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.
The Master Reveals all about the New iPhone!
A little over three weeks ago iSensei took possession of the latest and greatest from Apple, the iPhone 5. (You may have heard of it–it was even on the News one night!)
As a physical object, it barely looks manufactured. More like it was carved out of a huge chunk of metal in one piece, but with laser sharp perfection. You can hardly tell this thing has any seams. We got the black model, which is ALL black, including the buttons. The mid-section of the back is a matte slate grey (i.e. a lighter shade of black) made of anodized aluminum with a glossy black Apple icon and the word “iPhone”. Very classy!
When some prototypes and mockups of the new iPhone leaked out a few months back, this design was one of them. Surprisingly (to iSensei) the people leaving comments on that post went on about how this particular design would be the ugliest iPhone ever. Really? Now, it’s true seeing a picture of a thing and holding one in your hand makes a big difference, and seeing this final design fully executed it’s one of the sharpest designs one can imagine.
You notice right away it’s taller, but not grotesquely so (like some of those 5-6″ Android models), and by virtue of being the same width as recent models, it feels just right in your hand. The surprise when you pick it up is the weight, or lack thereof. It feels like half the weight of the iPhone 4S, which it’s not but, by being thinner, front to back, it feels amazingly light. But not flimsy (see above). All in all, another Apple industrial design that will end up in some museum or 12.
We turn it on and what do we see? A big beautiful, vividly colored screen. The 4S’s Retina Display was a beauty but they improved the color range and saturation on this year’s model (still Retina, of course). Then you notice the FIVE tiers of icons, not four. Now it really looks tall. So now you’ve got 25% more space for apps on each screen. It helps if you have a lot of apps.
What’s next? Ah, yes, let’s launch an app. Zip! Well, that was fast. Overall performance is very snappy. Cellular service? Not sure what the actual difference there is between the terms, LTE and 4G, if any, but either way, it’s quite an improvement. We’re finding 4G/LTE is faster than WiFi (which is faster this time around also), so if you’re in an area with no (or weak) WiFi, the 4G will more than do the job. Web pages load fast, app downloads are quick. All in all an improved experience.
Cameras? Most excellent, as Bill & or Ted would say. The 4S’s front facing camera was a big step up but the refined lenses on this model create for even better looking images. Better stabilization on video for us shaky-handers also. FaceTime back-facing camera now does 720p video, so you look more beautiful than ever to others! Built-in Panorama is a nice feature and great for capturing those wide angle shots that give you a true sense of your environment. And very easy to use. Perfect for traveling.
Battery life is about the same as the previous model, which is pretty impressive, given they’ve packed more power into this AND put it all in a smaller case.
The little built-in speakers even sound a bit better. Oh, and they’ve done something clever with the earpiece and mic so that both you and your caller sound better to each other. We like that. Headphone jack is on the bottom, which makes sense for how most people put their phones in their pocket.
And, yes, there is the new, MUCH smaller cable connector, called Lightning (oooo!) that is a PITA from the perspective of all the old 30-pin cables we all have sitting around, but you can see that the size difference is an important development towards making the iPhone (and future models) more compact and lighter. Necessary evolution. Like when we lost our tails. It was a drag but we got over it. Mostly. The new connector is a solid fit with the iPhone and it’s reversible so you don’t have to poke around trying to figure which side is up. Small point, yes, but it helps.
Ooops! Almost forgot about the new Earpods (‘Earbuds’ is so 2007). Definitely an improvement. Noticeably better sound, both music and phone calls. Larger inline controls, set up higher. A bit too high for iSensei but a nice upgrade overall.
Overall, yet another lovely piece of useful equipment from the World’s Kickass Technology company. And iSensei, like many others, remembers the day not ALL that long ago where the world couldn’t care less about this odd little computer company. Certainly those days are LONG gone. Keep up the good work, Apple.
Today’s the day, O Faithful. The release of iOS 6 (the new ‘iDevice’ Operating System) is here, which is built to take full advantage of the new iPhone 5, but also adds significant functionality and coolness to existing iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. (See list at bottom for what models can work with it).
I’m going to rely on a new (to iSensei, at least) Apple site, AppleGazette.com for their excellent step-by-step suggestions of how to best prepare for the iOS 6 installation. We’d like to thank one of iSensei’s favorite Apple sites, MacDailyNews.com for alerting us to this site/post. We’re reposting it here verbatim, with additional comments, in italic, from iSensei. Here’s the direct link to the article on AppleGazette, which I recommend visiting anyway for all their other useful information. OK, let’s get on with it.
