500px Back on the App Store

After falling foul of Apple’s slightly suspicious boob aversion which they claim is on the grounds of taste and decency but which makes you doubt their claimed love of beauty, it appears that the 500px app is back on the App Store, with a minor update.

20130129-173158.jpg

The only slight reference to the app’s disappearance is in the update notes; the main noticeable change is a ‘report image’ button which can be used by people if they feel an image is inappropriate – and would then presumably spark a debate over the exact difference between boobs as art and boobs as porn.

Just sayin’: Android hits 500,000 activations a day

Google, apparently, is activating 500,000 Android devices a day. That is an impressive number by anyone’s metric. The last instance I can find with my (admittedly very brief) Google search was 230,000 a day, last September.

That isn’t the point of this post.

I couldn’t help but notice the wording on one of the blogs that reported on Google’s new activations landmark.

At Google I/O in early May, the company boasted that activations were up to 400,000 a day with 100 million cumulative device activations, representing 36 OEMS, 215 Carriers and 310 devices. The pace of growth has been staggering for Android, which hit the 100,000 activations per day milestone in May 2010. By December 2010, that number was up to 300,000 a day.

Now with Honeycomb (an Android variant) tablets hitting the market, the device activations are being supplemented by larger tablet devices, not just smartphones. Indeed, almost every company is putting out a tablet these days, most built off of Google’s Android operating system.

(emphasis mine).

Now, that’s a pretty ambivalent sort of comment, isn’t it? Sure, most manufacturers that are producing tablets are using Android in one way or another, but the vast majority of the tablets out there are still iPads running iOS. And I’ll bet the majority of the Android tablets out there aren’t running the tablet optimised “Honeycomb” variation of Android.

Just sayin’.

My iOS 4 wish list: How does iOS 5 stack up?

Looking back over some old posts on this blog, it occurred to me that almost exactly a year ago I made a post of my 5 most-wanted features for the forthcoming release of iOS 4 that I didn’t expect to get in that release.

Now, with iOS 5’s key new features announced and the first beta in developer’s hands, I figured now was a good time to revisit that wish list and see just how many of those abstract wishes have become a reality.

1. Safari Reader for Mobile Safari

Oh yes, Apple came right out with that one and brought Safari Reader compatibility to the iPhone and iPad. Although since I made that original post a year ago I have gotten quite used to using Reeder combined with Instapaper for reading longer articles on the go, it will nevertheless be pretty nice to instantly switch a webpage to Reader mode without having to bounce it into Instapaper first.

2. Wish List support for the iTunes, App and iBook Stores

There’s sadly no sign of this yet, although the new ability to download already purchased items to your phone is a (admittedly very small) step in the right direction.

3. A photo slideshow for when the iPhone is charging

No sign of this yet either; although now I have an iPad I seem to be missing this feature less. It would be nice, though.

4. Live app icons

Although we haven’t got this as such, the widgets in the notification pulldown show that Apple are at least thinking of alternative ways of providing information.

5. More wireless integration with MobileMe

Technically, we didn’t get this. But only because Apple have decided to shut down MobileMe and replace it with iCloud, which will allow for wireless backups of iDevices, and, more importantly, allow all apps to sync data wirelessly between devices. The examples Apple showed at the WWDC Keynote were simply files syncing across devices and the desktop in the iOS/OS X versions of the iWork apps, but they also announced the ability for developers to access this data sharing – meaning it should soon be theoretically possible for, say, Angry Birds to sync game progress between two different devices, and maybe even the desktop version of the app as well.

It does potentially sound a death knell for apps which charge for the privilege of syncing between devices, such as the to-do app I’ve recently started using that wants £11.99 a year to keep my data in sync between the iPhone and iPad versions. When the iCloud is offering this sort of service for free, people won’t like paying for it to be done through a third party (and potentially less reliable) server, unless that syncing services offers something above and beyond what the Apple’s cloud service can offer. Perhaps a to-do app is a bad example, however, as the new Reminders app included with iOS 5 will probably kill off all but the most advanced to-do and reminder apps in the App Store.

With iOS 5, iCloud and OS X 10.7 ‘Lion’ all coming in the next few months, I’d say the future is looking pretty rosy.

 

Why the original creator of WiFi Sync probably doesn’t have a leg to stand on

One thing that was quickly remarked upon after Apple’s announcements at last week’s WWDC Keynote was that once again Apple had effectively rendered some third party apps redundant, such as most basic ToDo apps.

