Tag Archives: Siri

Highlights of iOS 6

iOS 6 Logo

Unveiled back in June at the WWDC, the 6th major update for iDevices around the world will be available for download tomorrow! With over 200 new features it’s expected to be the BEST iOS ever! (Well, until iOS 7 at least) … And before it’s out, I managed to get on the developer’s release and have highlighted the key changes to look forward to in tomorrow’s release.

Siri
Siri IconShe’s definitely growing up. Almost a year after initially being introduced in iPhones last year (with the release of the iPhone 4S) Siri has gained more abilities and powers. You’ll now be able to use voice command to launch apps on your phone. You know, if you’re too busy to launch the music player while texting your pal, Siri will take care of that for you – just say the word. Siri will also be able to tweet for you. In under 140 characters, let her know what you want your followers to know and she’ll write it out and confirm with you before sending.

In addition to that Siri will also be able to pull scores of your favourite sports, research movie times and ticket purchases, and even help to get you dinner reservations. She’s actually starting to feel like a real assistant now.

By the way, the iOS 6 update is also the first time you’ll see Siri on the iPad.

Facebook Integration
iOS device users will now be able to fire status updates at ease. Sharing photos and direct links will now be a piece of cake. Facebook integration also integrates with your contacts; and even more surprising is that events and birthdays will also be synced with iDevices’ calendar. Wow!

iOS 6 Facebook Status on iPad and iPhone

Passbook
Passbook IconA new feature that kind of came out of nowhere, is Passbook: the keep-all-your-tickets-in-one application that allows it’s users to keep movie tickets, boarding passes, airline itineraries and special event tickets on your phone. Complete with the ability to store QR codes and 2D Barcodes, you’ll be able to flash the phone, scan and go. This is one application I have yet to figure out exactly how it’s going to work, but the concept is great.

Eyes Free
A cool new term drummed up by Apple’s team of awesomeness actually does what it sounds like it does. Gives drivers the ability to access their iPhones (and Siri) without having to even touch their handsets.

Apple Maps
After a long debate on what to do with the maps application, Apple has finally decides to dump Google maps for their proprietary maps applications, called MAPS. According to Apple, maps will offer turn-by-turn navigation, Siri voice command, search points of interest and even allow you to submit anonymous traffic tips.

iOS 6 Maps Overview

At last week’s keynote event, they even demonstrated the 3D rendering of maps to allow users to feel like Superman as they fly over their favourite cities in a third dimension. While I’m not convinced that maps is going to be better than Google maps, I think it’s going to take some time for this to fully flourish and become accepted. While using the developer’s version I noticed that the 3D was great in the hugely populated cities, but once you got out to farmland all the beauty was gone and you’re looking at a simple map application.

3G for FaceTime
Long gone will be the days where you had to actually wait until you were home and/or connected to a wifi before you could use FaceTime, iOS 6 now allows you to use this feature on your cellular data whether that’s 3G or LTE. Sounds great, but I’d be concerned for those users with less than 1GB of data on their monthly plans. I could see FaceTime racking up serious usage, especially if you’re a heavy user.

iOS FaceTime Sample

Email Goes VIP
There are two big improvements for the iOS email app. First, users will now be able to designate a VIP email inbox which allows you to set ‘favourites’ so that you don’t miss any of their emails and instead will be presented right up front. No having to sift through hundreds of spam to see those messages.

It’s also going to get a lot easier to add attachments to your emails. Instead of having to always use your Photo app to attach an email or file, you’ll have the option to do it right from the mail app in iOS 6. Cool feature that’s taken way too long to make an appearance in iOS.

Safari
A feature that was introduced as part of the OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) desktop version of Apple’s operating system introduces and iCloud tab syncing feature. That means that any device(s) using Mountain Lion (and Safari) that were left open, will now be able to be picked up on your iPhone, right where you left off. Basically making it easier for users to move from one Apple device to another. A seamless experience is a better experience.

iOS 6 Safari Sample

This is just scratching the surface of more than 200 new features for iOS 6. Let us know what your thoughts are on iOS 6 on my Facebook page.

