On Wednesday Google released a new version of Google Translate (free) in the App Store that has some great new features. Most importantly, it now includes Word Lens: you can point your camera at some text in a foreign language, and the translated text will instantly overlay the image on your screen. You don't even need an Internet connection. According to the announcement on the Official Google Blog, the translation works between English and French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, with more languages to be added.
Now that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are out, and now that we're in a new year, it's time for the next stage of the rumor cycle: leaked tidbits about the forthcoming iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. According to AppleInsider, which cites a Taiwanese website, sources in Apple's supply chain have said that Apple is considering a dual-lens camera for the new phone — which would make it possible to have an optical zoom feature. It would also improve performance in low-light situations. Already the iPhone camera is excellent, with the iPhone 6 Plus featuring phase-detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. A dual-lens camera would certainly take it up a notch and put the iPhone even farther ahead of competitors.
Apple's Notes app has long been pretty basic, but happily iOS 8 added some new features. You can now insert photos in your notes as well as apply the text attributes of bold, italic, and underline. It's not real fancy, but it's great to have some more options.
This year is shaping up to be an exciting one for Apple enthusiasts. Both Apple Watch and HomeKit hold the potential to be revolutionary in the same way the iPhone was eight years ago. The Wall Street Journal has a great article on the Apple Watch. Bottom line: just as the iPhone freed us from the desktop and made communication and information more mobile, so too will the Apple Watch take things to another level by making information and communication more convenient and easier.
Fortunately I'm not addicted to an iPhone—but only because I don't have one. I do, however, tend to go through withdrawal if I don't have my iPad with me. It turns out, these gadgets have become so much an extension of ourselves that scientists have found that we suffer cognitive and physiological impairment if we're separated from them. A new study by University of Missouri researchers put iPhone users in a situation where they were separated from their phones while taking a cognitive test. Not only did they do worse on the test compared to their performance when they had their phones with them, they also had a significant increase in anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure.
The Accessibility features of iOS are useful to those who are visually impaired, but they can also be useful to others, such as those occasions when it might be more convenient to have your iPhone or iPad read to you. In an earlier tip, I showed how you can use the Speech setting in Accessibility to have your device read text to you. A reader pointed out to me that there's yet another way to do so: the VoiceOver feature. And once you get the hang of it, this approach may be the more convenient.
I wish I were at CES, but must be content with reading the news reports. One that caught my eye was an announcement by Philips of noise-canceling headphones that plug into the Lightning connector port and that don't need batteries. They're powered by the port itself. As you likely know, noise-canceling headphones use microphones to listen to ambient sounds and then generate sound waves to destructively interfere with the sound waves in the environment. The result is silence, giving you the full pleasure of hearing what's coming from your iPhone or iPad. The Fidelio NC1L headphones use Philips' own 24-bit digital-to-analog converter rather than the converter built into your iPhone or iPad. You can read a hands-on review and see a video on Digital Trends.
Amazing that it's now been eight years since Apple founder Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone in January, 2007. You can watch a four-minute video of the introduction on YouTube and see embedded below. He rightly refers to it as yet another revolutionary device from Apple, and that Apple is reinventing the phone. He introduces it by saying it's three devices in one: an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communication device. And he emphasizes its ease of use.
Users of Android devices have long had the option of using external memory to expand storage on other devices, and now that option has come to the iPhone and iPad. The iBridge Mobile Memory, made by Leef, is a thumb drive that plugs into the Lightning port and offers up to 256 GB of storage. As can be seen in the photo, the iBridge conveniently curls around the back of your device. It has a Lightning connector on one end and a USB connector on the other so that you can also connect it to your desktop computer. Prices range from $59.99 for 16 GB to $399.99 for 256 GB.
Much is known about the Apple Watch — except for the date of its arrival. And we'll likely be seeing many rumors in that regard. On Tuesday 9To5Mac passed along the rumor that the Apple Watch will go on sale in March, with staff training scheduled for mid-February. Citing sources familiar with the Apple Watch's development, 9To5Mac said that representatives from Apple Stores across the US will be sent for training Feb 9–16 to familiarize them with the new watch. Prior to the release, these employees will then train other Apple Store personnel. At least that's the plan. Apple itself probably hasn't yet pinned down a date when it will go on sale, since it all depends on how smoothly production goes.