When iSensei said, in a recent post, that Apple had “a little more to show” us, he couldn’t have been more wrong. They had A TON of new stuff to show us. And, in a big turnaround from all the leaks that sprouted prior to the release of iPhone 5, many of these announcements today were pretty much complete surprises. And and, it was as much Mac news as iPad. Let’s run them down, shall we? We’ll also note how surprised we were to see them.
- iPad mini – (not surprised)
Gorgeous little sucker. 7.9″ diagonal screen. 1024 x 768 resolution. That’s the same as the pre-Retina display iPad 2, but at the smaller size, looks amazing. Light and easy to hold. As expected, the new smaller Lightning connector. Available in Wifi and WiFi/LTE. 16, 32 and 64 GB storage. Starts at $329. As usual for Apple, not cheap, but it feels and performs like the premium product it is. Pre-order starting October 26. WiFi models available Nov. 2, WiFi+Cellular mid-November.
- iPad 4 - (trés surprised)
Yes, they’ve already phased out “the New iPad” (3) with a similar but upgraded model! After only 8 months the iPad 3 is – poof – gone! New one has same price structure (starts at $499), more carriers (Sprint, finally), LTE+Cellular. Lightning connector, much faster chip/processor, advanced WiFi. (Not sure when this comes out. Unclear on Apple.com) It’s nice but no need to upgrade if you have the 3rd generation, we say. Oh, but get this: the iPad 2 is still available! From $399 and up.
- Mac mini - (a little surprised. thought they forgot they made this)
Not exactly the Black Sheep of the family. We just don’t see a lot of these around. It’s basically a Mac without the monitor, squeezed into a little box. Nice upgrade tho: Double the speed, Thunderbolt and USB 3 connectors. (You’re going to see USB 3 in all Macs going forward. USB 3 is VERY snappy. Uses same plug as USB 2 so older stuff will work just fine. Goes for $599. Actually, that and an inexpensive monitor of most any brand gives you the cheapest possible Mac desktop setup. Available today.
- MacBook Pro 13″ - (not too surprised)
It was inevitable. The little brother to the spectacular 15″ MacBook Pro that debuted in June. This new one also has that amazing Retina screen. It’s now the thinnest, lightest and most powerful laptop on the planet. (The Air is thinner but not as powerful, y’see? This is the best combination of all those attributes) Nicely done, with an HDMI port, 2 USB 3 ports, 2 Thunderbolts and an SD card slot. Starts at $1699. Actually, the 13″ is only a little more than 1/2 lb heavier than the same size MacBook Air! (How thin are all these things going to be in 5 years?!) Interestingly, you can still buy the previous generation MacBook Pro, at a much cheaper price ($1199), non-Retina, heavier 13″ & 15″ models.
- iMac - (gotta say, didn’t see this coming. there were rumors but…)
Suh-weet! as the kids used to say. I think. Damn, this sucker is beautiful. Super thin! Less than half the volume of the previous model. 5mm at the edges, swells slightly towards the center of the back. The front and back of this are bonded together molecularly! Soon as it was shown, iSensei shouts: “No more Optical Drive!” Not out of joy, just that it explained how it could be so mad-thin. (Separate USB Superdrives are available for $79 if you really need one.) Uses half as much energy as the previous when idling. Yes, faster as all heck. The coolest thing is the new Fusion Drive concept. It mixes the speed of a solid state drive with the capacity of a traditional hard drive, while delivering speeds almost as fast if it was all solid state. Very impressive. 21.5″ model starts at only $1299, available in November. Monster 27″ starts at $1799, out in December. iSensei’s gonna have to have a long talk with Santa soon.
So, all in all, a very jam-packed presentation. Apple has revamped virtually its entire line of products in the last year. They are NOT slowing down. If anything, with the sooner-than-expected release of the iPad 4, it shows they intend to leave no breathing room for the competition. Macs sales have exceeded growth vs PCs for the last six years. The iPhone 5 is the fast-selling electronic consumer device ever. And, get this, 91% of ALL mobile web traffic is done on an Apple mobile device. As Apple’s delightful Head of Marketing Phil Schiller says: “They’re no longer even in our rear view mirror.” Apple stays strong, Steve. You’d be proud.
