Apple is back with exciting new innovations at WWDC 2013

Apple’s giant annual developer conference, WWDC 2013, is currently in progress, but we have reached a point where I think we can officially say that Apple is back. Like keynotes from their glory days, this keynote was chock full of surprises and gasps that get you excited about what is coming in the Apple ecosystem.

Apple product updates announced at WWDC 2013

  1. Updated Mac OS called OS X Mavericks
  2. Updated MacBook Pro (with up to 12 hours battery life, that’s right, 12)
  3. Updated Mac Pro (that could probably power a space station)
  4. iWorks refresh (including browser-based versions that are compatible with IE, Chrome, on any computer)
  5. iOS 7 with an incredible new design
  6. iTunes Radio

Six might seem like a small number, but each of those updates (except for maybe the new base station) are huge updates that will completely change the Apple ecosystem going forward. I could write full articles about each of these updates, but in my excitement, I will keep it to posting the main front stage updates made in each case and just a brief sentence about what it is.

Mac OS X Mavericks


While this update isn’t a huge jump, there are many small things that will make using this operating system better than the last. Skeuomorphism, the act of creating an app that resembles its physical counterpart (like the calendar looks like a physical leather-bound calendar), seems to be dead in the new software released today. This gives an overall smoother and sleeker look.

Here are the new features that were discussed for Mac OS X Mavericks:

  1. Tabs for Finder: Instead of having multiple windows open for Finder, you can have tabs within one window which will make it easier to manage a lot of windows in Finder and dragging and dropping content between tabs. 
  2. Tags: Able to tag documents throughout the whole system, which will then show up in your Finder menu bar. Looks very useful for organizing all sorts of things.
  3. Apple Maps app: Hopefully a better iteration of Apple Maps, but with cool features like send directions to iPhone, the integration is making it much more compelling.
  4. New Calendar app: A bit sleeker than the older version. A few very cool features: when you type something into location (example given was Pizza), the app will search for local pizza areas and will let you choose the one you want. It then displays the information on a map within your appointment, and most impressively will also give you a time estimate for getting there. Much like Google Now, you have the option of being alerted if you have to leave in order to make it to an appointment on time. Unfortunately, I believe Apple Maps weaknesses might make this feature just OK. The app also gives you a weather estimate for your appointment.
  5. Safari: The new Safari design is similar to the iOS 7 redesign, which I’ll talk about later in this article. The overall appearance is sleek and simple. It shows bookmarks/reading lists on the left where you can actually browse the sites within the same window by clicking on a bookmark or reading list item, and also has integrated social networking like Twitter.
  6. iCloud Keychain: Allows iCloud to save your passwords and credit cards and sync them across all of your devices. Very powerful, and even allows you to generate absurd passwords that will be saved. A cool idea, but I see generating a password like “sra-av34-refav-323e” will be a problem when you are anywhere else than an Apple device. I suppose it would work with logging into iCloud first in a browser, but still annoying.
  7. Power saving features: Without going into detail, there are a ton of power saving features that seem to really optimize how your system runs. I think this will have a profound effect on future laptops, and should give better performance for the system as a whole.

I think this is a great incremental update that keeps things fresh in the Mac OS world. I will be happy to get it this Fall, and see how well things work across the new system and the new iOS.

MacBook Air


Although hardware looks the same, the new MacBook Air has been pushed a bit further while lowering the price. Both the 11 inch and 13 inch models see a significant jump in battery life with the 11 inch going from 5 hours to 9 hours, and the 13 inch going from 7 hours to 12 hours. That type of battery life is just incredible, and will certainly make owning a MacBook Air an even better experience.

In addition to battery life, both models are now based on the new Haswell chip from Intel which will give it more power while at the same time allowing that incredible battery life. The WiFi receiver also sees an update to 802.11ac which according to Apple, can increase WiFi connection speeds by up to 3x.

The price is reduced about $100 dollars per model.

Mac Pro


The Mac Pro is completely redesigned with a lot of power beneath the hood, in a smaller form. A notable feature is that the Mac Pro will support up to three 4K displays. The design itself is very sleek and small, and completely changes the look of the Mac Pro. I think power users will be very grateful for this update, with many quotes claiming to increase various areas of performance by 2-3x.



While we didn’t get to see the actual new iWork (it will be released later this year), we did get to see iWork on the web in iCloud. This worked very well, and looked to be almost desktop apps in the iCloud interface. What is incredible is that it works in Internet Explorer and Chrome, and will work on any system. This really broadens the scope for iWork, and makes sharing and displaying documents much easier.

