Rose Gold is apparently the Next Big Thing

Well… that’s what the stats from Apple preorders seem to state…

The iPhone 6s is supposed to be another huge hit for the iDevice maker. This latest iteration of Apple’s flagship smartphone is estimated to have sold between five and ten million units – and perhaps as high as thirteen million – during its opening weekend of availability. However, of those, nearly 40% are said to be of the rose gold variety.

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(Mine – or rather, I should say, my wife’s YELLOW gold iPhone 6s Plus – arrived on Friday 2015-09-25, and I have an unboxing video with iPhone 6 comparison, that is currently in editing. Look for it to post on Soft32 in a few days.)

Supply chain sources who spoke with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, the rose gold iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been very popular, accounting for nearly 40% of all “tock” iDevice preorders. Most of the rose gold devices are said to come from Foxconn, who apparently is the only casing supplier who can satisfy the needed volume for this production version.
As far as what may be production manufacturing issues, aside from rose gold casing, items that may constrain the supply chain include the newest taptic engine (to support 3D Touch) and the new backlight module (to support the selfie flash on the front facing camera). Apple is expecting the 6s series of devices to track to record setting sales at launch.

This is largely expected due to day one availability in China, where many rose gold devices (gold is considered to be a huge status symbol in China, and the new rose gold case color will likely be seen as elite…) will likely be sold. Apple investors expect that including China in Apple’s launch day sales will likely set new sales records.

Last year, the availability of the iPhone 6 Plus as well as the yellow gold case, helped send iPhone sales through the roof. Both of these new features made the 6 Plus very difficult to get, despite the fact that – at least here in the States – phablets haven’t caught on as much as they have in both Europe and Asia. This year, I would expect the 6s Plus to outsell the 6s. There are a number of advantages to the larger screened device, including optical image stabilization in the new and improved 12MP rear facing camera. I know many people who are upgrading from the iPhone 5/5s/5c or even the iPhone 6 have seen the 6 Plus and are curious about how the larger device – with its larger screen and larger battery – may (or may not) fit into their lives.

Are you getting an iPhone 6s? Is rose gold a thing for you? Are you interested in that color casing? Are you interested in the iPhone 6s Plus? Will the camera improvements and the larger screen make it a choice for you this year? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me why or why not?

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I Think Apple found the Smoking Bazooka

Oh snap..!   Google did in fact agree to indemnify Samsung in the original trial against Apple.

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On any given [Sun]day, this might not be a big deal.   However, there are two big problems with this development that had me nearly reeling this morning as I read first the headline and then the article on Apple Insider. Samsung is in a boat load of trouble; and it may be taking Google down with it. BOTH companies may burn on this one.   This is a huge deal for two specific reasons
1.    Samsung KNEW it was Infringing on Apple Patents – Despite anything that it has said over the course of the past few years while the Apple v. Samsung patent trials were under way, based on Samsung’s request for Google to indemnify them (read – foot the bill for the legal fees and direct the path of their legal defense) Samsung ACTIVELY knew that it had been steeling Apple’s intellectual property. If it hadn’t, then it wouldn’t have asked Google to indemnify them.
2.    Samsung Lied…BIG Time – In short (because Apple’s attorney Harold McElhinny really hit this one out of the park, presenting four (4) different exhibits outlining Samsung’s activities to actively hide its request …REQUEST… to Google to indemnify them) – during active testimony in open court, Samsung denied seeking indemnification from any third party (including Google). Here’s where McElhinny hit the grand slam – he presented four examples that clearly shows that Samsung did in fact ACTIVELY pursue indemnification from Google.
That’s not a smoking gun, kids…that’s a smoking bazooka.   There’s not much left of Samsung’s foot.

The final exhibit that McElhinny presented in his examination was,

“…a letter ‘from Allen Lo of Google, Deputy General Counsel Patents and Patent Litigation,’ to Samsung’s JaeHyoung Kim, dated May 21, 2012. The email, titled, ‘Apple litigation alleged patent infringement,’ was described by James Maccoun, [Google’s counsel], as ‘Google’s essentially offering to defend Samsung to the MADA (Mobile Applications Development Agreement) and does offer to defend some — some claims.’ ”

While this may seem a bit “open and shut,” it actually isn’t. There’s a great deal of, “he said, she said” going on with all of this. After the last trial, which Apple won and was ultimately (after reductions and retrials) awarded a judgment of about $890M USD (and not the original $1B+ USD), Samsung outlined what was described as “minor damages” related to two patents it purchased in 2011, after initially being sued by Apple; and doesn’t appear to amount to much.

