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by Jehuda Saar
Thursday
Sep132012

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.

 

Thursday
Sep132012

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.​

Tuesday
Sep112012

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.

Tuesday
Sep042012

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.


Sunday
Aug262012

Two events - multiple products

On July 30 iMore.com 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 loopinsight.com. ​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 AllThingsD.com. 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. ​

Wednesday
Aug222012

Exclusive footage of the iPhone 5

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

Tuesday
Aug142012

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.


Sunday
Jul292012

"THE" review

​This is probably a little bit too geeky for most, but one of the things I enjoy doing almost as much as installing a new operating system on my Mac, is reading John Siracusa's exhaustive review of the new OSX on ars technica. Just finished reading his Mountain Lion review, and, as always, it did not disappoint. Some people feel they need to prepare for the review, and they have (once again) created a video for this purpose (it seems John himself appears in the video this time around).

Wednesday
Jul252012

Down the Mountain came a Lion

A couple of hours into using the new Apple operating system and I can already tell you a few things. The first impression you will have after the update is that nothing changed. Everything pretty much looks the same. You'd think you just spent $20 on nothing. And then you start noticing little things. Suddenly Mission Control and Launchpad, both functions I had previously removed from the Dock, are back again. When you try dragging them off, nothing happens. They're stuck. Thanks to Jason Snell of Macworld for letting me know that I should right-click on the items to remove them. 

I dictated a few email messages in Mail. Worked flawlessly, although every once in a while the computer waits for the Apple servers to return the written sentence back (the process of transcribing your words to typed text does not happen on your computer). 

So far no complaints yet about Notifications. I like seeing new email message notifications appear at the top right of my screen. ​I am a bit peeved that my everyday computer, a late 2010 MacBook Air, will not support Airplay Mirroring. My video production machine, a more recent MacBook Pro, does show the Airplay icon in the menu bar, but that one rarely moves from its spot these days.

I am including two videos of short reviews that appeared today as soon as Mountain Lion hit the App Store. These are, in turn, from Macworld and Cult of Mac. Enjoy.​

Sunday
Jul222012

Comics on Fire !

Digital comics really came into their own with the advent of the iPad. Comixology is without a doubt the reigning king of these new publishers. The apps driven by these engines let you read the comics using a "guided view", tapping the screen to close up on a particular panel, and moving from panel to panel in a logical manner. There is however a new entrant in this field, a company, and product, by the name of Madefire. The company developed the Motion Book Tool and use words, pictures, motion and sound for the purpose of storytelling. Madefilre takes advantage of the iPad's gyroscope, accelerometer and touch screen to create different effects when you tilt or move the device in certain ways. The idea is to add depth to the story, to literally evolve the comic book medium to a next stage. Having tried it myself I have to admit that it is intriguing, and somewhat exciting. 

Madefire Teaser Film from Madefire on Vimeo.

Sunday
Jul222012

Cyclone...but with a V

Imagine attending an event with a few friends. All of you have iPhones. You all take them out and fire up a free app called Vyclone. You all start shooting video of the event from different angles. All the footage together is gathered into one clip that switches between the cameras, in sync. You can later remix anyone's clip and use the raw footage to your heart's content. Finally, you can share the final version. Minor piece of trivia: one of the founders of Vyclone happens to be Sting's son. Yes, THAT Sting.

 

Saturday
Jul212012

Happens every time

 

​Precisely one month ago I wrote about one of my favourite Mac and iOS apps: Sparrow, one of the most elegant email applications I have ever had the pleasure of using. Little did I know that, as I was writing these words, the company behind this little gem, based in Paris, were heavily in discussion with Google about being acquired. Well, it finally happened. In essence Google are buying the company, which is another way to say they hired the "talent" this small company represented. The company has already advised that they will halt development of Sparrow (and we had eagerly been awaiting the iPad version, which now will never see the light of day) as they are joining Google to work on in-house (most likely email related) projects. So, yes, there is a chance we might see Sparrow elements appear in future Google products for Mac or iOS, but it is clear it will never be the same as getting exciting and innovative updates to the cool, zen in its simplicity, fresh look at email program that is Sparrow.

Here is a little spoof quickly created by someone who feels pretty much the same way I do with this little piece of breaking news.​

Thursday
Jul192012

Tradition !!!

Some people have a hard time letting go of the "old ways". For those people there are solutions as well as far as accepting new tech. Here is one of them. A different way to take your iPhone calls. Can't say I agree with some of the casting and editing decisions for this video, but the product might attract some people.​

Wednesday
Jul182012

Tough as nails

I am very partial to Otter Box cases for the iPhone. So far the toughest case they built was the "Defender" model. I liked the fact that it even had a hard plastic screen cover that allowed clicking and swiping on the screen. This time they went further and created what might very well be THE ultimate iPhone case for anyone from extreme sports fanatics and all the way down to casual campers. The Armor Series for iPhone 4/4S even manages to look OK despite all the bulk. Chances are good that Otter Box will soon have to design an iPhone 5 model as well (unless of course Apple decide to call it the "New iPhone").

Wednesday
Jul182012

Here they go again...

First we had mac.com. I liked that one. I still use it. Then came me.com. Also liked that one. It was simple, easy to convey over the phone, easy to remember. But this time they messed with a good thing. Who in their right mind would want an email address like jsaar@icloud.com ? What were they thinking ? I understand that branding is important, but then learn from Microsoft: they still call their operating system "Windows". Did you see what Windows 8 looks like ? Any windows there ? There is such a thing as taking branding a tad too far. Seems I am not alone thinking this. I'm in good company. Here is a brief piece by Philip Elmer-Dewitt in Fortune magazine.