Hopefully the redesigned apps themselves will also be nice, but for me it is just a huge relief that one is definitely on the way. It is way overdue, and sorely needed.

iOS 7


This update is to be quite honest, positively gorgeous. The interface is flat, sleek, and beautiful.

Here is a look at the notable new features of iOS 7:

  1. Control Center: Get quick access toggles for: brightness, airplane mode, Bluetooth, WiFi, screen lock, music controls, camera, location services, and even a flashlight toggle. This was sorely needed.
  2. Multitasking: True, full multitasking that will allow apps to update in the background, and a multitasking screen that is similar to the Palm Cards system. This allows you to see each screen for each app, and “flick” away apps you aren’t using any longer.
  3. Safari: Gorgeous new tab views, and a beautiful new design
  4. Airdrop to other iOS devices: Transfer data and photos from one device to the other using a network.  It uses a secure connection, and there won’t be any need to physically “bump” devices like Android.
  5. Camera: Live photo filters and a new Photos app to organize pictures. Photos organizes pictures into moments intelligently by a variety of metadata such as location and time. Moments zooms out to collections zooms out to years. Truly impressive view that categorizes your photos. Allows you to scrub through small thumbnails that will enlarge as you put your finger over the photo.
  6. Backgrounds with depth: This is truly a “wow” factor feature that basically gives you a depth of field behind your icons. As you move your device around, the image seems to be 3D and keeps it aligned with your eye sight. Gorgeous.
  7. iCloud photo sharing: Share your photos directly to iCloud, and can share streams where others can add their own photos (and videos) with their comments. Makes it incredibly easy to share and comment among friends and family using iCloud.
  8. Siri: New interface somewhat similar to Google Now. Siri now has a new voice, either male or female that actually sound like humans instead of a robot. Siri has more access to your device, and can do things like turn off Bluetooth, control brightness, and play last voicemail. New integrated services into Siri: Twitter, Wikipedia, Bing search results.
  9. iOS in the Car: New car integration that includes iOS displayed on the actual screen of your car. A complete voice powered system with Siri to completely control your phone and navigation. It looks incredible, but probably will depend on all the car partners they have deals with putting it in.
  10. App store: Automatic updates, you can see apps nearby to see what others are using.
  11. Music app: Artist images, and all purchased music viewable in your library. All movies and TV shows are also accessible through the music app though stored on iCloud. It’s very pretty, but not too revolutionary.
  12. FaceTime Audio: We can finally do audio-only FaceTime calls!
  13. Notification sync: If you clear a notification in one area, it will sync to all your other devices.
  14. Phone, FaceTime, and Message blocking: This feature is pretty self-explanatory.
  15. Activation lock: If a thief takes your phone and attempts to deactivate Find My iPhone or erase the phone, it will not be able to be reactivated without your iCloud name and password.

iOS7 will be available immediately for Developers as a beta version, but not available for consumers until this Fall.

Overall, I think they did an incredible job on this one. It definitely looks like Windows Phone and Android had a baby, but in a good way. It is a huge change from the old iOS, and I think that is just what Apple needed.

iTunes Radio


This new feature was much-anticipated, and is built right into the new Music app on iOS 7. What will this new feature do for you?

  1. Seems to have categories similar to Pandora (like “Summer Songs”)
  2. Create your own stations from various artists/genres/songs
  3. Can adapt your station by saying “Play more songs like this” or “Never play this song”
  4. Of course, the ability to buy a song directly from the iTunes Radio app

Revolutionary? Not so much. However, it is a cool feature that is built-in and integrated into Desktop/iOS and Apple TV. It is free with ads, and is ad-free with iTunes Match Subscriptions. Basically exactly like Pandora, with some better integration.

Overall impression of the keynote

I have seen lots of mixed comments on various articles and forums, but I think this was an absolute win for Apple. My reasons are this:

  • Apple released a bunch of new updates across a variety of platforms, and they clearly tried to innovate as best they could. Just showing that they are putting this much effort into this, and throwing what they can at it is encouraging, and I think it shows they won’t go down without a fight.
  • They really changed iOS. Sure, it may be a copy cat in a bunch of areas, but the biggest thing is that it is different. Apple haters have been complaining for a long time that iOS was old and not updated enough, and that things needed to change. Well, for better or worse, this is a change. Once we get our hands on it, we can really see how much it changes things.
  • Most everyone on the stage had a great presence, particularly Craig Federighi who is the Senior VP of Software. He was clearly very intelligent, had fun with the crowd, and really commanded attention and inspired confidence. I almost fell asleep when Tim Cook spoke, but other than that, it was great.

