Predictions for Apple in 2013: iTV, iPhone 5S, new iPads and Siri out of beta

Wow, what a year it has been for the tech world. We heard big news from Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and many other companies. Apple had many major headlines, from the maps hoopla to the introductions of the iPhone 5, iPad mini, and iMacs. Regardless of several new products being revealed this year, the question still remains — what will Apple do next? It is one of the reasons the company continues to be interesting, along with breakthrough products. So what can we expect from Apple in 2013? Let’s take a look. Apple iTV  Apple already has your daily life’s computing habits captured through the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. But how about the living room? The company has very little presence there. It currently offers an Apple TV set top box, but it is not a replacement for your cable box. Instead, owners can purchase iTunes content, AirPlay from iOS devices to a big screen TV, and some third-party streaming services like Netflix via the device. I like to think of it as an add on accessory for iOS device owners. So far, this has done very little to revolutionize TV — an industry that’s in need of change. Choosing and purchasing a TV isn’t a simple process, getting the cable content you want is difficult, and using a TV coupled with a cable box is horrendous. However, I believe Apple can change this by providing a television with Siri voice controls, an iOS operating system for running applications, and a simple way for customers to obtain content. The existing version of the set top box can easily be replaced by something else due to cost, however by offering their own proprietary TV, replacements would be much less as TVs aren’t replaced regularly. The biggest hurdle the company faces is convincing content providers, however, recent reports have suggested that this is one of the major roadblocks. In addition, Tim Cook has also referred to TV as “an area of intense interest” for Apple, adding: “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years.” Even if we don’t see a TV launch in 2013, I believe we will start to see a lot more about it through leaks. Apple changed the smartphone industry forever with the iPhone in 2007, and they are capable of doing the same to our living rooms with its own TV. Release cycle changes  This year, a big issue Apple encountered was keeping its products and refresh cycle a secret, especially when it was related to iOS: new...

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iTunes in India – the backdoor entrance for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iTV
Dec13

iTunes in India – the backdoor entrance for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iTV

One market Apple has ignored for a while is India, but that quickly changed last week when company launched the iTunes Store there and in more than 50 other new countries. With over a billion people, it is the second largest country by population in the world. Why is this a big deal? Let’s take a look. Pricing iTunes offers Indian tracks for $0.16 – 0.27 USD (rupees 7 – 15), albums from $1.2 USD (rupees 70) and movies from $5.3 – $9 USD (rupees 290-490). Movies are also offered for rental at rupees 80 (for Bollywood and other Indian titles) or rupees 120 for international films, which are valid for 30 days. Sure it is cheap, but there is a bigger picture to this. It shows that India has influenced such prices. The company could have decided to go with a similar pricing model as in the US, but doing so would have been disastrous. Instead, Apple took the time to understand the market and chose prices that are relevant to the local economy and purchasing capabilities of the 150 million internet users – a very smart move. Also, this pricing takes on local film labels and music services such as Flyte, Gaana.com, Dhingana, and Saavn head on. iTunes could change the ball game by capturing a fair share of that market and gain larger international presence. In addition, offering a digital store takes on online piracy in the country by providing customers an easy way to obtain content. It also creates another source of digital revenue for local film and music studios. A recent report by FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) stated that the Indian music industry grew to $167 million (rupees 9 billion) in 2011 (with digital revenues of 5.2 billion), which is a five percent growth over 2010. The opportunity for iTunes is enormous. Growth  India has an estimated 150 million internet users with over 900 million mobile users, making it the second largest market in the world after China. By offering iTunes, Apple has not only expanded the store’s growth significantly, but also demand for its products. The effect of this won’t be seen overnight, but will be made apparent in the long run. Before last week, owners of the company’s products in the country had to figure out a workaround to obtain content via the iTunes US store. It was a mess and owners were never able to receive the full Apple ecosystem experience. Until now, owning any other smartphone in India was no different from an Apple product due to lack of the ecosystem. Now that a polished...

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Apple needs to buy Foursquare to beef up its Maps App

