Friday, March 20, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 Event - Meh!

Tuesday’s Apple Event drew a lot of attention from the tech media, but in some ways was disappointing. I was trying to get to sleep early (started @2am our time), but did follow one live feed for a bit. I chose gdgt’s live feed and wasn’t disappointed. Ryan & Peter’s feed didn’t crap out and was very good, compared with what happened during MW Jan ‘09.

First, OS 3.0 is slated to be released sometime this Summer, which technically means before 21 September. iPod Touch users will have to fork over an update fee ($10) again, because of this bullshit Apple accounting practice.

Second, the upgrade will have more than 1000 api’s for devs and 100+ new things for users, according to AppleInsider. I’ll go over some of the highlights of the preview (from AI’s article) and give a few comments.

In-App Purchasing - allows apps to sell you additional content, such as game levels or eBooks. This feature sounds great for developers and content providers, but is really just another way to get $ from users.

Peer-Peer Connections - supposed to help you find folks playing the same app or game via Wi-Fi or BT. It allows for more interactivity, but really means more battery drain for you and I.

App-accessory linkage - gives iPhone/iPod Touch accessory makers the ability to make apps to integrate with their hardware accessories. I’m not sure why this is something special, as it seems like something Apple just needed to ‘permit’ during the app submission process.

Push Notification - was supposed to be in the previous OS, but never made it. It allows internet servers to push their content to your device rather than having the device periodically poll the server. This is supposed to improve battery life. I can see this being useful, if you have to have constant updates from your email server.

Turn-By-Turn - allows devs to access the gps data for apps that provide turn-by-turn directions. I can’t help but think that turning the iPhone into a nav system is overkill. I could see it being useful while on foot, but for driving? Please. The iPhone/iPod Touch screen is much too small to be used as a gps nav unit in a car. Anyone using one to navigate while driving would be a hazard on the road. Perhaps this will work for upcoming Apple touch products with sufficiently large screens?

Copy/Paste - something folks have been clamoring for a while. But I have to wonder if it will ever be used much. The iPhone/iPod Touch touchscreen is only somewhat useable for text entry - who types long emails or documents? Not happening. Copy/Paste might be useful in catching a web URL or email address to paste in a message. I’d be happy for the ability to open a url in a new browser window instead.

Landscape Keyboard - some apps don’t allow this currently (e.g., Mail). I hope landscape mode will be allowed for more than just keyboard orientation. How about when I want to select from a list of podcasts (or audio) instead of having to wait for the @#$@# screen to reorient, which results in a useless Coverflow interface for audio.

Messaging (MMS) - Supposed to allow multiple messages with pictures? I suppose they mean SMS allowed to carry pictures.

Voice Memos - if you have the iPhone with speaker this would allow you to take notes or record lectures. But with the awful battery life, I can’t take this feature seriously.

Spotlight Search - For what? I don’t quite get this. I suppose if you have lots of pdf docs and can’t recall which of them have certain content - OK. But if you are searching for content in an email, won’t a search in the mail app do?

A2DP Bluetooth - this will let you use stereo BT headphones, and supposedly activate BT function in 2nd gen iPod Touches (where it is now dormant). I dunno, maybe useful. But I’ve not seen a decent stereo BT headphone on the market (let alone monaural earpieces). If you can’t control the iPod from your BT headphone, I don’t quite see the need.

In summary, it seems that Apple has been very busy adding features to the mobile OS. Many of these address user demands (even though they may not realize they don’t really need them). I can’t help but wonder if the update will be very hefty in terms of drive space and processor demands. Let’s hope they don’t leave 1st Gen iPod touch users (like me) out in the cold.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New 3rd Gen Shuffle Requires Apple Authentication Chip in Headphones

It gets worse. Apple requires any 3rd party headphones for the iPod shuffle have an authentication chip to be compatible, according to iLounge and Engadget. This means higher costs for 3rd party headphone makers. Given that the Shuffle is relatively inexpensive, it is ironic you won’t be able to use inexpensive 3rd party headphones with it. This bogus proprietary technology requirement is a big step backward for Apple. Although many folks only use their Apple earbuds that come with iPods, getting a cheap replacement for the Shuffle’s headphones won’t be likely. The move even prompted former Engadget guru Ryan Block (now of gdgt) to speculate that Apple may implement the same nonsense on all its future iPods. Let’s hope not, otherwise a consumer backlash is possible.

My take - why didn’t Apple take the high road and use the standard for music player controls that already exists on many headphones?

[Note: iLounge gives a fairly negative review of the new Shuffle - surprising given they are typically Apple cheerleaders.]

Friday, March 13, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 Event

Apple has announced an event on 17 March to announce v3.0 of the iPhone/iPod Touch OS. Actually, it seems they are just announcing that they are working on it with a probably release date. What I can’t quite understand is why? Why does Apple need to do pre-announcements for software? With Jobs on the sideline, is Apple insecure that the tech world has forgotten them? Or maybe they are going to announce a new iPhone app developer program, code named, “RESPECT”.

Nah. That’s not the Apple way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Shuffle Shrinks More?

ipodshuffle_image3_20090311.F2z5KuHeZhVV.jpgToday Apple released a new form factor for the Shuffle with even smaller (!) physical size and larger capacity, plus a new VoiceOver function for navigating. The (3g?) Shuffle has shrunk to smaller than a typical house key, and is so tiny you can only control it via the included Apple earbud’s cord (yuck!). This suggests that you need to use Apple’s crappy earbuds, or some 3rd party head phones with compatible controls. The new Shuffle also has a 4GB capacity, the same as my old 1G iPod Nano. Apple currently is only offering two colors, grey and black. The Voice Over feature will announce the upcoming tune, and (for the first time) allow you to navigate through different playlists via CG voice choices. VoiceOver works in 14 languages, apparently.

My take - I haven’t seen or used one of these yet (nor do I have a shuffle), but I feel shrinking the shuffle further seems pointless. With the current monochrome color choices, these will be easy to misplace or lose entirely if you drop it. Limiting users to certain headphones with inset controls (or just Apple buds) also feels like a bad move. Those buttons on the Apple Earbuds look pretty tiny to me! The last gen Shuffles seemed just right for manipulating controls with average sized fingers, plus the color choice was good for individualization. My guess is the cost to manufacture the new Shuffle is considerably less, with very few moving parts in a one piece shell. However, until I can see one in person, I’ll hold further judgement.

UPDATE: Looks like you MUST use the Apple Earbuds, at least until 3rd party controllers step up. Plus using the new Shuffle ain’t no party compared to the last one. Engadget’s send up of the situtation is priceless. It’s seems analogous to using QuickSilver on a Mac with no keyboard or monitor - just audio output.