Posts Tagged‘wwdc’

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Apple’s WWDC.

Every year around this time the world seems to collectively wet its pants over the announcements that Apple makes at its World Wide Developers Conference, usually because Apple announces their new iPhone model. This time around however there was no new iPhone to speak of but there was still a whole bunch of news that’s sure to delight Apple fans and haters a like. As always I was impressed by some of the innovations and then thoroughly annoyed by the fans reactions, especially those who extrapolated wildly based on ideas and technology that isn’t even out in the wilds yet. I really should have expected as much, but the optimist in me doesn’t seem to want to keel over just yet.

Arguably the biggest announcement of the conference was iCloud, Apple’s new cloud service. With this service 9 of the in built applications will become cloud enabled, storing all their data in the cloud so that it’s accessible from almost anywhere. The majority of them are rudimentary cloud implementations (contacts, pictures, files, etc) but the most notable of the new cloud enabled services will be iTunes. Apart from doing the normal cloud thing of backing your music and letting you play it anywhere, ala Google and Amazon, Apple has decided to go for a completely different angle, and it’s quite an intriguing one.

iTunes will not only allow you to download your purchases unlimited times (finally!) but for the low low price of $24.99/year you can also have iTunes scan your current music folder and then get access to the same tracks in 256Kbps AAC directly from iTunes. Keen readers will recognize this feature as coming from Lala, a company that Apple acquired and seemingly shutdown just over a year ago. It would appear that the technology behind Lala is what powers the new iCloud enabled iTunes and the licensing deals that the company had struck with the music companies before its acquisition have been transferred to Apple. I really like the idea behind this and I’m sure it won’t take long for someone to come up with an entire back catalog of what’s available through iTunes, letting everyone on the service get whatever music they want for the nominal yearly fee. It’s probably a lot better than the alternative for the music companies who up until now were getting $0 from those with, how do you say, questionably acquired music libraries.

Apple also announced the next version of their mobile operating system, iOS5. There are numerous improvements to the platform but there are a few features of note. The first is iMessage which will be Apple’s replacement for SMS. The interface is identical to the current SMS application on the iPhone however if both parties are on iOS devices it will instead send the message over the Internet rather than SMS. Many are quick to call this as the death of SMS and how mobile phone companies will teeter on bankruptcy due to the loss of revenue but realistically it’s just another messaging app and many carriers have been providing unlimited SMS plans for months now, so I doubt it will be anywhere near as revolutionary as people are making it out to be.

The next biggest feature is arguably the deep level of integration that Twitter is getting in iOS. Many of the built in apps now have Twitter on their option menus, allowing you to more easily tweet things like your location or pictures from your photo library. It’s one of the better improvements that Apple has made to iOS in this revision as it was always something I felt was lacking, especially when compared to how long Android had had such features. I’m interested to see if this increases adoption rates for Twitter at all because I find it hard to imagine that everyone who has an iPhone is using Twitter already (anecdotally about 50% of the people I know do, the others couldn’t care less).

There’s also the release of OSX lion which honestly is barely worth mentioning. The list of “features” that the new operating system will have is a mix of improvements to things currently available in Snow Leopard, a couple app reworks and maybe a few actual new things to the operating system. I can see why Apple will only be charging $29.99 for it since there’s really not much to it and as a current owner of Snow Leopard I can’t see any reason to upgrade unless I’m absolutely forced to. The only reason I would, and this would be a rather dickish move by Apple if they required this, would to be able to download incremental updates to programs like Xcode which they’ve finally figured out how to do deltas on so I don’t have to get the whole bloody IDE every time they make a minor change.

Overall this WWDC was your typical Apple affair: nothing revolutionary but they’re bringing out refined technology products for the masses. iCloud is definitely the stand out announcement of the conference and will be a great hook to get people onto the Apple platform for a long time to come in the future. Whilst there might be some disappointment around the lack of a new iPhone this time around it seems to have been more than made up for with the wide swath of changes that iOS5 will be bringing to the table. With all this under consideration it’s becoming obvious that Apple is shifting itself away from the traditional PC platform with Lion getting far less attention than any of Apple’s other products. Whether or not this is because they want to stay true to their “Post PC era” vision or simply because they believe the cash is elsewhere is left as an exercise to the reader, but it’s clear that Apple views the traditional desktop as becoming an antiquated technology.

iPhone 4: Months Behind, But No One Will Notice.

Whenever you go out to buy some piece of tech you’re pretty much guaranteed that in just a couple months time there will be something better available for the same price. I asked myself the same question when I bought my iPhone about 2 months ago and came to the decision that I might as well get the most expensive one I could get (since I could write it off) and one that I would eventually be developing for. Shortly afterwards the whole iPhone 4G leak thing happened and many people asked why I didn’t “just wait a few months” to get the new one. The answer is that the benefit of having the phone for 3 months outweighed the delay in getting the new one. I could’ve snagged myself an Android phone in the mean time but again I would’ve ended up in much the same situation as the handset of choice at that time was the HTC Incredible and now it is the HTC EVO 4G.

