Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mark Your Calendars

Source: Ars Technica

An Apple Wearable is In Fact Coming September 9

John Paczkowski for Re/code:
Apple now plans to unveil a new wearable alongside the two next-generation iPhones we told you the company will debut on September 9. [...] The new device will, predictably, make good use of Apple’s HealthKit health and fitness platform. It will also — predictably — make good use of HomeKit, the company’s new framework for controlling connected devices — though it’s not clear how broadly or in what way.
It makes perfect sense to announce a wearable alongside the iPhone, since you can't talk about iPhone without mentioning the wearable device. The new Health app and M7 co-processor, which is expected to begin receiving and processing health related data from other devices, were both obviously built to work with Apple's wearable device.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Instagram Launches Hyperlapse

Today, Instagram released Hyperlapse, an app for shooting smooth time-lapse videos — not to be confused with Microsoft's Hyperlapse from two weeks ago which also dealt with stabilizing time-lapse videos. Instagram's Hyperlapse does however appear to be a bit more complex than the time-lapse feature Apple added to the Camera app in iOS 8.

From Wired, on the inspiration behind Hyperlapse and how it reached Instagram:
Inspired by a demo in which he saw gyroscopes attached to cameras to de-blur their images, Karpenko had an aha moment: Smartphones didn’t have nearly enough power to replicate video-editing software, but they did have built-in gyroscopes. On a smartphone, instead of using power-hungry algorithms to model the camera’s movement, he could measure it directly. And he could funnel those measurements through a simpler algorithm that could map one frame to the next, giving the illusion that the camera was being held steady. He mocked up a simple demo, and filmed a dot on his wall, while making his hand shake. “The images in the test matched up almost exactly, and that’s when I knew this was doable,” Karpenko says.

Eventually the duo uploaded video of the app in action to Instagram’s internal message board, where it received the ultimate blessing: a single comment from Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom. It simply declared, “This is cool.” This, in turn, egged them on to present their project to the wider group, at the company’s first “pitch-a-thon” for new creative tools, held last January. (Many of Instagram’s new features are the result of that meeting, including the sliders that allow you to dial in the strength of each filter.)
The technology certainly seems impressive. I'm excited to try the app out and might even upload one of my attempts, if it's worth sharing.

Download Hyperlapse

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tydlig is Free for Apple Store App Users

What might possibly be the best iOS calculator app, Tydlig, is now free if you have the Apple Store app installed on your device. Tydlig is being touted as a "work hard" app for students going back to school this fall. The offer will run until September 12 and then will be updated to feature the next app. According to Apple:
This month we're celebrating four themes that represent the life of a college student: Get going. Head out. Work hard. Wind down.

This week, work hard with Tydlig, a calculator reimagined to help you with everything from tips and discounts to real-time graphing. Work smarter, not harder, by referencing your previous calculations, and share your work by printing or exporting results as a high-quality PDF. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

'iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program'

Accoding to Apple:
Apple has determined that a very small percentage of iPhone 5 devices may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently. The affected iPhone 5 devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013 and fall within a limited serial number range.

If your iPhone 5 is experiencing these symptoms and meets the eligibility requirements [...], Apple will replace your iPhone 5 battery, free of charge.
If you're wondering what "may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently" entails, it's as drastic as having 60% charge and within a matter of minutes drop down to 20%. The same applies for charging the device. If you have an iPhone 5 that is experiencing this type of battery behaviour, head over to Apple's page and enter the serial number to check eligibility.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How To Get Your Mac To Count Highlighted Words

Earlier today, I was looking for a way to add the ability to count how many words were highlighted on my Mac. So, after a quick Google search, I came across one implementation on the Macworld forums by guillaumegete. I'll admit, presentation wise, it's not the greatest but it does what I want, it counts the number of characters, signs and paragraphs that you have highlighted.

For anyone wondering, I'm currently running OS X Mavericks 10.9.4 and according to the forum post, this implementation has been tested OS X 10.6 and 10.7.

