What to Expect from Apple’s iPhone Event

Without [completely over] stating the obvious…

September 10, 2013 was the day.

It was iPhone 5S day. Nearly everyone that I’ve talked to over the past few days have asked me what I think will actually happen with Apple’s release of the new iPhone. With the caveat that it ain’t over until Apple says, “thanks and goodbye,” here’s my brief rundown of what I felt Apple would have announced at the event.

Apple-Event-1

In summary, I think we’ve heard and seen everything. I don’t think there’s going to be too much new or previously unknown or unannounced. These were my thoughts prior to the event:

New Models

I think you will see two new models of iPhone released. The iPhone 5S – a premium model, and the iPhone 5C – a more affordable device. I don’t think that the 5C will be labeled as a budget model. Unless Apple sells it at a loss and prices it at $299-$349, the device while perhaps “more affordable” than the more familiarly priced 5S, at $499, $599 and $699.

I also think that the 5C WILL make an impact with customers of budget conscious, post paid carriers like T-Mobile in the States, NTT DoCoMo in Japan and China Mobile. Its possible that tens of millions of additional iPhones could be sold due to the addition of these last two carriers.

The reported color choices of the plastic-backed 5C are also a likely lock. I’d also call the 4 color variations of the 5S – white, black, graphite and champagne – a done deal.

Biometric Sensor

This is all but a certainty at this point. Tools like this will pair well with the enhanced security measures in iOS 7, and make the iPhone a very difficult phone to steal and then sell. Security is a huge deal in iOS 7, so enhancing it with this type of hardware tool is more than logical.

iOS 7 and Other Software
You’ve seen my predictions and thoughts on iOS 7. The mobile OS is going to take a GREAT deal of getting used to. I’ve been using it for months and I’m still not completely sold on it. Apple is going to take a ton of grief on it, as I do NOT think the masses will receive it well. The flattening of the OS will not be well received, as it doesn’t appear to have the Classic Apple spit an polish that most of us are used to. The new editions to the OS are simply additions that have already been seen and added to other platforms. The Notification Center and Control Center are both remakes and overdue on iOS.

We’re also going to see iTunes Radio finally get the limelight it has been craving. The free service has pre-created music stations, as well as stations that can be created based on individual songs or artists. Apple will offer it ad-free to subscribers of its iTunes Match service.

AppleTV will also see updates to it that will allow Apple’s set top box add-on to play additional content. Some of the additional options/ apps are really very nice, especially if you have a cable subscription.

We’ll also likely see the iPod Classic finally retired, and will see updates to the iPod Touch line; but probably not a price cut. Updated iPads will be announced at a later date. Don’t look for updated models on Tuesday. That day will be all about the new iPhone 5S/5C and iOS 7.

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Why Hasn’t Google Mopped the Floor with Apple?

The mobile space is very competitive; but how why hasn’t Google killed it? Let’s explore that a bit…

aaaIntroduction

Every now and again, even the best of us get hit with a moment of clarity. You know, that moment right after you lay your head down to sleep, you find it…you see it, and it hits you.

BAM!

THE reason, despite ALL others why Google, in spite of their huge vendor penetration and installation base, hasn’t totally mopped the floor with Apple and sent the iPhone packing…and it call comes down to one word –

Ecosystem. Or is it Fragmentation…? In many ways the two are so irreparably intertwined, it’s depressing. However, anyway you slice it, its totally Google’s fault.

Fragmentation

A couple years ago, I wrote an article titled, Opinion – How Google can Trump the iPad. Back in 2010, no one had ever said, heard or understood what an ecosystem was. I was kinda close, but didn’t quite close the loop.

I got about 98% of the way there. Yes, the ecosystem is all about your content on your device; but its more about capturing the consumer and keeping them and their business regardless of what device they’re using. They keep coming back to YOU as the source of truth.

They use your productivity services. They use your applications. More importantly, they purchase those services and applications from sources YOU control, continually providing you with a revenue stream.

Is this starting to sound familiar? Good. Hold that thought… I want to clear something up first.

This is NOT an article about how totally eff-ing awesome Apple is. This is really an article that asks, “how the hell could Google miss the damn boat?!”

