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...  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.