Category Archives: Apple

Apple shifts gears with CarPlay, its response to Google Now

With Apple’s new integration into automobiles, the company wades into the complex waters of predictive services.

Apple CarPlay in Volvo dashboard

One of the great boons that Google had long-reserved specifically for Android users was access to Google Now, the popular artificial intelligence platform that anticipates a person’s actions based on contextual information like location or personal data such as e-mails or appointment reminders.

There is, of course, now a watered-down version of Google Now for iOS users. And there are some bifurcated iOS apps that try to replicate the experience, but so far, nothing officially from Apple.

Until now. And it doesn’t come on a handset. At the Geneva International Motor Show on Monday, Apple unveiled CarPlay, an integration that ties Apple’s mobile operating system into automobiles, allowing for voice-enabled and touch-screen control of things like maps, driving directions, and music. Previously dubbed “iOS in the Car,” the service supports third party music apps like Spotify and iHeartRadio, and will be available in cars from manufacturers like Ferrari, Mercedes, and Volvo.

But perhaps the most interesting bit of the announcement was a few innocuous details about CarPlay’s artificial intelligence capabilities. The software will be able to scan through a user’s data, such as his or her calendar or e-mails, to try to pull up relevant destinations and driving directions. And with that, Apple has made its biggest push into predictive services. (The company, of course, already has had its personal assistant Siri since the release of the iPhone 4S, but thus far, the service hasn’t had an emphasis on technology based on the user’s context.)

The announcement obviously wasn’t billed as a Google Now competitor — CarPlay’s predictive functionality certainly isn’t as robust — but it’s a clear step in that direction. Maynard Um, an analyst with Wells Fargo,wrote that the artificial intelligence aspect of CarPlay is a “potential future key” in making the product stand out.

Noting that other apps already do predictive services and do them well, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski said Apple’s decision to introduce the technology on car dashboards rather than the iPhone was rooted in giving the technology a specific use.

“This type of intelligence and pro-activeness helps to address one of the key safety aspects: minimizing distracted driving,” said Koslowski, who covers automotive technology.

The technology also adds another element to Apple Maps, which had a difficult start, mired with bugs and spotty navigation. If the service is so quick to offer up directions that a user thinks, “well, it’s already on my screen, I might as well use it,” then Apple wins goodwill from a user, and more importantly, a trove of driving data from another customer. That data also goes into making the Maps product better.

“My calendar knows where I am all the time. But when I get into my car, I still have to input a location into my GPS,” said Thierry Donneau-Golencer, co-founder of Tempo, a personal assistant app focused specifically on the calendar. He said he thinks Apple’s race to put predictive technology into automobiles is just one part of the puzzle in the company trying to make iOS prevalent at all times. (Donneau-Golencer said Tempo, for its part, also has been approached by three major auto manufacturers for car integrations since the company launched last year.)

Of course, when we talk about predictive technology in automobiles, there must be mention of the moon shot of an end goal: driverless cars, which obviously takes the idea of predictive road navigation to the next level. But even before the company gets to that point, Google has already begun to make software inroads with automakers. The company announced the Open Automotive Alliance in January, a partnership with carmakers General Motors, Audi, Honda, and Hyundai, as well as with chipmaker Nvidia, to bring Android to car dashboards in 2014.

Anytime a company is sifting through your data, there is always concern regarding security and privacy. The unique challenge here, Koslowski said, is in the way people think about their cars. He argues that unlike a phone, which is as personal a device as ever but is still impersonal enough to be subsidized by a cellular carrier, the car is still much more private. “It’s like your cocoon,” he said. “You close your door and turn up the music,” he said, adding that people would be more outraged than normal to have their privacy invaded regarding their driving habits.

Still, getting a customer hooked on the technology in the car means that the company can eventually expand on it out of the vehicle, especially in the arenas of wearables and home appliances. Google beat Apple to the punch with Google Now, a stellar predictive product. “But the car is a good place to start,” said Donneau-Golencer.

Could this iPhone 6 concept be a new, cheaper model?

While the iPhone 5C has largely been a bust, one designer has an idea for how Apple could improve on the notion of a new, inexpensive iPhone offering.

Pretty, but is it practical?

In the great tradition of new iPhone concepts just because comes the below take on what a new iPhone 6 could look like. But we’re not talking about just any iPhone 6. This is the iPhone 6C series, the follow-up to the inexpensive, colorful iPhone 5C that appealed to… um, I’ll get back to you on that part.

And yet, designer Joseph Farahi has mocked up a very nice-looking plastic iPhone here that certainly has more appeal than the actual iPhone 5C.

And given the rumors that the next iteration of the iPhone will come in multiple sizes, a design similar to this could actually be in the works. It just seems very unlikely that it will be touted as a follow-up to the 5C.

Specifically, Farahi imagines an inexpensive iPhone 6 with a 4.7-inch “retina” display, 8-megapixel camera, Touch ID, and a thinner and lighter profile than the 5C.