Alrighty, now. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty (and that can hurt!), assessing what made the final cut for iOS 6, which will be available on Wed, Sept 19th for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. As for which iOS devices will run what:
- iPhone 3GS and later
- iPad 2nd Generation (2011) and later
- iPod touch 4th Gen and later
As we’ve discussed previously, it would be grand if all devices, no matter how old, could run every new system update, but it’s just not practical or productive. Older hardware was the best and most powerful possible at the time of its release but as we all know, technology is a hungry beast and soon eats its young… no, wait… that’s not right. Technology constantly works to improve its capabilities and range. Otherwise it wouldn’t be called technology, right? So, moving right along (hurry up!) if you wrote the software limiting it to what the oldest device could do, we’d all be pretty unhappy, bored consumers right now. And who wants that? The Quakers? Maybe, yeah.
Let’s run down the projections from iSensei’s post from Sept 10 and see where the surprises are. I’m leaving up the old posting rather than repeat all the specifics therein, focusing now on the core functionalities and anything new gleaned from the Sept 12 presentation. Which is now available as an HD video stream on the Apple site. Go Phil Schiller!
Passbook - Like I said then, this is a pretty cool thing. It lets your iPhone and iPod touches store and act as ever-current tickets, boarding passes, loyalty programs, coupons and the like. They also provide status updates on how much you have left on your prepaid Starbucks card or if a flight has changed gates. This technology is open to other vendors to take advantage of and you can bet they will, especially given the millions and millions of devices that can run this.
One of the things iSensei alluded to in his earlier post was that Apple chose this path rather than NFC or, as it’s affectionately known, ‘Near Field Communication’. When a NFC chip is placed in a smartphone or similar device, it enables one to check out at the counter in a store, which uses specially equipped cash registers that detect the NFC-embedded thing in your hand and completes the transaction wirelessly. No messy removing the credit card from the wallet. Eww.
Not a bad idea, necessarily, BUT, it requires new equipment on the vendor’s side plus the possibility of someone standing close by (real close) capturing the signal. Not so easy to do but… Passbook, on the other hand, works with existing barcode scanners, which are everywhere. You just pass your Apple device over the scanner. Period (as far as iSensei knows). Advantages: no additional equipment purchase, setup or training required and established as very secure. Needless to say, Google’s pushing NFC with it’s Android partners. Let’s see how all this shakes out over time.
New 3D Mapping System – Now that Apple has dumped Google Maps for its own built in-house mapping and directional system, we’re going to see a much more sophisticated graphics approach. Rather than blownup bitmaps, which may or may not have a good photo to represent the locales (Google maps has a rotten shot of our house, hidden in back of a giant earth digger that was parked in front that day, 5+ years ago.) Apple’s approach is to construst all-new vector-based 3D buildings, streets, landmarks, etc for a faster, cleaner look. You can smoothly move around a scene from any angle, while it always remains fully rendered, because now you’re calling up mathematical constructions rather than large photo images over the cellular network or WiFi, which makes a big diff.
Turn-by-turn directions, a lovely guidance system, live traffic reports with suggested alternate routes and a bunch of other useful features should make this a joy to use. Particularly sweet if you have a passenger with an iPad!
Facebook integration - Yes, it will be integrated with your Contacts, Calendar, Maps location, etc. Pretty much everywhere. If you like to post to FB, you’ll be in obsessive communication heaven.
Do Not Disturb - Well, we guess so. There was no mention of it in the presentation nor on the Apple site, but iSensei is pretty sure we’ll see this little helper that’ll get the damn iPhone to leave us alone for a while.
Shared Photo Streams - The following is all true: you’ll be able to select certain pictures in your Photo Stream to share with specific friends, family, acolytes, etc. which will be viewable via iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, iPhoto or Aperture on a Mac, or on the web and of course, Apple TV. People using iOS devices or Macs running Mountain Lion can get them right on those devices. Anyone bereft of those options can simply go to a website and voila! (damn, I can’t use that more that once in a post! How about ‘Viola!’ Hmm?)
3G FaceTime - Yup, you can use either a cellular connection or WiFi to FaceTime it with your, ahem, homeys (or is it homies?). As previously reported, someone calls you from their iPhone, you can answer on your iPad or your Mac. Maybe, someday, we’ll all be comfy making video phone calls. Maybe…
Siri -Oh, yeah, you can post to FB with Siri. Lucky you! Your office mates will LOVE to listen to those one-sided exchanges. Whatever. Siri offers restaurant recommendations, dinner reservations; movie times, reviews and locales; oh and don’t forget the sports scores and game schedules! Plus, if you speak a foreign language, Siri’s likely to understand it. Or at least do a terrible imitation of its accent!