For example, one patent related to a FaceTime-like video system which could send video over a low bandwidth line, has expired. Apple Insider calls this “start contrast to Apple’s patent offense, which focuses on four feature patents that Samsung meticulously detailed as features it needed in its own products in order to compete against Apple, including Slide to Unlock and Apple Data Detectors.” At this time, Samsung refuses to license the patents on Apple’s terms, hence the latest law suit from Apple seeking $2.0B in damages, royalties and lost profits.   However, that doesn’t clear Apple of anything.   How – and even IF – it’s relevant to these proceedings remains to be seen.

However, being able to produce these four exhibits that clearly contradict Samsung’s earlier testimony, is – in a word – damning. The fact that Samsung knew it had IP issues and then actively sought protection against them from Google in Samsung’s first patent trial against Apple is telling. They knew they were (at least potentially) in trouble.

One big question from all of this is, “how does this effect Google, if at all?”   Will they be drawn into this because of their own desire to indemnify Samsung; or because of the conspiracy to hide the truth from both the Court and from Apple during the last trial? Will they be fined, or be held partially responsible for the damages and judgment that Apple won?   At any rate, that, and if and how this development effects the current trial, remains to be seen.

The biggest question I have after all this is – how will Judge Koh take all of this?   Since Samsung has been caught in a blatant lie, will Judge Koh penalize Samsung in any way?   Will she hold them in Contempt of Court?   She’s shown herself to be intolerant of the shenanigans going on between the two companies in and out of the courtroom. Given that this is pretty “in your face,” I wonder if she will retaliate.   I know many that would want to, at least initially.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that the legal issues between Apple and Samsung – and potentially Google now – are far from over.   If there’s one thing that this particular revelation has shown me, it’s that the trial still has a lot of legs and still has a great many more skeletons buried deep within both company’s respective closets that may yet be revealed.

What do you make of all of this? Did this surprise you as much as it did me? If so, were you more surprised by the actual facts of the situation or by the fact that Samsung got caught in a lie? How do you think it will affect the current trial, if at all?   Will Judge Lucy Koh act on this particular issue, holding Samsung and/ or Google in contempt of court, will she let it slide; or will she penalize one or both of them in a different way?

I’d really like to hear from everyone.   This could create a really cool conversation, with a great deal of speculation and interesting content.   Why don’t you log in and give me your thoughts in the comments section and tell me what you think?   I’d really like hearing your thoughts on all of this.

The roller coaster ride isn’t over yet, but you’re going to have to watch out for pot holes and other bazooka-like remnants as you make your way through it all. This one has the potential to get a bit messier still…

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Aftermarket CarPlay Support Arrives in 2014

Both Alpine and Pioneer have promised to release aftermarket head units compatible with Apple’s CarPlay in 2014

If you remember, right before Apple announced CarPlay, I put out a lengthy article outlining a vision for what was then known as iOS in the Car. Right after that hit the site, it seems Apple got on the stick and decided to announce their long anticipated and highly sought after automotive integration.  It was pretty cool to compare what I was looking for and what Apple decided to do. I was close, but my vision didn’t quite have synergistic parity with Apple’s actual plans.

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At the time of the announcement, companies like Volvo, Ferrari and GM announced support.  Shortly after that, a great many others announced support for the info-tainment system, including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota, among others. As long as you’ve got an iPhone 5 or later running iOS 7.1 or later, your iPhone will support CarPlay and your NEW ride will have support for Apple’s ecosystem built in.

The problem comes in iPhone owners with older vehicles. No one knew if or when any aftermarket support for the standard would be introduced either via a firmware upgrade for existing head units or as new, aftermarket hardware that could be installed.  Thankfully, both Alpine and Pioneer have confirmed that they will both have units available for purchase – that should work in many popular vehicles – before the end of calendar 2014.

Pioneer will update the firmware of five of its new NEX in-dash multimedia receivers; and they are compatible with most existing vehicles.  Pioneer will also have entry level options for new receivers starting at $700 USD; and going up to $1400.

Alpine’s offerings will reportedly be offered in both the US and in Europe and are reported to range from $500 to $700 USD and is rumored to include a 7″ touch screen.  Movement for aftermarket support is coming faster than anticipated, as Kenwood said they wouldn’t have any CarPlay compatible systems in 2014. The fact that both of these high-quality, aftermarket providers will being offering multiple units at varying price points indicates huge aftermarket demand for what will likely become an standard across multiple automotive manufacturers.

