Being One of a Million Yosemite Beta Testers and iOS Opening up to Compete with Android

Just recently, Apple held their Worldwide Developers Conference at Moscone West in San Francisco. The conference was held from June 2-6, with a keynote filled with software related announcements taking place June 2 and numerous developer sessions the rest of the week. Apple’s two major software platforms received big updates, OS X and iOS.

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Apple had a massive WWDC, with 6000 attendees. / Credit: MacRumors

OS X Yosemite

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OS X Yosemite is Apple’s eleventh major release of Mac operating systems. / Credit: Apple

First, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, took the stage to talk about OS X 10.10, better known as Yosemite. The biggest change of all was the design overhaul, similar to iOS 7’s major redesign last year. The whole operating system is simpler, flatter, and more refined than the previous iteration of OS X, 10.9 Mavericks. The fonts, windows, and other graphical elements found within the operating system have changed.

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Apple’s new software has a flat redesign and useful additions. / Credit: Apple

Now that doesn’t mean Apple has skimped on features. The Notification Center now has a new Today view, which shows information like stocks, weather, and reminders. You can also add widgets from the Mac App Store, like an upcoming ESPN scoreboard. The universal Spotlight search has some new tricks up its sleeve. You can now search for Wikipedia entries, Maps, movie times, and other sources, in addition to just the content on your Mac. Safari is more streamlined and even has a new bird’s eye view of your tabs. Mail lets you send large attachments, up to 5 GB, over a special cloud server instead of over the usually limited mail server. Mail also lets you doodle on pictures and such for fun. Continuity is a way to seamlessly integrate your iOS 8 devices with your Mac. For instance, you can make and receive phone calls via your Mac’s speaker, even if your iPhone is across the room. You can also handle SMS texting on your Mac. Handoff lets you, for example, start composing an email on your iPhone, then picking up right where you left off on your Mac and vice versa. If your Mac is out of range from a good Wi-Fi connection, that’s no problem. You can use your iPhone as a personal hotspot if it is nearby. As a bonus, Apple is offering a public beta release, and I am one out of a million testers. Apple has told everyone not to post their own screenshots publicly, so I have provided a picture from Apple.

iOS 8

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iOS 8 is a huge release for consumers and developers alike. / Credit: Apple

After Tim Cook gave some stats about iOS adoption beating Android and more, Federighi came back on stage to talk about iOS 8. This picks up on iOS 7’s great design, adding many new user features and opening the software up more to developers.

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New features include things like QuickType and Health. / Credit: Apple

Consumers get a host of great features in this release, starting with the Photos app. You have an easier way to access your photos across multiple devices and some more useful photo editing tools. The camera even has a new time-lapse mode. Messages also receives some enhancements. It allows you to more easily share your location, send quick voice and video messages, silence specific conversations, and easily add and remove people from a conversation. Interactive notifications allow you to respond to a notification by swiping it down, without having to leave the app you are in. You can also respond from within the Notification Center or the lock screen. The multitasking UI has a new touch, with your most recent and favorite contacts right above your most recently used apps. iOS 8 has an outstanding new keyboard known as QuickType. This is a predictive keyboard that offers word suggestions based on the conversation you are having with someone and your typing style. Health is a new app that allows you to integrate with other fitness apps to provide a unified dashboard with health diagnostics, as well as an emergency medical ID card. Of course, iOS 8 also gains the aforementioned Continuity and Spotlight search features found on OS X Yosemite.

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Developers can now add more things to iOS, like systemwide third-party keyboards. / Credit: Apple

But consumers aren’t the only folks who get all the goodies. Apple did show some love for the developers as well. After all, this is a developers conference. Apple has unlocked some of their gates, by letting developers integrate functionality within Apple’s operating system and apps, something Android’s open-source nature has allowed for a long time. For example, developers can integrate third-party keyboards systemwide, so you can use custom keyboards, like SwiftKey or Fleksy. Also intriguing is a HomeKit API, which allows you to control smart home accessories that integrate with different apps using Siri. Developers can take advantage of Touch ID for unlocking access to their apps and such. Metal is an API designed for high performance games. It yields maximum performance from the A7 chip and allows the CPU and GPU to efficiently work together for optimal gaming performance. These are just a few of the more than 4000 APIs accessible to developers, who in turn benefit the consumers who use their apps.