I think these updates put Apple back in the game. I don’t know at this point if they are back on top, but they have added some much wanted features, and completely redid their iOS system. At the very least, it shows that they are in for the rat race and they aren’t going to sit on the sides lines resting on their laurels.

Some people might think Tim Cook isn’t doing a good job, or that this isn’t the new direction Apple should take, or even that they’re copying other platforms… but who cares? They did what they had to do by changing something, and at the end of the day, they have the money and power to change things as they go along. This was the big first step, and hopefully the next ones will follow confidently.

Government cell phone monitoring shouldn’t come as a surprise

recording callsIn a recent announcement, it was shown that the National Security Association (NSA) has been “secretly” obtaining private information via Verizon Wireless. With permission through something known as “the blanket order,” Verizon has been handing over a variety of call-related data, such as call lengths, locations, and other unique identifiers.

As of yet, it’s stated that the calls themselves are not being recorded; the public is turning an angry eye toward both Verizon and the government for this invasion of privacy.

But is this really such a shock? How many of us read those fine-print contracts wireless providers require to be signed? Companies are legally allowed to do a number of questionable practices, data collection included.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and it seems as though the government is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. Ages, races, and other target demographics can be reached with the right info, and obtaining said facts is the first step in expanding political popularity. Other non-surprise factors include every political movie ever, which almost always host a widespread privacy invasion. Not to mention the ease in which spying can be done these days. There are practically invisible recording devices, and even lasers that can detect conversations by measuring window vibrations.

In this case, however, the victims of surveillance just happened to be the owners of the recording devices.

What’s Next?

While it’s likely Verizon will suffer some serious image backlash (like we needed another reason to hate the 4G-pushing giant), the information they’ve collected is already obtained. It’s also likely that the information collection will continue, whether or not the public is ok with it.

But what else can be released? Are there other networks doing the same recording and sharing practices? Are calls actually being recorded – stored and listed to for terrorist-like activity by some full-time operators? Or is this simply as “harmless” as it seems from the outside looking in?

While it’s unclear as to why the government wants to know why you made a 90-second call at Burger King May 4th, or how often you travel away from home on calls, the consensus remains that the compilation is mega creepy. A surprise, perhaps not, but a definite invasion of citizens’ privacy.

That just leads us to ask: what other data is the government collecting through our personal electronic devices?

A look at Gmail’s new inbox with automatic email sorting

Gmail LogoI recently enabled the New Gmail inbox, and I have to say that this new update has me scratching my head.

(To experience the new Gmail Inbox, you have to simply click on the gear icon in your top right window just above the chat and choose “Configure Inbox.” From here, you can choose from the variety of tabs that Google has given to you.)

I understand that Google is known for frequently updating its products, regardless of whether or not an update is really necessary. It has become something of a corporate culture, and perhaps serves to show people that they really are putting the work in to improve their products.

However, was this recent update just a minor adjustment or a useful update to how you use Gmail?

Introducing the new Gmail Inbox with categories


The way that the new Inbox is laid out is that instead of one Inbox that has the priority tags, there are multiple tabs on the top of your window. They are similar to tabs in a browser, and by clicking each one you access a different view of your inbox. The default ones that are selected are Primary, Social, and Promotions. If you would like, you also have the options to add Updates and Forums to your tabs as well.

Here are how Google defines each option:

  • Primary – Person-to-person conversations and messages that don’t appear in other tabs.
  • Social – Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, and other social websites.
  • Promotions – Deals, offers, and other marketing emails.
  • Updates – Personal, auto-generated emails including confirmations, receipts, bills and statements.
  • Forums – Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.

After you have chosen your tabs, you will notice that your email becomes all jumbled. Gmail automatically goes through all of your emails and places things where they “belong.” For example, anything that is an email generated from a forum comment will go into Forums, any recent email about a great deal will go in Promotions, etc. The idea here is that when you want to look for social emails, you go to social. When you want your updates such as bills and receipts then you go to Updates. I like the idea, and automatic sorting really makes using it literally effortless.

So what’s wrong with the new layout?

For me, I was immediately confused and a bit shocked to see that the “primary” option is exactly as it states. It is for emails that haven’t shown up in other tabs. What this meant took me a moment to process because I was so surprised and assumed it couldn’t be true. What this means is that there is no longer a unified inbox where you can go and just see ALL your email in one date sorted list. So if you don’t see it in primary, go to social. If it isn’t in there, try promotions, etc. This was immediately a deal breaker for me because this completely makes you rely on the automation process which would have to be flawless.

Is Google good enough to sort it out?

