A little over a week ago Apple came out with a cute little ad for Christmas. A young girl plays "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to her granddad using FaceTime. 

The makers of the app Futulele have seemingly one-upped Apple with their own version of that song. Very cool, especially since you consider that Apple's ad aired on December 22 and that Futulele's version was uploaded on December 23. The kind of quick turnaround video production I like to be involved with myself.

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AuthorJehuda Saar

While browsing around in one of London's Apple Stores I came across a product I had heard about before but hadn't paid much attention to: Philips' Hue Personal Wireless Lighting. The video you can see here makes the product look cool, even though I am not yet sure how useful such a product is once the novelty wears off.

But it was clear that before long someone was going to tinker with the system and come up with some new uses for it. In this case the honour falls to a young man by the name of Brandon Evans who realised that by using the Siri development plugin combined with the fact that the HUE bulbs are IP-controllable, you can end up walking around your house issuing verbal commands to lights and see things change all around you as if my magic. The shape of things to come.

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AuthorJehuda Saar

On July 30 iMore.com came out with the scoop that Apple will be introducing a new iPhone ("iPhone 5" ? "New iPhone" ?) on September 12 and that the new phones would be available in stores on September 21. He also stated that the new rumored iPad mini would come out on the same day. The iPad mini is supposed to be a smaller model of the most successful tablet-computer in history, somewhere between 7 and 8 inches, with a non-retina screen and rumoured to have a base model priced anywhere between $199 and $299. 

Knowing how Apple like to focus their product introductions on hot items and would not want any one category to cannibalize on the attention of another, the idea of introducing two important products such as these in one event sounded somewhat strange to me, but better informed people than me were writing those pieces and they seemed to know of what they spoke. Enter John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame who wrote this piece on August 23. He posited that with the iPhone alone being the "single most profitable product in the world today" (the iPhone business alone is bigger than all of Microsoft's businesses combined), why would Apple want to share the iPhone's spotlight with the announcement of another new product. 

This was soon followed by what appeared to be a very brief, innocent comment by Jim Dalrymple of loopinsight.com. Except that when it comes to Mr Dalrymple, when he writes about Apple, his comments are rarely innocent. He has proven to be very much in the know of the secret goings-on at Apple in the past and the tech-media always pay extra special attention to his apparently off-the cuff remarks.

And finally word came down from what is considered the most reliable source about Apple these days: John Paczkowski of AllThingsD.com. In a piece dated August 25 he "confirms" there will be two events: one introducing the iPhone on September 12 and another event in October for the iPad mini. As he says in his article:

"With a new iPhone and a new, diminutive iPad in the pipeline, Apple has two opportunities to commandeer the tech news cycle ahead of the annual holiday shopping binge, and it's going to take them both."

You will notice that the headline of his piece states "Confirmed", however the last line of the piece states clearly "Apple declined to comment on its plans". And yet the tech world accepts that if AllThingsD says it is so, it will be so. That only leaves one more little item in question. What about the new rumored iPod nano ? We have heard anything from a WiFi enabled nano, to rumours of a nano that would work with an iPhone as a wristwatch or other wearable "satellite" for your phone. When will that be introduced ? 

Personally I believe that if the nano is being repositioned as something that extends your iPhone's functionality, it makes sense to introduce it the same day the new iPhone comes out. In the meantime all we can do is wait and speculate some more.

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AuthorJehuda Saar

I am not yet sure why I did this, but the second I heard that Chrome was available on the iTunes App Store, I went for it. I am almost exclusively a Safari user, but for some reason I felt the need to add Google's browser to my machines. I'll let you know when I figure out why that was so important, but in the meantime I did feel that the little ad Google prepared for this intro was worth watching. Enjoy.