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App Review: Evi Personal Assistant

Evi iPhone App IconIn case you missed the news, (or haven’t upgraded to the iPhone 4S yet) there’s another personal assistant that fills the void left by those that don’t have access to Siri. Enter Evi; a 99-cent app for iPhone and iPod Touch. Evi is strictly an information gatherer, grabbing you Internet search results or links to answer your varying questions, which you either speak or type.

While Evi is an interesting app that seems to have the potential to be a viable substitute for Siri. During its release, Evi received a lot of negative reviews as the application frequently failed to connect to its servers due to poor forecasting of traffic. This has seemingly been improved with upgraded servers as the application is much faster and responsive than it was at release. Evi’s voice recognition has yet to fail at identifying commands it’s given and like Siri, Evi provides the user with witty replies for questions asked of it that are not common place.

The primary shortfall of Evi is in the resources utilizes for it’s responses. Evi constantly directs the user to websites that have mediocre content. For the sake of example, the user could ask Evi where to buy pants and Evi would reply with a retail store close to the users GPS position. The issue with the resources, is rather than provide the user with a large and reputable store, the resource it pulls from would provide a company never heard of before.

Evi is also a stand-alone app that has no integration into the other apps in iOS. When given a command like “Compose e-mail”, Evi will provide you with a link to Yahoo mail website rather than open a new message from the e-mail app. This again touches on the poor resources Evi utilizes because lets be serious, who uses Yahoo these days?

Overall the functionality is there with this app and it has huge potential for its use. The development needs a lot of work and with the right attention to detail this app could be incredibly successful. As it stands today, for $0.99 it is still a fun app to mess around with and deserves credit for its effort. With the right implementations this app can be just as good if not better than Siri.

*A special thanks to kevolove for his contributions on this review.

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iTV: Is Apple Thinking About An HDTV? (Rumour)

iTV Rendering Mock Up

If you recall, last year I mentioned an ad that Apple posted looking for an HDTV engineer, well, last week an interesting quote from the Steve Jobs bio will likely fuel the rumour mill for the next few months until we hear something, or don’t. Here it is in context:

‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ [Jobs told Isaacson]. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’

That seems to be a lot more certain than Jobs was last year at the D8 conference when he answered a question from an audience member. He laid out some very important things regarding the TV market that no one is really talking about.

A fascinating clip that addresses a whole discussion on why Apple only considers the TV market a hobby. In it, Jobs talks about how to put a layer on top of everything else with a consistent UI. He gets to specific details at 1:30-3:00

Add a box on to the TV system. You can say well gosh I notice my HDTV has a bunch of HDMI ports on it one of them is coming from the set-top box I’ll just add another little box with another one. Well, you just end up with a table full of remotes, clutter of boxes, bunch of different UIs, and that’s the situation we have today. The only way that’s ever going to change is if you go back to step one and tear up the set top box and restart from scratch with a redesigned UI and present it to the consumer in a way they’re willing to pay for it. And right now there’s no way to do that. So that’s the problem with the TV market. We decided what product do we want the most, a better TV or a better phone? Well the phone won because there was no chance to do the TV because there’s no way to get it to market. What do we want a better TV or better tablet. Well a better tablet because there’s no way to get the TV to market. The TV is going to lose until there is a better go to market, or there’ll just be a bunch of TIVOs. That’s the fundamental problem. It’s not a problem of technology, it’s a go to market technology.

Can Apple “tear up the set top box” and start over?

Most content on cable channels has gone online, but some content, including breaking news, live events and sports, is still only available via traditional cable. That being said, these are the two ways Apple could go on building its TV.

