For months we've been getting rumors about iPhone 6, and now we're starting to get some rumors about iOS 8. It's fun to see what's coming down the pike. 9To5Mac has posted screenshots of iOS 8 that reveal the icons for several new apps from Apple that will be part of this new version of iOS, expected to be available along with the new iPhone, likely in September. The apps appear to confirm earlier rumors that iOS 8 will have a greater focus on health monitoring and will include a new Healthbook app. In addition, there are icons for a Preview app, which has long been a Macintosh app for viewing and editing image files, and TextEdit, which has long been a Macintosh app used as a simple text editor. 9To5Mac says that it has confirmed that the leaked screenshots are legitimate.
When I tried to download the iOS 7.1 update for my iPad Air in the evening, it took three hours. This morning when I downloaded it for my iPad mini, it took five minutes. Lesson: always download updates as early in the morning as possible. Blogger Todd Bernhard and I have outlined some of the changes in iOS 7.1 in previous posts. In this post I want to highlight several useful new features. One important new feature is ability to have HDR mode be automatically available on the iPhone 5s. It's previously been available, but you had to turn it on when you wanted to take advantage of it. HDR stands for high dynamic range, and I'm guessing many people, especially those who aren't camera buffs, don't really know what this is. So I think it's a good thing that you can now have it turned on by default. HDR can have a dramatic effect on the quality of certain photos.
One of the big changes with the arrival of iOS 7 is the way Siri works. In the past, you'd hold the Home button, wait until Siri responded with "What can I help you with?", release the button, and then speak. Siri would automatically detect when you stopped speaking, and respond. The problem was that sometimes Siri would respond because you'd made a slight inadvertent pause in your speech, even though you weren't done talking. Now with iOS 7, you hold have the option of manually letting Siri know when you're done talking by holding down the Home button while you talk. Siri keeps listening until you release the button. In addition, Siri also has new, more natural-sounding male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese.
With the launch of Apple's new CarPlay last week at the automobile trade show in Geneva, many were left wondering if you had to buy a new Ferrari or Mercedes or Volvo in order to get it. Apparently, the answer is no. 9To5Mac has reported that at least some automakers will be offering aftermarket CarPlay installation for older models. They've confirmed that Mercedes will be doing this, and expect others to do so as well. This is good news, and it will be really interesting to see how it develops. Apple has made a fortune giving us better interfaces for our technology: first personal computers, then MP3 players, then smartphones, then tablets—and now the automobile.
Recent rumors have suggested that the iPhone 6, expected in September or earlier, will have a new A8 chip designed by Apple and manufactured by chipmaker TSMC rather than Samsung, which makes the A7 used in the latest iOS devices. Then this last week a rumor passed along by Laptop and other websites said that the A8 will be a quad-core chip with quad core graphics. By comparison, the A7 has a dual-core CPU. Combine quad core with the 64-bit architecture Apple switched to in the A7 chip, and you get blazing speed.
Times have changed. In the Steve Jobs era, prices for Apple products always seemed to be uniform. Today if you're in the market for an Apple product, it behooves you to look around for the best deal. The ongoing discounts seem unprecedented. Most recently Walmart has slashed the price of the 16GB iPhone 5s to $119 with a two-year contract. And the iPhone 5c? It's down to $29 for the 16GB model with a two-year contract. According to CNN Money, Walmart announced these price cuts on Wednesday, but I couldn't quickly find them online. In addition to the lowered price on the iPhone, Walmart also lets you trade in your old gadgets for a gift card. So you could effectively lower your price even further.
Apple is reportedly working on making Siri available to third-party apps, allowing you to use Siri for things such as booking flights or making hotel reservations. Currently Siri is limited to Apple's apps, and to interfacing with Apple partners such as Open Table for making restaurant reservations. It's likely, though, that if this is true, Apple would exert a fair amount of control over which apps Siri worked with, according to iMore. A post on AppleInsider says that this move toward compatibility with third-party apps is tied closely to Apple's rumored iWatch. The iWatch would be sensitive to context, and Siri would offer apps that the iWatch senses you need at the moment, depending on what you're doing. AppleInsider cites an example that appeared in a report on Monday in The Information, which said:
If you're in the market for a new iPad that can access the cellular data network, Best Buy has a fantastic sale going on through Saturday, March 8. If you buy a 3G or 4G iPad, you'll receive a $30 discount, PLUS another $100 discount at checkout if you activate the iPad and data plan in the store. In addition, the $35 activation fee is waived. PLUS, if you activate a plan with Verizon or AT&T, you'll receive a $100 credit toward your data plan. So altogether that amounts to a savings of $265!
On Monday our blogger Todd Bernhard posted a helpful overview of Apple's new CarPlay, which is getting a lot of attention this week because of the automobile trade show taking place in Geneva. A number of the carmakers are featuring CarPlay, and Volvo has posted a great video demo showing it in action, giving you a good idea how it works.
An article today in the Wall Street Journal says that Apple is hiring hundreds of engineers and managers in China and Taiwan with the goal of speeding up product development and launching a wider range of products more frequently. This is just what Apple fanboys want to hear. We love Apple's products, and the biggest complaint is that there ain't enough of 'em. We want more gadgets, and we want them now. And that pretty much sums up the attitude of investors. If this is true, it certainly signals a shift for Apple, which has always taken its sweet time, and has always kept it's product line focused. Apple is expected to launch two new phones this fall, a new Apple TV, and possibly an iWatch. Plus, we'll likely see updated versions of the iPad Air and iPad mini. So already Apple is juggling a wider range of products than in the past.