Looks like it might be the case. Several sources on twitter is reporting that both Vodacom and MTN will be releasing the iPhone 4 on 00:00 on 22 September. Thats tomorrow night folks.
You can go pre-register for the phone over at Vodacom and MTN‘s websites. No info on pricing yet Update: iPhone 4 pricing for South Africa here, probably due to the operators not wanting to play their hands too early. But seeing as South Africa has traditionally had some of the highest iPhone pricing in the world, we can only hope for the best. Maybe the competition will fix things a bit.
I have tried phoning a few stores on where to get one, but clearly Vodacom and MTN’s own stores are not really kept up to date on the iPhone launch. And here I was hoping to get myself the best birthday present…
iTunes is one of those apps I tend to have a love / hate relationship with. On the one hand, I have used iTunes for many years now and have as such built up a a very well organized iTunes library. My music is meticulously named and organized, new songs go through a smart playlist where I can quickly rate them etc. All in all a very familiar music player to me.
Across the web people seem to be happy with iTunes 10, but there is still a few people out there who are not impressed. Windows guru Paul Thurrott has over time become more and more negative towards Apple products in general, and has now finally gotten to the point where he thinks people should give up Apple. I have always respected his opinion, I believed it was objective and well thought out, but this time around I have to say I do not agree with his sentiment. He bases his article on the fact that iTunes is not as good as the Zune music player. Now I have played with Zune music player, and it is impressive. But giving up Apple because of iTunes? Please.
But I must agree with one thing – iTunes has become a dog. It is such a big mess of seperate components now, that it really is time for Apple to fix it. Now, many of us hoped iTunes 10 would be that release. While the speed boost is nice, its otherwise pretty much same old, same old. So I decided to think of ways Apple could fix iTunes.
1) Stop making iTunes bigger and bigger
Apple, last time I checked iTunes is more than 90 megs to download. True, broadband is becoming better and better so its not really the size that bothers me. Its the fact that Apple insists on installing every iTunes feature on my machine. If I do not have a Apple TV, why is the components already installed? If I dont have an Airport Express, why would I want Airplay? True, you migh argue that Apple tries to simplify things by making one thing that you download, and that many of these devices use the exact same framework. Thats fine – but then at least give me the option te remove certain components, especially considering that Apple’s iDevices portfolio is increasing every year (iPod, iPhone, iPad, AppleTv etc). Why is this an issue? That brings me to my next point.
2) Improve performance – a lot
First off, thanks Apple for improving things somewhat in iTunes 10. Hell, even my scrolling works properly. But the rest is still dog slow. But lets try to keep it that way please? You might also want to try writing the next iTunes in Cocoa. Objective-C will speed things up a lot. But I reckon its the porting to Windows that is the problem. The Windows version of iTunes is consistently worse than the Mac version.
Firing up large videos still take a lot of time, especially HD files. If HD files fire up instantly when using quicklook, why does iTunes take that long?
3) Wireless Sync
The very fact that Apple’s latest wifi enabled iDevices need to sync with a cable is beyond me. I think Apple needs to shift away from the idea that we have to tether their devices. I meet a lot of people who have never plugged in their iPhones once into their computer, seeing as they were activated at the store when they bought it. This means when they loose their phones, they have no backup anywhere. Now you might argue that is the result of their own stupidity – but how easy would it be for Apple to fix that with an automatic incremental backup over wifi? I am not saying Wifi should replace the USB cable (battery life with very large syncs is of course a concern), just give us the option?
4) Brighten up the interface
iTunes is becoming quite a ugly application to run. With all of Apple’s user interface design chops, do we not deserve a better looking application? Hell, if you squint your eyes its starting to look a like a spreadsheet. In iTunes 10 you removed the colours from your menu on the left – so it is now a big gray blob. Well, except for the album art. Take a look at the Zune player interface – while I might not agree with the design guidelines, you have to admit its a lot more attractive than the gray bohemeth that iTunes has become.
I also think Apple should make its Front Row interface part of iTunes (for PC’s as well). Yes, yes I know it goes my first point, but hear me out. Most people these days are getting bigger and bigger monitors, and as such are getting higher resolutions as well. On a full HD screen iTunes becomes quite a finicky guy to use from more than a meter away. Why not give us a 10 foot interface for iTunes as well?
But to be honest, I am a very happy camper with iTunes. Considering the number of features it is sporting these days, Apple has managed to keep the inteface remarkably refined – but not perfect. I reckon iTunes is up for a big rewrite in the future, with performance being issue number 1.
Related: If you want to be able download Apps, Music, Movies, TV Series etc from the US iTunes store, even if you live in SA, here is how to do it.