The answer to this is yes and no. Fortunately, Google is great at recognizing content in your emails (yes, that is creepy), but the built-in safety is that it will actually learn from you as you move your emails around. So for example, if you get an update in your Updates tab that you would prefer to be in your Social tab, you can simply drag them email onto the Social tab and Gmail will ask you if you would always like to do that for this sender. If you choose yes, then that senders email will go into the tab you chose.

The biggest problem I see with this is that it is essentially creating “rules” much like you would in Outlook or Apple mail. Yes they can be powerful, but not when they are the only choice across your whole email system. The fact is that a machine, although they have made incredible leaps and bounds, is not yet ready to determine exactly where I want my emails. Granted, the existence of one unified inbox that just shows you everything would be a great safety net that would make this whole experience much easier in my opinion.

Limited categorization options

I think the confusion and the difficulty now is that you can’t create your own tabs, and stuffing your email into these pre-created tabs is… well, hard. I immediately ran into questions that I just didn’t want to answer! Isn’t this forum response from a local club a social event? Is this marketing email also the address that sends me blog updates that I actually like to read? Is my second or third communication with a doctor, job, etc. considered an update or just in primary? They are technically updates to a situation right? All in all, it was just too confusing with too many questions that to be honest, I didn’t care to answer.

I don’t get seven thousand emails a day, a nice list of my emails with the occasional folder sorting would be fine for me. I know that for many people, that may not be the case.

New mobile apps

iOS appAnother huge problem I have with this system is the mobile Gmail app. Although I don’t have access to the Android version, the iOS version basically works so that you see each tab and have to tap into the side menu to switch between your tabs. That is two taps to switch between tabs, and I can see it being a huge pain to look through when you aren’t sure exactly where an email went. If the default was to see all your messages, then look at them in the tabs when you wanted, I would be ok with that. You would have a safe ground in some way.

Will it get better?

I have complete faith that Google will improve this system, and even just the added ability to create your own tabs will do wonders. Whether they put in one inbox that shows you everything, I’m not sure, but without it I won’t be using the new inbox. Google also has a reputation for quickly axing a change they made, and it just all of a sudden disappearing from your options. Perhaps this new tab system will go that way!

I think what it comes down to is: how complicated does your inbox need to be? For some people, simpler and straight forward is the way to go, and I think this new update pushes into complicated territory. For power users that love to organize, it may be a nice change, but for others it is a head scratching nuisance.

Google Keep: Note-taking from an Android’s perspective

Considering the sheer vastness of the Google Play marketplace, one can assume that there are countless apps that cover the realm of note-taking and to-do lists.  So it is not surprising that Google would try to architect a note/task app in their own fashion.  The result of this endeavor is Google Keep; an Android app that is a depository for ideas, notes, and to-do lists.

The app can be found (as expected) on the Google Play Store.  Here’s a breakdown of its inner-workings:

Google Keep


The main application menu at first appears like the picture on the left: empty.  The simplest way to add a note in Google Keep is by using the “quick note” option at the top.  Once the note is created, it will appear on the main menu.

Left to right: To-Do List, Photo, and Voice Note
Left to right: To-Do List, Photo, and Voice Note

Underneath the quick note option are the buttons for the four main note types in Google Keep: a simple note, a to-do task list, a voice-to-text note, and a picture caption note.  Each of them are self-explanatory by namesake, so the minor details regarding their operation shall be skipped.

Save those notes for later…
…or not.

As notes get composed, they will fill up the main menu screen.  Existing notes can be modified by tapping once to open them or by holding to select (they turn blue).  Once one or more notes are selected, one can choose to delete them, share them, or archive them for future reference.  Notes that are in the archived folder can return to the main screen by holding and selecting it again and hitting the archive button again in the top right.


If white seems a bit drab for a note color, do not fret; they can be colored to one’s liking.  Google Keep can also be placed as a widget on a home screen for quicker viewing and editing of notes.

The Google Drive Bit


Now colors are nice and all, but what else does Google Keep have to offer?  Well, very time a note is created, modified, or destroyed inside the Android app, it automatically syncs the changes with your Google account and placed them in Google Drive.  Because of this, notes can be accessed via a browser anytime from this web link here.  Likewise, if notes are modified while on the browser webpage, they are automatically updated when Google Keep is accessed again on Android.


Got a random thought or task that needs retention?  Let Google Keep help you with that.

Why Coding is the New Black

What job skill do you think will be most valuable by the year 2020? As it turns out, the world runs on code and as you can expect, coding will be a valuable skill set to have by then. In fact, so many companies and individuals are so optimistic about this that there are now a slew of startups on the Web dedicated to teaching you how to code.