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AuthorJehuda Saar
CategoriesiPad, iphone

 

In the past few days two products were introduced by Apple competitors that have made some noise: Samsung came out with the Galaxy S III, and Microsoft once again entered the hardware business with the Surface. While I will leave reviewing or giving opinions on these products to people who are much more adept at this sort of thing, there are two particular innovations I liked a lot, one for each of these products, that I wouldn't mind if Apple "adapted" into their product line. The obvious one is of course the Surface's Touch Cover. In essence this is equivalent to the iPad's Smart Cover, except it has a built-in keyboard. Clever little bit of engineering and something I would enjoy much more than typing on the iPad screen.

The Galaxy S III also has all sorts of cool techie bells and whistles, but one of the coolest innovations there are what they call TecTiles. These are little $3 stickers, embedded with circuits, that activate certain things on the phone whenever the phone is near one of them. Imagine sticking one in your car and having it turn your phone's Bluetooth on as soon as you sit in it. I could think of other location-specific actions I would have these stickers trigger on my phone throughout a regular day.

So, Apple, pay attention, and find a way to bring these sort of concepts into our iOS world. Call it something else if you want, we won't mind. So long as we get to take advantage of the tech, we don't care who came up with it first.

 

   

There had been so many rumors about the new retina display on the 3rd generation of iPads that I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that rather than present a line-up of iPads with 16, 32 and 64 GB, the new line-up would consist of 32, 64 and 128 GB units. Imagine my disappointment when I realized we would probably have to wait one more year for that change to take place. Let's face it: in order to take advantage of the retina display, owners of the new machines will want to watch 1080p video, they'll want apps that have higher resolutions than the current ones etc. All of that takes up a lot of space. I don't have enough room on my 1st generation iPad with 64 GB so how would things work out with the new one ?

Time will tell. Already we see that only a handful of apps were properly rewritten to take advantage of the new screen resolution. Even Instapaper, the app everyone expected would be ready on the day the new iPad came out, has not yet been released because of a last minute surprise from Apple. The Apple apps that were updated last week already show the bloat that accompanies the higher resolution, and in actuality some of the universal iPhone/iPad apps will carry the bloat over to the iPhone as well.

No doubt the reason for this decision by Apple has to do with the cost of flash memory. Chances are no 128 GB units could be produced to match the price of current 64 GB iPads. So the question is do I wait one more year before upgrading ?

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AuthorJehuda Saar
CategoriesiPad

There is an entire cottage industry growing up around the iOS eco-system. One such product category has to do with integrating the iPad into your home with as little fuss as possible. A new entry in that field is the LaunchPort. Check out the video for a quick overview of this system. While Steve Jobs would no doubt have approved of the clean and wire free look, most people will balk at the price tag: the PowerShuttle that snaps onto the iPad itself is $149 while the two docks on offer, the WallStation and the BaseStation, are $199 each. Not for everyone.

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AuthorJehuda Saar
iphoneinvite-255590.png

I am going to do something I never have before: make predictions about tomorrow's iPhone event. Judging by the invitation Apple sent out last week (appearing above) here are my own conclusions. First the obvious stuff: the Calendar icon shows Tuesday the 4th. Simple enough: the event takes place tomorrow, October 4th. The Clock icon shows 10 o'clock. No problem there either. The Maps icon shows the location which is inside the Apple campus. And finally the Phone icon shows a "1". This is where the confusion starts. We have heard so many rumours of two new iPhones coming out: an iPhone 5 and a "cheap(er)" model, maybe called the 4s. Case manufacturers have gone so far as to create cases using a brand new form factor that does not correspond to the iPhone 4 size, simply based on rumours and inuendos, and all so that they can be first to market with a product and hope to cash in that way. Quite a gamble if you ask me.

Personally I don't think we are going to see two models, and I have a feeling that the number 1 in the phone icon is exactly that: 1 model. Furthermore I believe that the form factor will be identical, externally at least, to the iPhone 4. There is really nothing wrong with that form factor. We can surmise that one or maybe both cameras will get an upgrade, most likely to 8 megapixels for the outward-facing camera. And chances are the processor will be the A5 dual core chip we know from the iPad 2. It is also possible that this new model will work on both GSM and CDMA networks. The fact that the event is taking place at Apple's campus also points, in my opinion, to the fact that this is not viewed by Apple as a "revolutionary" event but rather an evolutionary one. Hence my thought about the form factor again. And maybe low key enough that the name of the new product will actually not be the iPhone 5 but something like an iPhone 4S or 4GS.