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Swift is the next major programming language for app developers. / Credit: Apple

Apple has also created a new programming language called Swift. This powerful, new language is “concise yet expressive”, according to Apple. This will work in Xcode 6 and is designed for apps in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

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Mac and iOS are connected like never before. / Credit: Apple

In sum, Apple really struck a chord at this year’s WWDC. Apple flattened out OS X Yosemite and added cool new features like Continuity. iOS 8 brought us many end user features as well as more open developer access. This definitely wowed many people, and I think iOS 8 will fare very well against Android L. Developers get access to OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 for testing at the moment, but look for both these operating systems to arrive to consumers this fall.

Apple’s Two New iPhone Models: Explained

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Apple’s official invitation to their press event.

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On Tuesday, September 10, Apple held an event at their headquarters in Cupertino. They unveiled not one, but two new iPhone models. Let’s take a look at what these have to offer.

iPhone 5c

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iPhone 5c comes in a variety of colors.

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First, Phil Schiller talked about the iPhone 5c. It comes in five colors, namely pink, yellow, blue, white, and green. It is comprised of a unibody polycarbonate shell, with a reinforced steel frame inside the phone, to provide strong structural rigidity. The hardware specs are essentially the same as last year’s iPhone 5, with an A6 chip, 8-megapixel camera, LTE, and the same 4-inch Retina display. The only main differences are the colored plastic shells, longer battery life, and slightly improved front camera with better low-light performance.

Jony Ive explaining the design behind the iPhone 5c, and Craig Federighi talking about the software.

iPhone 5s

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iPhone 5s is the most advanced iPhone yet.

Credit: http://images.apple.com/media/us/iphone-5s/2013/design/hero/hero_start__posterframe.jpg

The second of these two new iPhone models is the iPhone 5s. It is the higher end model, with more advanced technology built in. It comes in three colors, silver, gold, and space gray. Aside from the colors, it looks nearly identical to the iPhone 5, but there are many internal changes.

Faster Processor

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The A7 and M7 chips easily make iPhone 5s a solid device.

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It starts with the new, more powerful A7 chip. This chip is unique, in that it has a 64-bit architecture, which yields two times the speed and twice the graphics performance as the A6. It is the first mobile device to have desktop-class architecture. This chip supports OpenGL ES 3.0, great for complex visual effects. Also new is an M7 motion coprocessor. This helps with fitness apps or maps directions because it can determine whether you are walking, running, or even driving. Developers will soon optimize their apps for these new chips, and I can’t wait to see what great things they can achieve in realism.

Improved Camera

Dan Riccio explaining the camera’s hardware, and Craig Federighi describing the fun new camera features.

The camera system in the iPhone 5s has also improved. Although the sensor still remains eight megapixels, the actual pixels themselves are larger; each one is 1.5 microns. This makes for a better picture overall. The size of the aperture has increased to f/2.2, for better low-light photos.

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You can capture many photos through a scene with Burst Mode.

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The camera features have improved as well. Now there is a True Tone flash, which helps capture better low-light photography, with two flashes that automatically adjust the ratio of light, based on the lighting condition. Another fun new feature is burst mode, which captures photos incredibly fast at ten frames per second. It even helps choose which shots you may like best. Slo-mo video recording lets you record 720p HD video at 120 fps, which is quarter the speed of normal 1080p video at 30 fps.

Touch ID

Jony Ive talking about Touch ID’s experience, and Dan Riccio explaining the hardware behind it.

Perhaps the biggest headline on iPhone 5s is Touch ID. It scans your fingerprint for things like unlocking your phone or purchasing apps, books, movies, and music. It can store up to five fingerprints for authentication. With 360 degree readability, you can place your finger in any direction, and it will still read your fingerprint. A steel ring around the home button detects your finger. Your fingerprint is highly encrypted on the A7 chip, so it won’t get sent anywhere.

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Touch ID lets you unlock your phone and make iTunes purchases with just your fingerprint.

Credit: http://images.apple.com/iphone-5s/features/images/touchid_hero.jpg

This is one of Apple’s most successful iPhone launches in history. With two new phones, people have more of a choice. The cheaper iPhone 5c makes it more attractive for kids or anyone wanting to save some money. On opening weekend alone, Apple sold a total of 9 million iPhone 5c and 5s units combined. As for pricing, the iPhone 5c starts at $99 for 16 GB and $199 for 32 GB. iPhone 5s starts at $199 for 16 GB, $299 for 32 GB, and $399 for 64 GB. All these prices are on a two-year contract. Off-contract pricing is $450 more per model.

