October 7, 2012

Applesauce: All Things Apple – October 7, 2012

The proverbial log jam has been removed this week, releasing all those iPad Mini rumors we had been looking for in recent weeks. Samsung decided to continue their battle, either out of a sense of duty or pride (I can’t tell anymore) and Consumer Reports begrudgingly lends their half-hearted support to the iPhone 5.

Finally, a visionary passed a year ago, giving those in the Apple community pause to remember him for the great man and innovator he was. Let’s pour out a glass of carrot juice for our dead homie, then hop in the unmarked Benz for a quick hit of the Applesauce. All organic and commune-grown, of course.

Mr. Tambourine Man

Friday marked the first anniversary of Steve Jobs’ passing, a sad day for the world over. So, what did the first year without Steve look like? While Apple continued on their winning streak, releasing another phenomenal iPad, a record breaking iPhone and finally becoming the world’s most valuable company, there were many who saw it fit to prop up the corpse of Steve in their feeble arguments of “This wouldn’t happen if Steve were still here!” This topic has been argued and debated before, but I’d like to address it regardless. You know what Steve would do if Apple released a buggy product right out of the gate? He’d take his staff to task over the matter, a La Mobile Me, swearing at them in an obscene tirade.  Many left the Mobile Me team afterwards, and the service was later scrapped and turned into iCloud, a service with its problems, but a much better product than Mobile Me. You know what Steve Jobs WOULDN’T do if Apple released a buggy product? Issue an apology and suggest other services which work better.

The words “Steve Jobs” and “Apology” never belonged together. After all, let’s not forget another Apple blunder, the whole issue about the iPhone 4’s antenna. (No, I’m not calling it THAT) Steve flew back from his vacation in Hawaii, held a press event, showed video upon video of how all the other phones have the same problems, and then begrudgingly gave away free bumpers and cases— for a limited time— to those who had an issue. Users simply had to accept it. It’s odd for an apologist to come out of the gate and mention Jobs’ faults, of course, but it’s important to remember that, for all his qualities, he also had his problems. He was a man of extremes. Here’s another thing Steve WOULD do; He’d hand pick the best in the business and teach them to never ask “What Would Steve Do?” It’s an odd argument, this “Steve wouldn’t allow this” bit. It seems to come from the same corners of the Internet who chided the man for issuing a non-apology during the antenna kerfuffle. The same people who blamed Steve for responding in the way he did seem to be the same who bash Tim Cook, Steve’s hand picked successor, for being on watch when something like iOS 6’s Maps happens. Tim Cook will never be Steve Jobs, but Steve Jobs wasn’t looking for the next HIM to run the company he poured his heart into. He wanted a man who would continue his legacy. He left Jony Ive in charge of design, Mansfield in charge of hardware, Schiller in charge of marketing and Forstall in charge of iOS. These guys have all proven themselves, have all been with the company for years, and have all been imbued with the spirit and vision of Steve. To blame any misstep on Apple’s part on the absence of Steve is not only morbid, it’s insulting to the same man you claim to praise. What Steve DID was select these people to run his company, and blaming any mistakes on Steve’s death is just plain wrong.

Like a Rolling Stone

It’s not over. It’ll never be over. In a bit of role-reversal, Samsung is now going on the offensive, suing Apple for patent infringement. Remember a few weeks back when Sammy declared they’d slap Apple with a suit if they released an LTE smartphone? Well, the other shoe has, as they say, dropped. After taking a look at the new i5 for a week or so and confirming that it does, indeed, make use of patented 4G LTE technologies belonging to Samsung, they’ve announced they’re finally ready to go through the entire process again, filing the paper work, getting a court date and brushing up on their “It’s not us, it’s THEM!” style of arguing. According to the California-filed suit, Apple’s latest and greatest violates 8 of Samsung’s patents, 2 of which are considered standards essential. A recently filed court document from the Galaxy Maker says the “iPhone 5 has the same accused functionality as the previously accused versions of the iPhone, so the proof of infringement of the patents-in-suit by the iPhone 5 is the same as for other Apple devices already accused of infringement in this litigation.”

