Some market analysts are saying that today's earnings report by Apple will be the most important in 10 years. The big question is whether Apple will be able to continue its momentum, and, secondarily, whether they beat market estimates for the December quarter. In other words, does Apple still have The Right Stuff? Certainly they did this past quarter, as CNET is reporting that the iPhone captured 51.2% of the smartphone market in the U.S. in the December quarter, compared to 44.8% for Android.
You can now easily buy your music from Amazon directly via your iPhone or iPod touch, thanks to Amazon's web app announced last week. You simply point Safari or any other web browser at amazon.com/mp3, and a new site optimized for your device will appear. You can access Amazon's catalog of 22 million songs and take advantage of deals that are often better than you can find in the iTunes Store, such as albums for $5 and songs for $0.69.
It's hard to know what to think about the latest rumors, which are saying that Apple will be coming out with three iPhones this year: an iPhone 5S, an oddly named "iPhone Math" that will have a 4.8-inch screen, and a third phone that will have a 12-megapixel camera. The second and third items are courtesy of China Times, which is citing Taiwan's Commercial Times. MarketWatch has posted a summary of the latest tidbits, and says that the iPhone 5S and iPhone Math are rumored to be arring in June. They will supposedly feature 8-megapixel cameras.
A newly released version of the iPhone app Facebook Messenger (free) lets you make voice calls for free. So if you're within a WiFi hotspot, you can make calls without using up your minutes. It also works via cellular data, but then you're using up your data allotment. iMore walks you through the steps of using this new feature, complete with screen shots. The confusing aspect of this feature is that you must first initiate a conversation via a regular text message. But once you've done that, you simply tap the information icon at top right. This brings up a window that shows the option for making a free call to the person. You simply tap the Free Call icon to make the call. In order to receive incoming calls via Facebook Messenger, you need to have the app running or need to have its Push Notifications enabled so that you know a call is coming in.
It only works in the U.S. and Canada, and there's no option for video calls.
I've never found task apps that useful, and have generally resorted to the old technology: paper. But Finish for iPhone ($0.99), a new app out today, has changed that. It's a simple, yet very useful and handy to-do list for the iPhone. (No iPad version yet.) It has several features I like: time frames, automatically ordering your tasks according to time frame, and Focus Mode, which shows the most immediate tasks in each of the time frames.
Apple's stock is down again today, falling below 500, and it's dragging the whole stock market down with it. Much of the decline can be attributed to the Wall Street Journal's report citing unnamed sources that demand for the iPhone 5 is weak. Yet analysts are saying, after checking with their sources in the supply chain, that demand continues to be robust. We'll likely find out the real truth next week when Apple reports their December quarter results and tells what they expect for the March quarter. In the meantime, it doesn't help sales that bloggers like me keep passing along rumors of the Next iPhone. According to AppleInsider, Apple is currently testing two prototypes of future iPhones and will begin preliminary builds of the iPhone 5S in March, suggesting that it will come to market in a June/July time frame. No doubt some people thinking of upgrading to the iPhone 5 will now, on the basis of these rumors, consider waiting until the Next Model.
iLounge, a top website for reviews of accessories for iOS devices, has posted its selection of 24 accessories that received their 2013 CES Best of Show Awards. They spent two months previewing new accessories that would debut at CES and then went out on the CES floor to explore hundreds of additional products. After discussion and debate, they selected the very best. Winning best of show was Incipio's OffGrid Pro battery case for iPhone 5. It's a case tightly tailored to the iPhone's body that doubles as a battery pack. They also highlighted other battery cases among their selections.
Input devices that got awards were the pressure-sensitive Adonit New Jot Touch stylus, which has 2,048 levels of sensitivity, and the Light Marker, a Crayola marker-shaped stylus that lets kids draw on an iPad. For musicians, they selected the IK Multimedia iRig BlueBoard, a foot pedal Bluetooth MIDI controller, and iRig HD for guitar input.
Wow, what a weak for iPhone rumors. Early in the week Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal both reported that Apple was working on a low-priced iPhone in order to compete with low-cost Android phones or to sell in developing countries. Bloomberg said that it could appear later this year. The rumors said that it would sell for $99 or $149 (without a contract), with one analyst suggesting it would be $199. The reports said that it would resemble a standard iPhone but with a less-expensive body such as polycarbonate plastic.
It's not a matter of if, but when. We know new iPads will be coming, and that the larger iPad will inevitably get thinner and lighter, and that the new iPad mini will probably have a faster chip and a higher resolution screen. The question is when. Apple had initially been on a March annual release cycle but then messed that up last fall by coming out with a new iPad with retina display that had the Lightning connector and a new chip. And then the iPad mini was released in November. Today's rumor is that we'll be seeing new models of both iPads in March.
I wish I were at this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas seeing these technologies in person. Some of them look pretty exciting, and may portend things to come from Apple. Samsung got a lot of attention for its demo of flexible OLED (oganic light-emitting diode) displays that can be bent, twisted, or folded. Instead of using glass, the layer of chemicals is laid on a thin plastic film.