WWDC 2012 – The (Near) Future of Apple

 

Lots to digest from today’s WWDC Keynote, the first fronted by current CEO Tim Cook. Glaringly, albeit unsurprisingly, absent from the keynote was the famous “One More Thing.” But there was plenty more present than absent, in my opinion, in the offerings.

 

It’s hard to give every detail, as the keynote did not attempt to list or explain every detail. With over 200 new features in iOS 6 alone, it would have taken a lot more than two hours to do the list justice. The keynote hits the highlights and the next few days and months will fill in the blanks.

 

The high points include a refresh of the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pro, some with quad core Ivy Bridge processors, up to 8 GB of RAM, improved graphics, and USB 3.0 ports. The real star of this part of the show, though, was the new MacBook Pro 15.9″ with a full blown, 2880 by 1800 resolution Retina Graphics display. With a price as stunning as the new display at $2,199. Ouch.

 

OS X Mountain Lion will bring lots of cool new features as well. The new OS X will include the same dictation function found on the new iPad, with the ability to update statuses on social networks and more. More and better iCloud syncing, including documents, reminders and notes. iMessage is coming to the Mac via Mountain Lion. New Notifications bearing a striking similarity to the iPhone / iPad notifications. Airplay mirroring from your Mac to your Apple TV. Game Center. A Power Nap state allows the Mac to run certain updates while in sleep mode. Safari is about to get measurably better, with a similar search function from the URL bar as Chrome has already been employing, syncing of tabs across devices, greater speed, and more. Mountain Lion will come with a much more modest update price of $19.95.

 

Then, the keynote turned to iOS 6. For me, the best news was Siri coming to the new iPad! Siri is also getting more full featured, with the ability to launch apps and provide sports knowledge, movie listings, and better restaurant interfacing. Like Twitter in iOS 5, Facebook is getting heavily integrated into iOS 6, with instant share for photos, websites, maps and other things. Facebook events and birthdays will sync with the iPhone calendar. And Siri will go hands and eyes free with integration of hardware by auto makers –  Siri and the iPhone will be accessible with the press of a button on the steering wheel.

 

There is a great new set of features for the phone app, believe it or not, including dismissing incoming calls and sending a message to the caller.  Or setting a reminder to respond later. Facetime, previously WiFi only, is about to go cellular too. You can set a “Do Not Disturb” button to silence notifications. Shared Photostreams encourages social photo sharing and commenting. There is a gorgeous new Maps app that all but kills third party navigation apps like Navigon – 3D mapping, turn by turn directions from Siri, Siri integration to launch the mapping app, crowd-sourced, realtime traffic information, and all of this on the lock screen. And it integrates with Yelp to help you find businesses while traveling.

 

iOS 6 also includes the cryptic new Passbook, which collects data such as movie tickets, train tickets, airline tickets, sporting event tickets, making them available in one application. The tickets, etc., will have QRCodes and 2-D barcodes. Passbook will allow you to  purchase tickets through Fandango, have them sent to your iPhone, and then offer access to the movies by simply flashing your iPhone. The lock screen, no less. Same with airline tickets. Very cool.

 

Mobile Safari is also getting spruced up with the ability to sync open tabs from Safari on a desktop to Safari on an iOS device via iCloud. There is also a Read It Later type Reading Lists functionality with a list of items for later perusal when off line. Email has been improved with the ability to designate VIP email senders which allows you to prioritize emails on your iPhone. You will be able to add pictures and videos to emails directly from the email application, rather than the Photo application. There will also be the ability to use different signatures for different email accounts. About time.

 

And this is just a partial list. Looking forward to getting the release in the Fall (maybe September – I am hoping). While I was a bit disappointed not to hear officially about the new iPhone, I was not displeased with the updates to the old standbys, including the introduction of some cool new features. I have seen the (near) future of Apple, and it shines brightly, in very high resolution.

iOS5 – Down & Dirty

Of course I updated my iPhone 4 to iOS 5 as soon as it became available yesterday. Damn the torpedos, and claims of borked iPhones, full speed ahead! With only a few little glitches, my newly outfitted phone seems to be running pretty smoothly.

I have figured out many of the new features already, like double pressing the home button when the phone is asleep to pull up the camera – woot! But I have also been fielding quite a few questions from other new iOS 5-ers about how to set up the many new bells and whistles.

Rather than build it from scratch, I thought I would share this decent Lifehacker post that outlines the set up on some of the new features, and certainly the most important ones, including how to set up: wifi sync; iCloud; Notification center; and, Text Expansion. The post also has a quick overview video and screen tour highlighting the best features.

Check out the first few set up screens and what they are all about with this Mac Observer article – if you haven’t updated your phone yet, don’t be shocked – you will have to do some initial set up before you can even check to see if you phone is still intact.

Here are articles from TUAW that go in depth on the very helpful Reminders appCalendar app updates, changes to Camera and Photos, and Twitter integration.

Also, if you would like to take a look at a list of 200 new iOS 5 features, check out this International Business Times post, with a short description of each.

