposing urges of saving things both in the analog as well as the digital space. It seems there are other geeks like me out there. I am not alone anymore, maybe I never was.


What are they actually guilty of then ?


The Map App debacle reminds me of Antennagate: the last time everyone went crazy saying Apple had so dramatically screwed up, the game was over. A lot of noise for absolutely nothing. Then it was Consumer Report making a mountain out of a molehill: if you held your iPhone 4 just so (and you really had to make an effort to hold it THAT way), you could loose your connection. This time again it is mostly pundits and so called "experts" making a lot of noise for not much.​

Why do I say that ? Very simply: Apple HAD to release Maps, in its current form, and better now than later, or too late. ​And, yes, I agree, there are some problems with the new iOS 5 Maps App. That much is undeniable. But there are still problems with Siri as well, and what both these products have in common is the fact that they can ONLY be made better by getting millions of people to use them every day. So Apple HAD to come out with a product that wasn't all there yet, because what is happening right now is part of the process of making that product better. 

Let's be honest. Personally I have never used the old Maps app on the iPhone. I have been a dedicated Waze users for years now. ​So this change really doesn't affect me immediately in any way. I don't know why anyone would in fact have used the pre-iOS 6 Maps app at all, it didn't have turn-by-turn directions. But I do fault Apple for one thing. There is one aspect of this that they handled badly. At the introduction of iOS 6 they touted the new Maps app as the greatest thing since sliced bread. That is the one thing they should have better prepared for. They oversold that product. A little more humility would have gone a long way towards managing expectations. I'm not saying the "cognoscenti" wouldn't have raised their voices in horror, but maybe the story would have made a little bit less noise. As is, Tim Cook's apology went a long way towards calming things down. Before long this story too will be forgotten, or at least it will fade in memory. The naysayers will have to come up with some new wrongdoing by Apple, but the iPhone 5 will continue to sell like hotcakes, and the public will continue to vote with their wallets.


He says it much better than I ever will

​In one of his classic pieces for Cult Of Mac entitled "Why the iPhone 5 is Too Radical" Mike Elgan explains brilliantly what "the Apple Way" is exactly:

Apple is the ultimate “Why?” company. Every new feature faces a harsh spotlight of inquiry. Why is now the right time to launch an NFC-based digital wallet? (It’s not the right time.) Why is now the right time to add a fingerprint reader. (It’s not.) Why add a hologram?

He contrasts it nicely with other companies, like Google, who are the ultimate "Why not?" companies. They'll stick anything under the sun to a new device just cause they can. He also explains clearly that the "pundits" are out of touch with the common users and to what extent the gap between those who write about technology and those who actually use it on a day to day basis is widening every day. ​

That being said: I still don't own an iPhone 5, I haven't even held one in my hands yet. I best refrain from "reviewing" it until such time as I have some real-world experience with it.​


Good Silly Stuff

​You have to admire the creativity of the people involved with these two spoof videos about the iPhone 5. The point is that the "real" Apple video introducing the iPhone 5 actually felt like a spoof in and of itself. See for yourself. Watch the two funny ones and compare it to the "serious" one. If you have been watching these 'intro" video every time Apple comes out with a new product, you know it is impossible to take them seriously anymore. I love the company, but time to "innovate" on the intro-video front.

And finally the "real" one.


iPhone 5 disappointments

Just like last year, when Apple introduced the iPhone 4S and a great number of people expressed their disappointment at the "underwhelming" new arrival, this time too cries of ​disillusionment are being heard from every corner with regards to the iPhone 5. And just like last year all these naysayers were proven wrong, I predict that once again we will see the iPhone 5 break sales records but also turn into an amazing success with users worldwide. 

There are some basic misunderstandings about the iPhone that still linger in the marketplace and cause these enormous miscalculations both by observers of the industry as well as potential customers​:

  • There are those who "get" the iPhone and those who don't. What I mean by that is, there are people who buy the iPhone because they buy into the entire ecosystem. They realize that ​the iPhone is only one part of a whole. They "grok" iCloud, iTunes, the app environment, connections between iOS and OSX, maybe even AppleTV. They stand in direct opposition of people who are looking to buy a gadget, the latest fad, some new exciting feature for that feature's sake. Looking for feature parity between the iPhone and some new Android device of the week is a total waste of time. So what if some new phone as NFC (near field communication) if nobody uses it ? Apple won't include a feature in their phone if that feature is half-baked. The first iPhone did not have 3G. The reason was that, back in 2007, there was no way to run 3G without running out of battery power within dozens of minutes. People could be heard complaining about that up and down the street, but the decision made by Jobs at the time was sound. There are so many Android phone models out there, from so many manufacturers, that there is no cohesive system in place. App usage on Android, beyond some percentage of savvy users, is minimal at best, whereas iOS users who understand their environment tend to acquire more apps and use them much more often. In many case Android users would have been "feature phone" buyers rather than smartphone customers. Many may not have known walking into the store what model they were going to walk out with on the day of the new acquisition. So a lot of the noise following the iPhone 5 intro of yesterday comes from that camp.
  • It used to be that Apple, as a company, was able to keep a tight lid on new products. The bigger the company became, the more successful they were, the harder keeping secrets turned out to be. There were almost no features of the iPhone 5 that were unknown to anyone paying attention these past few weeks. Pretty much every detail about the phone had been leaked, mostly by Chinese manufacturers looking to profit from the prestige of being an Apple OEM. As a result there was very little announced yesterday that elicited real surprise. Since people like a good surprise, a great number of pundits, journalists and cognoscenti cried foul yesterday since there were almost none.