So, which is worse? Claiming to hold all rights on a certain style (don’t say rounded corners and rectangles) or claiming to hold rights on the way devices connect to the super-fast, next generation wireless network? Additionally, Samsung got a bit of a win this week as well when Judge Koh dissolved the injunction against their Galaxy Tab 10.1. As a result of this new decision, Apple now has to make good on their promise of a $2.6 million bond just in case the injunction didn’t work out for Apple or caused some harm to Samsung. It’s all fair, of course. Koh placed the injunction on the Tabs in June before this case went to court. During the proceedings, the jury found that the Tab didn’t infringe on Apple’s trade dress patents. So, an appeal court gave Koh the right to overturn this injunction, and she took it. The $2.6 million bond will now be retained by Koh’s court until a final decision has been made. This is only a small win for Samsung. Their 10.1 Tab is getting on in its years (two years old is OLD for technology, you know) and they’ve since released other tablets, namely, the new Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 2. Either way, it’s never a good thing to have an injunction placed on your products, and the potential of earning that sweet $2.6 million could assuage the pain of paying out over $1 billion to Apple in damages. As these things often go, Apple still has the opportunity to install yet another injunction against the Tabs when the companies set out to tie up the loose ends of this case in December. The next Samsung v Apple trial is currently set to begin in March of 2014. That means you have plenty of time to recoup, have some t-shirts printed and finally perfect that lousy excuse of a guacamole recipe. Time’s a’wasting!

Gotta Serve Somebody

So, you’ve been reading the reviews, keeping your ear to the ground, your finger on the pulse… You know that nearly every review across the board has high praise for the iPhone 5. Tech-aficionados and reviewers the world over have hailed this iPhone as “The iPhone we’ve always wanted,” “the lightest, the strongest, the thinnest, the fastest, the most well thought-out, and the best user experience of any mobile phone in the world,” “undoubtedly the best handset you can buy,” and even, “a hallmark of design.”

(Isn’t interesting how quickly one’s tune can change after they actually use a device to review it? Interesting…)

So, what does Consumer Reports have to say about this new Apple smartphone? For those late to the ballgame, Apple has had an interesting relationship with Consumer Reports in recent years.

Actually… Switch that.

Consumer Reports has had an interesting relationship with Apple. Somewhere along the 2010 iPhone 4 era, Consumer Reports figured out that Apple news is BIG news, and anything they can do or say to knock down an Apple product will not only yield them plenty of page views, but plenty of media attention as well.

Thus, Antenna-gate.

CR also led their readers to believe that the 3rd generation iPad ran quite hot, only to renege later in the article and say that it really wasn’t a big deal and that the iPad was still a great tablet. So long as those headlines are catchy, the rest of the article can say almost anything. Their initial review of the iPhone 5 was actually tame in comparison to previous Apple reviews, calling it a “winner” and giving it the prized stamp of “recommended.” (The iPhone 4, you might remember, didn’t get this same rating in early reviews.) But what is a Consumer Reports review without a little something to provoke Apple fans? For all the praise they gave the iPhone, they gave the prize of “King” to Samsung’s Galaxy S III.

So there.

The CR reviewers did take issue with Apple’s claims of greatly improved low-light pictures, but still chose to call the iPhone 5 camera “The best we’ve seen on a smartphone.” Well, save the Nokia 808 Pureview, which really doesn’t operate very well as a phone. Turns out, when you put a 41 megapixel sensor behind a Carl Zeiss lens, you’re probably going to get some pretty great pictures. CR also knocked a few points off for Apple’s iOS 6 Maps offerings, but that’s been covered to death.