Thanks guys for the leg up!

iCloud is Your Cloud, Only Different This Time

Ahhh, WWDC. There is always something fun to be had, particularly if you are an Apple fan. Today was no exception. From a new Mac OS, dubbed Lion, that will be available in the Mac App Store in July, to the brand new, re-imagined iOS 5 with tons of new goodies for iPhone / Pad / Touch toting devotees, and finally, to the widely rumored and now reality iCloud, Apple is clearly taking it to the skies.

I followed the liveblog here, working around a conference call to get it all in. Hey, I have my priorities in line with my ducks!

Skipping for now the new features in OSX Lion, iOS 5 has some great new adds. Notifications have become more unobtrusive and Android-like. No more pop-ups on the screen that have to be dismissed. Now they will discretely show at the top and disappear until you scroll them back with a downward swipe. Or dismiss them by clicking the “X” next to them. App-specific notifications will show up on the lock screen which opens the app when you unlock the phone. There are widgets for stocks and weather and such in the drop down as well. Another long overdue but still welcome change is the fact that updates and syncing will now occur over the air and without the need for cable-based tethering – Woo Hoo! Messaging between iPhones also has undergone a dramatic change, becoming more Blackberry-like with a native MMS – SMS protocol.  There is a new app, Newstand, that looks to be the iBooks for your magazine subscriptions, with automatic over air updates for new issues. Twitter is now tightly integrated into the OS, with buttons for instant share in the Maps, Camera and Photo apps. Photo editing features too, with some better control over zoom (pinch) and setting focus / light. Mobile Safari will look a LOT more like Safari on your desk top, complete with tabbed browsing, but the really cool new add is a Reading List, which lets you save articles for later reading (think Instapaper). The new iOS also includes a Reminders app, which essentially is a to do list, making all those to do list apps obsolete – it syncs across devices and with calendars automatically. A camera button on the lock screen, a split keyboard for more comfortable iPad typing, and it really is ALL GOOD in iOS 5. Can’t wait until it is available for us consumers in the fall (developers can get their hands on it right now).

Now, for something totally different and new, where there once was MobileMe, there is now iCloud. What was once $99 per year is now free. What was once limited to email, cloud disc space and calendar, now includes photos, documents, music, and apps. When you sign up for iCloud, you get 5GB of free storage, but purchased music, apps, and books, as well as the new Photo Stream, don’t count against free storage. 5GB for mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data.That is a few GB more than Dropbox but same as Box’s free cloud storage offering. What makes iCloud nice is the effortless, behind the scenes syncing and back up of vital information – it is integrated into applications and a lot of the magic occurs without much user intervention. All the data to be synced is shared across all iCloud connected devices. For example, take a photo on your iPhone and instantly see it on your iPad and instantly store it in iPhoto on your Mac or in your Picture file on your PC. And it works with both Mac and PC computers, so you really can connect your digital life to iCloud if you choose.

Is there a downside? Well, yes if your focus is cloud-based music storage. iCloud will allow you access to all your iTunes purchased music on all devices with a few button clicks. If you want more than that, i.e. your non-iTunes music stored in the Cloud, you will need to pay $24.99 per year to get the iTunes matching service – your library is checked against iTunes library and matches are made available within the iCloud ecosystem. Or you can manually sync with a cable. :(. And, here is the kicker: there is no streaming. You still have to download the media onto the devices, so storage is still an issue, particularly with big music collections like mine.

Guess I will stick with Google Music, with 20,000 songs streamed from the cloud, for free.

Save for these disappointments, the new iOS and iCloud features are still exciting and will push mobile and Cloud computing forward a substantial distance. I can’t wait for Fall, and it is hardly Summer!

UPDATE: There are a few new iOS 5 features that I cannot believe I failed to mention yesterday. That is what I get for cooking dinner and writing a blog post at the same time. Probably my most used app, Mail, is getting some great new features.

Your inbox is about to receive some great new features. Rich text formatting with bold, italic, or underlined fonts. Control over indents within the text of the message. The ability to drag email addresses and rearrange names in address fields. The ability to flag important messages, add and delete mailbox folders on the fly and search the full-text, including body, of email messages. Combined with iCloud’s free email account synced on all your devices, the new Mail app is starting to approach desktop functionality. Calendar, the second most used app on my iPhone, is also getting some tweaks. You can now see year view on iPad and week view on iPhone or iPod Touch. Tap and drag to create events and adjust time and duration. Add, rename, and delete calendars directly from the device. View event attachments without leaving the Calendar app. And, of course, use  iCloud to share calendars with friends and family, with the same information synced to all devices. I can’t wait to try the multi-tasking gestures on the iPad with the new OS – you  can use four or five fingers to swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, pinch to return to the Home screen, and swipe left or right to switch between apps. Very cool indeed! I also like the automatic WiFi sync – plug in your device and automatically and wirelessly backs up to new content to iTunes.  

There are more features, over 200 new I believe, but these are the top features for me. What are you looking most forward to?