To add the feature, launch Automator on your Mac, select Service, search for "Run AppleScript" and then add the following code:
on run {input, parameters}
          set MyText to input as string
          set NombreSignes to the number of characters of MyText
          set NombreMots to the number of words of MyText
          set NombrePara to the number of paragraphs of MyText
          set LeResultat to "The selected text contains :" & return & "- " & NombreSignes & " sign(s) ;" & return & "- " & NombreMots & " word(s) ;" & return & "- " & NombrePara & " paragraph(s)."
          display dialog LeResultat buttons {"OK"} default button 1 with icon note
     on error errmsg number errnum
          display dialog errmsg & " [" & errnum & "]" buttons {"OK"} default button 1 with icon stop
     end try
     return input
end run
Save the Service and name it whatever you'd like, I called it "Character Count". To use the Service, highlight some text, right click, hover over "Services" and select (in this case) "Character Count".

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Looking Back At How Apple's Stock Dropped from Its All-Time High & Its Recovery

As I write this post, Apple Inc. stock has closed at $100.57 which beats Apple's previous record of $100.30 (after the 7-to-1 stock split). The previous all-time high was back in 2012 at a similar time to now — ahead of a major fall announcement.

2012: Apple & the iPhone 5

After months of anticipation for what Apple will release and what the next iPhone will do and look like, the iPhone 5 was announced and it wasn't the massive hit everyone had hoped it would be. The initial iPhone 5 sales were considered disappointing and labeled "worst case scenario" at 50 million. Disappointing sales were blamed on supply chain issues and declining demand. There were concerns that competition from Google and Samsung might finally be catching up and putting pressure on Apple and its ability to innovate. Also, the iPhone 5 wasn't considered to be impressive enough and had a 'purple hue' camera issue. All of that was coupled with Apple's major failed launch of its subpar in-house Mapping solution replacing Google Maps and a release of iOS that didn't feature the redesign everyone was looking forward to, which of course, came a year later with iOS 7. Doubts about Apple's ability to innovate and failures like the Maps app translated into doubts about Tim Cook's leadership. People wanted more from Cook and an iPad mini lacking a Retina Display just didn't cut it. There were many shake-ups to Apple as a whole as well, most notably was Scott Forstall leaving Apple after being a part of the company since its early days — joining NeXT in 1992, before NeXT was purchased by Apple in 1997 and, before Apple became the company it is today.

To sum it up: 2012 wasn't a great year for Apple; it was a transitional stage and took a whole two years just to recover from.

2014: What Has Changed?

Starting with the iPhone, the iPhone 6 is expected to come in two sizes, a 4.7" and 5.5" version, despite the way Apple would go about differentiating the two devices remaining a mystery. Reports claim that Apple has ordered 70-80 million 4.7" and 5.5" iPhone 6's. As for software, iOS 8 looks promising with extensions, third-party keyboard support and an even deeper integration with OS X. Also, Apple's iPhone business is being praised. After years of claims that Apple will fail if they don't go after the emerging market, analysts are finally starting to realize that maybe Apple knew what they were doing all along. By not joining every other manufacturer to a race to the bottom, especially following Samsung's disappointing earnings report, Apple can continue to maintain it's lead and remain relevant by focusing on differentiating itself with iOS and maintaining its premium status. We also have a new product category right around the corner, which of course is the iWatch, iTime or whatever name it receives. Despite a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claiming the iWatch will be delayed until 2015 due to manufacturing problems, I still firmly believe that we will hear about a device that you can wear on your wrist within the upcoming months leading up to the holiday season.

All in all, if Apple wants to maintain it's stock price: deliver an iWatch, both versions of the iPhone 6, avoid a Maps-scale failure and throw in the usual iPad upgrades — basically, live up to Eddy Cue's claim that Apple's 2014 launch line-up is the most exciting in 25 years.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Apple Wins Emmy Award for 'Misunderstood' Holiday Ad

A well deserved win. If you want to see all the nominees for the 2014 Outstanding Commercial Emmy including GE and Nike, head over to 9to5Mac.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Apple Maps Dominate In U.K.

According to a new report from EE, one of the largest mobile network operators in the U.K.:
Traffic on the new Apple Maps now represents 70% of mapping traffic on the 4G network, from 60% in the second half of 2013, taking market share from Google maps, which is down 7ppts. This difference is even more marked over 3G where Apple Maps is up 19ppts and Google Maps is down 15ppts.
The reality is Apple Maps don't suck anymore. Apple has worked hard behind the scenes to flush out their mapping service to be the finished product they should've shipped back in 2012. From my experience, Apple Maps and Google Maps are pretty much on par so, what it really comes down to for me is deeper iOS integration vs. transit directions, and in most cases (including this one) a deeper integration trumps any feature that a third party app wants to offer. Plus, we already know transit directions within Apple Maps are imminent so it's just a matter of time.