For me, this means I’m buying a new head unit later this year. Period. My Toyota has a Kenwood system in it right now that isn’t quite iPhone 5 or iOS 7.x compatible, despite what Kenwood says.  The unit is very nice, but it frequently has issues connecting to my iPhone 5, has issues staying connected and then tends to beep or ping unexpectedly when speaking to callers. It gets so bad, that I often have to either delete the partnership between my iPhone and head unit and repair OR I have to remove the head unit face (killing Bluetooth) or turn Bluetooth on my iPhone off/on and allow it to repair.

This happens multiple times a week, and I’ve nearly ditched the head unit on a number of occasions. I recently discovered a firmware update for it and applied it, but it really didn’t improve anything for me. I’ve either got a bad head unit (not quite likely) or the firmware update/ Bluetooth profiles aren’t as robust as they could be/ should be (much more likely).  The problem isn’t my iPhone 5. It pairs with other Bluetooth devices (speakers, headsets, etc. – or those that make specific use of Bluetooth audio) without issues or needing any troubleshooting. I was seriously considering buying another, much more expensive – read, totally iPhone 5/s iPhone 6 compatible – head unit. I spend a great deal of time driving my car commuting to work and driving between Chicago and Omaha.

I need something that’s going to work and isn’t going to requiring a lot of hand holding and troubleshooting. Since I’m going to either stay with my iPhone 5 or upgrade to iPhone 6 (the smaller of the two larger screen models that are currently rumored to be released this Fall), I know I’m going to want something that will continue to work and work well with my smartphone of choice. That’s going to be something that’s CarPlay compatible.  Since I’ll likely keep an iPhone 6 for at least two years, or will keep my iPhone 5 indefinitely, paying a premium for the car head unit will be justified (at $500 that breaks down to about $21 a month).  It becomes an even better deal if I stay with my iPhone 5, as I won’t also have a new device purchase to fund as well as a new head unit.

For my wife, who has a Honda Odyssey with a factory head unit that plays DVD’s on a screen that flips down from the ceiling of the van, any CarPlay compatible replacement for her entertainment system would likely have to come directly from Honda in order to insure that everything works the way it’s supposed to. However, with the kids as active as THEY are after school, it’s likely that she will need something that works well with her iPhone 5, especially since she doesn’t have any kind of Bluetooth headset and Illinois passed a cellphone hands free law that went into effect 2014-01-01.  She’s on her phone all the time. If she doesn’t get something to help her be hands free, she’s gonna get pulled over, I just know it…

And unless the offerings from either Alpine or Pioneer work in her van and interface with her in-car DVD player, the CarPlay unit will likely HAVE to come from Honda, which will make it all the more expensive…if Honda even offers it as an aftermarket/post purchase add-on or upgrade. I don’t want to have to replace everything in that system.

What about you?  Are you an iPhone owner?  Will you be purchasing a CarPlay compatible head unit for your late model vehicle? Will you just purchase a new vehicle instead? Why don’t’ you join me in the discussion below and tell me what you’re going to do?

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Apple Releases Gold Master of OS X 10.9 Mavericks

Update ’em if you got it! Apple has released the GM version of OS X 10.9, codenamed Mavericks to its Developers.

At the last major Apple announcement earlier this summer, information regarding Apple’s next desktop OS release was announced. Recently, Apple announced the GM availability of their latest desktop OS, code named Mavericks, on Friday 2013-10-04.

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Mavericks is largely a maintenance release. It has a number of back end changes that improve performance. It also has some interesting user enhancements like FaceTime Audio Calling, FaceTime AutoAnswer (FT does not have to be running), multiple monitor support, tabs in Finder and a new, redesigned Calendar, among other enhancements.

I’ve got the new OS installed on my MacBook Pro; and odds are, that if you have a Mac running Mountain Lion, you’re going to be able to run Mavericks without an issue.

Stay tuned to Soft32, as I plan on having an extensive write-up on the new features in Mavericks in the next week or so. Mavericks is due to hit the streets before the end of October 2013.

 

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Apple’s WWDC Starts Today

wwdc13-about-main_2xToday, the rubber meets the road as the wrapper is ripped off of iOS 7 and we see if it’s any more than just a coat of indoor, flat paint.

In mid-May, I pulled together a two part blog series on what I thought were must have changes for iOS 7. It involves much more than just a coat of paint.

