I’ve been running with my iPhone for the past few years, almost solely using the Runkeeper app (free). The app records a lot of useful data (distance, pace, location), but until recently it didn’t record heart rate. That’s why I was glad to see Runkeeper had partnered with Wahoo Fitness to offer the Wahoo Fitness Run Pack ($129), which is really just a repackaged Garmin Heart Rate Monitor Belt and Fisica Sensor Key. The combo is currently the only iPhone-compatible heart-rate monitor solution for athletes available. I’ve been testing the kit out the past two months during training for the Chicago Marathon and below are my thoughts on the product.
Art of the iPhone
Apple today at its Worldwide Developers Conference detailed features for its upcoming iOS5 software update and a new iCloud service that delivers wireless synching of data for Apple devices. iOS5 and iCloud will be available this fall.
A detailed list of announced features is below:
- Improved iOS notifications. Notifications (alerts) will appear now briefly in a box at the top of the screen before disappearing.
- Notification Center. Notifications no longer permanently disappear. Users can access a list of their alerts in the Notifications Center by swiping down on the screen.
- Newstand app. Newstand is a new app where you can access all your subscription content like newspapers and magazines. New issues are automatically downloaded in the background when they become available. Content can then be read offline.
- Twitter integration systemwide. You no longer have to use separate apps to sign in to Twitter. Instead, you can enter your Twitter info in the iPhone’s settings, then create tweets from apps like Camera, Photos, articles from Safari, etc. You can also add Twitter handles to contacts.
- Tabs added to Safari browser.
- New Reader view in Safari. Reader view will strip away ads and extraneous formatting for an easy-to-read view of content.
- New Reading List feature saves articles from the web to read later.
- iPhone now quicker to take a photo. Camera app launches faster, and it’s much quicker to take a photo.
- Button on iPhone’s lock screen can be tapped to quickly launch the Camera app. No need to unlock the iPhone first.
- Volume button now can be used to take a photo (as a shutter button).
- You can now set and lock exposure settings and focus for taking photos.
- Edit photos on the iPhone. Crop, rotate, fix red-eye, and one-tap enhancement of photos.
- Camera now has pinch to digitally zoom-in. Replaces the tedious process of tapping the screen and using a zoom slider.
- New features for Mail app. Drag email addresses to different fields. Rich text formatting. Flag email messages. S/MIME security.
- New “thumbs friendly” iPad keyboard feature.. Keyboard separates into two sections on the side of the screen, makes it easier to type with your thumbs.
- Systemwide dictionary. Select word, tap Define, and you’ll get a great looking definition pop-up.
- Computer no longer required to activate and use an iPhone. Through new features like over-the-air updating, Apple is allowing you to cut the cord and use the iPhone without owning a computer. No prompt to plug in the iPhone to iTunes out of the box. Instead it simply says welcome.
- Over-the-air software updates. iOS software updates will be “Delta Updates,” meaning they will be smaller updates for only what’s changed, instead of one huge replacement of the current operating system.
- Create & delete calendars right from iOS. Previously you couldn’t.
- GameCenter gets new features. See game scores of your friends’ friends. Friend recommendations. Game recommendations. Download games from within GameCenter app.
- New messaging service and app called iMessages. A new text messaging service for all iOS customers. Send messages between iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. The phone carriers won’t be happy about this one.
- Introducing iCloud. An online service that stores your content in the cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. Automatically uploads content, stores it, and pushes it to all your devices. Changes to your calendars, mail, and contacts pushed to all devices. App Store purchases pushed to all your devices. Pushes iBook content and page position to all devices. Documents and changes to documents can be pushed to all devices.
- iCloud is free.
- 5 GB of storage for mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data. Purchased music, apps, books, and Photo Stream photos do not count against your free storage.
- Daily device backups to iCloud over WiFi for your purchased music, apps, books, photos, videos, device settings, and app data.
- New Photo Stream feature pushes new photos to all your devices. Photo Stream will be built into iOS apps, Mac apps, and the Apple TV. Compatible with the Photos folder on a Windows PC. A new Photo Stream album inside the Photos app is a rolling collection of your last 1000 photos. iCloud stores new photos for 30 days so you’ll have time to connect to Wi-Fi and sync your most recent photos.
- iTunes in the cloud lets you download music purchases to all devices at no extra cost. From now on, new song purchases can be automatically pushed to all devices for free.
- New iTunes Match service will let you stream non-iTunes-purchased music from iCloud to your devices for $24.99 a year. iTunes will scan your music collection, and if it can match the songs with the 18 millions songs in the iTunes Store, it will allow you to stream it. The music will play back at 256-Kbps quality, even if the original copy was of lower quality. Regardless of how many songs you have, iTunes Match will cost the same ($24.99).