If you are little way past grammar school, don’t lose hope because the Web can take care of this for your. You can either decide to take specialized education programs or teach yourself how to code using the hundreds of websites and resources available online, most of them at no cost.

Where Do You Start?

Learning HTML and CSS can be a good foundation to learning code. These also happen to be the building blocks of web design. You can start by learning the basic syntax and simple browser animations to get you up to speed.  One of my favorite websites is Codecademy which takes the classroom approach by giving you small quizzes along the way. The website comes with a progress monitor as well as a white board that allows you to make errors, correct and re-learn, effectively teaching you what works and what doesn’t.


If you are the sort who likes to watch as opposed to reading, there is still hope for you. Treehouse, a startup that offers instructional videos on coding and programming languages is a great place to get your feet wet. The website teaches you how to build websites, create iPhone and Android apps, code with PHP and even start a business: all using video. You get over 1,000 videos in the different areas of web technology, take quizzes and interactive code challenges, as well as earn badges as you monitor your progress along the way.

According to the co-founder of GonnaBe, a location-based app, “Understanding data at any scale requires a computer to run numbers, not a calculator. In today’s big data world, that means coding.” The CTO of Osurv Mobile Research, a smartphone survey company, echoes similar sentiments regarding big data by saying, “A new coder better understand what that means and how to handle it. Every company has access to a gold mine of consumer insight in the form of analytics, social networks, activity logs, etc. The challenge in managing that information is developing a process to extract high-value bits and act on the quickly.”

Learning the basics of coding is a skill set that can last a decade despite the complex and dynamic world of programming. Coding is the new literacy and will separate those who are tech literate and the tech illiterate. It can make you a better leader and business person and make you marketable in a more tech-oriented world.

If you can learn to code, do it. You won’t regret it.

Custom mobile apps made easy with MobileSmith

mobilesmith screensThe difference between those who want to make an app and those who have the skills to write the code for an app is huge – Facebook-numbers huge. And while anyone with a PayPal account can pay a developer to do the job for them, there’s far more efficient ways to create a custom app, such as app-making software. Taking half the time and less than half of the funds (assuming you can’t do it yourself), these programs allow virtually anyone to create their own custom mobile app.

All that’s needed is an idea and the willingness to turn it into something new, and users of all tech experience levels can be on their way to creating a unique program with MobileSmith’s Mobile App Smith software.

How it Works

Through the site’s platform, users take step-by-step instructions, which allow plenty of room for creativity, to create their app. This also includes helpful webinars that offer industry tips, such as what to include on each app page, or how to best streamline user clicks. Utilizing options like these up front can greatly increase the chances that an app will be selected by stores; apps that are created from scratch can often miss key guidelines. The site points these out along the way and offers suggestions to best overcome each potential hurdle.

When getting started, users can take a free strategy session for a better handle on their ideas, then work with MobileSmith professionals – including in-house designers who give each app a custom look – to create a functional, successful app. The site also includes code required by app stores, such as location identification abilities.

The Need

Within the mobile community, programs like MobileSmith allow all types of companies (or individuals) to create an interactive app. Without app creation software, the development, from scratch, is left to the engineers. This method is usually far more time consuming and much more costly. However, this middle ground helps level the field – still allowing for apps to be created while making the logistics far more efficient. App stores are also likely to jump on board as this expansion will bring them more traffic and platforms to offer users.

Whether a smartphone user or app developer (aspiring counts!), platforms like MobileSmith offer a great service to help cut out the middle steps. To create your own custom app today, head to their site and get started.

How to use iOS folders to keep your apps organized

apple folderWhen there are apps, apps, and more apps, keeping all of those programs organized and clutter free becomes increasingly difficult. Angry Birds intermingles next to voice memos, while Sound Hound and Pinterest become next-door neighbors. The rhyme and reason to mobile apps often only make sense to the person who put them there.

For the make-the-bed-every-day types, the thought of a cluttered device may even keep you from holding onto certain apps. If it hasn’t been used in the past month, it just may be ditched for something more cohesive. Others let the apps fall where they may, throwing all caution to any sort of mobile organization.

Why Folders?

No matter your thoughts on clutter, iOS folders can be a great way to clear up a device. Whether on an iPhone or iPad, these folders allow users to group similar items without taking up pages on the home screen. Group games, business apps, rewards systems, or any other category of apps. It’s a task that can be done in only a few seconds, while providing endless amounts of saved time and frustration.