Most everyone is saying that Jonny Ive hates skewmorphism, or the implementation of life-like design elements – textures, glitz, gloss, etc. – that makes software look and feel like the real-world elements they imitate. Those that have been watching the rumor mills churn prior to the start of WWDC today (on 10-Jun-13 at 10am PDT), have heard and seen a number of reports indicating that the new OS is much flatter and has what’s being called a “skinny jeans” look with an ultra-thin Helvetica font taking center stage as the default font for the OS.

Many others have said, and I also whole-heartedly agree, that if iOS 7 is nothing more than a new coat of flat, indoor house paint, then Apple is going to have trouble drawing new iConverts to their walled garden of devices.   iDevices are nice, but the user interface needs a refresh, with new and innovative updates that provide an updated sense of ease of use and innovative features.

You can read my iOS7 blog to find out what I think should be done to the OS at a minimum. I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that the rumor mill hasn’t been churning out a lot of leaks or speculation. Everyone seems to be in wait and see mode. Expect a plethora of commentary from industry pundits in the days and weeks to come.

I will have an update tomorrow or Wednesday of this week on what Apple has decided to do with iOS 7. I will also have an in-depth tear-down of the updated mobile OS for Soft32 in the coming weeks. Please watch the site for it as well as a tear-down of  Windows 8.1 after its released by Microsoft at their technical conference at the end of June.

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iOS 6.x Woes – What Apple Needs to Do

Apple needs to do a LOT to fix the problems it has with every public bugs.

iOS-6.1Apple is definitely in a period of transition both from a stock price perspective and from a leadership perspective.  They also seem to be wobbling a bit when it comes to strategic direction for its mobile OS.  When you move from a high quality to rapid release methodology and then do an about face, you can count on a number of different problems cropping up.  Apple definitely has its work cut out for itself as it tries to refocus its release philosophy back towards the, “it just works” point of view.

With the exit of Scott Forstall, Apple is moving away from what appears to be the industry popular rapid release oriented Agile/Scrum development methodology that focuses more on the introduction of features and functionality rather than quality of code and delivery.  With Leopard, Apple had 11 point releases. With Snow Leopard, Apple delivered 8 updates. With Lion, there were 5 releases.  It’s clear.  Apple is ratcheting down the number of releases and is focusing more on quality rather than quantity.

Given its direction with its desktop OS, I have to wonder what the heck is going on with its mobile OS. Things don’t seem to be righting themselves there. There have been six (6), seven counting the iPhone 4S only 6.1.1 release, releases of iOS 6 since its release in mid-September of 2012. That’s an average of just over 1 release per month.

If you ask me, that’s excessive; and it CLEARLY indicates that Apple’s methodology changes haven’t trickled down to the mobile OS team yet. Development methodologies like Agile/Scrum concentrate more on the release of new features rather than quality of delivery. When problems are encountered or identified, you release a new version and roll the code base forward. There’s little to no time to do any regression testing (testing to insure previously squashed bugs stay squashed). This is the major reason why the lock screen bug that was “resolved” in iOS 6.1.3 reappeared.  It’s also the major reason why it was recently discovered that 6.1.3 didn’t completely resolve the issue.

According to Apple Insider additional methods of bypassing the iOS lock screen have been discovered in iOS 6.1.3, even though this release was designed and engineered to specifically lock the lock screen down.

The lock screen bugs, both this new one and the previous one are not easy to reproduce. You really have to be one demented and dedicated tester, and understand the device, its OS and applet behavior in order to successfully reproduce the exploits.  However, it speaks to a much larger problem – one of development methodology.

This isn’t so much a coding issue as it is a leadership issue.  Apple coders and testers must be allowed to spend the time necessary to come up with these kinds of use cases and scenarios so that proper test requirements can be documented and then tests created and executed.  The key word there is “time.”  Unfortunately, it’s the one thing that Apple doesn’t have an abundance of.

Apple needs to squash bugs, and squash them quickly.  Most importantly, it needs to make sure that the bugs they say they’ve squashed, stay squashed. Finding a way around the released fix one day after its release doesn’t lend confidence that Apple is doing the due diligence to resolve and robustly test the code they’re releasing.  It’s even worse when it seems as though everybody else but “you” knows what to do to get around your code.  Apple needs to change how it develops, tests and more importantly, plans its releases.  If I were Apple’s QA director, I’d be worried for my job at this point.  I’d also march myself into Eddie Cue’s office by the end of the week with a solid plan on how testing is going to insure buggy software doesn’t get released.  This is getting ridiculous, and isn’t going to help Apple’s stock (AAPL) price, either. It’s down 35.5% since its 52 week high six months ago.