BMW Designs Their First EV, the i3

On July 29, BMW took the wraps off its first production-ready electric car, the i3. It has innovative technology and a stunning exterior design. The interior cockpit also presents a very upscale and high-tech look. It prices out many buyers with a sticker price higher than most EVs these days. More on that later.

Styling and Range

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The striking exterior design will draw attention.

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Styling of the BMW i3 is quite unique. It is one of the best looking electric cars, in my opinion. The hatchback design lends to the utility. BMW designed it for four passengers, and it is as spacious as the BMW 3 Series. Interestingly, the doors in the rear are half-doors that swing in the opposite direction as the front doors.

Range on the i3 is adequate, but not stunning. BMW quotes 80-100 miles on a single charge, which matches the competition. In fact, you’re not only limited to that much. You can option a Range Extender, which doubles your range to 186 miles. This implements a two-cylinder gas engine that generates additional electricity.

Charging this electric vehicle won’t take too long. On a 240 volt charger, it will take 5 hours to charge to full, and at a 480 volt DC fast charging station, it will charge to 80% in 30 minutes. BMW has not specified a charge time for a 120 volt household outlet, but you probably should not charge on one too often because it’s a very slow process.

Weight and Powertrain

Weight savings greatly contributes to better range on EVs. To help save weight, BMW has outfitted the body of the car with carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. This material lightens the car, without giving up structural rigidity.

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 The rear carries over with a polarizing look.

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The i3 uses a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. Power comes from a 170 horsepower electric motor that drives the rear wheels. Torque is rated at 184 pound-feet. The i3 accelerates to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds, with a top speed of 93 mph.

Interior

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The interior is very pleasing to the eye.

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This vehicle really shines in the interior. It looks better than many of the cheap interiors in some EVs, like the Nissan Leaf. Two screens sit atop the dashboard. The screen in front of the driver shows your range, speed, and such. The other LCD in the center of the dashboard controls navigation, phone, and audio features. You can run it with the familiar iDrive controller, found in many BMWs today.

In the end, this is definitely a vehicle you should add to your list when considering a new car. When it comes to market next year, definitely take it for a test drive, if you’re considering buying electric. Pricing starts at $41,000, but if you qualify for a federal tax credit, you can get a discount of $7,500. If you live in California, you can knock another $2,500 off the price of the car. The aforementioned Range Extender costs around $4,000 extra. I think this will prove to be a top contender in the EV space.

Apple’s iOS 7 Redefines User Interfaces and the OS

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WWDC was very thrilling this year

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This year, Apple had a very exciting Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The announcements at the keynote were very remarkable, and included products, that amazed everybody. The most significant major unveilings were the redesigned flat iOS 7, the new Mac Pros, the new OS X Mavericks, and the updated MacBook Airs. But the star of the show was iOS 7.

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iOS 7 defines a new beginning for Apple

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iOS 7 was the most exciting and anticipated announcement at the conference. It is completely new from the ground up, and as Apple said, “It’s the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of iPhone”. The design language is the most substantial update to the new operating system, but adding new features was not forgotten, luckily.

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Even the logo is very minimalistic

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Starting with the design, it is now flatter, courtesy of design guru Jony Ive, who leads the iOS team. He has removed skeuomorphism, the imitation of real-life objects that Apple popularized earlier. iOS 7 uses a whole new color palette, and includes more black and white elements. Translucency is seen throughout various elements of the operating system.  You now have the option of dynamic wallpaper, and the parallax function allows you to tilt the device to move the wallpaper. This introduces an unmatched level of refinement to user interfaces.

Useful Additions

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Control Center allows you to access settings quickly

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At last, Apple has added some form of quick toggles. They were seriously kind of late to the game on this, especially since Android has offered this for a while now. Apple calls their quick settings panel Control Center. You just swipe up from anywhere within the OS, and it reveals a handful of settings, including Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Flashlight, and more.

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AirDrop lets you share files wirelessly among friends

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AirDrop is another notable addition. This has trickled its way down from a feature introduced in OS X Lion. You can locally share files via Bluetooth with another iOS device, without the need for a network connection, though Wi-Fi still works effectively. You can control who AirDrop can work with, be it everyone, your contacts, or nobody at all. Supported devices include iPhone 5, iPod touch (5th generation), iPad (4th generation), and iPad mini.