Google is partners with Samsung, LG, HTC, and bought Motorola so they could create and sell Android devices of their own. There are more worn out Android devices in land fills now-a-days than there are iPhones in active use, yet iOS and Android are virtually even in market share.

Android Takeover

Can ANYONE tell me why that is?

If you go the fragmentation route, you find that there are so many different versions of Google’s mobile OS out there that it kinda gives you a headache. As of 2013-08-01, you can see the spread of Android versions currently in use. I’m not certain what’s most frightening, the fact that Honeycomb was a total loser, or that Android 2.1 Eclaire still commands a 1.4% share of all devices currently on the market today.

Including Key Lime Pie, there are 35 active versions of Android. That’s all of them, folks. To some extent, you can find every version of Android ever released by Google active somewhere; and Android devices are like grains of sand – numerous to uncountable, even from a single vendor.

To be honest, that figure includes every major, minor and point release of the mobile OS to be made available to end users, and not every version made it to every device.

To contrast this, iOS has seen about 1/2 as many releases in only 6 devices. In the Apple camp, OS releases are highly controlled. Many changes are rolled up to an annual major, release cycle. Minor releases are only introduced as needed. Point releases are used to address crucial, showstopper bugs. The OS simply doesn’t have the level of releases (in software, we call this “churn”) that its competitor’s does. iOS appears to be much more stable and organized as a result.

So, I think its safe to say that there are a bajillion Android devices from numerous vendors running a bajillion versions of Android. The perception here is not just fragmentation, but complete and utter chaos when it comes to devices and OS releases.

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Oh snap! Apple ITC Ban Vetoed by the Obama Administration

South Korea to the US regarding the veto – “I find your lack of faith disturbing…”

presidentialseal

The ITC announced that it would ban imports of the iPhone 4 as well as the iPad 2 due to patent infringements that the ITC found Apple had committed.  While Apple insists that it did nothing wrong and that the patents in question were SEP (standard essential patents) needed in order to conduct business, Samsung praised the ban.

Then the only thing that could disrupt Samsung’s brief, mental party happened – The Obama administration vetoed the ITC ban – the first such veto in over 25 years.

The US has the ability to overturn an ITC ban when it feels said ban conflicts with US Policy and is against the public interest.

The ban did a couple things outside of allowing Apple to continue selling the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 in the US. Briefly, it

  • Weakened the ITC
    If the US can so easily, so casually veto the ITC’s decision to ban these products, it may discourage other companies to seek relief via the ITC. Historically, it’s been easier to gain these types of injunctive relief through the ITC, as it didn’t require the burden of proof that other legal avenues did.
  • Caused a $1B Market Cap Loss for Samsung
    The market responded negatively and Samsung lost a great deal of operating capital and value as a result.
  • Strained Relations between the US and South Korea
    The South Korean government issued a statement expressing worries about the ITC ban veto. The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy says that the decision could harm Samsung’s patent rights.  The Ministry said it will be paying close attention on Friday, when the ITC is expected to rule on a possible ban of some of Samsung’s Galaxy devices; and that [they hoped] “to see a fair and reasonable decision on the matter.”

It’s clear from the South Korean statement that they aren’t happy with the US government’s decision to back Apple. If it were any other country on any other volatile peninsula, it might strain relations between the two countries. However, South Korea is dependent on US support against an aggressive North Korea, so the rhetoric from the South may just end up being that – rhetoric.

The banned items are likely to be discontinued in a few months as Apple introduces the anticipated iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C (the budget iPhone) and the iPhone 5, sometime this Fall.  As I understood the ban, it was an import, not a sales ban.  So Apple, AT&T and other resellers would have been able to continue to sell what stock they had of each device.

In the end, I’m not certain how effective the ban would have been, had the US not vetoed it. I actually think the veto sent a louder message than the ban would have.