But maybe most importantly we should read a lot into that little line of text at the bottom: Let's talk iPhone. It would appear that the biggest news about this particular new iPhone will be the Nuance technology built in. They might as well have written: Let's talk TO the iPhone. Rumours are rife with news of advanced tech built into the phone that might turn it into the first phone people talk to regularly. We had seen some of it a while ago when some other Nuance software was announced. But this time it looks as though Apple may have gone all out, and we might not be far from those images seen anywhere from  "2001 A Space Odyssey" to shows like "Star Trek", however for now we shouldn't expect our phone to talk back to us much...yet.

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AuthorJehuda Saar
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Two anouncements will surround the Jewish New Year: tomorrow morning, hours before the start of festivities, Amazon will anounce their new touchscreen media consuming iPad competitor believed to be called the Kindle Fire, and a couple of days after the holiday, Apple are set to anounce on October 4 what is expected to be the next iPhone, believed by some to be called the iPhone 5 and others the 4s (or will it be both ?). A great number of tech luminaries feel very strongly that if there ever was a company capable, and well enough positioned, to give Apple a run for its money, it is Amazon. And I tend to agree with that opinion. Both companies will have the hardware and the content, and in essence will control their entire eco-system, which is exactly what HP, RIM and countless other tablet manufacturers, be they android-based or otherwise, were not bringing to the table.

Our inclination would be to believe that Apple and Amazon are going to butt heads in this business. Interestingly enough their approaches are diametrically opposed. Of course both companies are looking to make this a succesful business, but each of them are looking to sell something else entirely. Amazon will in fact sell a tablet, but they are not looking to make money on the tablet. Amazon are in the business of selling content, of driving customers to their online store for stuff, be they bits or widgets. Their tablet(s) are just a means to an end. Apple, however, do sell content, but only as a means to sell more tablets. They offer the content as an enticement, to justify laying out the big bucks for the iPad, the iPod touch, the iPhone. I would not be surprised if at some point certain Kindle models are given out for free. As is, the current Kindle3 is sold at slightly over $100. Apple regularly offer free stuff on the iTunes store. Why not, if it means you'll be more eager to buy their hardware.

And so it is clear that things are about to get a lot more interesting in the world of Tech. Which leads me to wish us all a happy, sweet New Year.

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AuthorJehuda Saar

Take a couple of 2 year olds, give them each an iPad and let them play around with it. Before you know it you realise two things (1) Apple owns these kids for life and (2) when this current crop of 2 year olds grow up I am not sure we will even be able to communicate with them anymore given our old-fashioned ways of doing things, out thinking, our language and whatever else is bound to change over time as they grow up and acquire skills we can't even start to predict. Check out these two videos and let your imagination roam a little. You'll understand what I mean.

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AuthorJehuda Saar

A few weeks before the actual release of the iPad 2 these Scandinavian guys seem to have gotten their hands on a top secret prototype model. This is actually a very cute video with a lot of cool masking effects to achieve the desired result.

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AuthorJehuda Saar
 

OK, so this is all Apple will show us. We are to infer from this that on March 2 the iPad 2 is coming out. Nice use of the number 2, and that calendar page is strategically ripped so as NOT to show us that front facing camera we have all been waiting for (or have we ?).
Patience, my friends, patience. All will be revealed in due course.
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AuthorJehuda Saar
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As I posted earlier, the Angry Birds addiction is still quite prominent out there in the mobile world (as well as on less mobile equipment ever since the introduction of Apple's App Store on the Mac with its own version of that famous franchise's game). So last week we heard of an interesting development: another famous iOS game, apparently the "Top Paid App Of All Times", Doodle Jump, will get a Hollywood tie-in. Universal have announced that the main character of their movie Hop will feature in Doodle Jump as a promotional download. 