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Multitasking’s new card layout looks great

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Multitasking has been improved too. The interface displays a new card view with a preview of each open app, and you can just close each one just by swiping the card up. In addition to revamping the aesthetics, there is a new “Intelligently scheduled updates” feature. This knows when you use certain apps. For instance, you might check your favorite sports app everyday at 4 PM. It will automatically have the content for the specific app updated and ready to rock.

Internet Services

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Siri can do more for you now

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Siri gains a whole new level of functionality. Twitter and Wikipedia are more tightly integrated. Siri relies more heavily on Bing now, since Google and Apple have been known to be foes. Now you can toggle settings with your voice; you can say, turn Bluetooth on, and your request will be acknowledged by Siri. Siri speaks with new male and female voices, which you can customize in Settings.

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iTunes Radio lets you customize stations, just like Pandora and such

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iOS 7 takes on Pandora and others, with its new iTunes Radio music service. This is a free music service with ads, but you can bypass ads if you are an iTunes Match subscriber, which is $25 a year. You can categorize your favorite music and pick stations. If you appreciate a certain song, you can choose to purchase it with one click. You can choose to never play songs you hate, which I know some people will love.

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Safari is much cleaner and more elegant

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Safari and the App Store gain new functionality, too. Safari has a unified search field, new tab view, fullscreen browsing, and iCloud keychain, which remembers passwords for your accounts. In the App Store, apps update automatically. You can also view what apps are popular based on your current location, and apps can be sorted by age rating.

Cool Features

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Filters add a nice touch to your pictures

Credit: http://images.techhive.com/images/article/2013/06/ios7_camera-100041271-medium.jpg

Camera and Photos add more collectible features. For instance, you can now add filters to your pictures, to give them a beautiful sensation. There’s even a square mode for those Instagram shots. You can just swipe between the four camera modes, video, photo, square, and panoramic. Photos can intelligently organize your pictures into collections, moments, and years. Friends and family can now contribute to your iCloud shared photo streams.

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iOS in the Car lets you use special features onscreen

Credit: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.autoblog.com/media/2013/06/ios-in-the-car.jpg

iOS in the Car allows you to integrate features of iOS onto your dashboard. This will only work with select new cars. You can use phone, navigation, messaging, music, and more. Connection works via USB or via AirPlay over Wi-Fi. It is available on iPhone 5 or later. This feature initially rolls out in 2014.

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The lock screen is much simpler now, and you may notice the translucent effect of Notification Center

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As you can see, iOS 7 is an incredible update to Apple’s faithful mobile operating system. It’s great in both design and features. The newly renovated operating system is coming this fall. You can download iOS 7 on iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, iPad (3rd generation), iPad (4th generation), iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation). I personally cannot wait to download iOS 7, and I may even consider picking up the next iPhone, which will probably have some killer features to complement iOS 7.

UPDATE 7/14/13: To add the iOS 7 promo video done by designer Jony Ive and engineer Craig Federighi.

Apple May Surprise Us Yet

If you follow tech news, even if not as avidly as I do, you may have noticed Apple hasn’t received much buzz lately. Other companies like Samsung and HTC have already taken the wraps off their new flagship smartphones.  For Apple fans the infuriating question that arises is, what about Apple?! Well, they actually had some exciting news of their own this April.  And we anticipate many new and exciting announcements in the months ahead.

New Service Options

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Will T-Mobile attract many iPhone buyers?

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The iPhone 5 is finally available on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network, going on sale April 12. T-Mobile is really touting the new “uncarrier” pricing and plans. The pricing story is a different affair over competitors. First, the starting price of the phone is $145.99 down payment, plus $21 a month for 24 months. This totals out to $650 before adding a data plan. T-Mobile is now officially a fully contract-free carrier, so you’re not locked to a plan for two years.

The plans are the cheapest in the business. All the plans are “unlimited” with one little catch. The two lower-tier plans are throttled, which means you only get a fixed amount of high-speed data. Afterwards, you can use as much data as you want without overages, but only on slower 2G network speeds. However, calling and texting are always truly unlimited.

The first plan is $50 a month for 500 MB of high-speed data. Add $10 more per month and you get 2 GB of high-speed data. The truly unlimited plan is only $70 a month. All plans include personal hotspot tethering. You need to add $30 a month extra for any plan if another person wants to join the plan. Afterwards, it’s $10 a month per extra person. Comparably, Sprint’s truly unlimited plan is a whopping $110 a month for one customer. T-Mobile’s low pricing alone might intrigue customers.