According to the published dissenting opinion by ITC commissioner Dean Pinkert, the ban has a few major flaws. Among them are:

  • The patent in question was only a small part of an international standard.  As such Samsung had agreed to make it available for licensing under terms that are fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms.
  • Samsung had made no effort to demonstrate that the licensing terms it offered to Apple were reasonable
  • That the only time Samsung made such an offer was during an oral discussions in December 2012; and it came with strings attached that Apple simply could not agree to
  • What those strings were have been redacted (blacked out) in the document, but Pinkert adds in the next sentence: “it is neither fair nor non-discriminatory for the holder of the FRAND-encumbered patent to require licenses to non-FRAND-encumbered patents as a condition for licensing its patent.”

It may be that the ban was implemented due to politics. There seems to be some evidence that suggests the commissioners kicked this one upstairs hoping the President would veto it. Now that that’s happened, and issues like these have gotten executive attention, perhaps some serious patent law changes can be implemented.

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The Top 11 New Features in iOS 7

With tons of new features on tap, iOS 7 brings updates o-plenty to Apple’s Mobile OS

Please note that while this article was being written, Apple released iOS 7 Beta 2. This article contains comments and issues on both beta releases.

Introduction

It’s summer, and as such every young geeks fancy turns to thoughts of new techy goodness from the top tech companies of the world. In like fashion, Apple’s WWDC and its opening keynote presentation often heralds the introduction of not only new hardware but the software that drives it. This year was no exception.

During Apple’s streamed WWDC Keynote, Apple’s leadership team introduced us to a number of really cool features that would be coming in iOS 7. There are a number of different changes and I’ve had a chance to play with it for a week or two. Its different, that’s for sure; and the OS has a number of new features that are sure to be of interest to a great many people.

So, without further ado, here are what I feel are the top 11 new features in iOS 7. Please note, however, that the mobile OS also a bit buggy as of Beta 1, so I’ve got a section at the end where I’ve listed some opportunities for improvement as well.

IMG_0006Control Center

I was hoping for something like Control Center when I wrote my Top Must have Changes in iOS 7 blog post in May of 2013. The new feature puts some often used toggle switches (Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DND and Rotation Lock along the top, Flashlight, Clock, Calculator and Camera along the bottom) at your immediate disposal. I also gives you access to brightness and music controls You also have access to AirDrop and active, Bluetooth connections in case you want to send a quick file or manage an active connection.

Control Center slides up from the bottom of the screen, and is (or will be) available from any app or screen on your iDevice. All you have to do is swipe up from the bottom. I’d still like to see the ability to customize this just a bit. I’m never going to use the clock; and I’ve got access to Camera thru the Lock Screen, and I never lock my screen rotation, so me actually using those 3 shortcuts is unlikely and an unfortunate waste of functionality and space.

 

Notification CenterIMG_0007

The revamped Notification Center is a bit problematic. To get access to it, you swipe down from the top of the device screen; and like the Control Center, its available on the Lock Screen, too. I like the idea of a Today screen that gives you specific information about today, but its very long and scrolls too far down the device, if you ask me. For example, Stock information used to be a crawl across the bottom of the device and Notification Screen. When you have a long watch list like I do (3 indexes and 7 symbols), the list is really long, and takes up way too much room. Apple either needs to give me the option to have it list or crawl, or not display it at all.

Its not all sunshine and daisies, though. Make sure you check out the Bugs and Issues section at the end…

 

iTunes Radio

IMG_0018Apple’s long awaited Pandora competitor, branded iTunes Radio is probably one of the biggest and most anticipated features in iOS 7. Built into the Music App, iTunes Radio is the newest music option that the user has available to them, next to Playlist, Albums, Artists, etc.

The service allows users to stream ad-supported internet radio to their iDevice from anywhere you can get an internet signal. You get music from the three big music labels, and iTunes Match subscribers can listen to music without ads.

You can create your own stations, purchase songs through the iTunes Music Store as well as see what you’ve previously listened to through the service. The service will be available not only on your iDevice, but on your PC and Mac as well through an updated version of iTunes, and through Apple TV.

As some may remember, one of the big holdups in the service was the ability for users to skip songs. iTunes Radio users can skip up to 6 songs per station, regardless of whether or not they are iTunes Match subscribers or not. Skips should reset every hour the service is used.