Distimo just released their latest report for August, which details sales of all the current mobile application stores. Here are the noteworthy results so far:
While the average price of all applications is only 16% higher in the Apple App Store for iPad than in the Apple App Store for iPhone, the average price of the 100 most popular applications is nearly three times as high in the Apple App Store for iPad.
In the Apple App Store for iPad, BlackBerry App World and Windows Marketplace for Mobile, the respective companies that run each application store, (Apple, Research In Motion and Microsoft) are the top publishers in their own store with only a limited number of applications. Clickgamer.com and Offscreen publish many popular games in the Apple App Store for iPhone and Nokia Ovi Store making them the top publishers in these stores.
People expect higher quality apps from the vendors who design the software, and in most cases this does show. Apple‘s Pages is a prime example of this – while not super functional, the interface and ease of use is way ahead of any other similiar offering from other vendors.
Average prices of the different appstores also bring up some interesting results:
Google Marketplace has the lowest pricing, and the store size is rapidly increasing. Also worth noting is Blackberry‘s cost which is still quite high, but this can be ascribed to their minimum price being $2.99, but this is being changed with the latest release of App World. So expect those prices to drop soon enough. The iPad is still being seen by developers as a higher income “niche” product, so the current prices still reflect this.
Here is some other results from the different appstores:
If you want to read the Distimo report more in-depth, you can find it here.
Every year in September Apple has its music focussed event which normally focusses on new iPods, but occasionally Apple also releases interesting new devices as well…
Now if we look at the invite for the event its a guitar with a Apple shaped hole behind the strings, so clearly Apple is sticking to the music theme this year. But this might also hint towards Apple’s iLife suite which has the Garageband app. Its been 18 months since iLife ’09 was released. The typical release date for past releases of iLife was in January at the Macworld conference, but since Apple does not go to Macworld anymore, an announcement for a new version of iLife might be very possible.
Captain Obvious will also tell you that new iPods are on the way. Updates to the current iPod might look something like this I reckon:
iPod Classic: All evidence suggests that the hard drive based iPod is on the way out. With all of Apple’s focus on touch based interfaces, it would be very strange of Apple to keep selling the Classic. But there is a sizable number of people out there with massive music libraries that want it all in their pockets. So if Apple drops the iPod Classic, expect some outcry.
iPod Nano: There are currently pictures out there from case suppliers that suggest that Apple might be changing the Nano a lot. Expect a small clip like device, almost like the second generation iPod Shuffle. Bizarrely this device will use a 3 inch touch screen.
I am somewhat skeptical of this, and I guess I would have to see how one would pull off a touch based interface on such a small screen that actually works well. I am instead hoping for a smaller sized iPod Touch shaped device.
iPod Touch: My opinion is that the iPod touch and Classic would be fused into one product. I reckon the iPod touch might change its name to simply “iPod”. Looking at the iPhone 4 its easy enough to predict what we might see. Expect higher resolution Retina displays, front facing cameras for using Facetime calls and a more iPhone like design scheme that uses matte steel and black steel.
iPod Shuffle: In the past year, the Shuffle was the dud of the iPod lineup. Without a decent control scheme, I expect Apple to shift to another design. Or alternatively, if the rumors of a much smaller iPod Nano is to believed, it might be entirely possible that the Shuffle can be scrapped altogether.
One more thing: New AppleTV (or iTV). I expect a more simplified version of Apple TV to arrive soon. Current rumors suggest an iOS based interface, smaller on board storage and an much lower price. I have no idea how they would implement iOS on a screen without a decent control scheme though. Maybe a Wiimote like pointer?
The big what if for me: When is iPad users getting iOS4? Apple told us that we can expect it Fall 2010. Well – its that time Apple. Problem is that there has been no public beta of 4.1 for iPad. Therefore I expect at least the announcement of the iPad iOS Beta program to start. Call it iOS 4.1, iOS 4.2, heck, call iPadFixed, just give us some feedback Apple. But I don’t want to get off on a rant here – you can read my current issues with the iPad here.
But its only a day until we will know how wrong I am…
For the last month my iPad has changed my computing patterns quite a bit – my Macbook Pro has been staying at home on most trips, which I did not really believe would happen. However, not all is great with the iPad. While Apple might sketch a very rosy picture, there is a few shortcomings which I believe should not have been there in the first place.
This is my major hangup with the iPad – in fact I think its pretty silly of Apple to release the iPad without it. While everyone was clamouring for multitasking on the iPhone, I have to say that I realised later that it wasn’t something that I used all that much. Sure, its nice to have, but it was not really such a big deal (except maybe for navigation apps). But on the iPad it’s a necessity. Having to exit out of an app to go copy something from another app is getting old mighty quick.
