Cloud-based document storage services are a wonderful boon, and I'm a big fan of Dropbox. Any document I'm working on, I put it in my Dropbox folder. As I make changes, the most recent version of the file is automatically uploaded to the web. And because the document is in the cloud, I can access it from my iPads or from any computer connected to the Internet. The Dropbox app on my iPads lets me view most document file types. Box is yet another popular cloud storage service, and whereas Dropbox offers 5GB of storage for free, Box announced on Wednesday that for the next 30 days they're offering 50GB of free storage for life if you download the new Box for iPhone and iPad 3.0 (free).
Google yesterday announced a new version of their free Chrome web browser that has some great features. Plus, they launched a new app that lets you view movies and TV shows that you've purchased in the Google Play store. An important new feature of Chrome is an option for compressing data, meaning that you use up to 50 percent less of your data allotment when browsing the web. If you turn on this feature, the app uses Google's servers to compress the web pages that you're accessing before they appear on your iPhone or iPad. This new feature also enables Safe Browsing, which protects you from malicious web pages so you don't inadvertently download spyware or viruses. When you open the Chrome browser, it automatically explains this new option and presents you with a screen to enable it. You can subsequently toggle it on and off in the settings panel for Chrome. Tap the settings icon at the top right in Chrome, then select Bandwidth, and then Reduce Data Usage. You'll see a screen that lets you turn the feature on and off and that shows your data savings. (See screenshot.)
I'm always up for learning how to get more out of my iPad Air and iPad mini, and so I read with interest a great post on BuzzFeed: "19 Mind-Blowing Tricks Every iPhone And iPad User Should Know." One that surprised me: if you turn on Airplane Mode, your iPhone will charge twice as fast. Another helpful tip is how to use Google Maps offline while you're traveling, in case you don't have an Internet connection. While you do have an Internet connection, load the map you want to save. Then type "ok maps" in the search bar to cache it for offline use. Another helpful tip is that you can take a photo or start video recording via your Apple or Apple-compatible earbuds. If you're in camera mode, press the volume + button to take a photo. In video mode, press the play/pause button. Another useful tip regarding earbuds: quickly press play/pause twice to go to the next track, and quickly press it three times to go to the previous track. (I had mixed success with this using my third-party earbuds, but it worked well enough to be useful.)
Not many people yet appreciate the iBeacon feature built into their devices. But you will. iBeacon continues to gain momentum, and more and more people will begin to use it this year. A post on AppleInsider yesterday reported the first use of iBeacon for mobile payments. This is likely the future: You've selected your items for purchase and as you walk out the store you simply tap your iPhone to confirm the purchase, and you're on your way. According to AppleInsider, iMobile3 has developed a system called PassMarket that will store your payment information for a particular retailer. The system interacts with your iPhone via iBeacon, so that when you approach checkout, iBeacon will sense your location and automatically give you the option of paying via your phone. According to the article, iMobile3 envisions that this will be readily adopted by retailers because the technology basically integrates systems they're already using. And for reasons explained in the article, this system is more secure than the system that was recently breached at Target.
Currency Converter HD is available for free January 15 & 16. This popular app claims to be the most powerful currency converter in the App Store. It covers over 150 currencies and offers real-time currency conversion with up-to-the-minute exchange rates. The app has three different views: calculator, chart and list view. It also has an offline mode using saved rates, so that you can find the exchange rate when traveling abroad even if you don't have an Internet connection.
I recently realized why it took me over a year to start making real use of Siri. The reason is a bit embarrassing. It's just that Siri seemed so much like a person. I didn't consciously realize that, though. Let me give you a couple examples. I recall one time wanting to show a friend how Siri worked, so I held down the home button. Siri responded, "What can I help you with?" But my friend was slow to catch on that I was giving him an opportunity to interact with Siri. There sat my iPad on the table, with Siri waiting. And my friend wasn't saying anything. Subconsciously I was thinking, "Hurry up, ask her something. She's waiting."
In a previous post I mentioned a rumor that the iPhone 6 will continue to have an 8-megapixel camera, but that it would come with optical image stabilization. Now yet another rumor has appeared that supports the claim that Apple is working on optical stabilization technology. Last Thursday the US patent office published an Apple patent that describes in detail how optical image stabilization and improved autofocus will work in the iPhone camera. Images from the patent application and a description were posted Friday by UnwiredView.com. According to the post, the patent indicates that Apple has been working on this technology since at least early 2012, so it could well be that it's ready for the iPhone 6. A quote from the patent describes Apple's approach to autofocus (AF) and optical image stabilization (OIS):
Apple's reach just keeps increasing, with the iPad Air and iPad mini with retina display becoming available on the shelves at Staples stores this past week. In the past, Staples had only sold the devices online, beginning last September. The prices are the same as Apple's and other outlets, but their trade-in price is may be of interest: they're paying as much as $300 for your old iPad. Plus, you get 5 percent back in rewards credits. Staples also sells the iPod and a wide range of accessories. But no iPhone yet.
Yet another rumor is suggesting, based on checks with Apple suppliers, that Apple will introduce two new iPhones later this year, one with a display of 4.7 inches and one at 5.5 inches. According to StreetInsider.com, citing analyst Brian White, it's likely that Apple will continue to sell a 4-inch model, giving consumers a choice among three different sizes. White also says that it's likely Apple will introduce the larger phones at different times, first launching the 4.7-inch model on the regular iPhone cycle, and then subsequently having a separate event for the larger device. His rationale is that the larger device would fall into the "phablet" category and be different enough that Apple would have a separate event to introduce it.
In their commercials, Apple likes to show off all the things an iPad can do. Their latest commercial, as usual, is filled with stunning vignettes from around the world showing the iPad being used for a diverse array of purposes. Titled "Your Verse Anthem," the commercial has an unusual audio track: an extended quote from Walt Whitman. The reading of the quote is taken from the movie Dead Poets Society, in which Robin Williams, playing an English teacher, stirs the creative passions of his students.