It's been a great year for new devices from Apple, each of which was preceded by months of rumors—which I dutifully passed along. Many turned out to be true: a new iPad with a form factor like the iPad mini, an iPad mini with retina display, and a lower-cost iPhone. But some were off. There were many rumors of an HDTV from Apple that would arrive late this year. Many people are now doubting Apple will ever come out with one, even though they're known to have developed a variety of prototypes. We kept getting rumors of an iWatch, which have gotten more tangible over time. But still no watch.
Some of the top app developers have gotten together and created a website called App Santa where they are promoting special Christmas pricing on some of the most popular apps for the iPhone and iPad. Apps with hefty discounts include 1Password ($9.99, marked down from $17.99), Scanner Pro ($2.99, marked down from $6.99), Mileage Log+ ($4.99, marked down from $9.99), Printer Pro ($2.99, marked down from $6.99), Tweetbot ($1.99, marked down from $4.99), and 10 more. If any of these apps interest you, now would be a good time to download them.
Speculation about a smartwatch from Apple has been going on for some time now; but recently we've been starting to get some tangible hints it's coming, with the rumors saying it will arrive next October. First of all, we know for a fact Apple is very actively engaged in wearable computing, and it seems obvious that this will be the Next Big Thing. In addition, Apple has watch-related patents. Add to this two recent reports that say Apple's iWatch is coming. According to a post on MacRumors, a Chinese website with contacts in Apple's supply chain has reported that Apple will release the iWatch at the same time it introduces the next iPhone in October, 2014. Reportedly Apple hasn't yet decided on the specific screen size. In addition, the article says the watch will have wireless charging capability.
On Tuesday Apple began airing a touching holiday commercial that highlights the video capabilities of the iPhone 5s. The ad, called "Misunderstood," features a family Christmas gathering over several days and a teen with an iPhone who seems to be disconnected from what's going on and instead distracted by his iPhone.
Monday Apple posted their Best of 2013 lists, including Music, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, Books, and Podcasts. The free Duolingo - Learn Languages for Free, was named iPhone App of the Year. And it's well deserved. Not only can you use it to learn Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, and English, but the app makes it fun. It uses gaming techniques to help you learn. And, interestingly, the app also has a crowdsourcing function, such that in the process of learning and doing translations, you are helping translate the Web into other languages.
It's that time of year: when tech websites post their lists of best apps for the year. Here are some of the lists of best apps for 2013 that you may want to check out. It's a great way to quickly find those that best suit your needs.
Something's going on with Apple TV. After several quiescent years, Apple has been adding a lot of channels in 2013 — 18 so far. And there's evidence they may be preparing a software developers kit to open up development for the platform. On Wednesday Apple quietly added four more channels: Crackle, which offers free movies; Bloomberg TV, which offers a range of news reporting; Watch ABC, which requires that you already have cable TV service; and KORTV, a Korean channel offering paid movies and shows along with some free content (all in Korean). All of this activity suggests Apple is increasing its focus on Apple TV; and there are rumors that the company will be coming out with a new iteration of their Apple TV device in the first half of next year, or eventually even their own HDTV.
Good news for music enthusiasts: Spotify's streaming music service is now free. The Spotify app has always been free, but you had to pay $10 per month for the opportunity to listen to on-demand music. That meant that you could request any particular song from their catalog. This, of course, was different from services such as Pandora and iTunes Radio, which let you indicate your favorite music but then stream similar music rather than the particular favorite you identified. Spotify's new free service for the iPhone falls somewhere in between. You can identify a particular artist, album, or playlist, but then Spotify streams the music in "shuffle mode," meaning that you get your favorite music but not a particular song at a particular time. The playlists available include those you've put together as well as playlists your friends have created.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that today Walmart would begin offering the iPhone 5c for $27 and the iPhone 5s for $127, with a two-year contract. This is a great price for the 5c, but not actually as good as Walmart's Black Friday offering: $45 plus a $75 gift card. As part of its holiday promotion, Walmart is also offering the 16GB iPad mini (first generation) for $299 plus a $50 gift card, and $30 iTunes Store gift cards for $25. According to the article, the sales started at 8 a.m. this morning and runs through December 24, or as long as supplies last.
Yesterday T-Mobile announced that you can now buy the 16GB iPhone 5s for $0 down and payments of $27 per month for 24 months, and also the 16GB iPhone 5c for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $22.91. Plus, you don't need to commit to a service contract. Note that since it's a holiday promotion, the offer may not be available after December 25. They're also offering $0 down payment options on the iPad. Monthly payments for the iPad Air are $26.25; $22.08 for the iPad mini with retina display; and $17.91 for the original iPad mini. In the long run, the device ends up costing you about the same as from Apple, so the advantage is not having to plunk down money up front.