The biggest controversy brought along with the release of iOS 6 was the new Maps.app. Apple decided to replace Google Maps with an in house solution, which brought along free, voice prompted, turn-by turn navigation. However, the data remains to be in question. Shortly after release, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to customers regarding the hoopla and suggested alternatives. The company continues to improve its application and one way it can be improved is by acquiring Foursquare. You probably think I’m crazy at this point, but Foursquare is a lot more than a check in app. I’m a daily user of the app and have seen just how powerful the database really is. A few months ago, Foursquare pivoted into an exploration service to take on Yelp. Now the service helps users find and keep track of places to visit, eat, drink, and hang out. In addition, it also provides local offers. As the app is used for such things, it is constantly gathering data that can be valuable to Apple. This data has a lot of rich information that could be built into iOS 6 Maps and into other services Apple provides. Let’s take a look. Maps The new maps is sub-par against its competitors like Google Maps. Turn by turn directions have been a great experience so far, but finding local places with it has been a nightmare. In my experience, the app is able to handle basic local searches. For example, if I look for “Starbucks”, it will find the closest ones. However, a more advance search “Starbucks 3rd St San Francisco, CA”, leads me to an irrelevant result or a screen that displays “No Results Found” even when there is data to be displayed. A similar query in Foursquare would provide an answer I’m looking for. The service’s database of point of interests is powerful and a lot more mature. Not only does the company have an enormous database of places, but thanks to “Foursquare Explore” it is also able to filter the data by searches and personal recommendations. Users would also be able to choose what kind of places should be displayed on the map. Siri As we transition from search engines to answer engines, they are going to have to be able to learn a person’s tastes and provide suggestions based on that. One service that already does this is Foursquare. The moment you check-in, it is ready to recommend places. As more check-ins occur, a history is built up, which creates personalized suggestions around what you like. In addition, the service has access to a user’s friends list on social networks and...

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A week with iPad mini. An iPad to have if you travel a lot
Nov11

A week with iPad mini. An iPad to have if you travel a lot

Usually when Apple announces a product, I want to purchase it on the spot, but I didn’t experience the same feeling with the iPad mini. I really wasn’t sure about purchasing one at first. The price point of $329 and lack of Retina display wasn’t very convincing at all, but after going back and forth, I went ahead and got one. After a week with the iPad mini, I absolutely love the device.  The iPad mini is the most beautiful and well engineered tablet in its category. That’s a fact, not an opinion. The biggest difference between the iPad mini and the fourth generation iPad is a smaller size, the thinness, and much lighter weight. At just 0.68 pounds instead of 1.44 lbs, the difference is enormous. I absolutely love and prefer the weight over my third generation iPad. The device is literally featherweight. When I go back to using the old iPad, it feels incredibly bulky to hold. The lack of Retina display on the device almost turned me away from purchasing one, but I have got used to it. Content displayed on this screen isn’t as crisp, but first time iPad users will not notice the difference. It has the same number of pixels and resolution as the iPad 2 and, in fact, is much more crisp. The wonderful part about iPad Mini is that all 275,000+ existing iPad apps can run on this on it. Out of the box, the product supports hundreds of thousands of apps, not to mention iTunes and iCloud. Even though the iPad mini runs an A5 chip, which is nowhere near as powerful as the fourth-generation iPad’s A6 CPU, the device is able to handle every task (movies, games, browsing the web, etc) very well. Memory-intensive games or other apps do take a second or two longer to load, but once launched, the apps run smoothly. One thing that the iPad mini is much better at – is the use on the go. Unlike the full-sized iPad, which can take up a lot of space in a backpack, this device does not. I have found it much easier to message, read books, browse the web, and take notes outside my home with it. Lately, iPad 3 has been collecting dust on my desk. The battery life on this device is amazing. Apple promises 10 hours of usage, but I’m able to get a day’s worth power easily, if not more. Also, the new Lighting connector charges the iPad mini extremely fast. Similar to the iPhone 5, the iPad mini is offered in black and slate or white and silver. Both of...

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I went to Microsoft Store for Surface on a launch day. Compared to Apple Store, t’was a retail experience from hell
Nov04

I went to Microsoft Store for Surface on a launch day. Compared to Apple Store, t’was a retail experience from hell

Last week, I did something I thought would never do. Being an Apple fan and all, I wouldn’t have waited in line for a Microsoft product launch if it wasn’t for helping a few friends. This Microsoft Store is located right across an Apple Store in a mall. In the past, I have waited in line for many Apple product launches, which have all been a wonderful experience. What exactly makes Apple product launches a wonderful experience? The opportunity to hangout with the Apple community throughout the night, receiving attention by the press, and the aura around it. A Microsoft product launch? Not so much. It was a retail experience from hell. Waiting In Line I wasn’t worried about a long line, but I was surprised by the number of people there. I arrived at 9 AM (an hour before launch) and I was only number 13. If this were an Apple product launch, it probably would have been hundreds long easily. In fact, the Apple Store across had over a hundred people waiting for the iPhone 5. Can you believe it? People are still lining up every morning for a month old product. Turns out, they receive shipments Monday – Saturday and are sold out within minutes in the morning. It was also disappointing to see no members of the press at the Surface launch. At this exact location, if it was related to Apple, there would be news vans and members of the press interviewing people while there. While waiting in line, friendly Microsoft employees welcomed us, gave out water, fruit bars, and candy. By 9:30 AM, the line was 50 to 75 people long and employees started to hand out a yellow band for people that were eligible for Xbox Music. I don’t understand why a card couldn’t have been given instead because the yellow band was pretty difficult to take off after. This was all acceptable until ten minutes before “launch.” Microsoft staff tried to get the people waiting all excited by cheering, but that didn’t end so well. They were the only ones excited while the people waiting were totally clueless on how to react! You could hear the crickets chirping and the sad trombone playing. During an Apple product launch, the excitement just forms on its own and Apple staff actually interact with customers by giving out high fives. Also, throughout the time, members of the press folks waiting in line, which add even more value to the experience. I became extremely bored while waiting in line. After that was over, Microsoft employees made customers go through a tedious process of making us...

