2012, the year of the new Apple

So, the first complete year of Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm in the 2000s has drawn to a close, though who knows when his legacy of influence will end behind the scenes. It’s been quite a revolutionary year, though there haven’t been any brand new product lines.

The most notable and widest spread product update is certainly the iPhone, I say widest spread because it is unbelievably popular and even those who aren’t Mac users own them – it’s a fully featured Apple product that the masses are interested in and can afford. For example, I could spend a day without seeing a single Mac, but I’d be hard pressed to walk one block without seeing an iPhone. Anyway, this year’s iPhone update was certainly the biggest physical update we’ve ever seen – it now has a 4″ screen, and it’s ever steadily getting faster, but on the whole it’s the normal amount of new features Apple brings out yearly.

One feature to spread across Apple’s portable range has been the inevitably controversial lightning connector. Another first since 2007, Apple made a change to the connector port on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and iPod nano, said by Apple themselves to be “a bold move”. Smaller, reversible, and hopefully a lot less prone to connections issues with fraying cables, it threw the accessory industry up in arms as their 30-pin connector products were nearly made redundant. Apple released a 30-pin connector to lightning port adapter, but really, the height of the new iPhone and iPod touch combined with that adapter just won’t fit in those speaker systems with an enclosed iPhone space. It also seems there are more cases available for the iPhone 4/4S than for the iPhone 5, but I’m hoping that situation will improve over the coming months.

iTunes was updated with a massive visual overhaul, covered in slightly more detail here. My opinions on it are still mixed, as queuing music is fantastic but I do miss the control I had over the way I viewed my music collection.

In the Mac corner, we saw the majority of devices getting thinner and faster, with the new iMac and retina MacBook Pro. We’re still awaiting a retina MacBook Air, but is there really a need? The Mac Pro has been largely overlooked yet again, I can’t remember when I last saw it get an update in a keynote rather than a subtle enhancement. Year by year it does look as if Apple is trying to drop the Mac Pro, but as impressive as the iMac gets each year, you just can’t beat 12 cores and 64GB of RAM, which many media professionals use daily.

Elsewhere there was an update to the Apple TV introducing 1080p output for the same price of $99. Not to forget the iPad mini, a product anticipated almost since the day the original iPad was released. And then there’s the iPad… when Apple announced a fourth generation, I fit into the category of people who asked themselves “but didn’t they just release the third generation?”. Yes, in a move uncharacteristically like Apple, they updated a product within their usual 12 month rotation – perhaps compensating for the iPhone 4 not being updated for nearly a year and a half.

And finally, there’s iOS 6. Making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Apple released their first version of iOS without Google’s products being an out-of-the-box component because their deal expired. Google released a YouTube app on the App Store fairly promptly, but only recently updated it to support the iPhone 5’s screen size. I’m sure you won’t forget the Maps fiasco, with Apple’s maps being ridiculed and sneered at. Google left Apple users without an alternative until only earlier this month with Google Maps finally making it onto the App Store. I can’t imagine what took them so long to produce it, maybe they chose the path of letting Apple embarrass themselves rather than play the role of the instant hero. Nevertheless, I feel Jobs’ declaration of thermonuclear war on Apple will prevail posthumously.

Oh, one last thing in the Apple headlines – Scott Forstall was forced to leave Apple. With Steve out of the picture, Tim and Jony saw a chance to remove Forstall and his skeuomorphic design tendencies. While the appearance of iOS is getting stale, I personally don’t dislike Notes looking like a legal pad and folders having a cloth background, but clearly others want it gone. It would be interesting if 2013 brings a completely re-designed iOS.

In the ever-busy Apple ‘rumor mill’ we exit the year with a potentially Intel-powered Apple watch, interesting since the latest iPod nano did away with the form factor that made it wearable on the wrist, and the never-faltering suggestion of an actual Apple TV; a screen, not just a box.

When I started this back in 2010, I had no idea what the coming years would hold. This year I’ve only had 1,800 views, but considering there were only 11 posts excluding this one, that’s not too bad. I will try to get back into reporting every bit of Apple news there is in 2013 rather than just the key pieces, so please stick around for more to come and have a Happy New Year! I won’t be going any time soon, as despite the ever-present lack of a large and loyal reader-base, running this has at least contributed to my writing improving, something which will hopefully be beneficial in a career.


An idea for how apps should be purchased

Just spit-balling here, but it’s an idea nonetheless.