2) Improved Notifications
Apple’s current notification method is pretty sucky. The whole idea where my notifications are static on screen is tired. Android’s implementation is much more slick – the pull down tray from the top of the screen is much better. On a device like the iPad where a multitude of apps might be wanting to notify me, a proper notification scheme is needed. All that screen real estate and all I get is little popups and badges on icons?
One of the greatest parts of the iPad is the big bright screen – it is still better than just about any tablet PC on the market today. On the iPhone the cramped screen creates a necessity where screen icons need to be easy to touch, and therefore a typical user can browse through many pages of icons. On the iPad it gives the impression of an unfinished product – we need folders so that we arrange the icons. Frankly, this should have arrived on the iPad.
4) A revised Universal App policy
So far the apps available for the iPad has slowly improved, with most of the apps focussing on rewriting of existing iPhone apps, with next to no additional functionality. The worst part is that some developers have the odacity to simply slap “HD” at the end of the title, and asking double the price. I am pretty sure that a large percentage of the iPad user base is iPhone users as well – therefore people who would prefer to have universal apps that run on both platforms, but most importantly, carry a one time cost. Now many apps have done the right thing and made their apps universal, but I believe Apple should insist apps be made universal if they do not improve on the iPhone version. A good example is Beejive. I paid $10 for it on iPhone, now I have to pay $10 for the iPad version? Please.
5) An improved App Store interface
Currently the iPad Appstore is not really logically arranged. Instead of following the tried and tested iPhone formula where top selling apps bubble to the top. On the iPad it takes a few clicks to see the top selling apps of a certain category. Small thing, but irritating nonetheless.
6) Wireless Sync
I was never one of those people that did not like iTunes – I liked its organization of my music library and its reasonably simple, no drills interface. But over time it has become quite a pig – while the interface has remained quite similar, Apple had to make it compatible with its ever increasing range of iDevices, and the result is its current overweight self. Even the name iTunes is misnomer – its not like playing music is the only thing it does. iHub might be more apt, with it becoming the center of your digital entertainment. But problem number one is that devices like the iPad need iTunes just to activate. And then it needs to be plugged into iTunes just to do a music sync. With the iPad’s large battery and fast wireless N networking, why cant it do it without a cable? The iPad should move away from relying on your computer just to switch on.
At present this is non-existant on the iPad. If you want to print something with the iPad, you need to send the file to a computer, and print it from there. Again, the iPad relies on your computer. This should be built into iPad, and I am sure Apple can figure out a way to handle the mess of printer drivers. In fact, if there is one area of computing that I think most people agree is still terrible, its printers. Im not asking for iPrinter, the driver and setup method must be universally refreshed. (Getting off the point here, I know.)
8) A file structure
Now I know many people will say that this goes against the very simplicity that makes the iPhone/iPad successful. But at present, iTunes’s file syncing is a very poorly implemented solution. At the very least, Apple should allow me to sync file structures and folders between my PC and the iPad. Why must I manually choose which files I want to send to my iPad? I have enough space on there – let me sync them all please. Also, the current API of opening a file in another app is a welcome change, but more apps need to use it.
9) Improved iPhone app rendering
At present iPhone apps on the iPad look very bad. If Apple can make older low res iPhone apps render next to perfectly on the iPhone’s retina display, surely they can make the same effort on the iPad. Especially with the app updates now all addressing the Retina display, images, buttons and text should all look better on the iPad’s display as well right?
10) More transparency on Software Updates
First off, I know Apple and “transparency” cannot really be mentioned in the same sentence. But with the iPad, Apple has a responsibility to improve on all these aspects, and quickly. The iPad should have arrived with iOS4 out of the box – and the current “Fall 2010” timeline is not really specific. Apple is hosting a music related event on the first of September, so we can only predict what we might see then. Hopefully iOS will be available then.
You will notice that most of my issues can be fixed with a software update – that because I believe the iPad hardware is pretty close to perfect. Sure, it can stand to lose a few grams, and it might be better with a SD card reader built in, but all in all I think the form factor is pretty perfect.
Not that its all bad news – I honestly believe that these “slimmed down” computers are the way forward, and that our general computing pattern will change in the future. I am on the fence whether people will prefer smartphones or tablet devices, but my first instinct tells me that smartphones will win the battle, but the iPad might be prefered by many people who don’t want to tinker with small touch screens.
What I do agree with however is Steve Jobs’s analogy of how our computing patterns might follow the way we use cars. Instead of everyone driving trucks (lets just call them big, tough vehicles), people have started shifting towards smaller, more focussed vehicles like cars. The typical user does not do any computationally intensive tasks on their computers anymore – our usage of computers have shifted towards web-browsing based scenarios completely. The upcoming release of Google’s Chrome OS is typical of this – why use a full operating system when our usage is primarily concerned with web platforms?
And that is why the iPad is doing so well at the moment – we have changed our entire computing pattern, and the iPad is the ideal machine for that. Now bring on the competition please. HP – I am looking at you.
