The iPhone 5s camera is already a wonder, and clearly Apple has plans to make it even better, as indicated by the news this past weekend that Apple had purchased both the SnappyCam app and the one-man company that developed it: SnappyLabs. The app had been quite popular because it allowed users to take a burst of high-quality photos, similar to the burst mode Apple eventually incorporated into the iPhone 5s. Apparently creating this feature was no small feat, and Apple must have been impressed by the achievement of the developer, John Papandriopoulos. Apple's intention is likely to incorporate some of the impressive technology of SnappyCam into the iPhone's Camera app. But Apple also purchases companies with the intention of not only acquiring their technology but also their personnel. And so Papandriopolous will now be contributing his expertise as an employee of Apple.
A post late last week on the website BGR, which cited a Chinese website, reported that Apple will be coming out with 4.7- and 5.7-inch iPhones this year — significantly larger than the 4-inch display of the iPhone 5 family. The source for the information is said to be Foxconn executives. While it's impossible to know what Apple will do, the repeated rumors of a larger iPhone clearly suggest that Apple is testing larger prototypes. Typically when we get incessant rumors such as this, there tends to be some credence to them. The post on BGR gives an overview of previous iterations of this rumor, which has been reported by respected media such as The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. A 5.7-inch display would put the iPhone in the same league as Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, which also has a 5.7-inch display. Phones of this size are often referred to as "phablets," an elision of "phone" and "tablet."
We just keep hearing about an iWatch, so it seems pretty definite Apple is working on such a device. The question is whether they'll bring it to market, since they're known for developing devices that they eventually decide not to release.
Today two rumors have condensed into one. The first is that Apple is working on a 12-inch iPad that many are referring to as the "iPad Pro." The second is that Apple is working on a game-changing laptop that will be as portable as the 11-inch MacBook Air but as productive as the 13-inch MacBook Air. According to AppleInsider, one analyst has figured out that these two rumored projects may be the same one: Apple will come out with a tablet/laptop hybrid in the fall. This is possible, he says, because the new A7 64-bit processor gives the iPad much more robust computing power—on par with desktop computers. In addition, given that the A7 processor is less expensive than the processor currently used in the MacBook, this would also help lower costs.
As you likely know, a ton of documents pilfered and leaked by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA), have shown that that agency's surveillance has been shockingly widespread, including having access to the phone records of you and me. In recent days, the leaked documents have brought the NSA's snooping even closer to home, with the release of documents that say the agency had the ability in 2008 to take control of an iPhone. They were able to "remotely push/pull files from the device, SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control, and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted."
Apple quietly introduced iBeacon this year as a feature in iOS 7. Basically this functionality uses the new Bluetooth technology called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to let devices communicate with one another while using very little energy. This means that tiny transmitters can be placed at specific locations such that when you come in range, say within 10 feet, your phone alerts you with some information. Apple, for example, earlier this month deployed iBeacon transmitters in 254 of their US Apple Stores. If you have this feature enabled, you'll receive information as you browse in an Apple Store. For example, if you pause by the iPhone display, the iBeacon will inform you of your upgrade status and encourage you to trade in your old phone for a new one.
We're in day five of Apple's free app 12 Days of Gifts, and today's present is the best yet: the award-winning 2011 film Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese. If you haven't yet downloaded the app, now would be a good time to do it.
A few days ago I listed the rumor that we'll see a 4K "iPad Pro" as one of the craziest rumors of 2013. Yet the rumor keeps popping up. A 4K display would have twice the resolution of today's retina iPad. To my mind, it's not credible, given the difficulty and expense. Plus, it's not clear to me whether the unaided eye would even be able to see the difference. You can read about the latest rumor on Forbes, which cites as it sources the Chinese language website Pad News as well as Foxconn, the Chinese company that manufactures many of Apple's devices. According to one rumor, Apple already has a prototype ready of a retina iPad Pro and is now working on developing a 4K version of the iPad Pro. By way of comparison, the retina display of the iPad Air has a resolution of 2048 x 1536, while an iPad with a 4K display would have a resolution of 4096 x 3072.
A friend got some money for Christmas and emailed me to ask where she should go to get an iPhone. I checked and was surprised to see at least one holiday sale still going on. So if you're in the same situation, be sure to check around. As I write this on December 28, Best Buy is offering the 16 GB iPhone 5c for free and the 16GB iPhone 5s for $124.99. There's also a $75 discount on models with more storage. Of course, these offers entail committing to a two-year contract.
We're in day 2 of Apple's 12 Days of Gifts, a free app that offers you something for free each day for 12 days starting on Dec 26. Yesterday's inaugural freebie was a music download that included the four songs performed by Justin Timberlake at this year's iTunes Festival. Earlier today Apple's offering in the U.S. was the pilot episode of the TV series "Once Upon a Time," which I downloaded to my iPad Air.