Monday, September 14, 2009

Site News: Let's Have an Intense Debate

An announcement: As of today, this blog will be using IntenseDebate for its comments system.

The bad news: All of the comments that were already in the system (both of them) have been irrevocably b0rk3d. Also, for some inexplicable reason, you can no longer log in with your Google account unless you've started a Blogger blog and thus can use your account as an OpenID. Yes, screwy, I know (but you most likely won't have to do this - read on).

The good news is, your comments now can be voted up or down. They also now show your Gravatar (if you have one - it's one of those things, like OpenIDs, that you don't really know you need until you do - they're the Swiss Army Knives of the tech world, but without the little corkscrews) and your user reputation rating based on all the conversations you've had on this and all other IntenseDebate-enabled blogs. Should be useful if people actually start reading this stuff.

Also, I went with the times and am now allowing people to log in with their Facebook and Twitter accounts like civilized websites do. (If you have an OpenID or an IntenseDebate account, feel free to use those instead, especially if you've built up a huge reputation.)

I also changed the rules a bit. You can now comment as a guest, but if you do, every time you do so your comment must be approved by me. Also, even if you're logged in to your website of choice, the first time you try to comment, the comment must be approved by me. After that first comment has been approved, however, I will know that you're at least a semi-intelligent human being and therefore your comments will start going up right away, unless you start being an idiot, in which case I will semi-blacklist your account so that all comments by you must be approved by me. NO SPAM HERE KTHXBAI.

In other news, I also added AddToAny and TweetMeme buttons on each post. The TweetMeme button allows people to tweet my blog posts so that I can level up (or something), and the AddToAny "Share/Save" button allows you to post any of my blog postings on any of 128 different websites (including all the social networking sites that nobody uses, which therefore defeat the purpose of social networking).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

AT&T A-List: Awesome yet not

For years, iPhone users have been left to sit and stare at the non-AT&T users with their "myFaves" and "myCircle" and "Fave 5" plans, letting them make free calls to a set number of their best out-of-network friends. Now, you stare no longer: AT&T is doing it too - on top of the mobile-to-mobile you already enjoy, starting Saturday you can enjoy unlimited calling to the five friends you have that aren't iPhone owners (on a family plan, you get 10 friends to share between your entire family).

But there's a catch.

To be able to do this, you need to be on a 900-minute individual plan, or a 1400-minute family plan. Keep in mind that the 900-minute plan is a full $20 more than the base 450-minute plan, and the 1400-minute family plan is $30 more than the base 550-minute plan (of course, if you have more than 3 lines, you already are required to get the 700-minute plan anyway, so it's only $20 more, but still, money).

And - here's the kicker - you won't be using any of those minutes. Why? Because, as I already said, you get unlimited calling to all your friends who have iPhones and the five friends that don't. You're paying a premium for the 450 extra minutes and the right to not have to use them. Meanwhile, other networks who have these features (IIRC) include them at no additional charge?

Is AT&T purposely trying to drag its users down *coughMMScoughTETHERINGcoughwheezephleghm* or are they just stupid?

How-To: Set up antiphishing in Safari on OS3.1

So, if you updated to iPhone OS 3.1 (full review coming whenever I
feel like it), you should probably know that Safari now has an
antiphishing feature. What you don't know is how to use it. Here's how:
1. Turn it on. The setting is in Settings under "Safari."
2. Download the antiphishing database. Apple made this an intuitive
(if somewhat odd) process: according to Apple spokesman Bill Evans,
you need to have the Safari process running (translation: if you are
one of those people who always force-quits Safari instead of closing
it, don't), then charge your iDevice with Wi-Fi on and connected (it
won't work over EDGE or 3G) and the screen off. There's no way,
however, to tell if you have the entire database. Also, the database
updates every time you do this.
3. When you visit a known phishing site Safari will warn you.
So, all this stuff about Safari antiphishing not working is complete
bunk - just set it up the right way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Media Event Summary: It's Only Rock and Roll, But Yes, We Like It

