Apple’s New Software – WWDC 2014 Recap

Apple

Another year, another opportunity for Apple to wow its developers and get the rest of us excited about new features coming soon to an iDevice near you. Apple’s World Wide Development Conference happened today and Apple didn’t leave us hanging. With OSX 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8, there are plenty of new features, most designed around the idea of seamless movement from device to device to device, with nary a skip in the workflow. For the geeks, Apple has rolled out a new developer language called Swift with features to make the designing process easier. For iOS, there are new features that developers can take advantage of, including: Homekit (a tool that will permit apps to interface with the OS to control external devices – like home security, heating, lighting, etc.); Healthkit (a tool to bring together fitness information from various external tracking methods); the ability to work with third party keyboards, as well as predictive typing like Swiftkey; better communication between apps and iOS; access for third party apps to TouchID; third party widgets; family share for iOS purchases so that everyone can benefit from downloads; shared photo editing through new iOS Photos app; improved Siri performance; and, changes to the App store including the ability to download bundles.

For Yosemite, users will find improvements to AirDrop,  iOS inspired flat design, and  an expanded Notifications function, which will also work with third party app widgets. It will also be able to leverage iCloud Drive – Apple’s answer to DropBox, with 20 GB for $.99 per month and 200 GB at $3.99 per month, synced across all of your devices. And, it works on Windows too. iCloud Drive will make for easier work within Apple apps across devices, improving efficiencies. MailDrop allows Mail users to attach large files without restriction using iCloud Drive. Users will also be able to edit image attachments with simple annotations. Safari has changed its look, and will show recent people you have messaged and RSS feeds and a thumbnail of open tabs. You will be able to view text messages and make phone calls on your computer in the new OSX. Tweaks and shine, rather than a significant overhaul.

While I didn’t note a great deal of business-ready features, iCloud Drive is certainly interesting for those who use Apple products for their office suite. And, the improvements and tweaks to both OS’ will make Apple devices more user-friendly, which is always a good thing.

What do you think? Was there anything you were hoping for that Apple missed? Or are you satisfied with the next iteration of Apple’s operating systems?

UPDATE: Something I missed in yesterday’s live blogs – Google is no longer the default search engine in Safari in iOS. Say hello to Bing. And even cooler: DuckDuckGo, my fav private search engine, is now an option in Safari as well – no tracking allowed!

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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?

8 (I mean 9) New Features of iPhone 4

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Apparently there are over 100 tweaks, but the WWDC presentation highlighted eight of them.

  1. First, the beautiful new design, previously broken by Gizmodo. Flat front and back, stainless steel edge, 9.33mm thick. 24% thinner than iPhone 3GS. Thinnest smart phone on the planet. Mute, volume up and down buttons on left edge. Front facing camera, micro SIM tray. Camera with LED flash on back. Microphone, connector and speaker on bottom. Headset, second mic for noise cancellation and sleep / wake button on top. The stainless steel band around the phone is part of its structure and serves as the antenna for the phone. Glass front and back.
  2. Next, a vastly improved display, with four times the pixels in the current space of one – 326 pixels per inch. Its called “retina” display, fits within the same 3.5″, but crams in 960 by 640 pixels.The results are downright amazing, and undoubtedly will set a new screen standard.
  3. Next, the A4 chip, designed by the Apple team. It has bigger specs – 6 hours 3G browsing, 10 hours Wi-Fi browsing. 10 hours video. 40 hours music. 300 hours standby and up to 32 gb of space (the latter is the same as the 3GS). Quad band HSPDA/HSUPA, 802.11n.
  4. Next, its got a Gyroscope! It has a 3 axis gyro, with its own, new CoreMotion API. Will be interesting to see what developers do with this. The Jenga demo, with 360 degree rotation, is pretty breathtaking.
  5. Next, a completely new camera system. There is an illuminated sensor on the back, along with the new, 5 megapixel camera. It has a 5 times digital zoom. Tap to focus. The flash is LED. And guess what? High definition video! 720 pixels at 30 frames per second (getting worried, Flip?). iMovie is coming to the iPhone as well (for $4.99 – why isn’t this included?), so you can edit your vids right on the phone.  It will even allow incorporating photos into your vids.
  6. Next, iPhone OS 4 has been enamed iOS 4. All the features previously layed out by Jobs and discussed in the tech blogs, ad infinitum. Mail and Pandora music at the same time. New Mail features – unified inbox and threaded mail items. Bing will now be  search option in Safari. Unfortunately, it will not be available for download today (or even this week).
  7. Next, iBooks is coming to iPhones with iOS 4. All the same features, including reading / viewing PDFs and downloading all the same books. Mailed PDFs will open in iBooks automatically. AND, you will be able to sync all bookmarks and notes across devices.
  8. Finally, and I am not sure why this is relevant to the iPhone discussion,  iAds. Although Apple has only been selling them for 8 weeks (with over $60 million committed by advertisers), clients already include: Citi, Unilever, AT&T, Chanel, GE, Liberty Mutual, State Farm, Geico, Campbell’s, Sears, JC Penny, Target, Best Buy, Direct TV, TBS, and Disney. The ads will be turned on for all iOS 4 devices on July 1 (so we will be getting iOS 4 before then).
  9. Oh, wait – there’s one more thing (because the fine folks at Apple can’t count). Yup, you guessed it. Video chat. The person called shows up full screen, and your tiny little image shows in a box in the lower left corner. It’s called FaceTime. Looks to be wi-fi only for now. And you can use front or rear camera so the person called can see what you are seeing.

Will I be getting one? Let’s just say, my 3GS is sitting right next to me is starting to sweat.

UPDATE: Stuff I missed because I had to leave before the live blogging ended – FaceTime will only work between iPhone 4 users. iPhone 4 will be $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB, and ATT is making everyone whose contract expires in 2010 eligible for upgrade. Pre-orders for iPhone 4 start on June 15. iPhone 4 will be available in the familiar black and white.

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