AMITIAE - Thursday 11 August 2016
Cassandra: Mid-Week Review - Anticipation of Apple Releases; and some Other Snippets
By Graham K. Rogers
Of course, the iPhone was the best and worst as everything after is compared to that one product and "few things can ever come close to that level of success". For a revealing part of the interview came almost halfway through when Eddy Cue - responding to the idea of mistakes, says,
. . . well, that's our culture. We don't want to tell the world what we want to solve, what we're trying to solve. Why? Because we haven't solved it. Other than trying to make ourselves look cool or good, what's the purpose of that? I don't understand that part of it. So, yeah, there are a bunch of things we're working on that we'd like to solve - some we've been working on for years and we haven't solved, for that matter. I don't feel like we should be tooting our own horns that we're trying to solve that problem, when we haven't really solved it. [My italics]
This goes back to the idea of why Apple never reveals much about what it is working on, and why there is so much speculation, much of which is later proved to be wrong.
Among the rumours concerning the next iPhone are the date: 7 September; three iPhone models or two; two cameras in one or two iPhones; the A10 processor (what a disappointment that will turn out to be), a new antenna placement (why? . . .); and the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack (Gasp!).
A number of photos appeared this week of what purport to be the A10 processor and these were carried in an article by Jordan Kahn (9to5 Mac) among many online sources. Interesting that he comments about the "much rumored improved camera system" and a redesigned Home button. Reports of those using beta versions of iOS 10 suggest that the behaviour of the Home button on current devices has changed too.
I was not wholly impressed with the rumours about two cameras on the next iPhone as it sounded a bit of a gimmick to me, although Apple rarely follows that path. An article by Tim Moynihan on Wired covering twin camera systems in all phones put this in some perspective for me. His explanation of the value not just two cameras but two processors reminded me of the Argus drone project that used 368 such cameras with their processors to produce 1.8 gigapixel images.
A cursory glance at technical specifications would show this. For example, the iPhone 6s models had improved cameras, a more powerful processor and other new features, such as the 3D touch screen. But these misconceptions persist, are widely touted online and confidence in Apple decreases. Doom is near, some would have us believe.
Some of the most persistent rumours about the next iPhone from Apple concerns sound output. For several years, headphones and other speaker systems have been connected to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. There are rumours that this connector it to be removed by Apple, which already has many online upset that their third-party headphones will stop working.
The iPhone already has Bluetooth so it is easy to connect a speaker or a headphone system to the device, but Cult of Mac (Killian Bell) reports that a new energy-efficient Bluetooth chip has been designed. The article suggests this is intended for Bluetooth earbuds.
More likely (although still only a rumour) is the idea that the standard port will be removed and the Lightning port used to provide audio output. Not that Apple has announced this at all. It is this that has caused the most comment online, although this would not deter those intending to buy the next iPhone from making the purchase. Should this change occur (and I am strongly in favour of this), earbuds with the iPhones would be supplied with Lightning connectors.
Removing the port would have certain advantages, particularly in the reduction in the numbers of components (thus reducing costs) and allowing either a thinner device, or the space to be used for a slightly larger battery.
However, Apple would need to produce adapters: for connecting to the current audio jack so that users could continue to use preferred equipment; and to allow charging (or other uses) while the earbuds are in use. It is unlikely that these would be free. Similar adapters for other devices are normally priced around $29.
Whatever change Apple makes is bound to cause criticism: new iPhones always do, until consumers start to buy and use them. It is wise not to take notice of early reports when a new product is released. After 7 days or so, a more measured examination will have taken place (iFixit and AnandTech are balanced and undramatic) and sales in the opening weekend - expected to be in mid-September - will give an idea of consumer acceptance.
But what will we have? Here the rumours tend to break down a little, despite the new MacBook models four months ago with the Intel Skylake processors. It is that 4 month period that is stretching things. If the Skylake was available for use in April, why haven't the MacBook Pro computers seen these? More important, why are the iMacs languishing, why is the Mac mini still unchanged; and whatever happened to the Mac Pro?
These are good questions and may be leading to a decline in sales while users wait in expectation of new devices: the Osborne Effect. After Thanksgiving and the new year period is when Apple expects the highest sales, for business and home users.To make sure the markets are served worldwide, we would expect to see several announcements in September and early October (at the latest).
Rumours about the technical changes in any new Macs are a bit thin on the ground, although one that keeps appearing is the idea of a mini, touch-sensitive OLED touchscreen to replace the Function keys. Ben Lovejoy (9to5 Mac) was surprised to find that 27% of people surveyed would actually like a touchscreen MacBook Pro (not just that OLED feature) but like the many rejecting this, I prefer the built-in touch pad and even have the external track pad for my desktop Mac mini as I find this more usable than any mouse (but keystrokes are quicker).
MacBook range - Image Courtesy of Apple
Intelligence sources look for patterns or information outside the main area of interest to build a picture of probabilities. We do not know for certain that redesigned Mac Book Pro computers are coming, but it is likely as there are reported to be redesigned hinges (among other things). Mike Wuerthle on AppleInsider points out that Jarllytec has reported increased revenues from production of hinges, reported to be for new Macs. The company specialises in Metal injection molding: "The process cuts down on product lead times, reduces costs, and has a significant reduction in waste materials generated by machining. MIM part manufacturers claim that wall thicknesses can be as small as 0.4mm".
This week Kif Leswing on Business Insider reports that Google is to "de-emphasize" this, and "By December, Adobe Flash will no longer be turned on by default in Chrome." I guess that will leave the BBC, MotoGP and one or two porn sites as flag carriers in the main.
Later reports came from Kif Leswing on Business Insider who put the time at 04:20 (PT) and that the aim of the crime was to steal laptops (new or in use is not stated). A CBS report that includes Flash content (they haven't read the memo), does actually incude the point that "the suspects were able to get away with stolen laptops" ("laptops", plural). That CBS page may have Flash content which did not load on my Mac (I deleted Flash) but it also had a self-loading video which I did not want. I will avoid this content provider in the future.
The most recent report I could find when writing this was from Cupertino Patch that names a Richard Bejarano as the suspect arrested by police in a Starbucks. a sharp-eyed deputy, "saw computer cords hanging from the back of the vehicle and pursued the vehicle for a short distance".
. . . that demands by politicians and crimefighters for special keys, which can be used by investigators to unlock devices in criminal cases, will inevitably jeopardize the security of everyone.
Which is what Apple and a lot of others have been saying for a while now.
In a loosely-related Microsoft security item, Tom Mendelsohn on Ars Technica reports that the Metropolitan Police in London have missed their own deadline on upgrading PCs from Windows XP. They have software on some devices that will not run on newer versions of WinOS and cannot upgrade until those applications are fixed. In the meantime, like the US Navy, they are getting special security releases from Microsoft to keep XP running on some 27,000 computers, after 15 years.
I find it annoying that some emails have a lot of links but most of the time I let these pass, because I want the content. This week, however, a line was crossed when one technical newsletter to which I subscribed made 27 connections before I could actually read the few summaries of the stories it was linking to. Twenty-seven. Goodbye to IDG's Techconnect Daily.
Unsubscribing was easy enough with a single click on a web page, but there was a sinister, "Your preferences have been saved" afterwards. Why?
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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