Actually, Siri’s pretty cool once you get used to using it (her?). It can decipher straightforward commands like: “tell my wife I’m running 15 minutes late”. I mean, now you have someone who doesn’t mind lying for you. Sweet!
Seriously though, the one function I believe people foolishly underuse is the ability to dictate speech. iSensei totally groks this. Rather than typing on the little iPhone faux-keyboard, he just taps a button, speaks clearly, taps the button again and voila! It’s all typed out, likely faster and better than his stubby little hands could have done. iSensei demands all his acolytes try this right now and see the joy and happiness awaiting you. Just say: “What can you do for me?” for some examples. You’ll be glad you did.
OK, what didn’t come up last time? Well, mainly tweaks to existing apps, but that’s OK too. Let’s hit them quickly.
Safari - iCloud tabs is new and nice. You open a tab or three on your iPhone, then when you go to Safari on your Mac, there they are! Big help for improved workflow and keeping up with your favorite Cat sites (yuck). If you want to post a photo or video on a particular site (eBay, whatever) you can choose from your existing iPhoto library OR capture the image right there and then, within Safari. Smooth.
Mail - VIP list (choose whose special in your life) and yadda yadda. (You can tell iSensei is running out of steam here, much like you.)
Phone - (Wait, this thing has a phone??) Nice touches introduced. When you get a call and can’t (or don’t WANT to) take it, you have more options now than just sending them straight to voice mail hell. With a single button you can reply with a canned (pre-defined) message, such as “I’ll call you back” or “I’m on my way” or even “Why the hell are you calling ME?!” (but that would be rude). You can also select the option (which is very desirable, we think) to remind one later to call that poor soul back (because we always forget and that’s awkward.)
So, in conclusion, we knew what we knew and we didn’t what we didn’t. And the world is a better place for it. Watch for upcoming reviews of life with an actual iPhone 5 (whatya think, the black? My 4S was white and that was nice but…)
Labelled “the ultimate iPhone, iPad and iPod manager”, iExplorer 3 does seems to be a very comprehensive piece of work. iSensei has long had PhoneView from Ecamm Network in his dock for its ability to look into the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch as if they were a mounted hard drive, able to view and manipulate individual files directly, which you can’t do within the devices themselves nor from iTunes. This new iExplorer from Macroplant seems to take that concept even further.
As you can see from this screenshot (don’t ask iSensei who this ‘Ricardo’ is. No idea) you can view your IM messages, contacts, notes, photos & videos, apps, iCloud files, call history, voicemail messages, etc. etc. Pretty much everything that’s stored on your iOS device, including what you’ve worked on in 3rd party apps! You can drag off music to your computer and it’ll even skip any duplicates.
Nice to be able to see the specs of your device and what you’ve consumed in memory. It’s clean, nicely designed and could be an iSensei Essential. The stickler is the price: $35. That’s a bit steep, in our book. (Still, PhoneView is only $5 less and doesn’t seem to do quite as much and certainly not as purty.) And, like PV, it does support ALL iPod touches, iPhones and iPads ever created. It’s Mountain Lion-ready and Retina Display enhanced.
This is a tough one. iSensei may just have to forego his 3-martini lunch tomorrow and buy this sucker. Check it out and let us know what YOU think!
Dan Moren, one of our faves over at Macworld.com, has an excellent and succinct explanation of how to work magic, i.e. control a Mac remotely. Well, it’s not really true magic, like touch-sensitive iPads are, but you still feel a wonderful and slightly creepy feeling as you watch the mouse traverse the screen of a computer 2 floors or 2,000 miles away. Requires no additional software as it comes native to all Macs.
It’s not too techy and though it’s not useful for everyone, anyone whose seen this trick who found it to have practical applications was very anxious to try it out. It sometimes doesn’t work (for reasons iSensei can’t explain) but it usually does. Also, you might have problems accessing your computer at work if the IT Dept there has erected security barriers to prevent this kind of “invasion” into the company network. Doesn’t hurt to try (though if it lands you in jail, do NOT call iSensei to bail you out).
Thanks again to Dan Moren and Macworld.com. Be sure to check some of the hundreds of FREE useful tips available on the site. Just head to the HELP & TIPS section.