(Soon after 1 PM EST, Sept 19, Apple dropped the 6th version of iOS on iPhones, iPods, and iPads everywhere.) Before you download that upgrade, here are five important things you should seriously consider doing first.
1. Back up your device(s).
If you don’t sync your iPhone, iPod, or iPad to your Mac via iCloud, then you should consider this one a requirement — particularly if you have a lot of personal files on your device (like music, movies, pictures, etc.). Connect your device to your computer with your connector cord, fire up iTunes, and right-click on your device’s name in the left-hand column. A new box will appear, and near the bottom, you’ll see “Backup.” Click it, and let iTunes back up all of the contents of your iDevice. This ensures you won’t lose anything if there should be any problem with the iOS 6 upgrade process.
iSensei here. Personally, the All-Knowing One would recommend upgrading to iTunes 10.7 first, inverting Steps 1 and 2, but it’s likely no big deal. iSensei’s going through these steps as he writes to see what happens first hand. He is willing to risk all so that YOU don’t have to!
The other thing you might question is whether you should backup iCloud or your Mac. Either is fine unless you only have the 5 GB of storage space that comes free with iCloud, which may not be insufficient, depending on what else is being stored there. If space is tight you might as well just backup to your Mac.
2. Upgrade to iTunes 10.7.
Right after the big Apple event last week, an upgrade for the Mac version of iTunes was made available. This isn’t the major overhaul that was shown off at the event; that’s iTunes 11 and it won’t arrive until late October. The current version is an incremental step up from 10.6 to 10.7, and what it brings is compatibility with iOS 6. So once your iPad, iPod, or iPhone is updated to the new version of iOS, you’ll want your computer’s iTunes to be able to connect to it without any issues. Upgrade here.
3. Update your apps.
It’s always a good idea to install the latest updates for your device’s apps as soon as they become available, regardless. But it’s an especially good idea to make sure you’re up-to-date across the board right now, because most of the app updates going out at the moment provide compatibility with the new features of iOS 6. Kind of a no-brainer, ain’t it?
This touches on one of iSensei’s most deeply held beliefs - update frequently - which, in his book, is every time the little UPDATES app icon – as seen above – has a number in it. You never know what benefit or fix you’ll be gaining from doing so and it’s fast and free.
4. Get ready for Passbook.
Passbook is a new built-in app that comes with iOS 6. It collects all of your customer loyalty cards, coupons, and memberships (such as the frequent-flyer account with your airline of choice, or your Starbucks member account) in a single place. It’s really pretty nifty how it works, because it’s tied in with your device’s GPS. Say you’ve got a Target gift card saved in Passbook; your device will remind you about your gift card right on the lock screen when you walk inside the store. It’s even better for airline ticketing, because not only will it store your boarding pass, it will give you updates in real time should your boarding gate change, or if your flight is delayed, and so on.
To use Passbook, you’ll need to scan or type in your personal account numbers and whatnot, so rather than wait, why not gather those materials now? After downloading and installing iOS 6, everything you need will be in one place and ready to go.
iSensei: since we haven’t used Passbook yet, we don’t know exactly what’s going to be required. This suggestion is practical though not essential. You can input this info at any later time.
5. Grab Google’s YouTube app.
Due mainly to Apple’s ongoing cold war with Android, Apple is doing away with the YouTube app that has always come with iOS. The good news: Google knew this was coming, and they’re ready with a proprietary YouTube app of their own. You can download it for free right here. The bad news: it’s not made for iPad yet. An iPad-friendly update is coming, but for now, it’s only for iPhone and iPod Touch.
A few last tips…
- Podcasts have been removed from the iOS 6 iTunes app and now have their very own app (called Podcasts amazingly). If you subscribe to any podcasts and plan to listen to or watch them on your iDevice, you should grab the new Podcasts app.
- It wouldn’t hurt to delete old apps from your device that you no longer use. Remember, you can always download them again from iTunes, anytime you want. (iSensei concurs. If nothing else it makes it harder to find the one tree you’re looking for in an overcrowded forest.)
- Like the YouTube app, the built-in Google Maps app is going away with iOS 6, in favor of the new, Apple-made Maps app. Apple’s app looks great, but it doesn’t have satellite maps or Street View. Google is working on a Google Maps app of their own for iOS, which should be released in the near future, but it’s not ready yet. So if for any reason you depend on those soon-to-be-missing features, you may want to put off upgrading to iOS 6 until Google’s new app is released.
As promised, here’s what hardware will work with iOS 6:
- iPhone 3GS and later
- iPad 2nd Generation (2011) and later
- iPod touch 4th Gen and later
Best luck to all with the preparation and installation all across the nation. And thanks again to AppleGazette.com for this timely and helpful advice. Ciao!
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…)