So yeah, if you read my last post, you know that Apple had a media event today. A recap:
  • Steve Jobs was there from the get go, along with his new liver. He's looking pretty well. (TMI alert: it's from a person who died in a car accident in his mid 20s.)
  • Requisite sales figure bragging: 30 million iPhones, 20 million iPod touches (iPods touch?) sold. 8.5 billion songs sold. 1.8 million apps downloaded, not counting updates. Store available in 23 countries. 75,000 apps in the store, including 21,178 game and entertainment titles, compared to 607 PSP and 3,680 DS games. 27 million libraries in the Genius database, totaling 54 billion songs. 100 million iTunes accounts (not counting the ones without credit cards). 78% share of the MP3 player market, compared to 7.2% for SanDisk and 1.1% for Microsoft. 220 million iPods sold - nano is best-selling player in the world at 100 million, and touch is fastest growing model. And, as we all knew, #1 music retailer in the world.
  • iTunes 9 is out right now. It features:
    • Support for PC-side home screen rearrangement for iPhone OS devices.
    • Ability to post iTunes Store links directly to Twitter and Facebook.
    • Genius Mixes: like Genius playlists, but from throughout your library rather than focused around a particular song.
    • Copying and syncing iTunes content between up to five networked PCs or Macs. Yes, between computers.
    • Redesigned UI (with drop down menus) for the Store.
    • iTunes LPs. The real name for what was apparently known in development as Cocktail. Designed to replicate the experience of listening to an album while reading the liner notes and staring in awe at all the pretty pictures, only in interactive form.
    • In addition to syncing by playlist, you can also sync by artist or genre.
    • Photos can be synced with iPhoto by event (Mac only).
    • Movies get better syncing criteria - i.e. you can tell it to sync "last 3 movies I rented."
    • iTunes Extras. Essentially DVD special features for movies purchased from the Store.
  • iPhone OS 3.1.x (some people are saying that they're getting 3.1, some are saying 3.1.1, Apple announced it as 3.1) is out now:
    • Free for all iPhone users and any iPod touch users running OS3 and $4.99 for any iPod touch user running OS2.2.1 or earlier. No, that's not a typo, they dropped the price from $9.99.
    • Genius for apps.
    • Genius mixes - see above.
    • Ability to download pre-made ringtones from the iTunes app for $1.29 each - though you don't get to set the start and stop times. Free previews. 30,000 ringtones available on day one.
    • Voice Control over Bluetooth (3GS only).
    • Non-destructive video editing (3GS only).
    • Requisite slate of bugfixes and security updates, including a fix for a bug for some 3G users using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at the same time.
  • Game demos:
    • Assassin's Creed 2. Old-school Prince of Persia-style sidescroller. Ships day and date with the console version.
    • Riddim Ribbon, by Tapulous (the makers of Tap Tap Revenge). Looks like a weird combination of rhythm and futuristic racing games. Looks kinda Audiosurf-ish. The music changes with your playing. The Black Eyed Peas are in it.
    • Nova. Halo-style FPS from Gameloft. Graphics look really solid. Local multiplayer over Bluetooth (not available on iPhone 2G or iPod touch 1G) or WiFi.
    • Madden NFL 10. Available now.
  • Changes in the iPod touch line:
    • Price drops: 8GB was $239, now $199. 32GB was $399, now $299.
    • 16GB model has been discontinued.
    • Oh yeah, that 32GB model I mentioned: It's now the touch 3G (the 8GB model is still the 2G). No camera, but it does have voice control (it comes with the headphones with mic), 3GS speed, and OpenGL|ES 2.0 (for playing 3GS-specific games). Available now.
    • 64GB touch 3G for $399. Available now. OH YEAH.
  • iPod classic: was 120GB, now 160GB, still $249.
  • iPod shuffle announcements:
    • Apple has begun licensing out shuffle 3G controls to third party headphone manufacturers. (Example: Beats by Dre - though why anyone would want to use Beats by Dre with a shuffle 3G is beyond me)
    • New 2GB model available now for $59 (for reference, the 4GB model is still available, still $79 unless... more on this later)
    • Both models are now available in blue, green, and pink in addition to silver and black.
    • 4GB model is now also available in polished stainless steel (Apple store exclusive) for $99 (other colors are $79)
  • iPod nano 5G (this was Steve's One More Thing):
    • VGA video camera on every nano (no stills, surprisingly). Direct competitor to the Flip. Apple pointed out that the Flip is 10.9 cubic inches (compared to the nano at 1.1 cubic inches). After syncing with iPhoto, videos can be uploaded to YouTube with one click.
    • Microphone for the camera. Also supports Voice Memos.
    • Speaker built in.
    • Nike+ pedometer built in: no shoe or sensor required.
    • Genius Mixes.
    • Case is polished anodized aluminum - shinier than the 4G. The corners are less pointy.
    • FM radio with TiVo-style live pausing - you can actually resume right from where you paused.
    • 2.2-inch display, compared to the 2-inch on the 4G.
    • VoiceOver - speaks your song titles just like the Shuffle.
    • 8GB for $149 (same as a 4GB Flip, same as 4G). 16GB for $199 (same as 4G). 32GB discontinued.
    • Available now in silver, black, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, PRODUCT(RED), and pink.
  • Requisite environmental bragging: all the new models have arsenic-free glass, and are BFR-free, PVC-free, mercury-free, and highly recyclable.
  • No Beatles.
  • No subscription services.
  • No tablets.
So how'd you like it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rumor-By-Rumor: It's only rock and roll... but will we like it? (Long Post Warning)

