Google yesterday announced a new version of their free Chrome web browser that has some great features. Plus, they launched a new app that lets you view movies and TV shows that you've purchased in the Google Play store. An important new feature of Chrome is an option for compressing data, meaning that you use up to 50 percent less of your data allotment when browsing the web. If you turn on this feature, the app uses Google's servers to compress the web pages that you're accessing before they appear on your iPhone or iPad. This new feature also enables Safe Browsing, which protects you from malicious web pages so you don't inadvertently download spyware or viruses. When you open the Chrome browser, it automatically explains this new option and presents you with a screen to enable it. You can subsequently toggle it on and off in the settings panel for Chrome. Tap the settings icon at the top right in Chrome, then select Bandwidth, and then Reduce Data Usage. You'll see a screen that lets you turn the feature on and off and that shows your data savings. (See screenshot.)
Not many people yet appreciate the iBeacon feature built into their devices. But you will. iBeacon continues to gain momentum, and more and more people will begin to use it this year. A post on AppleInsider yesterday reported the first use of iBeacon for mobile payments. This is likely the future: You've selected your items for purchase and as you walk out the store you simply tap your iPhone to confirm the purchase, and you're on your way. According to AppleInsider, iMobile3 has developed a system called PassMarket that will store your payment information for a particular retailer. The system interacts with your iPhone via iBeacon, so that when you approach checkout, iBeacon will sense your location and automatically give you the option of paying via your phone. According to the article, iMobile3 envisions that this will be readily adopted by retailers because the technology basically integrates systems they're already using. And for reasons explained in the article, this system is more secure than the system that was recently breached at Target.
I've attended dozens of CES (and COMDEX) tradeshows and every time I return, people ask me "what was the big thing this year?" Usually it's something straightforward like larger televisions, 3DTV, Blu-Ray, tablets, or smartphones. But this year, the big thing was "THINGS" itself! The phrase "The Internet of Things" refers to the increasing connectivity and intelligence of ordinary tools and appliances. Thanks to technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, and IPv6, we have reached a tipping point where everyday devices like light bulbs, door locks, and thermostats can be connected to each other and to the Internet.
In a previous post I mentioned a rumor that the iPhone 6 will continue to have an 8-megapixel camera, but that it would come with optical image stabilization. Now yet another rumor has appeared that supports the claim that Apple is working on optical stabilization technology. Last Thursday the US patent office published an Apple patent that describes in detail how optical image stabilization and improved autofocus will work in the iPhone camera. Images from the patent application and a description were posted Friday by UnwiredView.com. According to the post, the patent indicates that Apple has been working on this technology since at least early 2012, so it could well be that it's ready for the iPhone 6. A quote from the patent describes Apple's approach to autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS):
Apple's reach just keeps increasing, with the iPad Air and iPad mini with retina display becoming available on the shelves at Staples stores this past week. In the past, Staples had only sold the devices online, beginning last September. The prices are the same as Apple's and other outlets, but their trade-in price is may be of interest: they're paying as much as $300 for your old iPad. Plus, you get 5 percent back in rewards credits. Staples also sells the iPod and a wide range of accessories. But no iPhone yet.
Ōlloclip makes some of my favorite tools for iPhone photography and this year at CES the company was there in force, showing off their impressive new array of iPhoneography gear.
Yet another rumor is suggesting, based on checks with Apple suppliers, that Apple will introduce two new iPhones later this year, one with a display of 4.7 inches and one at 5.5 inches. According to StreetInsider.com, citing analyst Brian White, it's likely that Apple will continue to sell a 4-inch model, giving consumers a choice among three different sizes. White also says that it's likely Apple will introduce the larger phones at different times, first launching the 4.7-inch model on the regular iPhone cycle, and then subsequently having a separate event for the larger device. His rationale is that the larger device would fall into the "phablet" category and be different enough that Apple would have a separate event to introduce it.
In their commercials, Apple likes to show off all the things an iPad can do. Their latest commercial, as usual, is filled with stunning vignettes from around the world showing the iPad being used for a diverse array of purposes. Titled "Your Verse Anthem," the commercial has an unusual audio track: an extended quote from Walt Whitman. The reading of the quote is taken from the movie Dead Poets Society, in which Robin Williams, playing an English teacher, stirs the creative passions of his students.
Lifeproof and Otterbox joined forces last year to form what I would consider one of the most formidable business partnerships in the protective case industry. This year at CES the two companies shared booth space and oh, what a booth it was. They put on quite a show and had what was perhaps the largest and most extravagant booth of any case maker at CES, with lots of demos. Otterbox sponsored NASCAR truck racer, Germán Quiroga, was even on hand to promote the products. Read on for more details on the latest and greatest from these two industry-leading companies...
Hopefully we're at the stage of the rumor cycle in which we begin to get photos, though it's quite early for that. Apple itself may not yet have decided what their next device will be. In any case, 9To5Mac has posted photos that appeared on the Chinese site CTech that purport to show the frame of the iPhone 6. In keeping with the rumors we've been hearing, the frame shows that the phone will be much larger than the current iPhone, and thinner. But as 9To5Mac notes, there's little to go on here, and there's no verification that these photos are authentic.