The one downside to T-Mobile is limited LTE coverage. So far, only seven cities support T-Mobile’s LTE, including San Jose, Baltimore, Houston, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. The carrier plans to add more markets by the summer and the end of 2013.

New Products on the Way

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Apple is still going strong!

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Admittedly, Apple has had a very quiet first quarter, but the recent April 23 Q2 Earnings Call show us sales are still going strong. They sold 37.4 million iPhones and more than half as many iPads, with 19.5 million in the first quarter. Mac sales, however, dropped last quarter, with only 3.95 million sold, versus 4 million year-over-year. Disappointingly, profit levels have dropped 18%, quite a hit over how Apple has been doing in the recent past.

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Will the “iWatch” be Apple’s next big innovation?

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Another point Tim Cook made was that Apple is ready to launch fresh products in the fall, continuing into 2014. There’s a lot to look forward to in the future, including an iWatch or a revolutionary new Apple TV. This demotes the ubiquitous summer launch rumor everyone had been anticipating with the upcoming iPhone 5S. Many rumors are floating around, with signs that point to delays in iPhone production, due to the fingerprint sensor coating. But don’t worry about holdups because this probably means Apple is taking their time in making the product just right.

What to expect at WWDC

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WWDC is Apple’s biggest conference of the year. What will they deliver this year?

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Finally, Apple already sent out tickets for its annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference. When WWDC tickets went live April 25, they managed to sell out in under two minutes, versus under two hours last year. This is partly because Apple announced the on-sale date of the tickets a day in advance. Even if you did want to go, you would have to be a registered Apple developer, which is $99 a year alone, and you’ll have to pony up $1600.

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Jony Ive is expected to introduce a new take on iOS, which is becoming long in the tooth

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What will Apple likely announce at the conference? The much-anticipated iOS 7 is highly likely to be revealed. There’s so much talk around this version because Jony Ive, the industrial designer at Apple, is now the iOS software chief as well. He replaces Scott Forstall, who was fired due to the Apple Maps fiasco. Ive is expected to give iOS a fresh new look, making it a worthy contender to other operating systems. He’s likely to drop the skeuomorphic design of the UI, long used in iOS, by imitating real objects less (such as removing the leather theme associated with the calendar app). The design is also slated to be “very flat”, giving iOS a contemporary look.

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Will Lynx be the next cat after all?

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Also, the next version of OS X, the desktop operating system, will be announced here. Specifically, OS X 10.9 is expected, which will be the successor to 10.8 Mountain Lion. We don’t quite know what 10.9 will be codenamed, but much of the speculation suggests Lynx will be the next cat designation. This operating system, along with iOS 7, will probably release in the fall timeframe because developers need some time to optimize their apps and take advantage of new frameworks and APIs. Some reports say refreshed Mac notebooks might make a return appearance this WWDC, with new Intel Haswell processors and further spec bumps.

Look for a Great Year Ahead

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What does Apple have in store for us this year?

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As we can see, there is a lot to be thrilled about in Apple’s future. T-Mobile may after all be the carrier that many people are motivated to switch to on iPhones. Sales of iOS devices are still going strong, which proves they their novelty remains strong. The next version of iOS, iOS 7, will likely be a big hit at WWDC, along with OS X 10.9, and possibly new MacBook Pros and Airs. I think this will be a great year ahead for Apple.

UPDATE 5/13/13: T-Mobile has now raised the starting price of the iPhone 5 to $149.99 downpayment on their website. It’s still $20 a month for 24 months, so the total pricing adds up to $630 now versus $580.

UPDATE 6/7/13: To add a new iOS 7 logo, which Apple today placed on a banner inside its venue for WWDC, Moscone Center in San Francisco.

UPDATE 7/3/13: To include new pricing of iPhone 5 on T-Mobile. It now starts at $145.99 downpayment, but you have to pay $21 a month, therefore increasing the total cost to $650, versus $630.

Awaiting the iPhone 5S: Notable Rumors

To kick off 2013, we see plenty of interesting rumors ahead of the expected iPhone 5S release. Some rumors are more likely to happen, while others are probably just idle speculation.  Let’s take a look at some of the more notable rumors

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Rumors about summer releases for the next iPhone (codenamed iPhone 6,1) and iOS 7 showed up in recent developer logs. Clearly, this is likely considering iPhone and iOS have been on a yearly release cycle for Apple. We are more sure about the features on iPhone 5S than iOS 7, but without any official confirmation we’ll just  have to wait and see. In fact, iOS 7 is expected to be a major improvement, keeping in mind that Apple’s Industrial Design leader, Jonathan Ive, is now focused on iOS software. He replaces Scott Forstall, who used to be the iOS chief.

