Eighteen days of Winter Olympics began Friday in Sochi, Russia, and of course there's a lineup of apps to help you track what's happening—and even view the events live.
What is Apple up to? The evidence just keeps mounting for a major focus on health and fitness. Today Apple posted a job listing seeking exercise physiologists. We already know they've hired a number of top people with expertise in areas such as medical sensors and health-monitoring equipment. The people being recruited by today's ad, which has now been taken down, would be asked to "design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness & energy expenditure, including calories burned, metabolic rate, aerobic fitness level measurement/tracking and other key physiological measurements…" The website 9To5Mac has posted a screen shot of the ad. Qualifications for the positions include experience with health-monitoring equipment, measuring calorie expenditure, key fitness indicators, and exercise testing. 9To5Mac says the ad suggests that Apple is moving into the development phase, which will entail product testing.
Since 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been saying there are new products in the pipeline. Yet so far we've only had updates for existing products. But it's self-evident that they're up to something health-related, given the people they're hiring: a former executive vice-president of medical affairs, an expert on health sensors, an engineer who's a specialist in health-monitoring equipment, and, most recently, a sleep expert. You don't have to be too bright to infer that this suggests they're working on a product related to health monitoring. Plus, they hired a former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent. Why would they hire a fashion designer if not to help create a fashionable wearable device? All of this points to an iWatch or some other sort of wearable computer.
A lot of the interest in smartwatches has been stimulated by Pebble, which is the most popular one so far. So what's a smartwatch? They run apps and they typically communicate with your smartphone, such that alerts and other information from your phone appear on the watch's face.
A new app from Facebook called Paper - stories from Facebook (free) is now available in the App Store. You can read more detail about this app and see a demo video in a previous post. The app offers the same sort of immersive experience as the popular Flipboard app, with an attractively designed presentation of your newsfeed. It also offers news on a wide range of your favorite topics taken from the news media.
Some very interesting stories were published in recent days that give insights into a new direction for Apple. As you know, the iPhone 5s and the new iPads have the M7 motion tracking chip. It uses the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass sensors to track keep a record of all your motions, a feature that is being integrated into a range of apps, including fitness. Apple now seems intent on expanding on this and making health and fitness a major new direction. According to a report on 9To5Mac, this monitoring will be a key feature of iOS 8. The report says iOS 8 will include a new app code named "Healthbook," which will offer the ability to monitor blood pressure, hydration levels, heart rate, and blood-related data points such as glucose levels. You will even be able to enter in information about your medications, if any, so that you can be reminded to take them.
More evidence has emerged suggesting that Apple will be coming out with an iPhone 6 that has a 4.7- or 4.8-inch display, as well as a "phablet" with a 5.5-inch display. The most recent rumors come from a post on BGR, which cites a report from a South Korean securities firm known for having inside sources. BGR says there have now been at least a dozen independent reports of these larger screen sizes. However, this recent report goes well beyond giving the screen sizes and offers details on the other specs. They say the iPhone 6 will have HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and that the phablet will be a 2K device, with 2,272 x 1,280 pixels. Unlike the 5s, they say the iPhone 6 will have a 128GB option, in addition to 16, 32, and 64. Other specs for the new phone are similar to the 5s, including an 8-megapixel camera and a 3.2-megapixel FaceTime camera. The report says, as expected, that the new phones will have the A8 processor. This latest report even goes so far as to say when we can expect the new phones: in the second or third quarter.
With rumors that Apple is gearing up to focus on mobile payment solutions, and the news on Thursday that Major League Baseball stadiums are gearing up to install some 2,000 iBeacon transmitters starting next week, it looks like Apple's iBeacon technology is coming to the fore. According to a post on MacRumors, the devices are expected to be in place in 20 stadiums by the time play begins in March. What will the technology be used for? It will vary from ballpark to ballpark, since they will each be developing their own functionality. In general, iBeacon will be used to help guide people to their seats, to highlight special offers from nearby concessions, track rewards programs, and offer information regarding points of interest.
Facebook announced a new app Thursday called Paper that will be available February 3. Rather than updating their old app, they simply created a new one from the ground up (though with similarities to an earlier app called Facebook Home). Like the hugely popular Flipboard (free), the new app completely reconceptualizes and designs your news feed so that it's attractively presented and fun to browse. But it does a lot more. Like Flipboard, it also gives you, in a magazine-like format, access to a wide variety of news categories, such as latest headlines, sports, tech, food, etc. According to a detailed post on Macworld, this news content is actually curated by Facebook editors from publications such as the New York Times and Huffington Post. Macworld describes the experience of Paper: "Like its namesake, Paper aims to be a tactile experience—flip through sections, tap a card to unfold stories, scroll through photos, and tilt your phone to see more details in an image." You can see a video demo after the break.
Rumors have been pointing to the launch of a major update to Apple TV software and possibly also a new version of the device itself. Apple has virtually confirmed that something is coming, as can be seen by changes they've made in the Apple Store this week.