Visions of Johanna

This week has been huge for the iPad Mini, Apple’s yet-to-be-announced and possibly imaginary device. What felt like a sure thing pre-iPhone 5 release lost a bit of enthusiasm as many got lost in the 4-inch glow of the latest Apple smartphone. The iPad Mini quickly made up for lost time this week, getting not only a supposed press event and release date, but a few confirmations from the Wall Street Journal with a few mockups to boot. To begin, Phillip Elmer-Dewitt wrote this week that Apple could be planning to send out press invites for an iPad Mini announcement on Wednesday, October 10th. According to an unnamed Apple Investor speaking with Elmer-Dewitt, these invitations will announce an October 17th event, wherein the iPad Mini will finally be unveiled and available for shipment on November 2nd. Apple, of course, had no comment. It’s worth mentioning that Mr. Dewitt wasn’t too willing to lend much credence to these rumors, saying “This is a rumor we have no reason to believe except it comes from a major Apple (AAPL) investor who says he’s heard it from “multiple sources.” We are 2 weeks away from a potential announcement, of course, so we’ll take what we can get, but more on that in a second. Two days later, the Wall Street Journal jumped on-board the rumor mill and “confirmed” the next iPad Mini will have the widely accepted 7.85-inch LCD, not-quite-Retina display. Furthermore, quoth the Journal, the screens for this rumored device are already in production, and have been since September. In a shocking twist, it turns out the often-wild-shot source DigiTimes may have called this little notion months ago, claiming that AU Optronics has been cranking out these displays since June and shipped 500,000 said screens in September alone. One Web site with a rather unimaginative domain then claimed to have images of some iPad Mini components. (see what I mean) posted pictures of this 7.85-inch front along with 2 more housing pieces which will hold the entire thing together. Martin Hajek, the same guy who completely nailed the iPhone 5 design in a series of photorealistic mockups from June put an image with the name, creating another set of computerized mock ups. If Hajek is as on point with these predictions as he was with the iPhone 5, it looks like this iPad Smaller will borrow some design cues from the latest iPad Touch model. There’s even an image of a blue iPad Mini, just to show what it could look like, you know, just in case. An interesting contradiction with Ukranianiphone’s claims: Mr. Hajek’s mock up shows the headphone jack on the top of the device. It’s been rumored that Apple could move the headphone jack to the bottom of the iPad Mini, just as they did with the iPhone 5. It’s interesting to go through this iPad Mini rumor cycle having already been through the iPhone 5 racket. As mentioned earlier, Martin Hajek completely and totally nailed the iPhone 5 design in a June mockup. For nearly 3 months, an identical image of an unreleased iPhone was freely available online. Hajek put together his guesses based on images which had been leaked by parts suppliers. We “knew” 90% of the iPhone 5’s specs months before it was released, with the A6 processor being the other 10% that most weren’t completely ready to commit to. Now, hear we are just breaths away from a supposed iPad Mini release and there are still so many questions left unanswered. Granted, we’ve also seen supposed leaked images of this device going back as early as June, but it feels as if we aren’t completely sure about the screen resolution yet, not yet sure what kind of connectivity it will have, and completely lost on price point.

Furthermore, what about that damn lightning cable?

Apple left so many holes wide open about the benefits of the lightning cable during their iPhone 5 keynote. It’s also interesting that Apple is waiting to ship their latest iPod Touch models, release the latest version of iTunes and begin selling those 30-pin to Lightning adapters. Now, maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it feels like there could be a single thread to tie these lose ends together, and that lose thread could be a feature of the new iPad Mini. Let’s be honest, a 7.85-inch iPad Mini would quickly sell millions, hands down. It could even further crush any Android tablet competition. But why? Why does Apple need to release something so seemingly gimmicky? At this point, and with nothing but speculation to go on, the iPad Mini feels like it could be nothing more than The Muppet Babies, a cuter, friendlier version of an already adorable child’s cartoon. Sure, you’re going to watch, because no one hates the Muppets or Babies…

Despite its smaller size, I think the iPad Mini has plenty of room for one feature, one specialized thing it does to drive people to buy the thing. But maybe that’s placing too much weight on such small shoulders…

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