Apple is always experimenting with prototypes, so a report in today's Wall Street Journal doesn't necessarily mean we'll see these devices. But the details are fun to contemplate: they say Apple is testing an iPhone with a screen larger than 4 inches and an iPad with a screen that's nearly 13 inches. The article doesn't say what size iPhone screen Apple is considering, but an artist's rendering by Marco Arment on AppleInsider shows what a 5-inch iPhone might look like (second from right).
According to an interesting post on 9To5Mac, only 20 percent of iOS users are even aware of the free Apple Store app. Apple wants to change that and will be releasing a new version next Tuesday that will include temporary free downloads as a way to get more people to use the app. Apparently the offerings will include apps, music, and books. This will encourage users to buy more content from Apple and also bring more attention to the Apple Store app itself. And according to 9To5Mac, Apple hopes this will help achieve its recently stated goal of selling more iPhones through its Apple Stores. Currently, 20 percent of all iPhones sold are purchased from Apple Stores, and according to rumor, CEO Tim Cook wants to raise that figure to 50 percent. He views the iPhone as a gateway product—a way of introducing new customers to Apple's full line of products. If people purchase their phone at an Apple Store, they get more exposure to Apple's iPads, iMacs, MacBook Airs, etc.
The rumors contradict one another, but eventually they merge. And often there are no big surprises on the day of Apple's announcement. Yesterday, I was convinced we'd see a low-cost iPhone first and then the iPhone 5S later this year. Now the latest rumors suggest that the "iPhone lite" is indeed in production and will come in two different flavors. However, today's rumors also say the iPhone 5S is still on track, with leaked photos and details about the specs. And if that's not enough, various posts are suggesting that no, there won't be a delay on an iPad mini with retina display and that we can expect it this fall.
In this stage of the rumor cycle, we typically see leaked photos and parts of the forthcoming iPhone. And while we've been seeing them for the low-cost iPhone with a polycarbonate case in multiple colors, we've seen much less related to the supposed iPhone 5S. All we've heard it it's rumored to be nearly the same as the iPhone 5, but with changes "under the hood." This is a bit fishy. And this fact lends credibility to a rumor reported yesterday by Bloomberg that at this late stage Apple has decided to go with a 4.3-inch display on the iPhone 5S. Citing the Taiwanese newspaper The Commercial Times, Bloomberg said this change could delay the introduction of the iPhone 5S until the end of the year. According to The Commercial Times, Apple had originally planned to launch the new model in October.
Google has now released Google Maps 2.0 (free), with new features as well as a native version for the iPad. Finally! This remains a very popular alternative to the built-in Maps app from Apple, and its new features in version 2.0 such as live traffic updates and Explore make it even better. It also includes five-star ratings from users and from Zagat as well as indoor walking directions for malls, transit stations, airports, etc. Plus, unlike the previous version, you can now cache data so your maps info is available even if you don't have a live Internet connection.
The devil is in the details, and I'm having a bit of a hard time understanding these. But the bottom line is this: T-Mobile and AT&T have announced new plans whereby customers will be able to upgrade their devices every year (even twice a year for T-Mobile), which will entail trading in their old phones or tablets without having to pay an early termination fee. Plus, rumors are saying Verizon will be announcing a similar plan. [Update: Verizon has announced Edge. See below.] These new offerings make it easier—if you're addicted to these gadgets—to always have the latest and greatest. AT&T just announced its new option today, called AT&T Next, with CNET having a somewhat clearer description of the details than the Reuters report.
I love my iPad mini, and the big question for enthusiasts these days is whether Apple will introduce a model with a retina display this year. The rumors have been on both sides, with some saying it's coming and others saying it will take a while to work out the technical challenges. Now the latest rumor says we will indeed be seeing a refashioned iPad mini this fall, but no, it won't have a retina display. According to the not-always-reliable website DigiTimes, this fall we'll see a new thinner and lighter iPad with improved specs.
I've watched two videos from Apple recently that give insight into why the tech giant has done so well. People simply love its products, and Apple's bottom line is evidence of that customer loyalty. This is all the more remarkable considering Apple always takes the long view, unlike most companies whose focus is short-term profits.
The first video is a simple animation with text explaining Apple's philosophy in a minute and a half.
Earlier this week, federal judge Denise Cote found Apple guilty of conspiring to fix eBook prices, though Apple continues to deny having done anything wrong and has vowed to appeal the decision. The US Department of Justice had not only sued Apple but also five of the six major publishers who it said had conspired with Apple. All five of those publishers settled with the government. But Apple was resolute, convinced that its actions helped foster competition in the eBook industry rather than undermine it.
What did Apple do? When it came out with the original iPad, it wanted eBooks to be a major selling point. Amazon was dominant, and Apple needed to be able to compete with them. At the time, Amazon was acting as a retailer for the publishers, just as with print books. That meant Amazon was free to set whatever price it wanted. And that price was low: typically $10 for a New York Times bestseller. Amazon was willing to set prices so low, it may have even been losing money because it saw these eBooks as "loss leaders"—the age-old trick of selling an item below cost in order to get customers in the door.
If you've been thinking of buying a Wi-Fi iPad, then head on over to Target. As part of their "Bonus Black Friday" promotion, they're offering gift cards with purchases of variety items, including a range of iPad Wi-Fi models. Buy an iPad mini, and you'll get a $40 Target gift card. Buy a 4th-generation iPad with retina display or an iPad 2, and you'll get a $50 gift card. They're also giving $10 gift cards with a purchase of an Apple TV. The deals are available through July 13 both in-store and online.
Of course, the question always is, should I buy now or wait for the next model? Even a $50 discount might not be enough to persuade you if you're hoping Apple will come out with a thinner, lighter iPad with retina display or an iPad mini with a higher-resolution display this fall.