Last night marked the official announcement of the phone everyone told me to wait for, the iPhone 4. Realistically it would be a much more impressive device if I hadn’t heard everything there is to know about it constantly over the past 2 months (thanks to Gizmodo et. al), but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is an improvement over the current iPhone offering. Whilst Apple’s tagline for it is “This changes everything. Again.” I’ll go on record saying that it changes as much as the iPad did with all its “magic”, that is to say not a hell of a lot.

First let’s have a look over the specifications to see what we’re actually dealing with here:

Display

  • High-resolution Retina display
  • 960-by-640 resolution
  • 326 ppi
  • Multi-Touch

Video Calling

  • FaceTime Camera

Camera

  • 5 megapixels
  • LED flash
  • Backside illumination sensor
  • Autofocus
  • Tap to focus
  • Front camera with VGA resolution

Video Recording

  • HD video recording
  • Tap to focus while recording
  • LED light

High Technology

  • Multi-Touch
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi3
  • 7.2Mbps HSDPA
  • 5.8Mbps HSUPA
  • GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • 3-axis gyro
  • Apple A4 processor
  • Dual-mic noise suppression

(For some reason Apple wants to make mention of the fact that their iPhone has multi-touch twice, that’s not a typo on my behalf)

First off let me compliment Apple on the things that are really something. The display is pretty phenomenal, offering the highest resolution on any smart phone I’ve seen to date. They’re calling it the Retina Display as the dots per inch (DPI) is above the magic 300 DPI threshold that our eyes are able to see. Whilst most users won’t notice a whole lot of a difference (showing people my Xperia side by side with an iPhone saw most thinking the iPhone had a better display) it does mean that it should be quite a gorgeous screen. It’s no technical marvel beyond resolution though, as its just your plain old LED back lit LCD.

The other most notable upgrades are in the guts of the phone, namely an upgrade to 802.11N wireless, a 3 axis gyro, dual mics and the new Apple A4 processor which was debuted with the iPad. They’re all quite decent upgrades and really had these been left out you’d be wondering what the hell Apple’s research and development department was doing as they’ve been standard on most phones for the past year or so. The addition of Apple’s new A4 into the iPhone 4 brings it up to speed with the latest swath of Snapdragon based Androids, hopefully paving the way for some more intensive applications to make their way onto the handheld iPlatform. The inclusion of a 3 axis gyro is interesting as no one will argue against the fact that it will make motion detection more accurate but the use cases for it are small in number. Sure your Doodle Jump will be a lot more accurate, but is it really required? Time will tell though, developers always have a habit of exploiting additional features like this in ways we don’t really expect.

For the rest of the features though I’m a little less impressed. You see way back when the 3GS (and really even the 3G model) was released dual cameras, with the back one being 5+ megapixels, were the norm on many feature and smart phones. Their omission on the iPhone was puzzling to say the least as the technology had been around for quite some time, with proven implementations across several brands. Much like the lacking of MMS in the original iPhone Apple’s omission of such features confounded the tech crowd whilst the rabid fanboy population decried that it was not required. Consequently when Apple finally caved it was touted as revolutionary, an almost textbook case of the idea of doublethink. Whilst the hype about these things is on the low at the moment I’m sure I’ll come across those who trick themselves into believing that Apple is revolutionizing this space when really they’re playing catchup with the rest of the modern world.

The inclusion of HD video recording capabilities on the iPhone is a good step forward and matches many of its competitors offerings. Whilst I’ve yet to see an actual sample of the video direct from the camera I can tell you know that it’s more of a gimmick than anything else as cameras that small just don’t have the surface area required to make decent 720p video. It’s not Apple’s fault really as any camera capable of producing proper HD video will have a sensor almost 1/5th of the size of the iPhone, with an appropriately sized lens to match. No one has extolled the virtues of the video yet so I’ll let this one slide for now but if anyone dares tell me it’s good HD I’ll probably have to take a bandsaw to their new iPhone, just to teach them a lesson.

Overall I’d say it’s a good evolution of the current iPhone offering and my issues, as always, lie in the hype and marketing behind it. Looking over the phone I can say that had I known these specs before buying my current phone (neglecting the fact that they release a new damned phone every year) I would’ve given a lot more consideration to buying an Android handset first. I’m still not so sure if it would’ve changed my mind though as 3 months is quite a wait when you’ve got a free phone voucher burning a hole in your pocket. The upgraded specs are sure to please those upgrade happy tech heads and the under the hood upgrades are sure to give the devs some new ideas with their applications.

At least there’s no magic in this phone. This post would’ve been a lot less level headed if they had used that term to describe one of their products again 😉