(Warning: this post is long. If anyone knows how to create an "after the break" in Blogger, LET ME KNOW in the comments.)

If you've been following the Appleverse at all, you know that Apple has a special event planned for tomorrow, 9/9/09. So far, concrete evidence as to what will be announced at this event consists of a picture of an iPod ad girl holding what appears to be an iPod touch, coupled with a slightly mangled Rolling Stones lyric. Of course, the rumors go far beyond that, and so I'm doing the first of what will probably be a regular feature before each Apple press event: the Rumor-By-Rumor roundup, predictions and armchair analysis...

Rumor #1: Tablet

The rumors about this have been swirling for years: an Apple-branded touchscreen tablet. The rumors vary, but seem to fall into two camps (actual rumors may vary, but these are my predictions)
  • A 10" keyboardless, touchscreen netbook running iPhone OS. Essentially, an oversized iPod touch, optimized for light web browsing and videos. This may or may not feature a wireless data (no voice) connection through Verizon (!) or AT&T.
  • A 13" or 15" keyboardless, Intel-powered, touchscreen Mac tablet running OSX that falls somewhere in the MacBook or MacBook Pro line. Possibly aimed at graphics professionals. As with the other rumor, this will also be optimized for web browsing and videos, and may or may not blah blah blah.
The rumors hit a fever pitch a few weeks ago - insider sources left and right were talking about them. However, recently, word on the street appears to be that these will be absent from this particular event, which makes sense, given the event's focus.

RUMOR PROBABILITY: LIKELY that one or both of these is in the works. VERY UNLIKELY that these will be announced tomorrow.

Rumor #2: iPod touch 3G

The rumor is that the touch 3G will feature a faster (3GS-speed) processor, as well as a camera. We've seen supposed insiders, we've seen potential prototypes, we've seen cases (though don't accept case manufacturers' product listings as truth - remember the iPhone nano?) and they all point to cameras. However, rumors have surfaced recently that these have been slightly delayed due to manufacturing defects with the first few thousand that came off the line.

RUMOR PROBABILITY: LIKELY that this will be announced. KINDA LIKELY that this will be available by holiday season, though be prepared for the occasional shortages.

Rumor #3: iTunes 9

Apparently, iTunes 9 is supposed to include support for organizing your apps on your computer (rather than futzing with them on your device), Blu-Ray, Facebook, Twitter, and Last.FM. And the only things we've seen to back that up: a couple of obviously Photoshopped screenshots which I'm not even going to bother posting here.
It just makes sense though: iTunes 9 on 9/9/09. However, if Apple were to go whole hog and embrace social networking, why iTunes first? Add to that the fact that iTunes doesn't even have DVD support yet (DVD playback on the Mac is handled by DVD Player.app, and besides, there's that whole DMCA thing), and the fact that app organization would have to be handled on your device at an OS level, and this is looking shaky. So what WILL be in iTunes 9? More on that later. 

RUMOR PROBABILITY: LIKELY that iTunes 9 will be announced tomorrow. KINDA LIKELY that it will be released tomorrow. UNLIKELY that it will have any of those features.

Rumor #4: iPod nano 5G

Apparently, the nano is supposed to be getting a camera and true 16:9 widescreen. Other than that, it'll pretty much be the 4G. 

RUMOR PROBABILITY: LIKELY that this will be announced and available by the holiday season.

Rumor #5: iPod classic

Depending on who you listen to, this is either going to be discontinued entirely or given a camera - though I don't think Apple will do either. Given the amount of attention Classic users have been getting lately, and the fact that it's the only high-capacity iPod out there apart from the Apple TV, I'm saying: 

RUMOR PROBABILITY: UNLIKELY for both.