1. Apple could make deals with as many cable content providers as possible and deliver as much content as possible over IP through a iTunes/AppleTV/iCloud interface. There was a rumored deal two years ago that Apple was going to sell IP cable TV for $30/month – Eddy Cue was in charge (he’s now head of iCloud incidentally). It never happened and it likely won’t because the cable companies won’t allow it.

Would an IP-only Apple HDTV just lack whole swaths of the TV content spectrum? Would people buy a TV that may not show their college football games or local news channels (and have no way to pipe that in?

Another problem here is that cable companies, especially when faced with an IP-only competitor going over their lines, could throttle data or impose harsher bandwidth caps that make watching the horrifically typical household average of 5 hours of TV prohibitive.

In the end, IP-only TV doesn’t sound like a realistic option.

2. So, and this might be what Jobs meant when he said “cracked”, Apple could build a layer that sits on top of Cable Boxes, iCloud, and anyone else who wants to get on your TV including gaming machines. It would have one consistent simple Apple UI for all of your TV needs (like Jobs stated above) – Think Siri and even go as far as Kinect (from Xbox).

More importantly, it would control the CableTV input, supplanting the set top box. Instead of grabbing the TVGuide from the cable companies, Apple could pull the TV schedules from Titan, Gist or other service and put a clean, simple, consistent UI over top of it. As an example, think of the way a Slingbox or eyeTV software sets itself up on your cable system. Those systems know what network you are on and your physical location so it knows what channels you will have. Apple’s could easily do the same thing.

Then there is part 2 of Jobs’ view:

Then you get into another problem. Which is there isn’t a cable operator that is national. There is a bunch of cable providers. There isn’t like a GSM standard like with phones. Every country has different standards, different government approvals. It’s very balkanized. I’m sure smarter people than us will figure this out. That’s why when we say Apple TV as a hobby we use this phrase.

If smaller companies like Sling and eyeTV have figured out how to deal with cable companies globally, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Apple could do the same, all with a consistent UI globally.

Perhaps it is just an app. Possibly called “Cable.app”. Just like Apple made the “Phone.app” on the iPhone.

But how does Apple leverage this?
If you are a cable company you don’t want to just sit on a low level channel in Apple’s “Cable.app”. You want to be front and centre like apps are on an iPad. By becoming the gatekeeper, Apple can make it advantageous for content producers to come out of the cable channel and into the IP delivered App world just like they do on other iOS devices (and you can bet that Apple’s TV will be an iOS device).

Apple is currently doing the same with its new Newsstand Folder/App which is giving some publications 14x growth by putting content in users’ eyes. Conde Nast is showing huge gains as well since it went on Newsstand. Location Location Location.

The same thing happens when music is put on the front of the iTunes Store. This is prime real estate because Apple is the gatekeeper.

Every big cable company already has an app that lets you stream content to an iPad. Most major networks have iPad apps that let you watch some shows. This is clearly a superior experience to channel surfing for live content.

By creating a full ecosystem and becoming the gatekeeper, Apple can motivate more companies to deliver content over IP via apps. Viola!

What about the User Interface?
Apple has recently patented Microsoft Kinect-like 3D gestures that could augment the control from iOS devices. As for Siri controlling the user interface of such a TV system, there are a lot of problems with that – mostly ambient sound.

Apple does have some noise cancellation technologies available that will make voice navigation more of an option. The truth is that Apple’s TV UI will probably be a combination of existing technology and some that it is developing.

How soon can this be available?
As for when it will be delivered, I think we’re looking at something pretty far out. We’ve heard nothing reliable about Apple testing a product so a release early next year seems far fetched. I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that the earliest we might hear about something like this would be summer 2012.

What the keynote address might sound like:
“Apple finally tackles the TV. Remember music before the iPod? Remember phones before the iPhone? Remember tablets before the iPad? iTV offers the world’s largest supply of HD Video content, all easier to manage. iTV gets out of the way and lets you find what you want faster than ever. Spend less time searching and more time enjoying.”

Sound off in the comments.