From headphones to smart locks, here's what iPhone Life's Bloggers found to love at CES 2014 yesterday:
Siva Om checked out House of Marley's Liberate line. The company gets Siva's vote for Most Eco-Friendly.
I like news apps, and Yahoo has just recently released Yahoo News Digest (free), which is one I'm definitely going to be using. There's already a plethora of news apps, but this one has two distinguishing characteristics. First, there are just two daily editions, one in the morning and one in the evening—unlike other news apps that tend to be updated throughout the day with random bits of news. The advantage of just having two editions is that it's a true summary of the most important news, not simply the latest news across the wire. A second distinguishing characteristic is that the news is curated. An algorithm helps assemble the news, but the news summary is also curated by hand. I like that. One reason I still enjoy newspapers and magazines is that they present curated content: I feel confidant my time will be used more efficiently, since someone has organized the content beforehand. It's not as frenetic as the stream of news items that come across a typical web-based news service.
All the rumors are now starting to refer to the forthcoming phone as iPhone 6. And the latest rumor, courtesy of Forbes, is that it will be just 6 mm thick.
Apple announced Tuesday that App Store sales exceeded $10 billion in 2013, including $1 billion in December alone. According to the press release, iOS developers have now earned over $15 billion. Apple also reported that there are now over 1 million iOS apps available, including over 500,000 designed specifically for the iPad. The press release highlights some of the surprise hits of 2013, such as Ellen DeGeneres’ Heads Up ($0.99, games), ProtoGeo’s Moves ($2.99, health & fitness), Simon Filip’s Afterlight ($0.99, photo & video), and Kevin Ng’s Impossible Road ($1.99, games). And it highlights some of the year’s most successful games that were created by international developers, including Candy Crush Saga (free), Puzzles & Dragons (free), Minecraft ($6.99), QuizUp (free), and Clumsy Ninja (free).
The iPhone 5s camera is already a wonder, and clearly Apple has plans to make it even better, as indicated by the news this past weekend that Apple had purchased both the SnappyCam app and the one-man company that developed it: SnappyLabs. The app had been quite popular because it allowed users to take a burst of high-quality photos, similar to the burst mode Apple eventually incorporated into the iPhone 5s. Apparently creating this feature was no small feat, and Apple must have been impressed by the achievement of the developer, John Papandriopoulos. Apple's intention is likely to incorporate some of the impressive technology of SnappyCam into the iPhone's Camera app. But Apple also purchases companies with the intention of not only acquiring their technology but also their personnel. And so Papandriopolous will now be contributing his expertise as an employee of Apple.
For me the Pepcom Digital Experience is like the unofficial launch of CES, an informal party where exhibitors give us a preview of what we can expect in the coming days of CES. With the sprawl of wireless charging solutions, audio gear, gaming gear, robotics, cameras, and wearable smart accessories it was a challenge to absorb everything that is on display. Nonetheless, I did my best to check out each and every booth at this condensed version of CES, and the following are some of the highlights of what I came across last night.
A post late last week on the website BGR, which cited a Chinese website, reported that Apple will be coming out with 4.7- and 5.7-inch iPhones this year — significantly larger than the 4-inch display of the iPhone 5 family. The source for the information is said to be Foxconn executives. While it's impossible to know what Apple will do, the repeated rumors of a larger iPhone clearly suggest that Apple is testing larger prototypes. Typically when we get incessant rumors such as this, there tends to be some credence to them. The post on BGR gives an overview of previous iterations of this rumor, which has been reported by respected media such as The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. A 5.7-inch display would put the iPhone in the same league as Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, which also has a 5.7-inch display. Phones of this size are often referred to as "phablets," an elision of "phone" and "tablet."
We just keep hearing about an iWatch, so it seems pretty definite Apple is working on such a device. The question is whether they'll bring it to market, since they're known for developing devices that they eventually decide not to release.
Today two rumors have condensed into one. The first is that Apple is working on a 12-inch iPad that many are referring to as the "iPad Pro." The second is that Apple is working on a game-changing laptop that will be as portable as the 11-inch MacBook Air but as productive as the 13-inch MacBook Air. According to AppleInsider, one analyst has figured out that these two rumored projects may be the same one: Apple will come out with a tablet/laptop hybrid in the fall. This is possible, he says, because the new A7 64-bit processor gives the iPad much more robust computing power—on par with desktop computers. In addition, given that the A7 processor is less expensive than the processor currently used in the MacBook, this would also help lower costs.
As you likely know, a ton of documents pilfered and leaked by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA), have shown that that agency's surveillance has been shockingly widespread, including having access to the phone records of you and me. In recent days, the leaked documents have brought the NSA's snooping even closer to home, with the release of documents that say the agency had the ability in 2008 to take control of an iPhone. They were able to "remotely push/pull files from the device, SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control, and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted."
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