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Industry In-Fighting is Really Starting to Tick Me Off

Enough already, will ya?!  I want interoperability!

apple_1351488311_540x540Attention computer vendors everywhere – I use your software tool it because it solves problems for me, not because it makes you money, or it looks cool, or any other reason other than it solves problems for me. So when you either don’t allow something to work OR if you reduce functionality – i.e. make something stop working that was previously working before, all you’re going to do in the long term is lose a customer.

Case in point – the latest update to the Mail, Calendar and People ModernUI app in Windows 8 removes Google Accounts from its syncable and supported accounts list. This is driving me nuts, because I spent a good 3 years in the Android camp before switching back to my iPhone. Unfortunately for me, my “master PIM account” is my Google Apps account.

This is a problem in an iPhone world because Google and Apple don’t’ work and play well together as they used to do. Both companies are busy having a “smartphone measuring” contest, trying to figure out whose smartphone is bigger, better, faster, etc.

I’ve got the same problem with Google and Microsoft over in the Windows 8 camp. Google recently removed Exchange ActiveSync support from its Google Apps suite. If you’re using a non-Google tool to sync PIM data, you may soon be out of luck. What this means is that if you have an Android Smartphone and a Windows 8 tablet, you can’t sync your contacts from Gmail to your Windows 8 tablet with Windows 8 Mail. An email program without your contacts in it is useless.

If you have an iPhone, you might be able to use CardDAV and CalDAV, but…oh yeah… Windows 8 doesn’t support those either. Apple is also dropping support of EAS from Mail.

So what we have here is a RETURN to the non-interoperability of 2007-2009 before both Google and Apple announced support for Exchange ActiveSync and everybody worked and played nice together.

From a vendor perspective, this is Google, Apple and Microsoft trying to lock users into their paid services. From a consumer perspective, this is a giant pain in the @$$.

Now, more than ever, until everyone decides that it’s politically correct to work and play well together, consumers must pick and choose their tools wisely. If you want all of your information to sync where and when you want it, you’re likely going to have to choose compatible tools.

In other words, due to the fact that it’s becoming increasingly harder to use off-vendor devices and service together, you aren’t going to be able to mix and match devices any longer. If you want to use an iPhone, you’re likely going to have to work with a Mac computer and an iPad tablet. If you have an Android smartphone, you’re going to be tied to Gmail/Google Apps and an Android tablet. Same thing for Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT.

All of these vendors have software and SaaS products to sell you and they want to insure that they hook you, and keep you in THEIR camp, in THEIR ecosystem. This is going to do nothing more than widen the gaps between vendors, their services and tools and firmly draw lines in the sand that users are going to have to cross.

This is going to create some very interesting opportunities for 3rd party developers who might be able to setup sync and consolidation services – think The Missing Sync and Plaxo – but both of those are having their own issues and problems to get around. All of this may do nothing more than narrow and eliminate choices for users as vendors like MS, Google and Apple try to lock them in. it’s going to be an interesting couple of years before this is all worked out. We may end up back with interoperability, but don’t think that it’s going to be for free… if it comes back, users are going to pay subscription and licensing fees.

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Explore your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch files with i-Funbox

Apple has always advocated letting the OS and the device (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) manage where it wants to put files. Many Apple advocates continually ask me why I care WHERE the computer puts data as long as its, 1. Backed up, 2. Available to my programs. The Windows Camp, coming from a DOS point of origin, is exactly the opposite. Serious Windows users want near total control over where and how their data is organized. This is one of the reasons why many Windows users will appreciate i-Funbox. Its an iDevice tool for Windows and Mac.

IFB01

i-Funbox allows users to take Total Control of you iDevice’s file system. With it, you can manage files on your iPhone or iPad just like you do in Windows File Explorer. You can easily transmit files and folders to your computer with the app’s optimized file transfer and browsing. I-Funbox now fully supports iOS 6.x as well as Asian/ Long filenames.

You can install and backup all of your applications, This is especially important if you’ve got a custom app that you want to install, like something for work, which may be unsigned. You can also access an app’s sandbox area, giving you access to application created documents as well as the ability to upload audio or video to 3rd party players. You can also export iTunes managed content. The nicest part of all of this is that using the app doesn’t require an installation of iTunes.