Apple today released new versions of its iWork suite of iOS apps, Numbers, Pages, and Keynote, which made them universal apps compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch in addition to the iPad. Each app costs $9.99.
The new apps will work on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad, and iPad 2. Sorry, iPhone 3G users, you’re out of luck.
The apps can import and export documents from Microsoft Office and iWork for Mac. Coupled with Apple’s wireless keyboard, the new apps should help improve the iPhone’s usefulness for basic office document-editing tasks.
Apple today announced they will be revealing iOS 5, the next generation of software for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, along with iCloud, Apple’s upcoming cloud service, The new software will be announced on Monday, June 6, at 10:00 am PT during the keynote of its Worldwide Developers Conference. CEO Steve Jobs will deliver the keynote and will be joined onstage by a team of Apple executives. Apple will also introduce Lion, the next version of its OSX software for Macs.
Apple’s press release serves as the first official confirmation of iCloud, a service that is rumored to let users stream their iTunes music library from a server without having to upload each song. Instead, Apple will scan user’s iTunes library to confirm ownership of music, then allow for high-quality streaming of that music. The lack of the need to upload gigabytes of music to online “lockers” is what will differentiate iCloud from similar announced services, Amazon’s Cloud Player and Google’s Music Beta.
One rumored feature of Apple’s iOS 5 is a new deeply integrated voice command interface that stems from Apple’s acquisition last year of Siri, a voice-commanded personal assistant service (and awesome iPhone app). The new interface could allow users to launch and close apps and input text inside of apps without the need for use of the touchscreen.
Other rumored features for iOS 5 include a redesigned notifications system and widgets, according to sources speaking to Techcrunch.
The announcement of iOS 5 at this time of year seems to confirm that the next iPhone will arrive in the fall. Apple has previously announced the next-generation of iPhone software several months before the release of new iPhone hardware in order to give developers time to plan for and get acquainted with the new OS. For example, iOS4 was announced in April 2010, with the iPhone 4 arriving a few months later on June 24, 2010.
With the New York Times recently putting up a pay wall, it’s good to see another major metropolitan newspaper arrive on scene offering free access. The Los Angeles Times iPad app (free) is now available in the App Store. You only have to register with a username and password to get full access.
The app offers an impressive amount of content for free. It divides things up into 11 sections, displaying a default Top Stories page along with Sports, Business, Entertainment, Opinion, Entertainment, and more. Of course, the news coverage is biased on the Southern California area, which means lots of Lakers, Dodgers, etc. But also good coverage of Hollywood, if entertainment news is your thing.
The interface of the app is somewhat clunky to browse, and the visual style seems a bit generic, but in line with other iPad newspapers, but once you dig down into the individual articles, the text is highly readable, with a minimalistic full-screen reading format.
The app’s features include one-tap saving for offline reading, sharing of articles via Facebook, and adjustable font sizes. The app is free for now, and the description makes no mention of establishing a pay wall in the future. Take that, New York Times!
Samsung may be providing a higher resolution screen for the next iPad (the iPad 3), according to clues from a recent display conference and a report from South Korea of a visit by Apple COO Tim Cook.
Samsung Announces 2,560 x 1,600 Resolution LCD Tablet Screen
This week at the SID 2011 conference in Los Angeles, Samsung introduced a new 10.1-inch LCD tablet screen with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, which more than doubles that of the current iPad’s 1024×768 display. The pixel density of Samsung’s screen is 300 ppi (the iPad 2’s density is 132 ppi, iPhone 4 is 326 ppi), which should be enough to qualify it for Apple’s Retina Display label.
Samsung’s new LCD screen uses their PenTile RGBW technology, which Samsung says cuts power consumption in half while providing equivalent brightness. Pentile screens also make it easier on the eye to read text. Samsung claims Pentile screens will increase cost savings potential for manufacturers while also increasing yield.
Meanwhile this week, the manufacturer of the current iPad 2 screen, LG, also introduced a new 10.1-inch LCD tablet panel at SSI, but the screen has a mere pixel density of 150 ppi, less than half of Samsung’s LCD.
It should be noted that Samsung and LG’s tablet screens are 10.1 inches, while the current iPad’s screen is 9.7 inches.
Apple’s Tim Cook Discussing AMOLED Screens in South Korea?
An article from The Korea Herald places Apple COO Tim Cook at Samsung’s South Korea headquarters, reportedly discussing Apple’s adoption of Samsung’s AMOLED screens for the next version of the iPad. The use of AMOLED screens would be a big move away from Apple’s heavy reliance of LCD IPS screens for their iPhone, iPad, and iMacs. AMOLED screens are currently limited to use in smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S.