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What I got right and wrong about the iPad mini
Oct26

What I got right and wrong about the iPad mini

So, as you know, the rumored iPad mini was finally revealed this week. About a month back, I predicted the five things that were going to be featured in the device. Let’s take a look back at what I got right and wrong about the iPad mini. What I completely missed  I completely missed the iPad mini’s price and internal chip. Speculation and the market for seven inch tablets suggested that the iPad mini would be anywhere in the $249 – $299 range, but Apple really surprised us by pricing the device at $329. Just days before a rumor appeared saying that the device would be priced at $329, but it was really hard to believe. I predicted the price to be $299, but suggested that it may be offered at $249. Apple isn’t feeling the competition and doesn’t want to compete in the “cheap” tablet market by selling them at a loss. During Apple’s earnings call this week, Apple CFO Pete Oppenheimer revealed that even at $329 the iPad mini has a substantially lower product margins as a whole.  In addition, I thought the iPad mini would feature an A5X chip due to the third generation iPad having one, but instead Apple used the same A5 chip used in the iPad 2. It seems that the A5X chip was the odd man out all along. What I got right  7-inch display This did happen. Apple ended up putting a 7.9 display, but also added a nice touch to it. It runs existing iPad apps seamlessly out of the box and the screen has the same aspect ratio and resolution as the iPad 2. I feared apps would have to be remade from scratch specifically for the iPad mini, but I’m glad this didn’t end up being the case. No Retina Display  Oh boy, was I bummed out about this. A Retina display in an iPad mini would have been killer feature, but this didn’t happen. Apple probably did this in order to keep costs down and a reasonable profit margin. Unlike majority of its competitors, Apple is actually making money on hardware. I know! What a concept! 4G/LTE  iPad mini featuring 4G/LTE was inevitable. We have quickly transitioned from 3G network technology to 4G/LTE networks. In order to market it as the perfect on the go tablet, supporting a technology any other than 4G/LTE would not have made sense. Design  Called it. The iPad mini is as thin as a pencil, weighs just 0.68 pounds, and features a 9 pin Lightning connector. Besides a new type of color styling, the device looks very similar to an iPad. Apple...

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The future of Passbook. Apple’s bid to replace your wallet with iPhone
Oct20

The future of Passbook. Apple’s bid to replace your wallet with iPhone

About a month back, Apple released a new version of iPhone and an updated version of iOS, which powers the device. iOS 6 introduced over 200 new features including deeper social networking integration, a more powerful Siri, but a sub-par version of Apple’s new in-house maps app. However one feature that didn’t receive the spotlight due to the maps hoopla and the iPhone 5 launch, was a new app called Passbook. Passbook aims to become a mobile wallet for all your digital coupons, membership and gift cards, movie tickets and boarding passes. Instead of Apple choosing to add a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip in the iPhone, Apple decided to create its own solution. With the introduction of Passbook, Apple placed a mobile wallet in over a 100 million iPhones. The adoption of Passbook among a range of industries which range from restaurants, attractions, and retail vendors like Walgreens and Target have been rapid and continue to increase every day. iTunes Account as a digital credit card What does Passbook look like as of today? Let’s take a look. Since I use Passbook on a daily basis to pay for my coffee at Starbucks, I will take that as an example. As of today, in order to purchase a cup of coffee via my Passbook, I have to download the Starbucks app and register a gift card. Then, I have to add credit to that gift card. Once that is done, a barcode is generated and can be displayed in Passbook to purchase a cup of coffee. However, at some point Starbucks could start accepting payments through your iTunes account. Not only Starbucks, but many other retailers could offer the same thing. Rumor has it that the Apple Store will be the first to offer payments via your iTunes account soon. This would eliminate the need for additional setup and your iTunes would become a digital credit card. It would not only be a win-win for consumers, but also for merchants. Currently, merchants have to deal with annoying credit and debit cards fees, but Apple can help retailers bypass that by simply offering this solution. With over 425M iTunes accounts with credit cards or debit cards, the potential is enormous.  A new type of rewards system As of today, many retailers offer a way for customers to sign up for a rewards system at the time of purchase, which is a great, but is in need of disruption. Why must a physical card be shown in order to redeem points? I pretty much say no to these since I don’t have room in my wallet to carry a card...