The secret sauce is that i-Funbox makes your iDevice function like a USB storage drive. You get access to the storage you need when you need it, as well as all the other benefits. This is a great app and its free price tag, no jailbreak or iTunes required status make this a must have for just about any iDevice owner. Novice users need to take caution, however, as the average user isn’t meant to access the file system directly and you might move or delete something that you shouldn’t.

Download i-Funbox for WindowsDownload i-Funbox for Mac

 

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Apple’s Low Cost iPhone – Good or Bad Idea?

Apple LogoBelieve it or not, this isn’t as slam dunk as you might think it is…

Emerging markets are a big deal.

In areas like China, Korea, parts of Africa, etc., where there are untapped consumers just waiting to buy a smartphone, the right device at the right price can sell and sell very well. Low cost, low margin phones are intended to make money in volume sales.

According to an article published on TUAW, former Apple CEO John Sculley agrees that Apple needs to produce the low cost device, which for many in those markets, is the only computing device they will own. While Sculley acknowledges that there’s “nothing wrong” with the current iPhone, he also acknowledged that Samsung is very good at what they do, and implied that Apple needs to figure it out and provide a competing product.

Sculley agreed that Tim Cook is the right person to lead Apple at this time due to his operations experience. Apple’s decision to cut its product update cycles to 6 months instead of 12 will require solid supply chain experience, and that’s right up Cook’s alley.

While its still unknown if a low cost iPhone would make an appearance in either the US or Europe, there seems to be a shift in thought in the smartphone arena. Lower cost, unsubsidized devices seem to be the direction that the world wants the industry to go. That being the case, I suspect that we’re going to see a number of exciting changes over the next year or so.

Whether or not a low cost iPhone is a good or bad idea is going to be validated by Apple’s financial and stock performance. The markets seem very fickle right now, with Apple stock jumping 3-5% over the past couple of days on news of component order cancellations and their 2013 product pipeline, respectively. Until the world decides that Apple knows what it wants to be when it grows up, I’d expect a great deal of fluctuation in their stock price and speculation in the news regarding the company’s viability in a post-Jobs era.

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The iPhone Cometh to T-Mobile

I saw an article today that indicated that T-Mobile USA would finally start selling Apple products in 2013. This makes a great deal of sense considering that T-Mobile has been doing a great deal of spectrum refarming, moving support for their HSPA+ network to include the iPhone compatible, 1900mHz band.

A short while ago, I wrote an article for BYTE indicating that despite the spectrum refarming, T-Mo USA would never, ever, EVER carry the iPhone. The big reason wasn’t frequency compatibility like everyone thought, especially with the spectrum refarming. The problem for tiny T-Mo was the huge device subsidy fees, as well as the device quotas that Apple would require of them. Sprint paid well over $1.0B USD to carry the iDevice.

In order to eliminate the need for a subsidy, T-Mo will carry the device, but charge the customer full price for it. Meaning that the T-Mo branded iPhone will likely cost between $650 to $850, depending on the amount of onboard storage. The voice and data plans will cost the customer a lot less as a result; and will be classified under T-Mo’s Value program.

The iPhone isn’t the only device that will go full price on T-Mo. All of their devices will go that way in 2013. Many T-Mo customers may choke on that, but in order to soften the blow, T-Mo will setup installment payments over 20 months if users can’t handle the full down stroke at contract start. While this may look like a device subsidy, it isn’t, and will still save users money over the 20 month installment period, according to T-Mobile USA.

The only thing really up in the air is when T-Mo will actually offer the device. T-Mo’s spectrum refarming should be completed by May 2013; and they may roll the device out nationally then. Apple tests the iPhone on every carrier LTE network before they allow the carrier to enable LTE support. T-Mobile won’t launch their LTE network until the second half of 2013; and as such, I’m guessing that Apple and T-Mobile USA will likely support the iPhone 5S (or 7th generation iPhone), making their inaugural announcement on stage, with Apple in September or October of 2013.

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