Not much has been said about iBeacons, but if you have an iOS device from the past two years and iOS 7, you've got iBeacons capability. Eventually you'll be hearing a lot about it. This functionality lets companies place tiny transmitters in specific locations, such as a retail store. They can program these with information and offers. And as you approach that specific location, your iBeacons-enabled app will wake up and put relevant information on your screen, such as a coupon for a discount. Or a museum might place a transmitter by each exhibit, and as you near the exhibit, information will automatically pop up on your screen. According to an interesting article on Macworld, Major League Baseball is one of the first developers to add this feature to their app, the very popular MLB.com At the Ballpark. As you enter the park, a welcome page appears on your iPhone. Then further into the stadium your tickets appear on the screen. And then as you begin to head to your seat, a seat mapper appears with turn-by-turn directions. Other uses will be location-specific coupons, special offers at concession stands, and videos. The feature has been in testing this past summer and will be rolled out next year.
Google released a new version of Google Maps on Tuesday that includes a Tips and Tricks help section available in the side menu. Tap on it, and you're taken to Google's online knowledge base. This is a great resource for step-by-step instructions for many of the app's functions, such as searching for locations, using turn-by-turn navigation, and customizing the map view. The new version also gives you faster access to navigation by giving you an overview of the route right in the screen in which you select a route. This allows you to compare the options before switching to a full-screen view of the route. These additions make a great app even better.
The rumors proved to be correct: Apple sent out press invitations today for an event, Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. As usual, Apple hasn't said what it will announce, only sharing this cryptic message on the invitation: "We still have a lot to cover."
No doubt fanboys will exercise their best exegetical skills on the invitation and find all sorts of clues. But at the very least it indicates there will be multiple announcements. Everyone is expecting a fifth-generation iPad, a new iPad mini, the launch of the new Mac OS, the latest iteration of Mac laptops, and possibly also a launch date for the new Mac Pro. Beyond that, there isn't much evidence Apple will announce anything radically new, such as an iWatch.
Everyone continues to expect Apple to hold an event on Tuesday of next week (Oct. 22) to announce new iPads, and also possibly new Macs. Some details of the fifth-generation iPad are fairly clear: it will be narrower, with narrower bezels left and right, and will also be thinner and lighter. I'm hoping it will have an IGZO display, a new technology that uses up to 90 percent less power. If so, that will be a major development, and certainly it's one way that Apple could have achieved a thinner, lighter form factor. It would also likely mean an increase in battery life. Many are also expecting it to come with the new 64-bit processor. According to CNET, this will be a major change and could further disrupt the PC industry because corporations may purchase iPads instead of PCs, leading to an estimated 8 percent decline in PC sales.
Skype has now released a new version of their popular calling/videoconferencing/chat app, giving it a new look and feel in keeping with the design of the new iOS 7 software. A post on the Skype blog also outlines new features that enhance accessibility:
Siri's voice is computer-generated, of course, but the digitized sounds are based on the speech of a real person. Some websites were trying to find out who, eventually prompting Susan Bennett to come forward and admit to being the voice behind Siri. A fascinating article on the CNN website tells her story. She's been the voice of everything from Delta Airlines announcements in airports to the GPS devices. As a professional voice for a company called GM Voices, hers was selected as the voice which would be used in a database of words for constructing speech.
Late last week there were many reports online that the iPhone 5s has serious problems with its motion sensors: the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Revealing photos, such as the one that accompanies the report by CNET, give clear evidence of the problem. The CNET photo shows an iPhone 5 on a table next to an iPhone 5s, each running the built-in iOS compass. The phones should show the same reading, but there is a large discrepancy. Similarly, the accelerometer is also error-prone. Gizmodo tested its accuracy by using a racing game that relies on tilting the device to control the action. They placed the iPhone 5s on a level surface and didn't move it, yet the device immediately showed a leftward tilt and sent the car in that direction. For hardcore gamers this is a major issue.
ABC News is reporting that Best Buy is currently offering a $50 gift card to those who purchase an iPhone 5c, effectively dropping the cost from $99.99 to $49.99. (You can apply the gift card to the price of the phone.) If you're looking to get one, now might be the time. It's not clear why they've dropped the price. Apple sold 9 million iPhones the first three days after launch, but didn't say how many of each model. Some analysts estimated that, based on the number of activations, the iPhone 5s was outselling the 5c three to one. Best Buy says their goal is to drive consumers to specific products. In an official statement, they said, "We view ourselves as a company that offers consumers something they can't get anywhere else -- all the phones, all the plans, all the carriers -- and look for any opportunity to delight our customers."
One rumor had suggested Apple would be holding an iPad event October 15, but I'm starting to doubt that. It almost certainly will happen this fall, but it's not clear when. While the new form factor of the forthcoming iPad 5 is fairly well documented, other details have been sparse. But now AppleInsider is reporting that both the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 will have iPhone-quality 8-megapixel cameras. Citing KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the report says that the cameras will have an updated five-element lens module with larger aperture and possibly the larger 1.5-micron pixels seen in the iPhone 5S.
If Apple does have an event this month to announce new iPads and new Mac laptops, it's hard to imagine what they'll offer regarding the iPad mini. Reuters is reporting today that the high-resolution retina display for the iPad mini simply isn't yet ready for production, according to sources in Apple's supply chain.