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My 2 weeks with Apple’s iPhone 5. I can’t believe how shabby my old iPhone 4S feels now…
Oct11

My 2 weeks with Apple’s iPhone 5. I can’t believe how shabby my old iPhone 4S feels now…

The moment the iPhone 5 was announced, I decided to camp out for it. Without a pre-order in place, I waited in line for over 12 hours  for the new handset and after spending two weeks with it, I have to say that it was completely worth it. Like many of you,  I saw the Apple’s new smartphone  launch event and feared iPhone 5  would be disappointing. It isn’t. After holding and playing around with the device, you truly appreciate the incredible engineering and fantastic design of iPhone 5.  The new handset is really a work of art and a huge improvement over the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Hardware and Design Since the iPhone 3G, I have purchased every single iPhone to date. From the 3G to 3GS, it wasn’t a significant upgrade, but from the iPhone 3GS to 4, it was a jaw dropping experience. However, when I went from the iPhone 4 to the 4S, it felt very mediocre. I once again experienced a jaw dropping experience when I upgraded from the iPhone 4S to 5. I was  really happy to notice that the glass back had been replaced with metal. My iPhone 5 feels so much more durable now! Heck, I have even dropped it a few times, and nothing happened. What’s more, iPhone 5 is literally featherweight. When I first picked it up, I honestly thought it was going to fly out of my hand. However, the weight of the latest iPhone has grown on me. Once in a while, I’ll pick up my old iPhone 4S, and boy, that device sure feels bulky to use and hold. I’m constantly amazed by the thinner form factor and the amount of engineering and technology Apple has been able to fit into such a small device. A major change that Apple made with the introduction of this iPhone is the screen size. And they added a new 4” display without compromising one hand usability of the device. The usability part isn’t talked about much, but it is something you’ll appreciate in real life. Throughout my daily chores, I have found the larger screen to be extremely useful while browsing email, the web, and using apps. Being able to see more content is just great and watching video on this device is truly a bliss. When I look back at my iPhone 4S’s 3.5″ display, it is horrifying. It feels extremely small and content on screen feels squeezed. You have to wonder how iPhone owners tolerated such a small display size when 4” smartphones were available way before the iPhone 5. Oh yes, and while talking on the...

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5 things to expect in iPad mini
Sep30

5 things to expect in iPad mini

Now that the iPhone is here and shipping, we the tech media turn our sights to the next big Apple product reveal – iPad Mini. Most likely it will be announced during early October media event. Here’s my take on what we can expect with the iPad mini.  Hardware and Display  Rumor has it that iPad mini could end up with a 7.8-inch display, which is a little more than the typical 7-inch tablets out there. Apple took a much different approach than its competitors like Samsung designing its latest smartphone, making an 4” iPhone taller instead of wider. So it’ll be little surprise so if Apple follows the same logic with iPad mini’s screen. Since smaller tablet has to be able to run iPad apps seamlessly out of the box, a seven inch display with same aspect ratio and screen resolution as the iPad 2 would make the most sense. iPad mini will may or may not come with a Retina display, and I really hope it does. A non-Retina, iPad mini would be a significant downgrade, but in order to keep costs down and a reasonable profit margin, it may not be feasible. When it comes to internal hardware, an iPad mini with an A5X chip, 512MB RAM, and similar quad core graphics chip to the one in the  iPad 2 makes sense since costs need to be kept low. Also, less pixels play would call for less processing power, especially if the iPad mini is non-Retina. 4G/LTE models are inevitable also.  Design A smaller tablet calls for a smaller bezel and rumors have suggested that Apple will probably offer a similar look and feel to the iPod touch. However, I believe that the iPad mini will look and feel much more like the existing iPad. Going by the latest iPhone 5 and iPod touch looks, it may also be thinner than the newest iPad. In fact, with every major product, Apple has made its products thinner and lighter. A similar design to the iPad would also keep things consistent. And, of course, now that Apple switched to the 9 pin connector, all igadgets, including iPad mini, will come with it.  FaceTime + Siri Back in 2010, a new piece of hardware and a new feature was introduced on the iPhone. The iPhone got a front facing camera and Steve Jobs announced “FaceTime”. Since then, the front facing camera and FaceTime has made its way into the iPod touch, iPad 2, third generation iPad, and Mac. The pattern is pretty obvious so iPad mini will undoubtedly offer FaceTime and have both front and back cameras. With the...

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