As my fellow blogger Todd Bernhard discussed in this post, there was a report out Monday from The Financial Times saying that Apple will be announcing a new Smart Home platform during next Monday's keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Apple has been working on an integrated home system for at least several years, with a number of patent applications indicating what they have in mind. In this post from January of 2012, for example, I pointed to a patent application that described a single device that would automatically detect appliances available for it to control. This would include TV, video disk player, stereo, computer, and home device controls, such as security, lighting, thermostat, and a wide range of other devices that are now Internet connected, such as the intelligent thermostat from Nest and smart light bulbs from Hue.
Verizon's LTE network was already pretty speedy, and now the company has rolled out XLTE in 250 cities in 44 states, which delivers faster peak data speeds and a minimum of double the bandwidth. Wow, this is what I like to hear.
On Wednesday Apple posted the schedule for the Worldwide Developers Conference, and it shows, as expected, that the keynote address will be on the first day, June 2, at 10 a.m. Pacific. Apple is expected to announce iOS 8 and give a demo.
I like Siri, but Google Search (free) is definitely an alternative worth considering. Last week Google released version 4.0 which now lets you have a "smarter conversation with Google." For example, you can ask, "What's the weather like?" and Google will return information about the current weather. But then you can ask a follow-up question that depends on the earlier question for context. You can say, "How about this weekend?" and the app will understand that you're asking what the weather will be like this weekend. The ability of Google Search to use previous questions as context for understanding is an impressive step in adding intelligence to these handy voice-controlled assistants. A review on ZDNet says that the capabilities of Google Search "embarrass Siri," which the reviewer now finds to be "woefully inadequate."
When Apple announced CarPlay, their new technology for automobiles, the big question was whether it would only be available on new cars, or if older cars could also take advantage of it. Then to the relief of many, two different companies announced forthcoming aftermarket CarPlay systems, with the one from Pioneer to be the first to hit the market. As noted by AppleInsider, Pioneer has been offering hands-on demonstrations of its NEX car infotainment system to the media this week, including CNBC, Macworld, and Digital Trends, which has a very detailed hands-on review of the system. Pioneer's CarPlay system offers Phone, Music, Maps, and Messages. See an earlier post for a bit more detail.
At this late stage in the development of the iPhone 6, I'm not sure Apple would still be testing various display resolutions, but that's what the latest report on 9To5Mac is saying. According to the in-depth article, which cites sources familiar with at least one model being tested, Apple is considering a display resolution of 1704 x 960 pixels, which would give a pixel density of 416 ppi and an aspect ratio of 16:9. This compares to a resolution of 1136 x 640 on the iPhone 5s, with a pixel density of 326 ppi and the same aspect ratio of 16:9. The article explains in detail why this rumored resolution would be proportionately larger, making it easier for developers to scale up to the larger size.
Brightwire, a global investment newswire, reported last week that the iPhone 6 will likely include a Near Field Communcation (NFC) chip, a chief purpose of which is using one's phone to complete point-of-sale transactions. You simply tap the NFC terminal at the checkout counter to make a purchase. According to the report, which is based on "a source close to the matter," the impetus for this move appears to be a deal Apple has made with China UnionPay, which Brightwire describes as "the only domestic bank card organization and interbank network in China." In short, if you want to sell lots of iPhones in China, and if the only bank card company wants NFC, then Apple does NFC. The two companies are also reportedly working together on a mobile payment system for use in Apple Stores in China.
Reuters reported today that the much-anticipated 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will be coming in August — a month earlier than everyone has been expecting. And the report said that the larger 5.5-inch device will make its appearance in September. This too diverges from earlier rumors, which have stated that it wouldn't arrive until the end of 2014. The source of the Reuters report was media reports in Taiwan, which were based on unidentified sources in Apple's supply chain.
With the free availability of Apple's iWork suite, and its robust collaboration tools, you may not need to use Google's suite. But if you're a user of Google Docs, you'll be happy to know that on Wednesday Google released Google Docs (free) for word processing and Google Sheets (free) for doing spreadsheets. Plus, they'll soon be releasing a free Google Slides app for creating presentations. Google Docs and Google Sheets let you create new documents and edit existing documents. They also let you work offline. Whether you're working online or offline, all your changes are immediately saved. In addition to collaboration and sharing features, you can also read and respond to comments from your collaborators. Google Sheets lets you format cells, enter/sort data, perform various sheet operations, and more.
Apple released iOS 7.1.1 last week, and you'd be well advised to download it to your devices. You can do so over the air by going to Settings > General > Software Update. Or you can connect your device to your computer and do the update via the iTunes software. The update fixes important security issues as well as bugs. Most importantly for iPhone 5s owners, it reportedly helps to make Touch ID faster and more accurate. According to a detailed explanation on Cult of Mac, accuracy would decay over time. Quoting a Reddit user, the post explains how the update improves Touch ID: "With iOS 7.1.1 Apple now takes multiple scans of each position you place finger at setup instead of a single one and uses algorithms to predict potential errors that could arise in the future." In the past, if you didn't get a good scan during setup, it would later cause problems. The increased accuracy of the update results in a faster response because the phone needs to make fewer calculations while unlocking the phone.