I've just been watching the live stream of the Congressional hearing with Apple CEO Tim Cook today. It's ugly. The buzz among tech blogs has said the hearing would largely be grandstanding by members of Congress. And that's what I'm seeing. The current rant is going on and on, with Senator Carl Levin endlessly chastising Apple for having not paid taxes on $44 billion in profits being held by three Apple subsidiaries in Ireland. I've been watching for 20 minutes, and Cook hasn't been allowed to speak more than a couple sentences.
It's unfortunate that Apple has such a target on its back these days. Apple's manufacturer in China, Foxconn, has been criticized for its working conditions, Apple's recent earnings report disappointed Wall Street. Market analysts have doubted Apple's mojo and question whether the company has the creativity to continue to innovate. And now, various governments are going after Apple, wanting to get more money from the company.
Many rumors have been circulating in recent days, a lot of them credible. A post on AppleInsider confirms the eariler rumor saying the next iPhone will be available in multiple colors. Photos of multicolored SIM trays, the iPhone component holding the small card that identifies your phone to the carrier, have been leaked to BGR, strongly indicating the forthcoming iPhone will go beyond black and white models. When will we see this new phone? No one knows, of course, but I'm guessing the iPhone 5S will arrive in September.
On the iPad front, DigiTimes, which has a spotty reputation for accuracy, has reported that the 5th-generation iPad is now in trial production, with full production likely in July. The post says we may see the new model in September, and says the device will be 25–33 percent lighter. Perhaps most relevant is details of the display, saying that the bezels will be narrower than the current iPad, which goes along with earlier rumors that the new 9-7-inch iPad will have a form factor similar to the iPad mini.
Let's hope this is just the beginning. The CW television network announced it will be coming to Apple TV — the first major network to stream its content to the device for free. Until now, the major networks have been reluctant, and Apple's set-top box has had pretty limited fare, unless you were inclined to pay for every episode via the iTunes Store.
A number of websites have reported this week that Siri is now advising users to ask shorter questions — but is doing it in a lighthearted way. Apparently, Apple's servers have a difficult time parsing long requests. CNET notes the irony in that Siri was originally touted as being able to understand natural language. CNET and iLounge say when making the request, Siri prefaces it with a quotation from a famous individual about the value of being concise. And then it says, "Can you ask me that again, in fewer words?" or "How about a shorter question?" On the one hand, it's disappointing that users must accommodate themselves to Siri rather than the other way around.
Google held a major press event Wednesday, announcing a number of new initiatives. The most significant may have been a new version of Maps that will highlight locations based on your history and other Google applications you use. As an article in The New York Times says, it's both useful and a little creepy. Initially it will only be available to those who sign up for the feature. And it won't come to mobile devices until later. But Google's vision is that once you're logged into a Google service on whatever device you're using, you'll see personalized maps tailored to your interests.
So how will it work? According to the Times, when you're logged into Google and are using Google Maps, it will highlight places you visit frequently, such as your home and favorite restaurants.
When Square was first released, it garnered a lot of buzz: it was an extraordinary combination of practicality, cool, and cost-effectiveness. You simply plugged a small square gizmo, which was free, into your iPhone, and used it to swipe credit cards. The best part was that unlike other credit card processing systems, there was no monthly fee. You simply paid 2.75 percent of each transaction, with no other fees. This low cost convenience was ideal for small businesses, and needless to say, Square was widely adopted.
Although there had been rumors of a June announcement and July launch of the next iPhone, it increasingly seems likely it will arrive in September. And one of the more interesting details to emerge in recent days is that it may have a sapphire crystal home button. It won't be a physical button, as in current iPhones, but will be capacitive touch just like the display.
Historically, ABC has led the way in making its content available through on-demand streaming, via its website and mobile apps. However, until now, that content was delayed 12–24 hours after the original broadcast. That's about to change if you live in New York City or Philadelphia. According to The New York Times, ABC will release an update this week to ABC Player (free) that will include a "Live" button. Tap that button, and you'll be able to live-stream the programming from the local ABC affiliate stations in those two cities. However, as with other streaming apps such as HBO Go, you won't be able to live-stream the program unless you subscribe to cable or satellite TV and first log into your account. The feature, according to the Times, will be available in six additional cities this summer. And ABC is in talks with affiliates in 200 other cities to offer live streaming in those cities.
Saturday, Amazon released a new app with functionality similar to Apple's Photo Stream. The app, called Amazon Cloud Drive Photos (free), automatically backs up your iPhone photos to Amazon's Cloud Drive. You can access your photos via the web as well as share them via Facebook, Twitter, and email. The beauty of this, of course, is that your photos are secure in the cloud even as you take them. Without even having to manually upload them, you can access them via any web browser. Amazon gives you 5GB of free storage in its Cloud Drive, and lets you store up to 2,000 photos. Apple's Photo Stream, which is built into the iPhone, is similar, except that it limits you to 1,000 photos. Another serious limitation is that your photos in Photo Stream expire after 30 days. With Amazon's service, there is no time limit. You can store your photos for as long as you want.
As you may recall, T-Mobile began offering the iPhone 5 in April, and unlike other carriers, your phone comes without a contract. You pay $99 down and $20 per month for two years. And according to AppleInsider (via TmoNews), this weekend T-Mobile is offering a special deal for Mother's Day: trade in your old iPhone 4 or 4S, and T-Mobile will give you the iPhone 5 for $0 down. In order to an acceptable trade-in, your old phone must be in working order: name, be able to be turned out, not have a cracked screen, and not have any physical or water damage.