What was also remarked was the ‘curious’ similarity between iOS 5’s new WiFi Sync feature and a jailbreak-only app that was rejected from the App Store last year. As it was originally submitted to Apple, developer Greg Hughes finds it awfully suspicious that it is now available as part of the OS and with the same name and logo to boot, and is seeking legal advice.

To all this, I say codswallop.

Let’s take a look at this and see why Greg Hughes probably doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on*.

*note: I know little of the law, I am just, as I often do, calling it as I see it.

The name

WiFi Sync vs WiFi Sync. How exactly can Apple think no-one will notice the near-identical names and purposes of these features?  But hang on. What, exactly, is it that this new feature of iOS is offering? Syncing over WiFi. How many choices are there for names that explain exactly what’s going on without overcomplicating things? My list comprises of Syncing Over WiFi or WiFi Sync. As you’d expect from Apple, they went for the snappier one.

It goes a little beyond that, of course. This sounds all very similar to the trademark battle Apple is currently fighting over the mark ‘App Store’. Isn’t it a little hypocritical of Apple to defend one mark whilst trampling all over another? Well, apart from the fact that ‘WiFi’ and ‘Sync’ are in common usage and have been for years, while ‘app’ is something that only started to come into use with the launch of Apple’s App Store? Oh, right.

This is already looking like less of a ‘coincidence’ to me. But what about that logo? How can that be explained away?

The logo

TUAW raises the notion that the similarity between the two logos is either an ‘amazing coincidence’ or a case of Apple plagiarism. At first, the evidence seems pretty damming. This is the ‘original’ WiFi Sync logo:

And this is Apple’s ‘new’ WiFi Sync logo:

Well look at that. How can Apple possibly think they could get away with this one?

Except, let’s take a closer look at the logo itself. Don’t the elements of both of them look familiar?

Ah yes. It looks to me like Apple’s long-standard WiFi icon inside the almost as long-standing iSync icon. Here they are separately:

WiFi. Sync. This is all starting to make a lot more sense.

So, unless Mr Hughes can provide proof that Apple have in some way stolen the mechanism with which his app worked, he likely won’t get anywhere. Of course, the press do enjoy a good underdog-versus-major-corporation story, so expect them to milk it for a little while, alongside pictures of Greg looking a bit upset. Okay, he doesn’t really pull it off in that example. But still.

It’s Fastest Finger First as Apple allows online reservations for iPad 2

All over the UK (and select other countries, including Canada but not, for some reason, the US) a new game is becoming popular. Every evening, at at a few minutes to nine in the evening, people across the globe are sitting at their computers, trying their luck at getting their hands on the big prize. Only a few make it. Most are disappointed.

Apple have enabled reservations for the iPad 2 in Canada, the UK, France, Germany and presumably every international iPad 2 country in which Apple has a retail presence. Quite why they’re not doing it in the US I don’t know – I can only presume the fact that America has the lion’s share of Apple Retail Stores makes it too much if a challenge.

At 9pm every evening, Apple makes a selection of iPads available for reservation for pickup the next day via their retail store webpages. If you’re quick, you might be lucky. I was lucky enough to reserve one for the Covent Garden store yesterday and picked up a fresh iPad 2 this afternoon.

Whilst picking it up, the Apple Store employee I was chatting to said that at 9pm in the store you can often find the security guards furiously refreshing the pages trying to get their hands on one.

With reports of queues still forming in the US, it is refreshing to see that we actually may have it better than America for trying to get ahold of Apple’s latest gadget.

I should also note, if you think it’s hard to get your hands on an iPad 2, spare a thought for those after the red leather Smart Cover or the iPad 2 Dock, both of which are, I discovered today, even more elusive.

Is the shortage of iPad 2s deliberate?

Image: eviltwin (Flickr)

Once again another Apple product launch has resulted in long lines and an apparent complete sellout of the product.

Just this morning, the shipping times on the online Apple Store have slipped again, this time to 4-5 weeks.

Every time this happens I face claims from my colleagues that the shortages of the new product is a deliberate ploy by Apple in order to increase demand by making it appear ‘limited’ in supply, thus making it more desirable, as well as increasing publicity for the company and its new product.

That’s a load of tosh, if you ask me.

When it comes down to it, what is better for Apple? Seeing queues reportedly almost 3,000 strong at a single store, and yet turning many people away disappointed, or selling an iPad to everyone who wants one, making millions more dollars and having some wapping great sales figures to boot?

As far as I’m concerned, it makes no sense for Apple to fake a shortage. There’s no need to artificially inflate the desirability of the iPad 2; it’ll sell like hotcakes regardless. And anyway, any small gains they might make with an increase in demand caused by manipulating stock levels are nothing compared to the amount of money they’d make if they could fully meet demand from day one.

