Google, Microsoft, Pebble, and other smartwatch makers think there's room for them on the wrists of iPhone owners. Apple has left an opening by charging $349 minimum and compromising on battery life and other features. This means there may be an opportunity for other watch makers to sell to iPhone users, if only they could make their devices work with iOS. Microsoft already does, with their Microsoft Band, and Pebble always has. Pebble just launched a color version, called Pebble Time, that is attractive and offers a week or more of battery life, thanks to e-Paper display technology. They also launched a $250 steel version including the option of a gold color case, which is a lot more affordable than Apple's gold Edition will be!
If you're curious about how Apple Watch apps will work in practice, hop on over to Watchware, which has interactive demos of 26 of the apps that will be available (with more being added all the time).
The iOS vs. Android story is old, but there is another dimension to the Apple vs. Google battle. Just as Samsung is both a competitor and a provider to Apple, Google has been providing search results for iOS users. Apple's Siri introduced another way to search, by voice, and Apple switched to Microsoft's Bing as a way to provide some Siri-based search results. This put a minor damper on Google's search volume, and therefore display ads, which is still their primary source of revenue.
Although the Apple Watch is getting most of the attention right now, rumors are starting to percolate regarding the next iPhones. According to a post on AppleInsider, the forthcoming phones will be named the iPhone 6s and will come in the same sizes and design as the current iPhone 6. In addition, their sources ("people familiar with the matter") say that the display will use the Force Touch feature being introduced in the Apple Watch.
On Sunday Apple posted a new World Gallery web page that features stunning photos by 77 photographers taken with the iPhone 6, which Apple describes as "the world's most popular camera." Each photo is accompanied by a caption that gives the name and location of the photographer, a description of what makes the photo effective and the techniques used, and the apps used by the photographer. One can glean a lot of tips for taking great photos by reading the descriptions.
The first thing a smart watch should do is tell time. Of course, the Apple Watch will do that, but given the concerns about sub-24-hour battery life, this could be a concern. The New York Times is reporting that Apple's watch will have "Power Reserve", a low-power mode that strictly displays the time. That's reassuring and understandable. Laptop makers have been offering low power modes for years, decreasing brightness, powering down disk drives, etc., to squeeze every last drop of power out of the battery.
Just as politicians are showing up in Iowa ahead of the upcoming Presidential election, the Apple Watch is starting to pop up in fashion magazines around the world as the Apple Watch announcement nears. Angela Ahrendts, Apple's new head of retail and former CEO of Burberry, is pulling strings (threads?) to get the watch seen in fashionable places. It's probably not much of a sales job... what fashion or style magazine wouldn't want early access to the most anticipated fashion accessory of 2015?
Apple's online iWorks suite is no longer in a beta testing phase and is now available for free to anyone on any platform via Safari, Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. In the past, the suite, which includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, was only available to those with Apple devices.
With the March 9 announcement date revealed, with the cheeky "Spring Forward" message indicative of turning clocks ahead, we can now look forward to what comes after the Apple Watch. Yes, there will be updates to the MacBook Air, with a 12-inch screen expected, and maybe a 12-inch iPad Pro as well. Others have written about the 200 engineers working on an Apple Car, although I think the likelihood of Apple shipping cars is still small.
Apple sent out invitations Thursday inviting media to an event on March 9 at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which Apple has used in the past for special events. As is typical, Apple's invitation doesn't give any information about what will be announced. It simply shows an Apple logo over a geometric flower-like background, with the words "Spring forward."
As the April launch of the Apple Watch approaches, Apple has started a major advertising campaign, beginning with a 12-page spread in the March issue of Vogue magazine. According to the photos of the spreads posted on MacRumors, each full-page ad is simply an actual-size image of the Apple Watch on a white background. The images show different casings and bands, giving readers a sense for the style options.
On a very special Modern Family, Apple products played a very important role. The entire February 25 episode was filmed using Apple gear, and tools like FaceTime were integrated into the show. This was a bit of an experiment and there are no signs that this will be a recurring theme although iPhone footage has been used in the past. Apple provided the equipment but did not pay any other promotional consideration for being included. It could have been dismissed as a gimmick, perhaps to get ratings from the Apple fans and news coverage, but the show is doing pretty well on its own. Rather, the novel approach reminded me of the "Point of View" episode of MASH that was shot from a patient's view. It gives the viewer another way to appreciate the show, and the characters, from another perspective.
Apple just keeps improving Maps, most recently adding nine more cities to their Flyover feature: Baton Rouge; Boise; Cáceres, Spain; Edinburgh, Scotland; Guadalajara, Mexico; Ponce, Puerto Rico; Linz, Austria; Rennes, France; and Venice, Italy. That brings the total number of locations to 120, according to this list of Maps features on Apple's website. As you likely know, Flyover gives you interactive, 3D, high-resolution imagery of cities, landmarks, and points of interest.
I hope you have some shares of Apple stock, because it just keeps going up. The stock closed over $133 on Monday, giving Apple a market capitalization of $775 billion. That's more than double the market cap of Exxon Mobil, the next highest stock, at $346 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, this doubling is a rare event, and the last time it happened was 30 years ago when IBM doubled up on Exxon. Earlier this month Apple was the first company in history to exceed $700 billion in market capitalization. Apple stock is up 19 percent in 2015. I hate to say it, but now might be a good time to sell. Everyone is bullish on Apple, and that's typically a good time to cash in. The time to buy is when everyone is dumping a stock, as happened with Apple during the crash in early 2009.
On Tuesday Pebble announced their new Pebble Time watch, which will be available in May. At the same time, they launched a new Kickstarter campaign to help fund the device, with a starting price of $159 and an expected retail price of $199. Pebble Time uses a new interface called Timeline that's based on a timeline that includes notifications, news, weather, sports, traffic, reminders, and more. Like the Apple Watch, the timeline elements are fed by apps. And like the Apple Watch, you can get information at a glance. The new interface puts apps more in the background and exerts a bit more control over the user experience. This, too, is reminiscent of Apple Watch.
Mysterious vans registered to Apple that have an array of sensors mounted on the roof have been spotted around the continental U.S., including California, New York, Wisconsin, and Florida, as well as Hawaii and Panama. According to AppleInsider, the vehicles appear to be carrying cameras, LIDAR, and GPS equipment. Apple, of course, isn't saying anything.
Apple aired a new video during the Oscars that featured high school students making videos, with voice-over by Hollywood director Martin Scorsese. The video, which shows snippets of the students' videos as well as behind-the-scenes shots, was filmed entirely on the iPad Air 2.
The New York Times has jumped on the bandwagon and is also now reporting that Apple is focused on developing a car. Citing "two people with knowledge of the company’s plans," the Times said that Apple has assembled a team of over 200 people to work on an electric car. And on Thursday we got the first hint of a timetable: Bloomberg reported that Apple is pushing its team to get the car ready by 2020. That's extremely ambitious, Bloomberg says, given that it typically takes an experienced car manufacturer five to seven years to bring a new model to market. The report says that Apple will likely be competing with both Tesla and General Motors, which are planning to begin selling an electric car in 2017 for under $40,000 that will go 200 miles on a single charge.
Apple continues to quietly improve Siri's speech so that it sounds more natural. And a developer who is using the latest preview version of the forthcoming iOS 8.3 has posted a video on 9To5Mac that lets you hear how this new version will improve Siri's diction.
As I outlined in a previous post, there's a considerable amount of evidence that Apple is seriously exploring becoming a car manufacturer, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Apple has over 300 employees working on the project.
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