I'm on an Amtrak train heading from Rochester, NY, to New York City to attend CE Week. CE Week is like a mini CES, with hundreds of vendors instead of thousands; but it's a nice way to see the latest technology, in one location, in a short time. I will be writing about many of the new products this week and next, but for now, I thought I'd write about some of the gear that makes it practical to work on the train.
Armchair athletes may be fine with products from FitBit, Jawbone, and the like, but Apple appears to be going for top shelf athletes. This fall's announcement of an Apple iWatch is an all-but-foregone conclusion, but the difference may be that Apple is seeking the feedback from star athletes like Kobe Bryant. The Beats acquisition demonstrates Apple's attention to celebrity endorsements. While rappers and musicians care deeply about sound quality, professional athletes care deeply about their health!
Apple's Touch ID may be getting more than just software enhancements this fall. The fingerprint sensor system is slated to expand beyond unlocking the iPhone 5s and making purchases in the App Store and iTunes. Apple announced at their WWDC event that Touch ID would be accessible to app developers for remembering passwords for authentication. Imagine paying via PayPal with your fingerprint!
All signs point to an Apple iWatch being released around October. Apple's boosting their Sapphire manufacturing, which could make iPhone screens more durable, but more importantly, it could make an iWatch that handles the bumps and grinds common to watches. Indeed Sapphire is commonly used already for traditional watch screens, and unlike iPhones, most people don't put their watch in a protective case!
Apple didn't really make any hardware news during their Worldwide Developers Conference. Two weeks later they haven't released entirely new machines, but they have made some pricing moves. The iMac is now even more affordable, with the lower cost of entry starting at $1099 (and $50 less for Education customers.) Apple TV and the venerable Mac mini have also seen their price drop, overseas at least. Power users might scoff at the specs on these entry level systems, but for surfing the web, checking email, using iTunes, Netflix, etc., they could be ideal.
The always aggressive T-Mobile is adding more marketing programs to entice users to switch to their network. The latest campaign is a cheekily-named "7 Night Stand" that lets potential customers test drive a new iPhone 5s for a week. This should give wary users a decent chance to test the phone and the coverage where they live and work. I know Verizon and AT&T customers that regret their decision, based on coverage in their house or office. It's a neat idea that T-Mobile hopes will turn those one-week stands into at least starter marriages if not something longer!
Competition is a good thing, and Amazon just raised the bar. Amazon's Jeff Bezos wasn't satisfied with just revolutionizing shopping for books, music, movies, or anything. Today he announced the Kindle Fire Phone, a 4.7-inch Android device that is more than just a phone. Like everything Amazon does, the Fire Phone is designed to make it easier to shop, for music, movies, TV shows, and physical products. Their integrated Firefly app recognizes over 100 million items, by image or audio. There's a dedicated button for Firefly. Amazon also has an SDK to allow third-party developers to integrate with this feature. [Full disclosure, I have developed an app called AllAccess.US that recognizes logos and launches that brand's info.]
WWDC was two weeks ago, and beta versions of Apple's new operating systems iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite and of Apple TV were made available at that time. Now, Apple has made updates to those betas, including an update for Apple TV that supports iCloud Family Sharing. The Apple TV can now access content from multiple iTunes accounts in a family. Apple requires that those accounts share the same credit card, which should help with piracy concerns. However, a lot of families that let kids use iPads, iPods, and iPhones don't want them to have a credit card on file. For those users, I always recommended an iTunes gift card with a finite value. That would put a limit on purchases, however it would make them ineligible for Family Sharing.
Apple has created an entire growth industry, thanks to the App Store. But as a developer, it hasn't always been easy tracking sales, which is important for marketing, planning and pricing. In the past, I've used services such as AppViz from IdeaSwarm, AppFigures, Flurry, Distimo, and App Annie, in addition to Apple's iTunesconnect, of course. Recently, there has been a flurry (pun intended) of activity on this front.
Yogi Berra said "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." The App Store is great, because there are so many apps, but that's also what makes it a problem. It's hard to find good apps, and even harder for good app developers to stand out.