Plus, I seriously doubt anyone can mass produce a device like the iPad 2 in such quantities in such a space of time.

Rest assured, for those of you in States, and those in Europe when the iPad 2 launches next week, Apple will be doing their best to get an iPad into the hands of everyone who wants one (according to their press release, which I believe is identical to the one from last year’s iPad and iPhone 4 launches).

iPad 2 Day is upon us

Well, it’s finally here. Later today Apple is widely expected to announce an update to the best-selling iPad at an event in San Francisco. The whole thing kicks off at about 6pm UK time, and numerous sites will be liveblogging the event; my usual ones of choice are MacRumors, Engadget or TUAW. Recently Apple has also provided a live video stream of their events; it is not known if they are planning one this time around but they have a habit of announcing the stream at the last minute.

So, what can we expect from this launch? Many rumours have been thrown around regarding the iPad 2 and what else might be announced at the event. I did a rumour roundup a little while ago, but as we approach zero hour rumours usually increase in quantity and accuracy, as Apple inevitably have to let more people in on the secret. So, let’s take a look at what we might expect to see.

Updated iPad hardware

It goes without saying there’ll be updates to the hardware. The current favourites are a thinner, sleeker design, dual core processor, dual core graphics, front and back cameras more akin to the iPod Touch than the iPhone (ie 720p video, but nothing like 5MP photos), improved speaker, ‘world’ version compatible with both CDMA and GSM, and additional hardware that saw its debut in the iPhone 4 such as a gyroscope. Rumours of a high res ‘Retina’ display have persisted but are unlikely to be true.

Several rumours over the last month or so have pegged today’s iPad announcement as more of an ‘incremental’ release, with the massive change coming later in the year. Hopefully we will still see the improved internals listed above, even if they are in an only slightly upgrades shell.

We are also likely to see the iPad 2 hitting the shelves quite soon after the announcement, as supplies of the original iPad are already drying up.

 

Updated software

We are also quite likely to see iOS 4.3 made available at today’s event. It’s ben rumoured to drop for almost a month now, so today is likely the day they have been waiting for (it is always possible the iPad 2 will get 4.3 as an exclusive for a little while also).

We could also see a preview of iOS 5. This is 50/50 however, as usually Apple dedicates a whole event to this subject alone. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

 

Steve Jobs to make an appearance?

It has also been reported that Apple’s CEO could make an appearance at the event, despite being on medical leave. Nothing is decided, it seems, but it is definitely something that’s ‘on the table’. I can’t see Jobs making the effort for a ‘minor’ update, however, so this either casts doubt on this rumour, or lends credence to the fact the update won’t be that disappointing.

 

MobileMe updates

An increasing raft of evidence is also pointing to an update to the MobileMe service. Some rumours have pegged it as simply going free, but there are signs that a number of new features are set to be released over the coming year, such as ‘Find my Mac (akin to the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature), an online digital locker, ‘Find my friends’ and others, all expected to make use of Apple’s new data centre. I’m sure we’ll at least hear something about MobileMe today.

Metro apparently surprised by iPad sequel

Maybe it’s because I’m used to monitoring Apple rumour sites with, as the old cliché goes, their fingers on the pulse of Apple news and speculation, but I always hate reading it when national newspapers pick up on Apple rumours.

Sometimes, when the papers run Apple rumour stories, they put a reporter on it who knows what he’s talking about, and offers a balanced view because he or she has done more than just read one article on AppleInsider and can actually offer the likelihood of said rumour coming to fruition.

Usually however, the reporter will read one story, present it all as true, and generally aim the piece at people who, like them, don’t really care that Apple is working on an iWhatsit.

Take this morning’s Metro, for instance. Their story focuses not on most of the rumours that have been floating around the Internet for months, but entirely on the Wall Street Journal’s report from Monday that the iPad 2 is now in production in deepest China.

Oh yes, and they also seem surprised that Apple are planning on releasing the iPad 2 at all, let alone a year after the last one (they do settle down later in the article – posted right – and start quoting people who are actually in the know).

Not that surprising from the phone that greeted the arrival of the original iPhone with a headline along the lines of ‘iPhone – yours for £1,500’.

iPad 2 Rumour Roundup, Part 1

iPad. © AppleI’ve been following Apple rumours for a while now. Most of the time it’s out of curiosity, waiting to see what they come up with next.