The article cites AMOLED’s brighter screens, less sunlight reflection, and reduced power consumption as reasons behind Apple’s interest. The report makes no mention of Samsung’s new high-res LCD panels, which seem to make more sense, to us anyways, for inclusion in Apple products.
A possible future upswing in the price of LCD screens is also cited as a motivator for an Apple switch to AMOLED.
The next iPhone is not going to be a 4G device, but the one after could be. AT&T Wireless today announced plans to deploy 4G LTE networks in 5 select markets this summer, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and San Antonio, followed by “10 or more” to be finished by the end of 2011. The LTE network rollout will cover over 70 million customers in the US.
In concert with the introduction of its LTE networks, AT&T will add 20 4G devices to its mobile portfolio, but clarified that only some of those will be LTE-compatible devices. These “4G” non-LTE devices are likely phones compatible with AT&T’s current HSPA+ network.
Recent lab tests of AT&T’s LTE network in Plano, Texas, displayed downloads speeds of up to 28.87 Mbps, almost double what Verizon currently advertises for its LTE network. However, speeds in real-life usage will likely be substantially less when multiple phones share a network connection. An AT&T spokesperson noted that the company hasn’t officially announced expected speeds for its LTE networks and that the tests in Plano weren’t on a production network.
In a post today on AT&T’s site, CTO John Donovan noted that AT&T planned to spend $19 billion in 2011 on its wireline networks and other capital projects. Donovan claims that, due to recent upgrades, AT&T has increased its network speed by over 40 percent the past two years.
AT&T will be playing catch-up to its main rival Verizon Wireless, who already has a robust 4G LTE network in 38 markets and 60 major airports around the country. Verizon’s LTE network currently covers approximately 120 million people in the US, and the company plans to have its current 3G network map covered with 4G LTE by the end of 2013.
So what does this mean toward the likelihood of a 4G LTE iPhone? Most see it as an initial step, with the next being the refinement of LTE hardware for mobile phones. When asked about the early crop of 4G LTE phones during an April 2011 earnings conference call, Apple COO Tim Cook responded:
….I think you can see this in the [LTE phones] that have been shipped, is that the first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those, we are just not willing to make.
The “design compromises” likely involve battery life. For example, SlashGear recently reviewed the LTE-compatible HTC Thunderbolt phone and found that, when connected to an LTE network, the battery lasted just 3 hours under full use.
1. Google Search
Google Search is Google’s official iPhone search app that adds some useful iPhone twists to the standard Google search. Chief among them is voice search, which allows you to speak into the app, and Google will turn it into a text search. It’s surprisingly accurate. I use it situations where typing is impractical, like while walking down the sidewalk.
Slacker Radio has introduced a new $10-a-month Premium Radio service that puts it in the à la carte subscription music business alongside longtime players Rhapsody, Napster, and MOG. Subscribers can access specific tracks and albums and create playlists of their favorites for on-demand playback on the iPhone and iPad.
Previously, Slacker Radio only offered streaming radio stations, competing with the likes of the popular Pandora. Slacker still maintains a $3.99/month plan for streaming radio ad-free as well as a free service with ads (available in its updated app).
The $10-a-month all-you-can eat music plan is a standard in the industry, with all major players with an iPhone app offering pretty much the same terms, including storing of tracks on the iPhone for offline playback. A list of all à la carte subscription music services with iPhone apps is below—all offer a free trial period if you want to try them out.
Also see our Roundup: iPhone Music Subscription Apps article for more details.
The updated versions of the Sports Illustrated, Time, and Fortune iPad apps now allow print subscribers to access digital versions of the issues inside the apps at no extra cost. The 3 magazines join Time’s People magazine in offering free access.
It’s unclear if Time’s move means that Apple has altered its previously stated terms for subscriptions, which the company announced just a few months ago. In the press release announcing App Store subscriptions, Steve Jobs outlined those terms:
Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.
Time’s offering free access without selling subscriptions in the App Store seems to clash with those terms.
Apple has given publishers until June 30, 2011, to comply with subscription terms.
An article by the Wall Street Journal today seems to support that Time Inc’s move does not quite mean there has been a new agreement between publishers and Apple:
Time Inc. and other major publishers have yet to agree with Apple on terms for selling subscriptions to their iPad editions, the next step beyond making them available to existing print subscribers. Talks are hung up on Apple’s resistance to sharing information with publishers about their iPad customers, which publishers say is critical to applying the “TV everywhere” model to magazines.
Apple has yet to comment.