iOS 8 Changes Impacting Retail Tracking Startup Nomi

Nomi had to lay off a third of its employees due to privacy changes in iOS 8 which will randomize the MAC address broadcasted by iPhones while searching for a Wi-Fi network. According to Re/code:
Nomi sold a service to retail stores that allows them to track how many shoppers visit their stores, where they spend time inside the stores and how frequently they return. [...] repeat visitor information was mainly gathered by keeping track of an iPhone’s MAC address — the 12-character identifier that is broadcast when a phone is searching for nearby Wi-Fi networks.
Apple basically wants retailers to use its own technology, iBeacons for retail tracking. Nomi CEO Marc Ferrentino said in an interview that "Apple is signalling to the market that beacons are the way that they want this to be done."

'Why Surveillance Companies Hate the iPhone'

Craig Timberg reporting for The Washington Post:
The secrets of one of the world’s most prominent surveillance companies, Gamma Group, spilled onto the Internet last week, courtesy of an anonymous leaker who appears to have gained access to sensitive corporate documents. And while they provide illuminating details about the capabilities of Gamma’s many spy tools, perhaps the most surprising revelation is about something the company is unable to do: It can’t hack into your typical iPhone.
Part of the leaked 'sensitive corporate documents' include this chart which shows that unless iOS is Jailbroken, Gamma Group's spy tools are unable to hack into an iPhone.

 Source: Cult of Mac

Round 'True Tone' Flash Leaked

I usually hate reporting on leaks, but this leak in particular caught my attention. Remember the supposed iPhone 6 rear shell that got leaked a while ago? One of the main arguments against its validity of the leak was that Apple wouldn't possibly abandon the True Tone flash it introduced with the iPhone 5S. The leaked rear shell had a round cutout for the flash while the iPhone 5S's True Tone flash was pill shaped. I'm still not quite sure why so many people were confused but, as I assumed, the True Tone flash is just circular now, as this leak proves.

Also, since I'm on the topic of leaks...

Next, people will be disappointed to see the iPhone 6 retain the antenna breaks from the rear shell leaks. I'm sure we would've seen a new leak if Apple truly had plans for a different iPhone 6 design. I'll admit, I'm not the happiest with the design direction from the leaks but, I'm sure that I'll fall in love with it once I see the device in person — just as I did with the iPhone 5. So, just accept it and save your judgments until you can hold the device in your own hands.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

iWatch Announcement Coming This September?

So, according to The Verge, John Gruber claimed the iWatch will be announced this upcoming September. I'm subscribed to the Daring Fireball RSS feed, so after reading the headline I went into Reeder to see if there was a new post that I missed. There were some new posts but nothing about an iWatch. Turns out, The Verge is referring to a post reacting to an earlier article published by The Verge pertaining to the Moto 360 charging dock. John Grubber wrote:
It looks like Motorola’s designers tried to draw as much attention as they could to the 360’s stupid flat-tire display shape.

The only way this could get funnier would be if it doesn’t even ship untilafter Apple announces their wrist wearable thing next month.
This has to be a joke, right? But oh no, The Verge is absolutely serious and now, tech sites like MacRumors are eating this up and reporting on it as if it were real news. The Verge is obviously reading way too much into what John Gruber had to say. Tech journalists really need to stop and think before publishing anything that contains the words Apple/iWatch/iPhone etc.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting Apple has no plans for an iWatch announcement this September but, you have to admit, The Verge's reasoning is a bit ridiculous.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Link: Microsoft's 1994 Website Recreated

From Microsoft's blog, The Fire Hose:
In terms of “Web design,” the notion, much less the phrase, didn’t really exist.

“There wasn’t much for authoring tools,” Ingalls says. “There was this thing called HTML that almost nobody knew.” Information that was submitted for the new website often came to Ingalls via 3-1/2-inch floppy disks.
It's fun to jump back and forth from old Microsoft to the modern Microsoft and realize how far we've come in 20 years. You can also browse Microsoft's website on December 1998; the archive allows you to explore Microsoft's website from all the way back in 1996 up to today.