When I start getting excited about every detail that leaks through, however, is when I’ve already decided that the next one of the line is the one I’m going to buy. I can only liken it to the feeling of watching horse racing when you’ve got money on the outcome compared to when you haven’t. When every little nugget of information leaks out you start dreaming of what life could be with such a device, regardless of the likelihood of the rumour ever coming to fruition. I’m sure it’s the same for most people.

The iPad 2 (as it is commonly referred to) is one such device. After waiting out the first generation (initially for financial reasons, and then being distracted by the iPhone 4 which actually contains better hardware, for the most part), I have my eyes on the iPad 2. I have the cash set aside, I have been dreaming of life with the iPad for a couple of months (my wife has owned one almost since the launch, so it’s not that hard to imagine), hell I’ve even downloaded a handful of iPad apps in anticipation (free, of course). Much like the first unibody MacBook Pro and the iPhone 4, I’m paying close attention to any leaks out of Cupertino in increasing anticipation of what the final product could contain.

To that end, this post is a roundup of what we’ve heard so far, complete with a note on just how likely the rumour is to be true. This is part 1; I’ll post another as more information leaks (unless the iPad 2 is announced, as one rumour suggests, in two weeks, since that won’t leave me much time to throw another one together).

 

  • High Resolution (or ‘Retina’) display

A number of rumours have floated around over the last month or so claiming that the next iPad will have a Retina-type display. Most of these have settled on a simple pixel-doubling of the resolution to a 2048×1536 screen, which also not technically a Retina Display by Apple’s 300dpi definition, it’s still more pixels than you’ll find on a 52″ HDTV, and plenty high enough to not be able to make out individual pixels at the sort of range you’ll be holding the device. Most nay-sayers have said it is simply not possible to drive such a screen with today’s mobile hardware without taking a massive hit on battery life.

Ironically, the reason why I don’t think we’ll see a Retina Display on the iPad 2 is because of supply, not because of power. There’s nowhere Apple can obtain such high-spec screens in the volume they’ll need to have even a chance of being able to keep up with demand when the iPad 2 hits the shelves.

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: LOW


  • Front and Back Cameras

One rumour that’s been on the air since even before the release of the first iPad is the presence of a front facing and/or rear camera. Indeed, when the original iPad was disassembled by the gurus at iFixit they found evidence that it had a space for an iSight-style camera. There was also evidence of video calling features in the iPad-only iOS 3.2. This time round there is even more evidence; FaceTime imagery and APIs hidden within the betas of iOS 4.3 as well apparent evidence of FaceTime and PhotoBooth coming to the iPad. An iPad with a front facing camera was reportedly spotted at the recent launch of the Daily.

I think we are almost guaranteed to see both front- and back-facing cameras in the iPad 2. Apple has been pushing FaceTime way too hard for them to launch this device without a camera built in. I think we’ll see cameras more in line with the 4th gen iPod touch rather than the iPhone 4; however one rumour has given hope that the rear-facing camera in the iPad 2 will be more in line with the iPhone 3G s.

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Almost Certain


  • Slimmer, lighter design

It’s also been frequently reported that the iPad 2 will be slimmer, and made out of carbon fibre rather than aluminium in order to save weight. A number of mockups were spotted at both CES and MacWorld last month that presented a smaller form factor whilst keeping the same screen size.

I can see this happening; the existing iPad is pretty heavy, a little too heavy for long-term use holding it with one hand. Making it lighter and a little more ergonomic can only help. Of course, making it slimmer means less space for battery (and the iPad, like the iPhone and MacBook Air, is basically all battery).

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Likely

 

  • SD Card Slot

Some of the cases that have leaked onto the internet (which may or may not be genuine) have featured slots which, some claim, could be for a SD card slot. Others claim it is merely a space left for the SIM on the 3G models, as not all of the cases floating around have the slot. Given the scarce availability of the iPad camera kit last year when the iPad was first released (it was probably rarer than the iPad) it is kind of understandable that Apple might build the feature straight into the iPad this year. I think it may be a little too specific a use for them to genuinely include such a feature, but then all Macs save for the Mac Pro now feature a built in SD card reader. Me personally, I don’t care – my DSLR uses CF cards.

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: 50/50

 

  • Dual Core Processor/GPU; more RAM

There is absolutely no doubt that the iPad is going to feature improved specs. Only a couple of months after the release of the iPad the iPhone 4 came along with double the RAM and epic battery life. What is being speculated is just how big a jump the internals of the iPad 2 will make from the first generation. The most common rumour is that the GPU of the iPad 2 will feature dual cores; second place is that its main CPU will also feature dual cores and be based on the ARM Cortex A9 (a chip which some are dubbing the Apple A5). All this technology exists; whether its currently being manufactured in enough volume to make it into the iPad is a different matter. As for RAM, a bump up to at least 512MB is a certainty; Apple may surprise us with a bigger leap, maybe even to 1GB.

