Google unveiled a new version of its Maps app for Android, and in the announcement it detailed new features and said an iPhone/iPad version is coming "soon." I'm thinking it will likely be available within hours or days. Perhaps the most important feature is the apps offline features, letting you cache data for accessing the app while out of range of Wi-Fi or data. In a previous post, I noted how useful this feature in Apple Maps was during a recent trip to Germany. Also available in the new version will be automatic traffic rerouting based on congestion, accidents, etc.
iOS 7 is coming this fall, and I'm definitely looking forward to the new features and new look. But there may also be exciting features Apple hasn't yet announced—with hints of these features in the beta currently in the hands of developers. According to CNET, the forthcoming "iOS in the Car" feature will apparently include AirPlay. Your device will communicate with your car via Wi-Fi, rather than having to make a physical connection.
The big question is not if, but when. That is, when will we see new iPhones and iPads from Apple? There are mixed reports out today, with the International Business Times saying Apple will release all the devices at one big event in September, and the Taiwanese site DigiTimes saying the new 9.7-inch iPad will arrive in September but that a new version of the iPad mini may be postponed. IBT says we'll see a slimmer, lighter iPad with narrower bezels, an iPad mini with a higher-resolution display, an iPhone 6 (an updated version of the iPhone 5), and an iPhone 5S (the low-cost iPhone everyone is expecting). I don't find this report completely credible, with the biggest question mark being the iPad mini.
Tech website Techdy claims to have obtained the front and back panels of the forthcoming polycarbonate low-cost iPhone and has posted high-resolution photos and a video of the hardware. Mostly, the findings are line with previous rumors: it's similar in form factor to the current iPhone and comes in multiple colors. But there's one interesting difference. Renderings posted online in recent months of the new phone based on schematics from case manufacturers have assumed the multiple colors would extend to the front panel. But according to Techdy, the edges of the front panel will be black for all the various-colored phones. Only the color of the back panel will change. According to MacRumors, the colors will likely be blue, pink, yellow, green, and white.
I've just recently returned from a 10-day vacation in Tübingen, Germany, a university town with a remarkable and picturesque old city and castle. Many of the buildings in the old city date back to the 15th and 16th century. In preparation for the trip, I spent more than $50 on Tom Tom's navigation app for Europe, wanting to make sure I could get where I wanted to go in the city. Its offline feature was the most important for my needs, mapping info on my iPad without requiring an Internet connection. I have a Verizon LTE iPad and could have paid for data service, but it would have entailed some extra charges, and it seemed like Tom Tom, while expensive, would ultimately save me money. (Long story short: I'm currently grandfathered into a $20/month data plan with Verizon, but would have had to forego that plan if I signed up for service in Germany, and would have been forced into the $30/month data plan forever after.)
As more leaked photos, the more likely rumors of a forthcoming low-cost iPhone in a plastic casing become. A few days ago, the website Nowhereelse.fr posted a photo that purportedly shows the back casing of the phone—in three different colors. So far it's not clear how much the phone will cost, but Apple's apparent goal is to make a phone using less-expensive parts that they'll sell in countries where the top-of-the-line iPhone costs more than most people can afford. Early on, the rumors even said Apple may not sell the phone in the United States, but I haven't seem any mention of that lately. I'm guessing that if we see this phone, it will be available in the U.S. as well.
Case manufacturers are already making cases for the rumored low-cost iPhone, now dubbed "iPhone Light," based on schematics they've received that appear to be legitimate. And given that the shape and dimensions are known, plus the evidence that the iPhone Light will come in multiple colors, AppleInsider has posted a rendering of what the new phone may look like. If all this is accurate, the iPhone Light will have a 4-inch screen, like the iPhone 5, but will be slightly thicker and taller than the forthcoming iPhone 5S, and the back edges will be rounded. In other respects, it resembles the iPhone 5, though is rumored to have plastic casing. The evidence suggests that the iPhone Light will have a single LED flash compared to the rumored dual LED flash of the iPhone 5S.
Initially Apple's FaceTime, the built-in app that allows you to video conference with other iOS device users, only worked over WiFi. Then with the release of iOS 6 last fall, Apple made it possible to use FaceTime via the cellular data network. However, it was up to the specific carrier to enable this capability on its network. And AT&T held back, limiting it to users who were on a specific plan. But, according to AppleInsider, multiple reports say FaceTime is being enabled in particular areas, strongly suggesting that AT&T is now rolling out this capability nationwide, including on both LTE and HSPA+ networks.
Late last week Reuters reported Apple is exploring launching iPhones with 4.7- and 5.7-inch screens throughout the next year, as well as phones in multiple colors. They say their info is from four different sources "with knowledge of the matter." The larger-sized phones are sometimes referred to as "phablets," which is becoming a generic term for devices that are a cross between a phone and a tablet. If the larger phones reach market, Reuters said it would be next year. And they say Apple is exploring "at least" two different models.
On Friday Microsoft finally came out with a version of Microsoft Office for iOS. Unfortunately, it's only available on the iPhone (no iPad version). And it's only for users of Office 365, a subscription service that costs $100 a year and lets subscribers install Office apps on up to five computers and mobile devices. Named Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers, the free app includes access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These aren't full-fledged applications though, and are mainly intended for viewing, making small edits, and sharing files. Of course, you can sync the files with Microsoft's cloud service called SkyDrive.
The syncing features are pretty cool, letting you track where you left off in editing or read a document and show you the location when you open it on another device. The Recent feature in the app shows you a list of Office files that you've opened most recently on your desktop computer.