Wednesday, October 12, 2011

iOS 5.0 Released with Over 200 New Features

Apple just released iOS 5.0 for iPhone 4/3GS, iPad 1/2, and iPod touch.  The update includes a massive numbers of features, 200 of them to be specific.  Take a  like at the list below, but the most exciting features for me are Wi-Fi Synching, iMessage, and iCloud synchronization.  Stay tuned for hands-on review of the new features.

This update contains over 200 new features, including the following:

    •    Notifications
    ◦    Swipe from the top of any screen to view notifications in one place with Notification Center
    ◦    New notifications appear briefly at the top of the screen
    ◦    View notifications from lock screen
    ◦    Slide the notification app icon to the right on the lock screen to go directly to the app
    •    iMessage
    ◦    Send and receive unlimited text, photo, and video messages with other iOS 5 users
    ◦    Track messages with delivery and read receipts
    ◦    Group messaging and secure encryption
    ◦    Works over cellular network and Wi-Fi*
    •    Newsstand
    ◦    Automatically organizes magazine and newspaper subscriptions on Home Screen
    ◦    Displays the cover of the latest issue
    ◦    Background downloads of new issues
    •    Reminders for managing to do lists
    ◦    Syncs with iCloud, iCal and Outlook
    ◦    Location-based reminders when you leave or arrive at a location for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4
    •    Built-in support for Twitter
    ◦    Sign-in once in Settings and tweet directly from Camera, Photos, Maps, Safari and YouTube
    ◦    Add location to any tweet
    ◦    View twitter profile pictures and usernames in Contacts
    •    Camera improvements for devices with cameras
    ◦    Double click the home button when device is asleep to bring up a camera shortcut on iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (4th generation)
    ◦    Volume Up button to take a picture
    ◦    Optional grid lines to line up shots
    ◦    Pinch to zoom in the preview screen
    ◦    Swipe to camera roll from preview screen
    ◦    Tap and hold to lock focus and exposure, iPad 2 and iPod touch (4th generation) only support exposure lock
    •    Photo improvements for devices with cameras
    ◦    Crop and rotate
    ◦    Red eye removal
    ◦    One tap enhance
    ◦    Organize photos into albums
    •    Mail improvements
    ◦    Format text using bold, italic, or underlined fonts
    ◦    Indentation control
    ◦    Drag to rearrange names in address fields
    ◦    Flag messages
    ◦    Mass mark messages as flagged, read or unread
    ◦    Customize mail alert sounds
    ◦    S/MIME
    •    Calendar improvements
    ◦    Year view on iPad and new Week view for iPhone and iPod touch
    ◦    Tap to create an event
    ◦    View and add event attachments
    •    Game Center improvements
    ◦    Use personal photos for your Game Center account
    ◦    Compare your overall achievement scores with your friends
    ◦    Find new Game Center friends with friend recommendations and friends of friends
    ◦    Discover new games with custom game recommendations
    •    AirPlay Mirroring for iPad 2 and iPhone 4S
    •    Multitasking Gestures for iPad
    ◦    Use four or five fingers to pinch to the Home Screen
    ◦    Swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar
    ◦    Swipe left or right to switch between apps
    •    On-device setup, activation and configuration with Setup Assistant
    •    Software updates available over the air without tethering
    •    iCloud support
    ◦    iTunes in the Cloud
    ◦    Photo Stream
    ◦    Documents in the Cloud
    ◦    Apps and Books automatic download and purchase history
    ◦    Backup
    ◦    Contacts, Calendar, and Mail
    ◦    Find My iPhone
    •    Redesigned Music app for iPad
    •    Hourly weather forecast
    •    Real-time stock quotes
    •    Wireless sync to iTunes
    •    Keyboard improvements
    ◦    Split keyboard for iPad
    ◦    Improved autocorrection accuracy
    ◦    Improved Chinese and Japanese input
    ◦    New Emoji keyboard
    ◦    Personal dictionary for autocorrection
    ◦    Optionally create keyboard short cuts for frequently used words
    •    Accessibility improvements
    ◦    Option to light LED flash on incoming calls and alerts for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4
    ◦    Custom vibration patterns for incoming calls on iPhone
    ◦    New interface for using iOS with mobility-impairment input devices
    ◦    Option to speak a selection of text
    ◦    Custom element labeling for VoiceOver
    •    Exchange ActiveSync improvements
    ◦    Wirelessly sync tasks
    ◦    Mark messages as flagged, read or unread
    ◦    Improved offline support
    ◦    Save a new contact from a GAL service
    •    More than 1,500 new developer APIs
    •    Bug fixes

