A new look for iOS 6?

Cult of Mac:

Then we realized that WWDC 2012 wasn’t the first app to adopt Apple’s new look — iPhoto has it, too. Furthermore, almost all of the iPad’s built-in apps — like YouTube, Maps, Mail and more — have sported silver user interfaces since the day they were born.

It seems likely, then, that iOS 6 will move towards making iPhone apps look more like their iPad counterparts. We are expecting to see almost all of Apple’s built-in apps adopting a new look for this summer’s update.

This feels right to me. It’s been almost five years since original iPhone shipped with what was then known as iPhone OS 1.0. That’s a pretty long time in design, and Apple has never been shy about tweaking it’s UI to follow new trends. As a developer, I can’t imagine shipping an app on the App Store using the default blue UIKit elements in 2012. At minimum, I’d tweak the colors, and probably add some texture to make things feel a little more current. Let’s just hope the changes in iOS 6 don’t include brushed metal or (shudder) stitched leather.

Nest thermostat now available from Apple online store


Following news from late last week that the Nest thermostat from iPod creator Tony Fadell would be coming to Apple’s retail stores, the device has just been added to the company’s online store. While currently not available for pickup in retail store locations, it should be making its way to the brick-and-mortar locations shortly.

The Nest sounds like an awesome thermostat, and it’s great that they’re becoming more widely available. It also makes perfect sense for Apple to sell them. The Nest mirrors Apple’s focus on simplicity and great design, and interacts well with iOS devices. I look forward to buying one when I have a heating/cooling system I can customize a bit.

Predicting an Apple TV Set

Rumors that Apple is developing its own TV set, distinct from the Apple TV set-top box, have been persistent for the last couple of years. Over the past few days, some commentators not prone to hype or hyperbole have indicated that they also believe Apple is getting ready to release their own stand-alone TV within the next year or so. I’m not convinced, but I also enjoy speculating about what Apple might include if they were to build a TV.
Primarily, I’m skeptical because of how Apple does business. Generally, Apple will enter a market if it can make substantial improvements over current technology or service. The iPhone represented a total shift in how we think about phones and portable electronics, and the iPad created an entirely new product category. iTunes revoluntionized how people buy music. The Mac has been innovative both in hardware and software for decades.

There’s a lot of room for improvement in the current state of TV technology, but a lot of it is out of Apple’s hands. Most of what’s terrible about TV today has to do with getting content into the TV and the companies that provide that content. Specifically, I’m thinking about cable companies. Most people get TV service from a cable company, and that usually means using a cable company’s set-top box and the crappy software that comes with it. Barring some kind of far-reaching deal with cable companies, which strikes me as wildly unlikely, Apple isn’t in a position to change how TV programming is delivered, and without that, their ability to change the game is very limited.

There’s also the screen to consider. In the past couple of years, Apple has vastly improved display technology by introducing high-density Retina displays on the iPhone and iPad, and they seem poised to do the same on Macs. Though it would be challenging to produce at such large sizes, I’m sure a Retina display will eventually be feasible on a TV as well. The problem is that none of the content people watch on TV exists at such high resolutions. We’ve only just completed a transition to HD screens, and Retina displays would be yet another huge step up in resolution. It strikes me as very unlikely that anbody is going to shoot movies or TV at Retina-level resolution any time soon. Compounding the problem, current movies and TV shows would look worse on a Retina TV, because the high-resolution screen would show all their flaws. It’s safe to say we won’t be seeing a Retina TV in the near future, from Apple or anyone else.

Of course, there are some areas in which the experience could be improved, but they’ve already addressed a lot of those with the Apple TV set-top box. Movies and TV shows are available through Apple TV, as well as a growing number of services like Netflix. Of course, there’s room for growth: the video content library on iTunes could be much larger, and at present there’s no way to watch most live programming like news or sports. But all of that is something Apple could address through software updates to the existing Apple TV and new contracts with media companies. With the current Apple TV selling well, there just doesn’t seem to be enough to gain for Apple to build it’s own stand-alone TV set.

If Apple were to build a TV, however, there are two technologies I imagine they’d highlight. The first is FaceTime, using an integrated camera built into the TV. Almost all of Apple’s devices now support FaceTime, and it’s easy to imagine a marketing campaign centered on making video calls from the couch in your living room. The second technology is Siri. Imagine being able to ask your TV a quick question like “Is there a new episode of Mad Men this week?” It’s not hard to see the appeal. Both ideas sound useful and practical, but I don’t think they’re enough to push Apple over the line from tinkering with a TV set to actually shipping one.