Folders are also great for family devices, using a different section for each person’s apps. Create a folder for the whole family, one for mom, dad, and each respective child. This will cut back on searching time and allow everyone management access to their own apps. The use of folder organization can be more efficient than Users (especially for young children), allowing parents to monitor kids’ mobile steps and cutting out log in/out time.

Added Bonuses

For the organizationally challenged, folders allow apps to be quickly and easily navigated, no matter how many programs are downloaded to a single device. Just tap the folder and gain access to an underground layer of apps. It’s also a great storage space for those icons Apple won’t let you delete, like Passbook or Stocks. Just file them under “Stuff I Never Use,” and hide all the icons you’ve yet to open in a single slot.

To folder or not to folder – it’s a question many Apple enthusiasts ask themselves daily. But whether you’re the proud owner of 5 apps or 50, iOS’s folders are a great way to keep them in easy access form, no matter your location. After all, you never know when Tweets need updated or when an impromptu game of Fruit Ninja may be a necessity. To be ready for anything, with any app, consider the use of folders for your Apple device.

Apple’s extreme secrecy: They’re shooting themselves in the foot

apple-glassApple has been well known in the last decade for being able to create an absolute frenzy leading up to a release of a new phone/iDevice. What began as a handful of excited rumors on tech blogs a month or so before a launch became internet wide speculation just a few weeks after the newest device was released. Their PR and marketing team is clearly top notch, and they have been largely successful at creating the demand before their products are ever released.

However, in this post-Jobs era, is their traditional model of tight lipped secrecy and slow drip release schedules really paying off?

Why the secrecy?

As anyone knows, a tech company can’t exactly go around describing what they are building piece by piece. Their R&D teams work very hard to develop new processes, new designs, and new hardware/software relationships that will “wow” the user. Apple is no different, but what is significantly different about them is their secrecy and their release schedule.

How secrecy played a role

One of the things that made this approach so unbelievably successful was the cult-like secrecy that Apple is known for. This created an atmosphere that the new iPhone would be so incredible that an employee would literally be fired on the spot for speaking just one word about it. It gave Apple products the air of being a “forbidden fruit” and that on the day Apple chose, we would all be exposed to this incredible new advancement of technology.

Is this secrecy still necessary?

We all know that most tech companies have a pipeline of new products for a year or two in advance. It would certainly be suicide for Apple to start describing it’s iPhone 6 before a 5S is even out, but is leaking absolutely nothing still working?

Steve Jobs was notorious for not saying a thing about an upcoming product, except that it will be incredible. For the years that Apple was experiencing a meteoric rise, this was acceptable and even played to create the hype around the phone.

These days, I’m not so sure that this is working. In other companies such as Google or Samsung, you see what they are working on, many of their top employees are excited to discuss it, and you want to share in that enthusiasm. The Apple secrecy has made them impersonal, makes them seem more shut off and like prodigy egoist that don’t want to speak of things the public won’t understand.

How release schedules have built Apple

Using regular releases to create anticipation

One of the best marketing tools Apple ever created was the regular yearly release schedule. With their iPods, iPhones, and iPads, they initially followed a predictable pattern of release dates that kept consumers on their toes. Always knowing that a new phone would be coming out in a year had consumers constantly looking for the “next big thing” and it also gave them confidence that they could wait a year for the next device and have a good phone to upgrade to. What this created was a feeling of newness and more importantly, a feeling of reliability.

Year in and year out, you could count on iPhone releases being in the middle of the year around June or July, and you could get yourself excited and feel months of anticipation building up. The new phone would come out, it would be an improvement over the last, you can use your upgrade and know when the next iPhone will come out for you to replace your current one. Life was good.

Why have these methods broken down?

It’s kind of strange to look back on the beginning success years of the iPhone and think that now, some of the ways that Apple made it so popular are what is actually causing them the biggest problems now. While secrecy and a release schedules kept customers excited and looking forward to their products, it doesn’t exactly have the same effects as it used to. Why is that?


Probably the biggest reason why Apple can no longer afford to release one phone a year and hope people worship it is because there are too many other competitors that have finally caught up, and in some cases surpassed, the quality and experience that Apple provides.

If you remember the first days of the iPhone, or should I say the first years of the iPhone, competition was positively laughable. I remember the rumors while I worked at the Apple store, every other month was “XYZ phone company is coming out with a new touch screen phone to challenge the iPhone!” Every new one was supposed to be an “iPhone Killer.” I was always curious what the competition would bring, so I would go play with the phones when they were released… and I would walk out of Verizon or AT&T shaking my head. The touchscreen, the most basic thing about the phone that  needed to work flawlessly, was laggy, slow, and unusable. Regardless of software or a device/company ecosystem, if every time you tapped the screen it registered 50% of your taps and slowly at that, the phone was doomed from the beginning.