Yes, I acknowledge that there is a vast amount of people who own a smartphone because the phone store sales rep persuaded them to get one instead of a ‘dumbphone’ so don’t really use the ‘smart’ feature of the phones much, but, there is also a large proportion of people who use their phones to their fullest extent.

My idea started off with the frustrations of switching mobile platforms. Admittedly I change my phone significantly more frequently than most people, but the majority do still change their phone, say, when their 24 month contract has ended. They won’t necessarily stay with the same platform. Yet they’ve invested potentially hundreds of dollars into apps. And now they have to buy them all again on a different platform.

Before you point out what you think is a flaw, yes, if you buy a PS3 game you shouldn’t then get the Xbox 360 version for free. But I think mobile apps are different. For starters, they’re at a much lower price point.

Here’s the idea:

  • All apps are free. As in, on the app store/ marketplace/Play store etc, all the apps are listed as free to download. In fact, while I’m thinking about it, let’s also throw in a Windows Phone style incorporated trial version into the apps if the developer so pleases so that you can try basic functionality before unlocking the entire app.
  • The user pays for access to the app by using an account – this is the only flaw, a universal account would be needed (or you’d have an account with every single developer – not so manageable if you have a lot of apps)
  • To appease the platform providers (Apple, Google etc.), the yearly subscription is bought via an in-app purchase, so the platform provider still gets their 30% or so.

As I said, just an idea, but it’s an interesting one. Many companies are trying to push for ‘universal’ accounts, such as Facebook commenting on many websites, Google account commenting on some websites, using your Apple ID to purchase Macs, iPhones, iBooks, movies, TV, music etc. so perhaps this idea could be even more realistic once the battle of universal accounts has been won. I may have confused myself with the account explanation and therefore you as well, so let me clarify: You would pay for the in-app purchase subscription using your Apple ID or Google wallet etc., the current payment system on the platform in question. But to authenticate that you already have a subscription, you would need to prove that somehow on the second platform, thus needing a cross-platform account of some sort. Unless Apple and Google played nice of course… but that’s never going to happen.

Personally, I think I’d be happier with this system of payment. If you like an app, you get to reward the developer on a yearly basis rather than a one-off (of course the subscription price wouldn’t be as high as the current prices to buy apps are so as to be more appealing). Personally, I don’t see any flaws with this purchase model, but do you? If so, please feel free to offer “your two cents” in the comments below.

The new YouTube app

As you may know, last month Apple stated that their license with Google to include the YouTube app pre-installed on iOS devices has ended. What does this mean for you? Well, if you have an iOS device, you can get the new YouTube app from the app store right now. After installing it, you’ll notice it’s slightly different to the Android app with the main feed – you can opt out of Google’s non-subscription based suggestions. That is, you can stick with just seeing uploads from people you subscribe to in your main stream, rather than also see what they comment on, what they rate, and what they add to playlists. Personally, I welcome  this for two reasons; one being that with YouTube preloading on Android bumps subscribed uploads off the list in preference for newer activity which is just someone commenting on a video, and secondly, the entire activity list resulted in browsing through a lengthy stream of potentially uninteresting material.

The animations also feel a bit slicker than the Android ones in that it bounces a bit rather than just sliding to the side, resulting in the new iOS app feeling more polished and thought-out than the Android one.

My opinion on Google Music

Mainly, I don’t really see me having a use for it. I listen to my music on three devices, my HTC Touch Pro2 (phone and pocket computer, also only thing with ‘reliable’ internet access), my iPod Touch (holds my whole library from it’s state in 2009, but can’t sync so it’s an outdated collection) and my laptop (internal HDD is only 40GB, so almost all music is stored across two external 500GB drives, but the laptop never moves so portability isn’t an issue). My iPod says “431 Songs”. In total, I probably have around 550. When out and about, I use my phone for music as one of it’s few good features is it has dual speakers with amazing quality (whereas the iPod isn’t powerful or particularly crisp when outside). Okay, I guess that could be seen as the perfect opportunity for Google Music. I only have about 30 songs on my phone’s storage card, so it’s hardly convenient to listen too music of my choosing. My laptop is my music ‘hub’. All music is on it, but it goes nowhere. This would seem to set the perfect scene for a Google Music usage opportunity. However, my main issue is internet. I don’t really have an Internet connection. Well, it’s on and off. Mostly off (long story). Pretty much all tweeting, blogging, e-mailing, browsing, IRCing etc. is done on my phone. I do sometimes tether my phone to my laptop, but that ends up somehow burning through at least 100MB in two hours. Carriers in the UK don’t quite understand the idea of ‘unlimited’ or ‘fair’. 500MB a month isn’t good enough for any phone made after 2008 (approximately). Or maybe it’s just that I in particular need to access everything online via it. Well, imagine if your data cap on your broadband was 500MB a month. You probably wouldn’t cope. I’m not getting at anyone here, or trying to make you feel I’m hard done by. I am trying to switch to the 3 network, who while not being famous for coverage, would appear to offer truly unlimited data. So, when I’m on the go, I can’t just stream my music due to the data cap. Oh, and nothing that’s fancy online works on Windows Mobile. So, I’d have to tether my iPod to my phone and use that for streaming. Which means no awesome speakers. And it means my phone would have to be switched on permanently (if I turn the screen off, wifi goes off, so tethering stops). The battery, to put it bluntly, doesn’t last long.

