It is now commen knowledge that Apple is negotiating with major music labels to secure rights to stream their music in a forthcoming subscription service similar to Spotify and Pandora. And we know Apple has signed deals with two major labels. But what has been uncertain is when Apple would announce this, and also whether Apple would actually introduce this service given that it hasn't been able to work out a deal with two other major labels. However, Reuters reported today that Apple will be announcing the new service next week at the Worldwide Developers Conference. This is good news. A new product or service from Apple is always welcome.
Apparently the service will let you listen to your favorite music, similar to Spotify, but will be free and ad-supported, according to some sources. Also, it's been rumored that the service will allow you to set up your own stations or channels in the same fashion as Pandora.
The rumors are becoming hot and heavy as we move toward Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference next week and the release of new devices this fall. The latest rumor on iPads, originating from DigiTimes, is that mass production of the next 9.7-inch iPad will begin July or August, with shipment scheduled for late September. The site again states what so many other rumors have said: that the form factor will be like the iPad mini, with narrower bezels left and right and an overall thinner and lighter design. The site, which gets its information from Apple's suppliers, says the next-generation iPad mini will arrive in November. The reason behind the timing is unclear, but could be because Apple wants to clearly separate the launches of the two models. Or it's possible Apple's suppliers simply don't have the capacity to ramp up production of both iPads simultaneously. Most of the rumors surrounding the next mini relate to the possibility of it having a retina display.
Last fall, when Apple introduced a new iPod touch with a 4-inch screen alongside the iPhone 5, the low-end model had 32GB of memory and was priced at $299 — $100 more than previous low-end models. And to fill the gap in the low end, the company continued to sell the older, fourth-generation models with a 3.5-inch screen at $199 for 16GB and $249 for 32GB — models that have now been discontinued. This past Wednesday Apple began selling a new-generation iPod touch with a 4-inch screen and 16GB memory for $229.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was interviewed for over an hour Tuesday at the annual All Things Digital conference, and, as usual, he was very tight-lipped about forthcoming products, dropping just the barest of hints. However, he did explicitly confirm that legendary Apple designer Jony Ive has been working on an overhaul of the iOS software and said iOS 7 will be introduced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, which begins June 10. Rumors that the interface will be "flatter"— with fewer textures and fewer visual metaphors for real-life objects— seem credible. However, Jim Dalrymple, who is known for having inside information, posted on his blog that he feels the changes won't be as marked as some of the rumors have been suggesting. He describes it as a "modernization of the look and feel."
I tend to use Safari for my web browsing, but Google's Chrome browser (free) is a worthy competitor, especially now that you can simply speak your queries in order to do a search. Last week Google announced the new version would be available in the App Store "in the coming days" on the Google Chrome Blog. It's gradually rolling it out, so if you have Chrome and the update isn't yet available, it will be soon. I already have this new feature on my iPad mini.
Apple is expected to announce iOS 7 at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, beginning June 10. And in a remarkable preview of the new software, given that Apple is notoriously secretive, 9To5Mac has posted details about this forthcoming operating system for the iPhone and iPad. 9To5Mac's sources characterizes iOS 7 as "black, white, and flat all over." I'm not sure I like the sound of that, but the report says that "flatness" means Apple will drop textured design elements, and the "black and white" refers to the color of several new interface elements. It's hard to imagine. But it comes from Apple's legendary Jony Ive, so no doubt it will look good. The report warns that the design keeps changing, so it's hard to know exactly what will appear at the developers conference.
Best Buy is offering a $50 discount on all iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S models from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint for the next four weeks. That means you can get an iPhone 4S for as little as $49 and an iPhone 5 for $149. You will, of course, need to commit to a two-year contract. Given Apple's strict control on pricing, these sorts of promotions are rare, so it's a good time to buy if you're in the market for a new iPhone. There's no discount on the iPhone 4, because it's already available for free with a two-year contract.
The evidence continues to suggest the next iPhones will arrive September and the next 9.7-inch iPad sometime after that, perhaps October. We have a lot to look forward to. Yet one more rumor is suggesting both the iPhone 5S and low-cost iPhone will come in a variety of colors. According to AppleInsider, the Japanese website Macotakara received word from two different sources yesterday saying the new low-cost phone will have color options, though they differed slightly in their description of the colors. One said to expect navy, gold, orange, white, and gray, while the other said that the colors would be white, pink, green, blue, and yellow-orange.
The report said a test run of 1,000 units would be manufactured in June for the purpose of field testing, and mass production of the low-cost iPhone would happen between July and September.
Walt Mossberg, who writes about technology for the Wall Street Journal, posted a helpful review of iPad productivity suites last week on All Things D. People are increasingly leaving their laptops at home these days when they travel and are using an iPad instead. But that typically entails having some relatively robust software to play the role of those familiar desktop applications: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. No app is going to have all the features of the desktop applications, but most are good at opening and editing files created using these software programs.
In addition to compatibility with Microsoft's offerings, a key issue is file management. On your desktop computer, you organize your files by putting them in folders and access them in these locations. But iOS doesn't have this sort of filing system. So how do you transfer files back and forth between your desktop computer and iPad, and keep the files in sync? The cloud, of course.
Since day one, the free Mailbox app has been hugely popular due to the unique email management features it introduced. With simple swipes left and right, you can quickly organize and clear your inbox. The developer announced yesterday that the app is now available in a version tailored to the larger screen of the iPad.
The app has more than 1 million users, who value Mailbox's mission of getting to "inbox zero." The company claims that 40 percent of its users get to that laudable state at least once a week.
The iPad version is similar to the one for the iPhone, but takes advantage of the larger screen by offering a bigger box for composing emails and by using a menu drawer that opens beside your inbox rather than replacing it.