Rumor #6: Cocktail

This is what iTunes 9 is for. Basically the next generation of the Enhanced CD concept from the early 1990s, and the Digital Booklets that already exist in the iTunes store, this will bundle an album with videos, interactive liner notes, and other collector-y stuff. Apparently, however, Apple and the labels are developing competing formats. 

RUMOR PROBABILITY: LIKELY that it'll debut tomorrow. UNLIKELY that it'll be adopted by too many big-name artists.

Rumor #7: Apple TV

These rumors have been flowing around for a while: price drops, capacity increases, Hulu, Netflix, and a built-in DVR. 

RUMOR PROBABILITY: PRETTY LIKELY for the first two. UNLIKELY for the other three - they would eat into the iTunes Store's market.

Rumor #8: Subscription Services

All the music and video you want for a flat monthly fee, so long as you don't mind your music and video wrapped in DRM that expires if you don't pay the bills. Basically, an unlimited rental plan. Think Napster and Netflix rolled into one. While this would sell more Apple TVs, I don't see the major labels and studios - or Apple, for that matter - signing on.

RUMOR PROBABILITY: PRETTY UNLIKELY.

Rumor #9: iPhone OS 3.1

Considering that AT&T announced that MMS would be coming to the 3G and 3GS on September 24th through a firmware update, and that 3.1 has been in beta for a while now, I'd say it's a pretty sure thing. Along with MMS - which will be included for free with any texting plan - it also enables Voice Control via Bluetooth headsets on the 3GS, as well as the usual slate of bug fixes and performance increases. New APIs will include ones for the 3GS's awesome graphics hardware, and camera APIs for augmented reality. 

RUMOR PROBABILITY: PRETTY MUCH CERTAIN that it will be a major focus of the event, and CERTAIN that it will come out on September 24th.

Rumor #10: The Beatles

9/9/09, besides being a major day for iPods, is also a big day for another music industry heavyweight: the Beatles. It's the release date for remasters of their entire back catalogue, as well as their own video game, The Beatles: Rock Band. Could the timing of this event - coupled with the requisite possibly-fake-but-maybe-not leaked screenshots - mean something? Or is the recent insider info true and this is just a coincidence? Considering how both Apples (Apple, Inc, which operates iTunes, and Apple Corps, the Beatles' company) like to remain secretive about such things, I'm calling bait and switch. Expect this to be the final announcement of the event.

RUMOR PROBABILITY: I'm saying KINDA LIKELY.

Rumor #11: Steve

Steve Jobs, the company's cofounder and one of the most revered (and stubborn) guys in the tech industry, has a knack for appearing at these events - to thunderous applause - for that "just one more thing" that everyone talks about for weeks afterward. Though he was absent from WWDC due to health issues, he's now back at work. If there's a big announcement at the end, I'm betting that he'll be there - along with his brand new liver - being the one to make it. (What would be REALLY awesome is him onstage at the end of the event with Paul McCartney making a big Beatles announcement...)

RUMOR PROBABILITY: If Rumor #1 or #10 is true, ALMOST CERTAIN. If not, SORTA KINDA LIKELY MAYBE NOT REALLY NO.

While I'll be busy tomorrow - no liveblog here - I'll post a post later in the day summarizing all the cool stuff that was announced that day and checking my analysis.

EDIT: Forgot to add the picture. Also changed some formatting and fixed some irregular white space size.

An Introduction

So yeah. You're probably wondering why I'm here.

...Actually, so am I.

Anyway, this blog is about what is shown in the title: news, opinions and commentary mostly (but not always) about the iPhone OS.

I, the proprietor of this blog, am the proud owner of a 16GB iPod touch, second generation, running iPhone OS 3.0 and a crapload of apps. I sync it with my Dell, and use it (the iPod, not the Dell) as my primary computer.

If you'd like to contribute to this blog, or send me promo codes or beta copies of apps to review, email me at oboewan42@gmail.com.

NOTE: Please do not send me promo codes directly. I don't have the time or motivation to review every app. Therefore, ask me beforehand so that you don't end up wasting a code. I assure you that if I do decide to accept a code, I will review your app.

If I review an app, it is done SUBJECTIVELY. Whether I paid for the app or not is NOT a factor.

Thank you.