Products compatible with this software update:
    •    iPhone 4S
    •    iPhone 4
    •    iPhone 3GS
    •    iPad 2
    •    iPad
    •    iPod touch (4th generation)
    •    iPod touch (3rd generation)

* Normal carrier data rates may apply. Messages will be sent as SMS when iMessage is unavailable, carrier messaging fees apply.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: R.I.P.

You certainly changed our lives for the better.  Without you, our PCs would be dumber and our smartphones wouldn't be so smart.  You genius will be forever missed, but never forgotten!

In addition to his now famous Stanford speech in 2005, I highly recommend this rare speech by Mr. Jobs from back in 1982... http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=412215167.  Although it's audio-only, you get a great sense of who this man was and why he was different.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Roku 2 Review (vs. Apple TV 2)

I recently purchased the new Roku 2 XS Streaming Player to add to the long list of media streaming players that we already have in the house.  The primary driver behind this purchase is Hulu Plus.  I've been waiting for the Apple TV to add support for Hulu Plus for over a year and with the launch of the latest version of Roku, I figured what the heck, I'll give it a try.

The Roku 2 is a great device and if I didn't have a bunch of Apple TVs hooked up to every TV in the house, I would've had a heart attack seeing the user interface as it seems great.  However, when you compare it with Apple TV, Apple wins hands down.  There's a lot to love about Roku 2 XS and a few things to dislike, at least when you compare it with the Apple TV.

The Positives
Starting with the positive aspects of the Roku 2, here's what I found to be worthwhile:

  • Form Factor.  The Roku 2 is very small and light and is easy to hide behind the TV or anywhere your media cabinet, especially since the remote control uses Bluetooth (see below).
  • Remote Control.  The Roku 2 XS comes with a Bluetooth remote control, which means that you don't need a direct line of sight between the remote and the device itself.  The Bluetooth remote control also has a built-in accelerometer, which is great for games.
  • Applications.  The Roku 2 supports a variety of applications, including games.  I especially like the fact that it supports Hulu Plus and Crackle.  The XS version comes with a free Angry Birds game that takes advantage of the accelerometer in the remote. 
  • The Price.   You can't beat the price for the functionality.  The XS model is the best value because it comes with the Bluetooth remote and Angry Birds for only $99.  The HD model costs $69.99 and the XDcosts $79.99.
The Negatives
At least for me, I found the following to be negative:
  • Sluggish User Interface. The user interface is a little slow and feels sluggish at times.  It's not remotely as smooth as the Apple TV, but is better than Google TV, Boxee and many other streaming devices.
  • No iTunes Support.  If you have music and videos on your network that you want to stream, you're out of luck because Roku 2 does not allow you to stream your own content through a local network.  Instead, you can copy your media to an external USB driver and connect that to the USB port on Roku 2.  The results are not very impressive and, again, I'm comparing it to the Apple TV where it naturally integrates with your existing iTunes library.
  • No iPhone App.  I'm surprised that Roku 2 does not have an iPhone/iPad app to control the device with.  The Apple TV obviously has an app, but other streaming devices do as well, including Boxee.
Bottom line:  The Roku is a great device for the money, but you still need an Apple TV to stream your own content.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

iTunes 10.2 (and iOS 4.3) Finally Brings Home Sharing to iPhone, iPod touch and iPad

The release of iTunes 10.2 yesterday and planned release of iOS 4.3 on March 11 bring important changes to the Home Sharing feature of iTunes. 

More than 18 months after the initial release of Home Sharing (see Apple Missed the Mark with iTunes Home Sharing), apply has finally made some cool enhancements to this feature, including:

  1. The most important is the fact that as of March 11, Home Sharing will be extended to iOS devices.  Prior to these releases, Home Sharing was limited to iTunes clients running on a PC or a Mac.  For instance, you can see your iTunes library that sits on one PC from another PC anywhere in your house.  Now, you can see the entire iTunes library from any iOS device.  This means you don't have to sync your entire library to your iOS devices (as long as you are on your home Wi-Fi).  This is great news!