Related: If you want to be able download Apps, Music, Movies, TV Series etc from the US iTunes store, even if you live in SA, here is how to do it.
As previously mentioned, the recent Saudi insistence on gaining access to the Blackberry Messenger servers have indeed opened up a can of worms for RIM. Long the secure benchmark in the mobile communication world, Blackberrys are being targeted by many officials in the North African and Middle East areas, and as such is under threat to be shut down if RIM does not comply.
India is the latest country to want access to the encrypted BB communication systems – but they perhaps have a good reason to do so. Remember those attacks on Mumbai in 2008? Those terrorists used Blackberry’s as their primary communication method. Why? Because its encrypted… and cannot be seen by governments.
On Thursday the Indian government will make a deadline avaiable to RIM to comply with, otherwise they also threaten to shut down service to BB phones. For a long time Blackberry’s biggest selling point was the secure communication it granted to executives, but now that advantage is quickly coming to a close. In fact in the past month the German government has banned the use of BB with its politicians and civil servants, and the European Union Commission moved to Apple iPhone and HTC smartphones.
Reuters makes a good point in the fact that China and India are the world’s largest mobile phone markets, and if BB is shutdown in these countries, it can pose a significant threat to RIM.
You might have heard that RIM eventually opened up their communications to the UAE – so it is possible that a similiar situation will occur in India, a country with over 600 million cellular subscibers.
This morning MyBroadband had an interesting article about the sales of iPhone vs Blackberry in SA. Despite the success of iPhone worldwide, somehow the handset has reached less than 1% of the SA mobile market. While this low figure is probably more to do with the SA mobile demography, I thought I might look a bit more into it. A user called Filip Chudzinski over at iFun put together a infographic chart with the worldwide cost of unlocked iPhone 4s. Unfortunately SA was not on that chart, so I decided to add SA to it as well, seeing as our iPhones are unlocked as well.
But first off, you might ask how am I able to “project” iPhone 4 prices? Well, this is the current price of the iPhone 3GS in SA. Since the iPhone 3G was launched in SA, the price of the iPhone has not dropped in SA. In fact, it has gotten more expensive. Now we can say this is because of exchange rate, but the Rand is a bit stronger these days, but iStore stills charges a price of R8699 for 16GB or R9999 for 32GB. So, if we assume the iPhone price stays the same with the release of iPhone 4, here is a comparison of worldwide unlocked iPhones. Please note this does not include phone which are network locked, like in the US with AT&T.
It looks pretty grim right? With iPhone 4 there is bound to be some competition however – it is not only Vodacom who is carrying it this time around, lets hope MTN can somehow drop the price somewhat. On the other hand, with the 3GS, the price was suddenly a thousand rand more per model than the 3G.
But lets stay optimistic, competition can be a great thing after all…
iStore iPhone Tariffs
Euro to Rand pricing on 2 August 2010
If you play around with the Apple iPad at the moment it becomes pretty clear that the apps dont follow some type of guidelines on usability. Sure, the button sizes are correct, but some apps have very strange operating methods. For example, the Guiness Book of Records uses a different paging techniques than say, Wired’s page flipping method. At present, image link areas are also too large or small in some apps. This leads to some usability issues with current range of apps. It reminds me somewhat of the early days of CD-ROM – every app had a more creative, but not necessarily better way to navigate or operate.
With the iPhone, the screensize limited new or unique gesture methods. But with the iPad’s bigger screen developers are free to play around with new gestures, like three or four fingers swipes. While this is fine, there needs to be some user conventions that will hopefully happen over time.Just watching someone who is used to the iPhone will show this pretty quickly – you often see them repeating gestures with small adjustments in either speed, motion, etc. As Nielsen mentions:
“iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems.”
This does not necessarily mean there is a problem with the platform, instead developers need to focus on certain aspects to ensure that their apps perform well on the iPad:
Even our limited initial user studies provide directions for making iPad designs more usable:
• Add dimensionality and better define individual interactive areas to increase discoverability through perceived affordances of what users can do where.
• To achieve these interactive benefits, loosen up the etched-glass aesthetic. Going beyond the flatland of iPad’s first-generation apps might create slightly less attractive screens, but designers can retain most of the good looks by making the GUI cues more subtle than the heavy-handed visuals used in the Macintosh-to-Windows-7 progression of GUI styles.
• Abandon the hope of value-add through weirdness. Better to use consistent interaction techniques that empower users to focus on your content instead of wondering how to get it.
• Support standard navigation, including a Back feature, search, clickable headlines, and a homepage for most apps.
If you want to go read the full 93 page usability report, you can find it here. This is a truly valuable resource if you are currently experimenting with touch interfaces.
Thanks to Albert for the pointer…