Obviously, this is not the case anymore. Plenty of companies have caught up technologically, and they are starting to out produce and more importantly, out-innovate Apple. Companies like Samsung have begun trying futuristic technology like motion control, IR Remote, and screens that quite frankly shame the “Retina Display.” Even from a design standpoint, the HTC One has challenged Apple in the area they have been known as the undisputed king. I want that phone, I want it because it’s gorgeous. Apple used to be the only company that could provide that.

Release schedules are now tearing them down

The past release schedule gimmick is unfortunately not cutting it anymore. I believe this happened for a few reasons, mainly:

  • Competitors are just releasing more phones at many price points and flooding the smartphone market
  • The release schedule creates anticipation and expectation, and it is only successful if you meet expectations
  • Apple has stopped being reliable with their release schedule. The last few years it was pushed back to the Fall

Let’s take a long at these things individually:


With other companies releasing phone after phone, Apple just can’t stand to release one phone a year (let alone one every 1.5 years). This has been a long contested point about what Apple is as a company, and whether it’s model makes sense, but the pressure is much higher than it ever was.

What Apple created was a premium market, a high-end smartphone that delivered on everything that you can want, and it was way ahead of its time. However, now that there are so many other options, and the “smartphone” is the normal phone that people buy, Apple is just drowning in the offerings. It still has the power to bust through, but it needs….


If anyone is looking forward to Apple’s products, it’s me. I worked there for two years, I am part of an Apple family that has had Macs since I was 10. However, the iPhone 5 release was immensely boring and disappointing to me, and it was the last straw to push me to look at all the alternatives and switch back to Android. That’s scary, because I want to like Apple products, I really do. It’s just that they haven’t been pushing the envelope. They released incremental updates 2 years in a row, and that is just too long in the tech world. While in and of itself, this isn’t necessary the problem, what really combines with it and creates a perfect storm is the…

Release Schedule

As a marketing tool, this has been incredibly successful and created demand and anticipation any other company would kill for. However, with that comes the pressure and responsibility of the company to meet that demand and excitementWhen I worked at Apple, one of the most common mantras was “under promise, over deliver.” Ironically, what their marketing and image has done in recent years is “over promise, under deliver.” To be fairs, rumors for iPhone generally range from better screen to cooks you breakfast in the morning, but until the 4s/5, they were able to meet or exceed expectations. Right now, they just aren’t producing the products that live up to the hype.

What really sapped me of hope was the break of their generally reliable model of: Major update -> Incremental update -> Major update. For example, iPhone 3G -> iPhone 3GS -> iPhone 4 -> iPhone 4S. It was a good model, two years to create incredible advances, and one year to incrementally improve on was was usually the best phone out there. However with the iPhone 5, it seems like a second incremental increase to the iPhone 4. There was nothing groundbreaking, nothing surprising, nothing unexpected. The “one more thing” died with the iPhone 5.

Additionally, they have been taking longer to release the phones. With the release schedule very uncertain at this point, people are genuinely trying to guess Summer or Fall. This injects uncertainty in an already frustrated fan base, and I believe it pushes customers to jump ship to competitors offerings. At this point, would you rather wait around for a potentially disappointing incremental upgrade that might make you wait until Fall anyway, or would you rather take advantage of the newest and most innovative smartphones coming from the Android market?

Final thoughts

The hazy cloud that surrounds controversies like this is the question of: is this all because Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm? I won’t discuss this here, but I do have to say, since he has left, that little extra something that Apple throws to its loyal fans seems to have disappeared with him. Whether the innovation and “over deliver” will return any time soon is up for debate. The problem with the model Apple has built is that it has become it’s own enemy. The slow release date created their image of “exclusive, premium, ground breaking” products. However, now they aren’t the only ones, and if they speed up releases they could anger customers and lose their special feel (see the 4th generation iPad).

Apple has to change something, and I would bet on tightening up their release schedule again, under promising while over delivering, and packing every piece of technology they can into a phone. Back to the basics, but without the cockiness and air that nobody else can come close. They can’t afford to smugly wait a year to release new technologies anymore, they have to attack because they are no longer in the position to just defend.

Image credit: Marco Paköeningrat

Updates from Google I/O – What is New on Google Play and Chrome

 900M Androids

Once again, the Google I/O event was an opportunity for Google to showcase what magic and innovation they have been cooking up in their labs. This year, they did not disappoint and came through as usual. Here is my take on what I loved about the new developer tools.