Wallpapers Bonus: Ferris Wheel

Here's a picture I took a few weeks ago that I thought would make a great wallpaper.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Foursquare 8.0

Foursquare just launched their app redesign that focuses on location-based recommendations. Foursquare's move to splitting Foursquare and moving check-ins to their new app Swarm has angered many long time users. I, on the other hand, am part of a minority that is excited to try out the new Foursquare app. I rarely used Foursquare in the past for it's main functionality — checking-in, so the app split doesn't bother me. I've yet to find a favorite app in the 'find new things to do/places to eat around me' category and the new Foursquare app has a good chance of occupying that spot on my iPhone, with its vast database of user check-ins and tips.

Timex Announces the Ironman One GPS+

Earlier today, Timex announced a new smartwatch that is supposed to combine Timex's expertise in watch design with Qualcomm's technology and free 3G data for a year as part of a partnership with AT&T to compete in the smartwatch market but, I honestly don't see enough appeal. There are a few main problem that really hold the watch back.

USA Today:
The upcoming Timex smartwatch is primarily targeted at runners. It has built-in GPS to track your speed, distance, pace and other workout details
First of all, one of the biggest features being touted is the ability to use the watch independently of a smartphone. But, it won't — and is not meant to — replace the smartphone entirely. The Ironman will be a great option for a run where you might choose a watch over a phone but then, for the majority of the time you do have your smartphone with you, the watch won't tether to your device to display notifications, make or receive phone calls etc. The Ironman One GPS+ does more than just tracking runs of course, but why you would choose it over your smartphone is another problem. For example, the Ironman allows for messaging over email but to do so you'll have to use a keyboard. As you can imagine typing more than 5 words on a 1.5 inch screen will drive you insane. Timex's smartwatch also lacks a microphone for voice controls to ease the pain of typing on-screen or perform tasks like Siri or Google Now.

If everything I mentioned above wasn't enough, the Ironman One GPS+ will only have enough juice to keep it running for 8 hours with GPS on and 3 days otherwise. Also, to top it all off, the watch costs $399.95. Of course, that is before the first year is up and you're stuck paying AT&T a monthly fee for a watch that's only good for telling time and uploading your runs to fitness websites and social media. Don't expect to get your money's worth on added functionality as Timex has no initial plans to support third party apps.

Also, According to USA Today:
Olsen dismisses the fact that many young people don't wear watches and says many do so once landing their first job. "People wear watches for different reasons, not necessarily to tell time. It could be a fashion element. It could be technology. It could be a status symbol depending on the price points."
I would've accepted Timex sticking to the "watch for runners" theme but calling this watch a "fashion element" or "status symbol" isn't exactly the impression you get from it. I already established the fact that technology on the Ironman One GPS+ is not enough, so what exactly will attract customers isn't clear.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

“How To Alienate Your Users And Make Them To Leave Your Successful App”

A 5 step guide on how to alienate your users, by Aleyda Solis:
  1. Split your app in two and force users to download your new app in order to have the same functionality they usually enjoyed before with just one, easy to use app. You will have clear arguments: You need to grow and diversify, your functionalities need to evolve and you need to monetize them in different ways, so it would be very complex to keep them all in just one app.
An entertaining post about Foursquare's new strategy of splitting their popular app — Foursquare, into 2. But, this isn't about Foursquare. I never was a big Foursquare user so if anything, I'm excited to try their new app. My frustration is with Facebook. To me, the first point perfectly sums up how I feel about Facebook forcing you to download the Messenger app by removing messaging functionality from the Facebook app. The Messenger app is great and might I add, looks much better than the original Facebook app. But, that doesn't justify forcing a transition especially when users like me just want to send a message and aren't interested in Facebook's take on group messaging, wi-fi calling, voice messages, stickers etc.

As for "clear arguments", here's Facebook's: "Messenger is much faster. You'll get new messages instantly and can reply right away." Great. Perfect for anyone browsing their Facebook feed and receiving a message from a Facebook friend. They'll be on their way to "reply right away" after leaving Facebook and being thrown into the fast Messenger app.

And so with that said, I'd like to add a new step to alienate your users.
  1. Leave a shortcut button in your main app to the relocated service because it is fundamental to your main app's functionality. But, users will have to be thrown from app to app just to accomplish a simple task that they once could easily do in the main app.
Once everyone has transitioned into Messenger, maybe Facebook should release an app that lets you write posts because you know, speed and what not. I'll be looking forward to it along with every other frustrated user that gave Messenger a 1 out of 5 rating on the AppStore.