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iPad, tooFor fans of multitouch, 2011 was a big year. Let’s put our fingers on precisely why.
In March, Apple released the sequel to the world’s first successful tablet computer. The iPad 2 was acclaimed for what it added: two (admittedly mediocre) cameras, a zippier processor (the dual core, Apple-designed A5 chip), twice the RAM (512MB), and the magnetic appeal of the Smart Cover. But even as it added all those features, the iPad managed to take a couple significant elements away—namely, weight and thickness. The iPad 2 is just two-thirds as thick and 88 percent as heavy as the original.
In the fourth quarter of its fiscal year 2011 alone, Apple sold 11.12 million iPads. The product continues to do a brisk business, dominating the mind and market share for the still-developing tablet market. Of the iPad’s sales performance to date, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “Some people are electing to buy an iPad rather than a Mac… A materially larger number are electing to buy an iPad instead of a Windows-based PC.”
Getting Siri-ous: The iPhone 4S
The iPhone 4S became available in October. It scored the same speedy A5 chip that powers the iPad 2, a dramatically upgraded rear-facing camera, and an overhauled dual-band antenna design.
But the feature that got everyone talking was the feature that got everyone talking: Siri. With its still-in-beta voice-powered virtual assistant, the iPhone 4S can handle a multitude of tasks for you, based solely on the verbal instructions you provide it. Despite the fact that Siri was hampered by occasional outages, early 4S adopters loved its power, itssense of humor, and its uncanny ability to understand just what you wanted it to do.
Apple hasn’t said when or if Siri will come to the Mac, the iPad, or earlier iPhone models, but ask any iPhone 4S user who has come to depend on Siri for sending texts, setting reminders, and making appointments: The more ubiquitous Siri becomes, the better.
Carrier on, my wayward son
2011 was also the year the Verizon iPhone rumors were finally put to rest; Verizon got the iPhone 4 back in February. With the release of the iPhone 4S, Sprint became the third U.S. carrier, and regional carrier C Spire became the fourth.
iOS 5 is alive
October also brought iOS 5, the newest incarnation of the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. With it came Notification Center, a smart solution for the increasingly invasive blue alert boxes that had come to characterize the iOS experience. But iOS 5 didn’t just make alerts more manageable; it also introduced long-awaited niceties like wireless syncing, over-the-air iOS updates, iMessage, Reminders, Newsstand, system-wide Twitter integration, AirPlay mirroring, and more.
GarageBand of brothers
Apple launched the iPad incarnation of GarageBand in March, alongside the iPad 2’s release. An update at the beginning of November brought the app to the iPhone as well. The app combines Smart Instruments, loops, a drum machine, and support for devices like electric guitars and USB keyboards and microphones. In short, it turns an iOS device into a portable music studio.
The app makes amateur musicians sound good, and it offers plenty of powerful performance for professionals, too. If any one app raised the App Store bar—and proved that iOS devices can and should be used for creation just as much as consumption—GarageBand was that app.
Renew my subscription
Speaking of the App Store, 2011 saw one significant addition: iOS subscriptions. Introduced in February, subscriptions afford developers the option of taking recurrent payments—on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or yearly basis—for digital services.
The first app to take advantage of subscriptions was News Corp’s The Daily, with its $1 a week issues (or $40 for the year). Subscriptions caught on, as a steady parade of major magazine publishers brought their publications to the iPad. Over time, Apple loosened its restrictionson how publishers could offer in-app subscriptions, allowing those publishers to offer free or discounted digital access to print subscribers.
Apple didn’t relent on some stricter policies, though; apps like Amazon’s Kindle were forced to remove links to their online stores to remain in compliance with Apple’s App Store rules.
Send in the clouds
October also saw the release of iCloud, Apple’s synchronization service for Macs, PCs, and iOS devices. With iCloud, you can backup your iOS device without needing a computer at all; sync iWork documents, contacts, emails, and calendars; locate your iOS devices; and more. With iTunes in the Cloud, you can re-download your iTunes Store purchases from your iOS devices, and newly-purchased apps download to all your devices automatically. And with iTunes Match, Apple’srecently introduced $25 per year iCloud add-on, you can store your music library in the cloud and wirelessly access it from your iOS devices.
Numerous iPad competitors came; most of them went. The RIM PlayBook was dead on arrival; theMotorola Xoom failed to catch on; and HP held a fire-sale to divest itself of its TouchPad inventory. The only device to make any major waves in the industry thus far is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, though reviews have been mixed at best. Some conclude that the Kindle Fire makes a great Kindle, but a lousy tablet. Perhaps that’s why Apple doesn’t seem that worried about it.
In the year 2012…
Predicting what’s next for Apple and the iOS ecosystem is never easy. And though the iPhone 4S was a zig when many expected an iPhone 5 zag, Cupertino spent much of 2011 ticking off long-rumored items on its list—new U.S. carriers, a new iPhone, and a new iPad. It seems certain that 2012 will bring another new iPhone and new iPad, but questions remain: Will the next iPhone sport a bigger screen? Will the next iPad score a Retina display? How many models of iPad should we expect? Is a 7-inch iPad in the offing?