900 million Androids activations as of 2013 was probably the big opening news during the event. The android ecosystem is truly amazing and continues to grow. Another notable addition was Cloud Save when gaming which allows you to pause a game and continue playing on other devices.

 Google Play

I0 Public View

 Optimization was also a big deal during the event. Google now offers optimization tips to help you see where you can improve your apps. This includes giving you such services like App Translation Services and tablet usage to help you determine where your users are coming from and how you can make their experiences better.

Referral tracking is another new feature to help you determine which ads are most effective. By showing which channels are bringing you most traffic, usage metrics will also be available together in the same place without having to navigate to Google Analytics.

Revenue Graphs now allow you to see revenue streams at your fingertips down to specific countries and time. Beta Testing & Staged Rollouts were also introduced to help you manage app rollouts.



Chrome was created to make the Web a better place. Google announced that the Chrome user growth has now reached 750 million active users. With most of this increasing new growth is coming from mobile, Google showcased a demo of Web GL which comes to Chrome that was not available just last year.

The browser is a means and not an end in itself, and Google seems to be concentrating on bringing Chrome capabilities to mobile by increasing JavaScript speeds. The introduction of WebP image format was also showcased with an animated GIF of a cat.

Video formats encoded in H.264 and VP9 were also showcased, with the later being 69 percent smaller which would translate to less bandwidth costs. To enable adoption of these new technologies, Google introduced data compression on Chrome for Mobile to enable web pages load faster. It was also announced that YouTube will soon be offering support for the new VP9 video format.

Autocomplete for checkout has also been simplified to make shopping on mobile phones much easier. One you do an initial checkup, Chrome saves up all of your info. The next time you come to fill out the checkout form, it is automatically populated saving time.

You can also build your own HTML tags with the introduction of web components which is where Google wants to take web development.

A nice demo of a game using Web sockets to keep different devices synchronized during gameplay was also showcased.

The rise of personal assistant apps

Google Now Personal Assistant
Google Now Personal Assistant

Mobile personal assistants like Siri and Google Now have changed the capabilities of our mobile devices.  They have allowed us to experience the web in a new way by simplifying how we organize our contacts, meetings, travel and even personal information. While these two assistants are probably the most popular, they are not the only ones that offer the service. A new breed of personal assistants is on the rise.

If you are looking for alternatives to Siri or Google Now, you will be spoiled with options. As mobile apps get better at pulling our personal information and analyzing it, they are able to let us quickly and efficiently locate what we need, and even predict our next steps.

Innovative new personal assistant apps

2013-05-09_09h52_52One of these recently launched apps is Osito (formerly known as Sherpa), created by Bill Ferrell, a former Google Adwords product manager. The app brings a new approach to “predictive assistance” by anticipating your next step and pushing that information to you. Osito is able to pop up tasks from your calendar based on your location. It will, for example, bring up hotel reservation information as soon as your flight has landed as opposed to digging for that information when in a taxi. If it is expected to rain soon, Osito will bring up that information 15 minutes before it starts raining, letting you make the necessary choices before you are caught unawares.

A wild Siri clone appears!

We are also seeing a number of Siri clones appearing on mobile devices. The Optimus series smartphones from LG, for example, now sports the LG Q Voice (formerly Quick Voice), which is an intelligent voice recognition software. Aisha is another voice recognition app which helps to query your contacts and make calls, send messages and know the nearest pizza outlet among other details. BlackBerry users also have their own personal assistant by the name of Vlingo, which is also available on iOS devices as well as on certain Android phones.

Some personal assistants can be quite interesting and offer unique interactions. Iris for Android, for example, allows your phone to talk to you on topics ranging from stock prices to music. Skyvi, on the other hand, is able to pull information about local businesses and even tell jokes. Have you ever wanted to access Facebook and Twitter via voice? Skyvi now allows you to do that. Voice Answer is a robot that answers detailed questions and can assist in many tasks.

Even Windows desktop users have also not been left out. Mitini is a voice over control app, similar to Siri, that runs on the platform.

Donna is another personal assistant that is basically designed to help you get where you need to be. It estimates the time and distance to get to your destinations, taking into account transportation methods like walking or driving and other stuff such as parking and getting to the building. Over time, it gathers your personal habits such as your favorite places to snack. It will even dial straight into conference calls or Skype if you are scheduled for an online meeting.


We are seeing more personal assistant apps coming out nearly every day. When one app doesn’t work for you, you now have a list of options to choose from.  Since its difficult to make an app that fits the lifestyle of everyone, we can expect to see personal assistant apps to start coming up for different niches and lifestyles.

Are you using a personal assistant app? Which is your favorite?

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