The rumblings began 10 days ago when Nike, as reported by CNET, laid off 70–80 percent of the employees working on their Nike FuelBand, one of the more popular fitness trackers. Plus, they acknowledged they would be stopping development of the hardware side of fitness tracking, though indicated they planned to continue selling the second-generation FuelBand SE. That move raised lots of eyebrows, and some even speculated that Apple's rumored iWatch was a factor. Then, last week GeekTime reported that Apple and Nike are gearing up for an announcement this fall of a "smart band." The website claims to have received this information from two sources in Cupertino, where Apple is located. According to the report, "Apple is looking to launch a smart band toward the end of this year whose collection of sensors will be able to be used not only to monitor the activity of the wearer, but also to operate other devices as a gestural controller."
Last week Apple posted a new ad on their YouTube channel showing the amazing range of things an iPhone 5s can be used for, from making music and videos to launching model rockets and controlling stage lighting. The ad is reminiscent of earlier iPad commercials. The background music is "Gigantic" by the Pixies. The tagline of the ad is "You're more powerful than you think." I always enjoy watching their ads.
on Wednesday, a report on AppleInsider citing a Japanese blog said that the iPhone 6 will have curved edges.: That is, both a curved casing and curved glass. The blog is known to have generally reliable sources, so this rumor may have credence. And to help visualize what the iPhone 6 would look like with curved edges and glass, you can see some great renderings by Martin Hajek on the French website Nowhereelse.fr. The renderings show rounded corners and the glass of the display wraps slightly around the edge. In addition to the curved edges, the report says the back of the iPhone 6 will differ from the 5 and 5s, in that it will no longer have the glass-covered antenna windows seen on those models.
Apple released their results for the March quarter yesterday after the market closed, and the news was all good, sending the stock up 7 percent in after-hours trading. Not only did Apple's quarterly results beat Wall Street's most optimistic estimates, Apple announced several stock-related moves that thrilled investors: an unusual 7-for-1 stock split, an increase in the quarterly dividend, and an increase in their stock buyback program. Apple's results set a record for a March quarter. Analysts were expecting Apple to report $43.5 billion in revenue, but Apple handily exceeded that, coming in at $45.6 billion. The iPhone led the way, with Apple selling 43.7 million iPhones, well above Wall Street's estimate of 38.5 million. Strong iPhone sales were attributed in part to strong demand in China and emerging markets—where there remains a lot of potential for growth.
I don't have cable TV, so I'm always excited when Apple adds more channels to Apple TV. And those added today are the sorts of channels I might like to watch: History, A&E, and Lifetime. In all three cases, some of the content is free, and other content requires you to log in with the username and password that you use with your cable provider. My impression after checking them out is that there's a ton of free content available—more than I'd ever have time to watch. In some cases, there are only one- to four-minute clips from the various episodes, with the clips always being free. Sometimes for a particular show, some episodes are free and others require a log-in.
An interesting review of the new Samsung Galaxy S5 in the New York Times says that while Samsung's new phone is "nice," it's still bested by the "aging" iPhone 5s. The article says a major advantage of the Samsung phone is its larger size, but that advantage will disappear with the expected arrival of a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 in September. In comparison with the iPhone, the plastic of the Galaxy S5 feels cheap, and the interface is overly complex. Plus, even though the Galaxy S5 uses the latest quad-core Shapdragon 801 processor, the article notes that the iPhone 5s beats it on most of the performance tests conducted by AnandTech. In fact, the iPhone 5s comes out on top in a majority of the measures. And this is an "aging" phone. In a few months we'll have a new iPhone 6 with a new A8 chip that will be even faster, with its rumored quad-core processor and quad-core graphics. Apple just keeps racing ahead of the competition.
In addition to leaked photos of molds and casings for the iPhone 6, we're now starting to see images of cases created for the device by Asian manufacturers. Of course, sometimes they make cases based on rumored specs that turn out to be wrong. Images of cases posted on AppleInsider show that the sleep/wake button, which until now has been on the top of the iPhone, has been moved to the right side of the phone opposite volume-up button. This detail was also recently relayed by securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has solid inside information and is usually accurate in his predictions. The move is apparently intended to make one-handed operation easier, though the AppleInsider post suggests it could also be indicative of a new feature that would require more frequent use of this button.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said we'd be seeing new categories of products this year, and it looks like CarPlay is one of them. Initially it seemed as if it would only be available in new cars. But then a rumor emerged that Apine Electronics would come out with an after-market CarPlay console this fall. And now Pioneer, a leader in sound systems, has announced they'll be offering CarPlay in their dashboard receivers beginning early this summer. CarPlay will be available as a firmware update to Pioneer's five 2014 NEX in-dash multimedia receivers. The price of these receivers, which have have large, in-dash LCD displays, ranges from $700 to $1,400. They can be installed in most existing vehicles.
When I wrote about Apple's new CarPlay earlier, the post generated a number of comments from car owners wishing their late-model vehicle could be retrofitted with CarPlay. Today's good news, via Nikkei Asian Review, is that Alpine Electronics will release a CarPlay console this fall in the US and Europe in a price range of $500–700. You won't have to buy a new Ferrari, Mercedes, or Volvo to take advantage of Apple's new offering. CarPlay lets you use various iPhone functions in your car while minimizing distraction—you control CarPlay just by speaking. You can make calls, receive calls, listen to voicemail, use the Maps app, listen to music, and send and receive text messages. Siri even reads your incoming messages to you and lets you dictate responses.
So we seem to be entering the phase of the rumor cycle in which we start to get leaked photos. In this case, the photos aren't of the iPhone 6 itself but of the mold that's said to be used to create the back casing.