There are but three ways to find out the answers: Get hired by Apple as a top-level executive; follow along with all the Apple news Macworld reports upon next year; or wait until the tail end of 2012 for next year’s roundup.
Apple’s iPhones may seem more cool, but the Google-backed Android phones are much more popular in the United States. In 2011, Android’s U.S. market share was 53 percent, compared to 29 percent for the iPhone, according to the research group NPD.
And those Android phones are everywhere, even in foodtrucks. Kristi Whitfield owns Curbside Cupcake, a Washington, D.C.-area company. When customers show up without cash, Whitfield uses her Android phone to process their credit card payments with a system called Square. It lets her swipe the cards on her phone, and email or text receipts to customers.
Whitfield says that at first, she used an iPhone for the transactions. But then she switched to Android.
“We started on the iPhone,” she says, “but then as we got more phones for the trucks, we went to the Android. It was an affordable choice, and it worked just as well as the iPhone, and it was the right choice. We didn’t need all of the things that the iPhone did just to run our business.”
Pricing, usability and simplicity are all part of Android’s appeal. But Hiawatha Bray, a technology writer at The Boston Globe, says there’s one other thing that makes Android stand out — it’s its “open source.” Basically, Google lets the world see, and tinker with, their Android code.
“Anybody can take their software, break it down, analyze it, see how it works,” Bray says. It allows Android to get apps to its market with remarkable speed. So, when Apple introduced the voice-recognition technology Siri on the iPhone 4S, Android wasn’t far behind.
“There’s this guy in Bangalore, thought that [Siri] was cool,” Bray says. “[He] tried to create a knockoff, which he called Iris. Within a day or two of Siri, people started to get a crude imitation.”
But the Android app market is also something like the Wild Wild West, Bray adds.
“Google tells you outright — ‘We don’t do any kind of testing to make sure this app is safe,’” Bray says. That means malware and spyware can make it onto Android phones through apps. It’s a problem Apple doesn’t have because they test their apps.
Another advantage for Android is that it’s available on multiple phones and service providers, so there are many types of smartphones running the operating system. And some can do things iPhones can’t.
One example is the Casio G’zOne Commando. Verizon’s Brenda Rayney says the phone met a number of military requirements before it went on sale, making it possibly one of the toughest smartphones on the market.
Rayney says the Commando was submerged in water; survived winds up to 40 miles per hour; was subjected to heavy dust for six hours; and endured salt water spray for 24 hours. It also has withstood solar radiation, pressures at 15,000 feet below sea level, and survived high temperatures of 185 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows of 13 below zero.
You could call it the indestructible Navy Seal Team 6 of smartphones. I tested a Commando at home, with my friends Madeline Clayton and Ryan Whalen.
We threw it down the stairs. We tossed it into a frying pan. And the final test? Beer. We submerged the phone, which retails for between $179 and $449, in Budweiser.
The Commando rang when we dialed its number, as it sat in two beers. “And it’s bubbling!” exclaimed Clayton, as suds frothed from the phone’s vibrations. “It’s bubbling!”
You could try that with an iPhone, but you might not get the same result.
Bray says the Android-iPhone dynamic can be compared to another pair of competing brands. If Apple is Starbucks, then Android is perhaps Dunkin Donuts? “Both companies produce good coffee,” says Bray. “But I gotta admit, I prefer Dunkin Donuts because it’s so unpretentious and straightforward.”
It’s the kind of comparison that makes the case that the Android isn’t just an iPhone competitor, but almost its antithesis.
via In U.S., Android Has Upper Hand On The iPhone : NPR by SAM SANDERS.
Facebook now lets iPhone owners view its new Timeline layout and has added several extra handy features in an app update pushed out to iPhone users on Sunday. iPad users still can’t view Facebook Timeline layouts.
Facebook launched its updated Android apps last week when Timeline was released. Facebook has already updated its Android mobile app with the layout. It’s unclear why the iOS update was delayed until the weekend but possibilities include waiting for approval from Apple’s app store and bug fixes. The Timeline layout was shown earlier this year at the company’s f8 Conference.
Timeline however isn’t the only new feature added in 4.1. The new version of Facebook’s app brings a lot of the new features that the social networking giant added over the last year to its mobile apps.
You now have the ability to add and sort into Facebook’s lists feature to help them organize their friends. It also adds the subscribe to page feature that the company added along with it’s revamp of news feed. And, as originally reported byTechcrunch, the new app felt considerably faster than previous versions during my time with the app.
This new iOS update leaves only the company’s iPad app without the new Timeline layout. Facebook promised that an update for Apple’s popular tablet is on the way.
“If you go back to the Cold War, it was government- developed technology that we would introduce into the commercial sector,” Minihan said. “Today most of those technologies come from the private sector and get introduced to the public sector — it’s the reverse.”