To my mind, the more likely scenario is that Apple will unveil a new version of the OS behind the Apple TV set-top box (which itself is just a modified version of iOS) that allows more involved and open app development. There have already been some rumors on this point, and the number of “apps” on Apple TV has steadily increased over time. Rather than deal with the hornet’s nest that is the cable industry, apps could enable content providers to start bypassing cable companies altogether. It wouldn’t be a revolutionary change right away, but it could be the start of one.

One way or another, it seems likely we’ll know more after the WWDC keynote on June 11.

How Tim Cook is changing Apple

Really interesting article from Fortune about Tim Cook’s time as Apple CEO:

What’s clear is that Cook is behaving like his own man, putting his stamp on Apple — including some moves that will court controversy with the Apple faithful, watchful as they are for the slightest deviation from their perception of the Steve Jobs playbook. Cook consistently pays homage to the legacy of Jobs, but he doesn’t apologize for charting a new course. He seems, at the end of the day, to be honoring one of Jobs’ dying requests: that Apple’s management not ask “What would Steve do?” and instead do what’s best for Apple.

Stream TiVo to iOS devices

Sounds pretty cool. Too bad it requires TiVo’s expensive-and-yet-crappy Premiere device.

While the ability to stream a DVR’s content to an iPad of iPhone can be found on other devices, TiVo says that TiVo Stream is unique in that it will let you watch a recorded show on multiple devices without affecting what’s being watched on the TV. Also, TiVo says that TiVo Stream will have support for transferring a recorded show to an iOS device “for viewing outside the home.”

Ye olde Olympic events

Some of these now-discontinued Olympic events sound amazing.

3. Dueling pistol, 1906

No actual duels were fought, alas. Rather, contestants shot at a dummy dressed in a frock coat. Shooting events tend to be rather dull to watch, but they would have a chance with creative thinking like this.

Imagine this now with some sort of robotic opponent!

A bigger iPhone

Rumors continue to swirl about a bigger screen on the next iPhone. 9to5Mac:

Apple will not just increase the size of the display and leave the current resolution, but will actually be adding pixels to the display. The new iPhone display resolution will be 640 x 1136.  That’s an extra 176 pixels longer of a display.  The screen will be the same 1.9632 inches wide, but will grow to 3.484 inches tall. This new resolution is very close to a 16:9 screen ratio, so this means that 16:9 videos can play full screen at their native aspect ratio.

It’s clear that Apple is at least testing prototypes of a larger-screen iPhone. Whether they’ll actually be released is another question. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new iPhone with a bigger screen, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the screen stay the same.

Comcast moves from data caps to fees

The Loop:

Comcast will trial its new data usage management policy, starting with new tiered “usage allotments.” The good news is that everyone will get more bandwidth to play with: 300 GB per month, up from 250 GB. Users who opt for Comcast’s Blast and Extreme services will have higher allotments, and users who require additional bandwidth will be charged $10 per 50 GB.

Seems reasonable enough. Just like with mobile data plans, it makes sense that people who use more data should pay  more. $10 for an additional 50GB also strikes me as a fair price.

On the other hand, Comcast has been accused of violating the FCC’s net neutrality rules:

Comcast doesn’t count data transmitted through the Xfinity app against the user’s bandwidth cap, unlike similar software from other companies, including HBO and Netflix.

Let’s hope the new data policy  also represents the beginning of a move away from such shady behavior.

Verizon ending unlimited data


U.S. cellular carrier Verizon is planning to move its customers who still have unlimited data plans for their smartphones to its new family data-share plans as customers switch to LTE data plans.

The iPhone was initially offered with unlimited data plans when it launched on Verizon early last year, but the carrier soon dropped the unlimited option in favor of data plans with allocations of data.

Seems about right. In fact, I actually think Verizon’s new approach is fairer than letting people keep old unlimited plans. If network data really is a limited resource, people who use a lot should have to pay for the privilege. In the end, it’ll probably result in better network quality for everyone. Users also have the option to keep their unlimited data plan by paying full price (instead of the subsidized upgrade price) for a new 4G phone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see AT&T do something similar before the next iPhone is released.