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Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #1

Amazon and the Kindle Fire. Google and the Android-powered tablets, and Apple and the iPad. While Apple still has a huge lead and foothold on the mobile market, I think everyone else FINALLY gets it.

Amazon released the Kindle Fire on 15-Nov-11. Barns & Noble released the Nook Tablet a day or so after that. Both tablets run Google’s Android operating system. The Nook is priced at $249 USD. The Kindle Fire is priced at $199 USD.

Apple – The Leader of the Pack

Despite the fact that Apple’s products boast quite a premium price – the Apple iPad starts at $499 USD – they continue to dominate the tablet market, and their share of the smartphone market is improving. The reason why can be summed up in three words – The Apple Ecosystem.

Through iTunes, Apple’s ecosystem hub, users can sync files, PIM data and browser shortcuts. They can buy, rent and load music, video, pictures, eBooks and applications. They can configure and sync all of their content to an online music locker – iCloud – all at once; and all of their mobile devices, the iPad, iPhone and iPod Family products, run the same operating system, giving users a standardized user experience across all of their mobile devices, regardless of price point. All user data is handled in the same way, and can be shared among authorized family users. The devices are also extremely intuitive and easy to use.

It’s taken Apple eight years to establish, create and refine this consumer ecosystem. It’s taken them that long to build and nurture the vendor relationships and to create and provide the developer community with tools that work within this construct. Apple has defined their consumer ecosystem and has established themselves as the undisputed leader in this space. Ask any tech industry analyst or pundit. They’ll tell you that exactly that. Apple is the company to beat.

Google – Always a Bride’s Maid…

Two years ago, I approached Google with this particular issue and outlined a way for them to compete in, if not own, this space. FroYo was coming online, they had recently introduced the Nexus One, and had authorized Samsung to make and distribute the Galaxy S line of Smartphones. Those could have done anything that the iPhone 3GS was doing, and I felt that my idea, if not dead on, was at least on the right track. They had much of the work done, but just needed to pull it together, insure it integrated appropriately and package it up. It would have given them a leg up on the remaining, or up-and-coming, competition.

Google’s verbal response to me was clear – mind your own beeswax.

They stated they were not, Apple, didn’t want or need to be like Apple, and were frankly, smarter than Apple.

Really?

When I asked why then, they or anyone else for that matter, hadn’t been able to crack the digital music player nut, and pointed out that the only real competition – Microsoft’s Zune – had recently been discontinued, I didn’t get a response. They simply ended the dialog.

Interesting how they introduced Google Music, their own online music locker service; and then recently updated it with the ability to purchase and download songs. They’ve also recently added Google Books to their core Android application collection and updated the Android Market to sell not only books, but music as well. Unfortunately, they’re still missing the desktop photo manager/editor integration. Their also missing integration for a couple other components, but I’m certain they’ll get there eventually. They’re going to have to to remain competitive in this space.

You’re welcome, Google. I should probably send you a pretty hefty invoice for the IP.

Amazon – Never mind, Google…We got this.

Early in 2011, Amazon set the world on its ear – quite literally – when it released and made available to the general public, three specific services: Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player for Web and Amazon Cloud Player for Android. This development was significant in that it was the first instance of a music locker service that did not get seriously challenged by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) or any other music industry organization or coalition. The key was the way music was getting loaded and played. Users could only access any of their music from one location or device at a time, and sharing of any music was strictly a no-no.

The only thing the RIAA could say was a resounding, “yeah, but…”

Score one for the consumer or little guy, who finally got to store their music in the cloud, and literally play the songs they owned from anywhere they could get an internet connection.

In the same month, actually a few days later, they opened the Amazon App Store for Android, offering a free paid app every week. Pairing both of these together, Amazon found a way to get multimedia content to its users, right to their devices. The music content would play and sync with Cloud Drive via Amazon MP3 on the device, and their App Store undercut Google’s store by offering at least 1 free app per week.

Where Apple pulled together the ENTIRE ecosystem – PIM, Sync Services, multimedia content, apps, eBooks, pictures, etc., Amazon gave users multimedia content, apps and eBooks, and then relied upon the Google Android infrastructure for PIM and Sync Services. It’s ingenious actually, as they could then introduce their own devices (the Kindle Fire, for example), and attract users to their content stores. That’s where the real money is.

Amazon realized this, and as such added additional features to its Amazon Prime services, including unlimited video streaming right to your Android device, including their Kindle Fire tablet.

Come back next time, and I’ll pull everything together and help you decide who is REALLY on top of the mobile landscape.

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