Saturday, April 24, 2010

The New iPod touches with cameras show up on eBay

Well looky what we have here. Someone has put up two semi-working iPod touches WITH cameras and a development version of the iPod OS on Ebay. They are marked with ‘DVT-1′ and ’DVT-2′, ‘Apple Development Team’ and one is running some sort of ’switchboard’ OS window.

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[via 9to5mac]


Will iPhone iChat Finally Break the Voice Calling Scam?

Will iPhone iChat Finally Break the Voice  Calling Scam?A front-facing iPhone camera means video calling, but it’s also a sign of something bigger. Combined with other recent leaks, it means that Apple is bringing iChat to the iPhone. Everything about voice calling may be about to change.

iChat, You Chat

So, how does the appearance of a front-facing camera change standard voice calling? Let’s connect the dots:

• Front-facing camera means video calling
• Leaks suggest video calling is part of overall iChat
• iChat software and new VOIP provisions in OS means voice chat, too (maybe even for older iPhones)
• iChat branding, arrival of iPad and new OS multitasking all suggest compatibility with desktop app and standard buddy lists
• iPhone-to-desktop compatibility means everybody talks to everybody, no special plans needed

As I’ve said before, voice calling and SMS are both just part of the data stream, and don’t deserve special treatment. Now, when there’s a well-designed unified iChat client presenting an alternative to traditional calling and messaging, those old systems will become inconveniences. If Apple manages to do this right, and that’s still a big if, they will finally provide a more human way to communicate: Pick a person, and reach out. The “how”—whether you use text, voice or video—should be of less importance than the “who.”

Why Is Video Chat So Hard?

Make no mistake, this is about software, not hardware. There have been front-facing cameras on 3G-capable phones for ages, and many a carrier has attempted to market video streaming—for a price. But if you recall AT&T had real-time Video Share, but it was only one-way, only worked with AT&T, and even then, required special phones and plans. In Europe, where two-way video calling was tried more broadly, many have already written it off on phones as a disappointment and a flop. The hardware is here, the network, in many respects, is here, but the smart way to bring it all together and make it work—that’s what’s been missing.

It’s easy to say why individual initiatives don’t work: Even text messaging didn’t take off when people couldn’t send messages to people on other carriers. One-way video is creepy, violating the unspoken agreement that if you get to see me, I need to see you too. And of course, video chat on computers, via strong broadband connections, can still be awful, so how do you guarantee vid quality on a network that can’t even guarantee that calls won’t drop?

Carriers and handset makers have up till now blamed high prices and lack of marketing support, though one Nokia exec mentioned that the whole pointing-a-phone-at-your-head-and-talking thing was awkward, and not very “flattering.”

Apple has to face all of these obstacles as it takes its turn at bat, even if it is a company known for succeeding where others have failed, especially where human-friendly software engineering and design are concerned. But my guess is that they’re not in this for the cellphone-based video chat.

Video Chat Is Just The Gateway

On the Mac, video chat is just one dish on the iChat menu, a menu that also contains instant text messages and voice chatting. (There’s even screen sharing and other frills that may end up on a phone or pad near you.) I contend that while video chat is a neat thing to do, at least once, the existence of a front-facing camera suggests this whole lineup of features.

Will iPhone iChat Finally Break the Voice  Calling Scam?

If we can grab our phones, pull up the buddy list we see on our computers, and engage in a video call, then why wouldn’t we also be able to do a quick text chat? And if we can do both of those things, what’s to stop us from just doing voice calling? And if I can voice call all my buddies—be they on their computers, on their iPads or on their phones—from my phone using an iChat client, I may never make a regular real phone call again.

It may sound like a fantasy, but Apple has already laid the groundwork for third parties to make this stuff happen, so why shouldn’t they put it in their own flagship mobile iChat app?

If Apple Doesn’t Do It, Skype Will

During the iPhone OS 4 unveiling, Steve Jobs made room for a Skype demo showing how the VOIP service could work in the background, receiving calls while you did other things on your phone (or, ostensibly, your iPad). Not only does this tell me that Skype is busy devising dramatic uses for iPhones that will completely workaround AT&T’s voice calling, it also tells me that Apple condones it to the point of promoting it early and often. And speaking of AT&T, the carrier already allows VOIP over 3G. While that can currently be found in primitive form through Skype using Fring, it it really means that a new Skype iPhone client will not only run in the background of your iPhone, but will run regardless of what network you’re on.

We’re already excited about this, so what about that camera? Will Apple give Skype access to the camera? My sense is that it will either be tied exclusively to a very powerful iChat client, or it will be offered freely to developers. Apple wouldn’t go to all the trouble to put a second camera in if they didn’t think the thing would get mileage.

Let’s face it, iChat may not be the perfect multi-protocol messaging app for the Mac, so there’s a good chance it won’t do amazing things for the iPhone. But if there’s a healthy coop-etition between Apple’s own development and the best developers in the desktop space—not just Skype and Fring but Adium and Cerulean and Meebo—then who’s to say that soon, there won’t be a handful of good options? You’ve heard me say that voice messaging and SMS charges are a scam—a great iChat client for the iPhone would soon render them a sham, too.