Now the makers of Angry Birds, Rovio, will release a version of the game set in Rio. Why Rio you ask ? 20th Century Fox will be releasing a movie by that name and some of the characters from that movie will appear in the game as well. Check out the trailer below for more on that.

This new trend of Hollywood-iOS tie ins is interesting. While for now it seems to center on "games to cartoons" connections, it would be interesting to see what other forms such tie-ins might take. Other than that, so long as we get new birds to fling at pigs, who are we to complain ?

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As we approach the end of the year it is appropriate to do a quick review of the best and worst tech that appeared in the market. But it's always best to leave such things to professionals. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal considers the iPad to have been THE product of 2010. Here are his views on the best and worst of 2010. (Give the ad at the beginning of the video a few seconds to run first).

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AuthorJehuda Saar

Back in May I reported on the expected Fall arrival of a cool product called the Clamcase. Like often happens with these sort of things, the product's introduction got delayed. In fact, in the meantime, the video that I had embedded in that long ago post has also been removed due to some copyright infringement. Instead a new one was posted which I am including here. It now appears this product will start shipping in January...just in time for the expected announcement of the iPad 2. Still, given how many iPads were sold to date, owners of the original iPad might be interested in sprucing up their tablets using what still appears to be a compelling product.

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AuthorJehuda Saar

I admit. I came late to this one. Simply because I am not big on computer games. This is something I have always wanted to get into, and yet very rarely would it happen. I would see people around me spend weeks on end with MYST or some shoot'm up engine, and though I would try to develop the right kind of enthusiasm for it, somehow it wound't stick. Over the years there were probably 3 or 4 games that I would stay with until I reached some level of proficiency, but overall it just wasn't my thing.

And then I installed Angry Birds HD on the iPad. The rest is a blur. It used to be that I would get very productive with work late at night. These days late at night is usually accompanied by the sound of birds crashing through wood or glass and pigs puffing away. 

Angry Birds is one of these phenomena whose success was probably a bigger surprise to the people who spawned it than to the public at large. I doubt the small Finnish company that came out with the game ever expected that they would sell 50 million copies of the game across pretty much every mobile platform available by the time the game marked its first birthday. And all this with a project that cost them $100,000 to develop. It just goes to show that sometimes less is more and that a well executed simple idea can often trump multimillion dollar sophistication without making too many waves.

The game has also managed to cross over into popular culture, with Angry Bird Halloween costumes, TV skits, and now Angry Bird cakes.

 

Of course Hollywood is never far behind when a story meets with such success. The people at Rovio have been very clever about that as well. First of all they have the in-game trailer which hints at potentially something more. 

And finally, lest anyone have any doubt about it, they produced this cinematic trailer which seems to intimate that the Angry Birds would one day grace the screens of our neighbourhood multiplex.

This too shall pass one day. But until then I will continue to feed this addiction with total abandon. Better let the birds be angry than me.

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AuthorJehuda Saar
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Ever since the introduction of the iPad a great number of people have been saying that it will change the face of education. The first time I saw that potential in person was with the introduction of Theodore Gray's The Elements ebook for iPad. Suddenly there was a way to literally manipulate the elements of the periodic table and learn all about them in a fun and exciting way.

A few months down the line and we finally start to see something even more exciting. One of the major school textbook companies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has launched a pilot project to teach Algebra to California high-school students on the iPad. Apparently 400 students will participate in the project, with one group using the app and a control group using a regular textbook.

They even produced a cool little video that both illustrates how this app would work, but personally I find it exciting because it fires up the imagination and you start realising that in a few years time schools will look very different to what we know today. Maybe our kids won't have to "shlep" such heavy bags full of textbooks to and from school anymore. Instead of "Take out your Ancient-Greek history book and turn to chapter 4", they will hear "Take out you pad and turn to location marker 1467". It will make perfect sense to them. Probably will sound like ancient Greek to us.

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AuthorJehuda Saar
CategoriesiPad
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