*The Apple iTV Picture is courtesy of Pocket-lint.com

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iPhone 4S’ New Features

iPhone 4S Title Hero

On Friday, October 14, 2011, the iPhone 4S was publicly released, and if you were one of the lucky ones to get your hands on one – you’re already aheads most of us. For anyone that still has the original iPhone 4, I put together a list of differences between what you currently have and what you could have if you upgrade the the “S”.

Design
If you’re into cosmetics, then the iPhone 4S won’t make you happy. The phone has the exact dimensions, design and casing as the original. (Think back to the 3G and then 3GS), the phone stayed exactly the same. It’s what’s inside that has been revamped.

iPhone 4S Hero

Inside
A5 Chip IconUnlike the exterior, there are major improvements inside (where it really matters) in the form of an upgraded processor. A dual-core A5 chip (same as the iPad 2) clocked in at 800mhz. The 4S has 512 MB of onboard RAM. It is available in 3 sizes – 16 GB, 32 GB, and new to the 4S, a 64 GB model size.

As for signals, the 4S has a dual-mode CDMA/GSM chipset, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. A digital compass, GPS chip, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and three axis gyroscope all come included in this generation iPhone.

HD Video IconThe rear camera has been replaced from the 5MP in the iPhone 4 to an 8 Mexgapixel in the 4S with improved optics which now delivers point and shoot quality photos. Comparable to actually carrying a dedicated digital camera. Video can now be shot in 1080 p (HD) with the upgraded camera. The inner camera remains unchanged and shoots in measly VGA resolution (same as the original).

Battery
In keynote address by Apple, just two weeks ago, there is an extra hour (talk time) given to the 4S while on 3G. In early tests, I’ve found that a full 16 hours of making calls, browsing the net, downloading apps, there was still battery left before plugging it in before bed. Business users will find this helpful while light users will rarely have to be worried about running out of juice on the road.

Software
The iPhone 4S comes pre-loaded with the first public release of iOS 5, and can be setup without ever connecting to a PC. The first retail iPhone that is completely untethered. Setup your phone but following the on-screen guide.

Read about all of iOS 5 features in a recent blog post that also covers iMessage, Newsstand, Reminders, Notifications, plus more which are all new to the recent iOS update.

Siri App IconAs for what’s specifically been created to work with the iPhone 4S, that can’t be had with any previous generation, is the intelligent assistant – know as Siri. Siri uses a combination of voice recognition, logic processing, and text-to-speech to interpret requests and follow conversations. Using Siri, you can use natural language to get directions, send text messages, schedule reminders or appointments, suggestions for dinner, plus tonnes more. Not only does Siri understand what you’re saying to it, it understands the context in which you’re saying it — so for instance, if you try and schedule a meeting on top of another meeting, Siri will warn you and ask if you’d like to change the time of your new appointment, and it’ll listen as you tell it a new time.

Siri Screen CaptureSiri can also process and answer basic and not-so-basic questions utilizing the WolframAlpha engine (like, “how many cups are in a gallon”), and the software pulls in Yelp data to help you find things like restaurants or movie theaters. When in doubt, Siri will do a web search based on your questions.
Siri also learns things about you and the people around you. You can tell Siri who your wife or brother is. You can tell Siri where you work and live. The software will read or write text messages using voice commands, and can also take dictation in any field where you can use a keyboard. If you ask it things like “do I need a raincoat today,” it understands and responds as a human being would. You can tell it to wake you up at a certain time and it knows to set an alarm, and if you ask Siri how to get home from somewhere, it’ll give you directions in the Maps application

iCloud
iCloud IconPart of the iOS 5 release, it’s not specific to the iPhone 4S but offers ‘magical’ syncing capabilities between all your iDevices and MacBook Pro, iMac, etc. If you had the opportunity to experience MobileMe, you’ll already have a taste of what iCloud has in store for you now. I recently covered all of iCloud’s features in this blog post.

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