Skype has now released a new version of their popular calling/videoconferencing/chat app, giving it a new look and feel in keeping with the design of the new iOS 7 software. A post on the Skype blog also outlines new features that enhance accessibility:
Siri's voice is computer-generated, of course, but the digitized sounds are based on the speech of a real person. Some websites were trying to find out who, eventually prompting Susan Bennett to come forward and admit to being the voice behind Siri. A fascinating article on the CNN website tells her story. She's been the voice of everything from Delta Airlines announcements in airports to the GPS devices. As a professional voice for a company called GM Voices, hers was selected as the voice which would be used in a database of words for constructing speech.
Late last week there were many reports online that the iPhone 5s has serious problems with its motion sensors: the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Revealing photos, such as the one that accompanies the report by CNET, give clear evidence of the problem. The CNET photo shows an iPhone 5 on a table next to an iPhone 5s, each running the built-in iOS compass. The phones should show the same reading, but there is a large discrepancy. Similarly, the accelerometer is also error-prone. Gizmodo tested its accuracy by using a racing game that relies on tilting the device to control the action. They placed the iPhone 5s on a level surface and didn't move it, yet the device immediately showed a leftward tilt and sent the car in that direction. For hardcore gamers this is a major issue.
ABC News is reporting that Best Buy is currently offering a $50 gift card to those who purchase an iPhone 5c, effectively dropping the cost from $99.99 to $49.99. (You can apply the gift card to the price of the phone.) If you're looking to get one, now might be the time. It's not clear why they've dropped the price. Apple sold 9 million iPhones the first three days after launch, but didn't say how many of each model. Some analysts estimated that, based on the number of activations, the iPhone 5s was outselling the 5c three to one. Best Buy says their goal is to drive consumers to specific products. In an official statement, they said, "We view ourselves as a company that offers consumers something they can't get anywhere else -- all the phones, all the plans, all the carriers -- and look for any opportunity to delight our customers."
One rumor had suggested Apple would be holding an iPad event October 15, but I'm starting to doubt that. It almost certainly will happen this fall, but it's not clear when. While the new form factor of the forthcoming iPad 5 is fairly well documented, other details have been sparse. But now AppleInsider is reporting that both the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 will have iPhone-quality 8-megapixel cameras. Citing KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the report says that the cameras will have an updated five-element lens module with larger aperture and possibly the larger 1.5-micron pixels seen in the iPhone 5S.
If Apple does have an event this month to announce new iPads and new Mac laptops, it's hard to imagine what they'll offer regarding the iPad mini. Reuters is reporting today that the high-resolution retina display for the iPad mini simply isn't yet ready for production, according to sources in Apple's supply chain.
Virgin Mobile began offering the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c yesterday, and this is quite likely the least expensive option for having an iPhone. Virgin is a no-contract carrier, meaning that you pay for the total cost of the phone up front and then pay as little as $35 per month for service. This lowest tier includes unlimited text and data, and 300 anytime minutes of calling. To take the bite out of that initial cost, Virgin Mobile is selling the unsubsidized phones for $100 less than Apple sells them. You can get the 16GB iPhone 5s for $550 and the 16GB iPhone 5c for $450.
Likely one of the main reasons the iPhone 5s is off to such a remarkable start is the amazing camera, which has features that no other camera has, smartphone or otherwise. An excellent article on Computerworld gives an in-depth look at the technology inside the iPhone 5s camera, including the value of the larger sensor in letting in more light. The article also discusses the new Image Signal Processor in the A7 chip that gives capabilities only found in high-end cameras. For example, it uses "tonal mapping" to independently enhance the contrast in individual areas of the photo. It also uses multi-zone metering to give you much better autofocus.
Unhappily I'm in the market for a new iPad mini, having dropped mine this morning and cracked the screen. So I'm doubly looking forward to Apple's announcement of new iPads in October. One rumor has said the event will be coming Oct. 15. I hope that's correct. Meanwhile, we still know little about the new iPad mini, while videos continue to surface showing in detail what the new fifth-generation iPad will look like. The latest video (see below) gives the clearest overview yet of the relative sizes of the current iPad and iPad mini compared to the fifth-generation iPad. And again it shows that the new iPad will be thinner, lighter, and narrower. It also shows that there will be a second microphone on the back of the device. I don't recall having seen that detail before.
There's a surprising lack of buzz surrounding the anticipated introduction of new iPads in October. I suspect one reason is that we already know a fair amount about the fifth-generation iPad: it'll be thinner, lighter, and narrower, with narrower bezels left and right, and a form factor similar to the iPad mini. Another reason may be that no one is expecting anything major, unlike last year when the iPad mini was announced. So far it's a bit of a mystery what sort of upgrade the mini will receive, with some rumors saying it'll get a retina display and others saying that a retina model won't be ready until next year.