Maybe it’s just my specific situation that makes me dislike it. I suppose I see an ‘end’, there’s just no means (as in a means to an end. Google Music would be the solution to my slight music problem). If I lived in America with slightly nicer carriers, and if I had an array of devices that weren’t a) knackered b) incompatible and c) outdated, maybe I would use it.

I guess part of my ‘beef’ with it is that it’s Google. They do search. And adverts to monetize the search. And email to also increase ad revenues. And maps to provide a feature-full platform… Okay, maybe they don’t just do search. But Music? They killed newspapers (allegedly). Apple killed the singles with iTunes. That is a pity. I like having the thing physically. A film on DVD always feels more worth it than if it was purchased of iTunes. Same with books and music. But, digital does have a great benefit. Portability.
If it was Amazon Music, I probably wouldn’t oppose it as much. Google do seem to be trying to improve everybody’s lives in every possible way. But remember, they’re a 14 year old search engine.

Google Movies and Google Music – breaking into Apple’s areas once again

Look Google, YOU DO SEARCH.
“Apple does a phone and they are successful. Let’s copy them!”
“Apple does a tablet. Let’s specifically alter the OS we tweaked for phones to run on tablets!”
“y’know what would really piss Apple off now? Let’s do movies! Wait, let’s not stop there, let’s do music as well!”

If I worked at Apple and this was my ‘area’, I would be VERY annoyed. So, Google, the company that does search, make use of the phone OS they bought years ago and make their own phones, as well as allowing other manufacturer’s to use the OS (playing on Apple’s weakness/strength of iOS being just on iDevices and vice-versa).
Then, they notice that there is now a market for tablets, so alter Android to run better on the countless cheap plastic tablets.
And now, to continue copying, they bring ‘Google Movies’ and ‘Google Music’ out. Hopefully Google Music will fail. It seems to have less backing than the Canonical music thing.
However, copying Apple, Netflix and others, Google now decide that people should be able to rent movies on their fAndroid devices and Google TV. Apple MADE the market for digitalized music, and did a LOT with films. It’s their ball park. Come on Google, you do search. Or at least you did… You seem to be ignoring it now and just getting scarily big. Reconsider your tagline.

Shame on you Sony, but I suppose you are making losses on the Ps3 front…
Universal, have you ever done anything good?
Warner Brothers, I thought you were better than this.

Seriously Apple, you’re amazing at making stuff, so make a really good search engine, just to piss Google off. They deserve to be retaliated against, especially if it comes from you. I mean, come on. YOU digitalized music. You deserve to respond.

Google gives Apple the finger – again

Apple was near to ruling the smartphone market. Then Google announce that they plan on launching a phone. Apple – hardware. Google – web search, platforms for others to use/build on. How could this new phone possibly fit Google’s markets? Well it did. People wanted to buy the ‘Google phone’ just as much as one would want to buy a signed Google t-shirt. A lot. As everyone knows, Apple was rather ‘annoyed’ by this, eventually suing HTC for rather petty, but nonetheless existent, patents. Then, a few years down the line, Apple releases the first big tablet. And wouldn’t you beleive it?! Suddenly, as if by magic, hundreds of other companies suddenly decide that there’s a market for tablets. Couldn’t they just give Apple credit when due? No. And what easier OS to put on a tablet? Google’s Android. But it looks like a phone OS, because it is. Guess what Google just announced! A tablet-specific version of Android, called ‘Honeycomb’.