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Another rumor points to multiple screen sizes and colors. Right off the bat, I would eliminate the multiple screen sizes as highly unlikely.  For one Apple just added a 4-inch screen in 2012, for the iPhone 5. The bigger reason they would not do something like this is because the developers would have to work hard to optimize apps for multiple screen sizes, which makes developing apps a more difficult task.

As for the colors, analyst Brian White says that the reason this could happen is because the iPod touch was like a “testing ground” for colors and that Apple could eventually proceed with this move over to the next iPhone. Inventory will be the only drawback, as we won’t know how many people will be interested in a certain color. Don’t get your hopes up too high for this one, but I think we’re likely to see multiple colors.

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Another interesting rumor I am reluctant to believe, is about Apple making a cheaper, low-cost iPhone made of plastic. First of all, I am not sure why Apple would do this, considering they set out to make top-level, quality products. All they will probably do is offer cheaper iPhone 5 and 4S, after the iPhone 5S is announced. This is the higher probability path, considering what Apple has done in the past.

This next rumor is probably among the most technologically exciting of the bunch. Apparently, the next-generation handset will feature a fingerprint sensor underneath the existing home button. This could potentially give Apple an edge on the competition, as other competing phones already have too many buttons, so would find it harder to implement this feature. This new sensor could possibly be integrated with unlocking the phone for security, or even for use with applications such as Passbook, to enhance the experience

In any event, there’s a lot to be excited about this year with the iPhone. The iPhone 5S will probably shape up to be a very competitive upgrade in the already very popular smartphone line. I, for one, can’t wait to find out which of the rumors are true. Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Small and High-Tech 2012 Lexus CT200h

Recently, a family friend of mine bought a Lexus CT200h, with the F-Sport package and gave me a ride in it.  It is a very nice car, although it may seem basic.  I will tell you my impressions about the technology and the ride.

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This car is a great tech experience.  You have the Remote Touch navigation system, which is great because the mouse-like controller has haptic feedback built-in, similar to the Wii remote, so when you navigate onscreen buttons, you feel them through the controller.  Trust me, you’ll get the real feel for it only when you try it on your own.  Great technology, although not quite the best that you can find in other Lexus models.  For example, the Remote Touch navigation system is a generation behind other Lexus head units because the 2012 CT200h lacks Enform app integration.  What Enform is in other Lexus cars is a master app you can download onto your smartphone, to power a basket of apps on the car’s head unit.  Starting from the 2013 model year, the CT does include Enform.

The audio system can be had as a premium sound system, which on its own, sounds very good.  Unlike other Lexus cars, you cannot get the excellent Mark Levinson audio system.  There’s AM, FM, and XM radio, but there’s no HD Radio in the 2012 model, as you’d get on the newer Lexus systems.  USB and aux are standard, and scrolling a library of songs from an iPhone 4S was not too much of a problem, though I’ve seen faster systems out there.  You cannot get a wide selection of driver assistance technologies found on other Lexus models.  This would include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, head up display and night vision.  You’re not completely left out though because you have SmartAccess with push button start.  This allows you to lock and unlock the doors and start the engine, without taking the keys out your pocket.  It is very handy.

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The ride in the Lexus CT200h is very smooth, quiet, and linear.  The auto start-stop system worked perfectly, shutting down and starting the engine very smoothly.  Steering was very precise.  The ride was surprisingly responsive, even though the car has only 134 horsepower.  Mileage is rated at 43 city/40 hwy/42 average.  I’m not sure if the car would behave differently on highways, as I didn’t get a chance to go there on the short drive.  Turning the car from normal mode to sport mode showed a noticeable difference in acceleration response, as well as a large jump in RPM, with more growl from the engine.  Small thing, but I like the racing-inspired pedals, which are casted in aluminum with rubberized grip surfaces.  The F-Sport package really does a nice job of tuning the suspension and handling well and certainly results in a much sportier ride.

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In the end the Lexus CT200h is a very solid car.  I certainly like the technology and the drive in it.  For anybody looking for a compact, sporty hybrid that also gets good fuel economy, this is certainly one to look into.  The practicality of the hatchback body style also makes this a good car for errands or hauling small things, or maybe as a grocery getter.  Pricing seems reasonable, starting at 31K, going to around 40K or so.

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