  • For a while people got the idea that every time Steve Jobs took the stage, he would create a new revolution. People have come to expect dramatic, industry altering announcements from Apple as a result of some of the changes we have seen the company bring about this last decade. ​But if Apple does one thing well, it is to improve on something they have introduced in the past, without necessarily trying to disrupt it at every turn. The iPhone 4/4S was an amazing improvements over the original iPhone form factor. So Apple decided to basically stick to it, however make improvements to the phone's innards, without changing the overall look too much. No, the iPhone 5 doesn't hover in the air and it doesn't make me coffee. But that's not what I want my iPhone to do. Most people haven't yet realized that some of the revolutions we will see in the field are already baked into the product. We have not yet scratched the surface of what Siri will one day become. There is a reason Apple still calls it a "Beta". But by next week, with the release of iOS 6, Siri will come to the iPad. And in the not too distant feature I am convinced it will be on the Mac as well. Ultimately it will dramatically change how we use our electronic devices.

A mere five years ago there was no such thing as the "App economy". Three years ago there was no "tablet-PC" market to speak of. Apple will continue to disrupt entire industries and I hope that one day, THEY will be the ones to disrupt the iPhone itself. Hopefully, deep inside some secret Apple lab, there are people even now working on that next big thing: the product that will unseat the iPhone. But for now I am very happy that they have decided to improve on a good thing without trying to change it too much. Evolution rather then revolution, just what the doctor ordered.



The Dock Is Dead

Here is a great example of the first company to take advantage of Apple's decision to change the dock connector on all its iOS devices with yesterday's introduction of the iPhone 5 and the new iPods. The message: throw away all your old gear, don't bother with docks, go wireless.​


iPhone 5 - The Fake Intro Video

Someone sure went through a lot of trouble to create this fake introduction video of the actual iPhone that will be introduced tomorrow. He refers to it as "The iPhone 5 with widescreen Retina Display", probably a very appropriate name. Some of the tech he describes in the video (fingerprint scanner button, new Mission Control function) ​is really cool and innovative, but I doubt we will see anything like it in tomorrow's product. Still, worth watching and appreciating the amazing work that went into creating it.


And now September 12 is official, but what about the name ?

So now we know for a fact that the next iPhone is being introduced on September 12. But what about the people who claimed it was going to be called the "New iPhone" rather than the iPhone 5 ? Check out the shadow in the announcement graphic​. Either they are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone, or else this is it: the iPhone 5.


Two events - multiple products

On July 30 came out with the scoop that Apple will be introducing a new iPhone ("iPhone 5" ? "New iPhone" ?) ​on September 12 and that the new phones would be available in stores on September 21. He also stated that the new rumored iPad mini would come out on the same day. The iPad mini is supposed to be a smaller model of the most successful tablet-computer in history, somewhere between 7 and 8 inches, with a non-retina screen and rumoured to have a base model priced anywhere between $199 and $299. 

Knowing how Apple like to focus their product introductions on hot items and would not want any one category to cannibalize on the attention of another, the idea of introducing two important products​ such as these in one event sounded somewhat strange to me, but better informed people than me were writing those pieces and they seemed to know of what they spoke. Enter John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame who wrote this piece on August 23. He posited that with the iPhone alone being the "single most profitable product in the world today" (the iPhone business alone is bigger than all of Microsoft's businesses combined), why would Apple want to share the iPhone's spotlight with the announcement of another new product. 

This was soon followed by what appeared to be a very brief, innocent comment by Jim Dalrymple of ​Except that when it comes to Mr Dalrymple, when he writes about Apple, his comments are rarely innocent. He has proven to be very much in the know of the secret goings-on at Apple in the past and the tech-media always pay extra special attention to his apparently off-the cuff remarks.

And finally word came down from what is considered the most reliable source about Apple these days: John Paczkowski of In a piece dated August 25 he "confirms" there will be two events: one introducing the iPhone on September 12 and another event in October for the iPad mini. ​As he says in his article:

"With a new iPhone and a new, diminutive iPad in the pipeline, Apple has two opportunities to commandeer the tech news cycle ahead of the annual holiday shopping binge, and it's going to take them both."

You will notice that the headline of his piece states "Confirmed", however the last line of the piece states clearly "Apple declined to comment on its plans". And yet the tech world accepts that if AllThingsD says it is so, it will be so. That only leaves one more little item in question. What about the new rumored iPod nano ? We have heard anything from a WiFi enabled nano, to rumours of a nano that would work with an iPhone as a wristwatch or other wearable "satellite" for your phone. When will that be introduced ? ​

Personally I believe that if the nano is being repositioned as something that extends your iPhone's functionality, it makes sense to introduce it the same day the new iPhone comes out. In the meantime all we can do is wait and speculate some more. ​


Exclusive footage of the iPhone 5

Here it is in all its glory, precisely 3 weeks before the official introduction.​


Dot Mail coming soon

​Ever since the sad last chapter was written in the Sparrow saga, another exciting contender appeared on the surface. The brainchild of a designer by the name of Tobias van Schneider, .Mail (dot Mail app) has excited a lot of people who still consider email one of their primary means of communication, but have been looking for a new client that better suits their needs in these days of "Inbox Overload". While he has only been working on the project for a couple of weeks, he just came in with an exciting update and it would seem we are only weeks away from beta testing this little beauty. To keep up with news my suggestion would be to follow on Twitter. Stay tuned as I am certain I will be writing about this soon enough.