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[via gizmodo]


Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out

Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes OutThere’s a lot to be happy about in iPhone OS 4. Like multitasking, and threaded inboxes. So why doesn’t it feel right?

iPhone OS 4 isn’t a drastic overhaul, or a radical reinvention of the iPhone formula; it’s just another predictable step forward. But the little things it delivers in response to popular whims are what feel most awkward and ill-fitting—things like custom wallpapers, folders and even the way it handles multitasking.

iPhone 4.0 is in still beta, which is a good thing, because that means Apple still has time to improve on what has been previewed. We’re not sure how much will actually change between now and this summer, but here’s what we hope Apple pays closest attention to as they get down to the wire:

Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out


One of Apple’s more paradoxically admirable qualities is that it doesn’t give people what they ask for. When they do, well, it can look like this. And it’s gross. Worse, this is just the default wallpaper. Can you imagine what people’s iPhones are going to look like when they start adding their own ugly wallpapers? Wallpapers work on the iPad, because there’s a ton of space. On the iPhone’s smaller screen, packed with icons, it’s too much. With the iPhone’s simple black backdrop, Apple actually saved people from themselves.

At the very least, keep the default wallpaper black, and throw in some more serene alternatives.

Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out


The iPhone’s system of organizing apps stops scaling after a certain point—somewhere around 6 pages filled with little squares, the system collapses into a pile of stabby pain and frustration, long before you even hit the maximum number of 11 pages of apps. Folders attempts to fix this set of issues, letting you pour multiple apps into one little icon, organizing them however you wish, and bumping the maximum number of apps to just over 2,000 (which, BTW, means you’re crazy).

There are several problems with Folders. Foremost, if iPhone OS is a new computing and interface paradigm that’s designed to break us out of the desktop model, why is Apple going back to an old metaphor like Folders? Even simply calling it something different, like Stacks, would be slightly better from a mental model standpoint.

Second, it is messy file management. Each folder can hold up to 12 apps inside, but the folder thumbnail that you see in the home screen only shows nine icons. If you do have 12 apps, opening the folder reveals a neat and tidy three rows of four. But if you prefer nine, as many obviously would, you get a scrambled, non-logical layout—two rows of 4, plus a little orphan icon on its own row. It’s a strange paradox for a company that takes pride in consciously clever design, especially when there’s a pretty easy way to make Folders work better.

A final more trivial point is that it clashes with the overall iPhone aesthetic. The weird dimpled, vaguely rubber texture under the enclosed apps. The floating folder title. The odd fade-and-slide animation. It’s all kind of misplaced.

A slightly cleaner look and concept is really all that needs to happen here.

Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out


Multitasking. A godsend. Except the way it actually works. Double-tapping the home button brings up a single row of recently used apps, a snaking trail of icons that grows indefinitely until you perform a full restart or manually quit each one. They’re dispersed in what feels like a random order, requiring you to flick, flick, flick to get to the app you want. It’s just as easy, if not easier, to bounce back to the homescreen for your desired app. If the number of recent apps grows to a certain number, why not use more of the screen real estate—say two rows of icons—to make it easier to get to the app you’re looking for.

Oh, and task management. It makes sense Apple doesn’t want people to think about it, but if you actually do futilely attempt to task manage, it’s kludgy at best—press and hold an icon, wait until it dances, then tap the minus button to kill the already paused process.

Let’s face it: The iPhone interface simply wasn’t designed from the beginning for users to juggle multiple apps. So on the whole, it feels bolted on—well, it is—rather than seamless. Is there a way to elegantly do multitasking without completely upending the iPhone’s interface? Maybe. So far, this isn’t it.


In a sentence: Killing zombies shouldn’t be interrupted by a barrage of notificationsthat completely freeze and take over my entire screen.

Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out


iAds aren’t all bad—they’re going to help developers make a better living. But baking them into the OS does mean users are probably going to be seeing a lot more ads—like in apps that previously didn’t have them—because why not? They’re there, they’re easy to implement. Sure, they’ll be nicer than the average ad—like mini apps, even!—but it is hard to get excited about more ads.

It Feels Horrible and Tacked On

Each new major piece feature seems to contribute its own little bit of design horror. In some cases, things that worked—like the old double-tap for favorites—get morphed into more complicated moves (double-tap and hooooold) to make room. Swirling the new features all together—the visual noise of the wallpapers, chintzy sliding animations, strange textures, even the reflective dock—iPhone OS 4.0 is a cloying, hyperglossy, barf-y mess, far from the straightforwardly iconic image of the original iPhone. We just want it to look clean and elegant again. Is that even possible?

Those are our major issues with iPhone 4.0 after using it for a couple of weeks, issues that we hope are smoothed out by this summer. Some, we have hope for. Others, not as much.

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