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Pretty Likely

 

  • Near Field Communications (NFC) capability

Patents for NFC technology in iPhones or iPads have been floating around for as long as there have been iPhones (maybe even longer). However in the last few months these have intensified; speculation around patent applications (which generally only show what Apple is experimenting with, not what they will actually include in shipping products) have progressed into actual rumours, and there have been signs of Apple hiring NFC experts, all pointing towards the possibility that Apple may actually include the technology in the next generations of the iPad and iPhone.

In the UK at least, this technology probably won’t be all that interesting; the only places that use it currently are coffee shops and train stations, and  using something as big as the iPad to pay for coffee and muffins or touch in or out on on the tube seems a bit unwieldy to me. If it does make it in, I doubt it will be that useful to us in the UK for a while, as Apple will almost certainly devote their efforts to pushing the tech to American retailers.

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Possible

 

  • Mini DisplayPort output

Another piece of speculation from the cases on the internet was the inclusion of a Mini DisplayPort (the video connector present in all Macs) in addition to video out via the Dock. Much like the SD card speculation, this is mainly from guesses based on images seen online with questionable authenticity and difficult to gauge scale. I can’t see Apple spending time putting an additional video out on the top of the device when the existing Dock method works well enough.

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Unlikely

 

  • CDMA/GSM Hybrid version

Another rumour that is of very little interest to the UK is the possibility of there only being two versions of the next iPad: a WiFi version, and a GSM/CDMA version compatible with both AT&T and Verizon’s networks, as opposed to a separate GSM and CDMA version. Rumours have been around for a few years that Qualcomm (who basically invented CDMA) have been working on a single chipset that will work on both networks. Whilst this sort of tech is likely to debut sooner or later, it’s only of interest to us Brits if you plan on visiting the US and want complete freedom over which carrier you use (of course, this will also appear in the iPhone, with similar benefits to us on this side of the pond).

TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Possible

 

Well, there you have it. These are the main rumours circulating that have had even a whiff of authenticity about them (or at least, their sources). Time will tell how accurate they are – how much time we don’t know. But whatever happens, I’ve no doubt we will see one hell of a great device, that takes another big leap ahead of the other tablets that are still struggling to catch up to last year’s model.

Apple’s Rejection of Sony Reader: Greed, or Control? [u]

There’s a bit of news flying about today saying that Apple have rejected a Sony Reader app from the iOS App Store (or ‘the’ App Store, as Apple would have it), amidst an apparent change in policy for the iPhone maker and App Store curator.

Apple, apparently, want all in-app purchases to go through Apple’s own systems, rather than through third party sales methods (such as that which the Amazon Kindle app, as well as certain newspaper apps such as the Times app, currently employ).

There are only a few reasons I can think of why Apple would make this change. Firstly, they may simply be wanting to muscle out their competition (Kindle and the Sony Reader of course compete with iBooks and the iPad, in both book sales and hardware sales). It’s not the first time and I doubt it will be the last that Apple have tried such a thing.

Secondly, they could simply be trying to maintain a consistent system for purchases for all users and apps – which might also be another sign of the rumoured subscription model coming along in the near future. Apple will probably try to take this ground if there is a widespread uproar whether it is their real intention or not.

Finally, they could simply just be being greedy. Apple take a 30% but of in-app purchases, the same they do with app sales. They’ve recently crossed the 10 billion app mark; even assuming 90% of those are free and the other 10% sell for only a buck, that’s still m for Apple form app sales (and my figures are both entirely made up, and quite pessimistic). I don’t know the figures for in-app purchases, but I’m guessing there is potentially a sizable margin there that Apple wants their slice of – and it would be very nice, I’m sure, for Apple to take 30% of their competitors’ profits.

Apple’s intentions may become more clear in the near future. Maybe people will kick up enough of a fuss (as there was over the Google Voice rejection – sorry, extended review period) and Apple will have to provide an answer. Or (and this one is far more likely), the forthcoming iOS 4.3 will come along, and give us a better indication of how they see their platform developing into the future.

 

Update: Apple actually commented on this issue, stating this was less a new policy, more a more rigorous enforcing of an existing rule: that apps that allow in-app purchases through their own payment systems also give users the option of using Apple’s in-app purchasing system. Also, the Daily was released (in the US at least) which brought with it a change to the iTunes terms and conditions for subscriptions, which presumably Apple will also take a 30% cut of.