  2. Play count tracking is now extended to iTunes clients (and iOS devices).  Prior to this being the case, playing your music from an iTunes client other than the client that contains the library did not contribute to the tracking of the Play Count.  This impacts how Smart Playlists keep track of your most/least played songs, never played songs, etc....  In order to take advantage of this feature though, you must enable it by going to Edit --> Preferences --> Sharing and select the "Home sharing computers and devices updated play count" check box.

Additional exciting changes are also coming in 4.3, including hot spot (i.e. 3G Internet Sharing). I will post a review of this feature once 4.3 is released.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Free Find My iPhone Is a Big Winner

In its continued effort to one-up the fast growing Andriod-based phones, Apple made its Find My iPhone service free to to users of the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch.  This feature was part of the MobileMe service offered by Apple for $99 per year.  Although the Find My iPhone feature is a small part of what MobileMe offers, making it free gives iPhone a great feature for very little new development effort.

Enabling Find My iPhone
Enabling the new Find My iPhone feature on any iOS devices is very straight forward:

  1. Upgrade your device to iOS 4.2 (or higher)
  2. Under Settings, select the Mail, Contacts, Calendars option.
  3. Select Add Account...
  4. Select mobileme
  5. Enter your Apple ID and Password (note: if you have an Apple ID that is not an e-mail address, you must change your Apple ID to be an e-mail address by going appleid.apple.com.  It's an easy process, but once you do it make sure to change it in all of your devices and iTunes clients).
Repeat the steps above on every iOS device you own.  Assuming you're using the same Apple ID and password to enable Find My iPhone on all the devices, you can use the Find My iPhone app on any devices to do one of the following:

  • Locate all the devices on a map
  • Wipe any of the devices remotely
  • Send a text alert
  • Send an audible alert, even if the ringer is off
These features are great and worked really well on iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (4th gen), and the iPad. 

One Drawback
The one drawback is that the device has to be connected to a network to locate it.  For example, if you take your iPod touch out of the house and leave it somewhere, you can't locate it unless someone finds it and connects it to a Wi-Fi.

If you haven't enabled this feature, do it before you misplace your phone :-)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

AirPrint Disappoints & AirPlay Still Needs Work

iOS 4.2 (or 4.2.1) was just released and for those of us who have been salivating over the promise being able to print from our iPads (and iPhones) were sorely disappointed that the AirPrint feature that was promised several months ago is basically worthless.  Unless you happen to have recently purchased one of 8 HP printers that Apple supports in this release, you just can't print from your iOS device. Period. 

As far as the AirPlay feature is concerned, this continues to be one of the most exciting innovations in quite some time.  Unfortunately, the promise of this feature is not all there yet.  For example, it's very exciting and nifty that you can stream videos from your iPhone and iPad to an Apple TV.  This works brilliantly and seamlessly when you're play videos from your synchronized videos and photos from your Photos library on any iOS 4.2 device.  Oddly enough though, videos that were recorded with an iPhone or iPod touch and site in the Photos library cannot be streamed to an Apple TV.  Arguably, these would be the videos that you would be most interested in sharing with others shortly after just taking them.

Another oddity with the AirPlay feature in this release is that it doesn't work with 3rd-party applications. For example, you can't stream Pandora, Netflix, or YouTube.  Hopefully, that these applications can be updated to support this feature, but it's unknown at this point whether Apple is going to allow this.  I would love have the ability to stream music from Pandora to my Apple TV or one of the promised AirPlay-enabled speakers (such as the iHome iW1 AirPlay speaker).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Update iPhone and iPad without iTunes?

A long-running complaint from iPhone, iPod touch (and more recently iPad users) is the fact that updating the device software/firmware requires connecting it to iTunes via USB.  Many customers, especially business users and users who are not technical are puzzled as to why this requirement exists.  Many of them do everything they need on the device including buying music, videos, and downloading apps without once connecting to their computer.

The recent release of the latest Apple TV gives me a little hope.   The new Apple TV does not connect to the iTunes client via a USB (you can do it, but that's a different story).  Despite this fact, it does appear that you can update the Apple TVs software directly from the Apple TV menu, which means that the iOS is capable of handling an "over the air/Internet" update.

Since the new Apple TV is based on the iOS operating system, which is shared by the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, you would think that this capability is coming to the rest of the devices.  At least, I hope so.