Check out the video below and let us know in the comments if you think it makes any sense for Apple to take another whack at a new, inexpensive iPhone.

Apple, Samsung fail to make nice in settlement talks over patent case

It looks like we may well have another California trial between the two mobile-gadget giants, as efforts to reach a deal fall flat.

Bust out your Samsung pennant, your Apple foam finger, or your Jony Ive bobblehead doll — it looks like we’re in for another patent trial.

In a legal filing Friday, the companies said that during the first week of February, Samsung mobile chief Shin Jong-Kyun and other execs from the South Korean consumer-electronics giant met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and a clutch of his cohorts for a full day of mediated negotiation talks. The companies also spoke with the mediator by phone several times after the face-to-face.

“Notwithstanding these efforts,” however, the filing reads, “the mediator’s settlement proposal to the parties was unsuccessful.”

That means the trial may well go ahead as scheduled, starting March 31, though the filing also says the companies “remain willing to work through the mediator.”

This would be the second big California trial between the two mobile-gadget behemoths. A dramatic 2012 jury case handed Apple a legal victory over Samsung, to the tune of about $930 million in damages.

This time around, different products would be on the dissecting table, such as Samsung’s hitGalaxy S3 smartphone, a fact that could increase the size of a damages award should Samsung again be found guilty of infringement, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

But that might be cold comfort for Apple. Stanford Law School professor Mark A. Lemley toldBloomberg that “even though Apple seems to be winning across the board” in court, “they’re not winning in the marketplace” and that pro-Apple verdicts and even bans on the sale of Samsung gadgets “don’t seem to be slowing Samsung’s momentum very much.”

Where do Apple rumors come from? Digitimes explains

Digitimes Research sheds some light on the the Apple supply chain — the source of many a rumor — before the release of the product.

Mock-up by Brooke Crothers based on iPhone 5S

With a large-screen iPhone 6 possibly showing up this year, Digitimes Research provides some insight into where and when Apple rumors likely originate.

In an article posted Friday titled Explaining the Chaiwan Model for the Mobile Supply Chain, Digitimes Research talked about, among other things, timing.

“We may provide shipment data for Apple 1-2 months before [the product] even begins selling in the market, because that is when the supply chain delivers it to Apple,” Digitimes Research said.

That may explain the crush of relatively reliable rumors that typically hit about a month before the product appears.

But there are stages before that. “When Apple is getting a product ready for the market, the product is in the supply chain pipeline 6-9 months before Apple even announces its launch,” Digitimes Research said.

That assertion about a product being at suppliers but still going through changes six to nine months before release sheds light on some of the more dubious rumors that appear early on.

And where does the process begin?

“A brand like Apple or Samsung controls everything in the process of bringing their products to market…For example, it starts with the key component provider, which in the case of smartphones is the application processor.”

So, a chip, like the Apple A7, or rumored A8 — generally referred to as application processors — may play a big part in the early stages of the product.

In a related discussion, Digitimes Research also notes that there “has been a seismic shift” in the design and manufacturing of products.

If you look at [processor] provider MediaTek, the company no longer follows a strict roadmap. It simply reacts to what the market wants. In 2013, for example, MediaTek sometimes went a couple of months without releasing a new product and then would release two products in the same month. They weren’t following a roadmap, they were chasing demand.

Finally, Digitimes Research also spells out how Apple (and Samsung) have a different approach to mobile (smartphones and tablets) as opposed to laptops.

Huge brands like Apple and Samsung…continue to pursue a vertical integration strategy whereby they can control more of the design…in order to give them differentiation…However, this is a much different business model than that seen in the notebook industry, where ODMs provide designs to the brands and choose their own components. ODMs do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of product development, while EMS firms simply provide manufacturing services. The brands have much more control over the overall design and component choice.

Early Apple rumors, like the concept video above of an “iPad Pro,” are usually pure speculation.

Apple promises to fix OS X encryption flaw ‘very soon’

The iPhone and iPad maker on Friday issued a fix for its mobile devices, but left its Mac lineup unpatched. But not for long, Apple says. 

Apple said it will fix a bug “very soon” that allows hackers to spy on financial, e-mail, and other personal data on computers from its Mac desktop and notebook lineup.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant confirmed in an e-mail to Reuters that it was aware of the issue and already has a software fix that will be released likely in the next few days.

The severity of the bug was significant enough for Apple to issue an iterative update to its more popular iOS 7 software — version 7.0.6, released on Friday — instead of waiting for a larger update as the company does with minor or insignificant design changes.

But its desktop and notebook range of Macs was left vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, which could allow a hacker to snoop and surveil sensitive data due to a bug in the security layer.

Such attacks would undermine the encryption between the user and a Web site, allowing financial or password data to be collected and used against the individual.

The bug, disclosed by security researchers shortly after the iOS update, drew suspicion from the hacker community for being a simple mistake.

Some believed the bug was either indicative of poor quality assurance on Apple’s part, or in the age of US government surveillance disclosures perhaps a result of infiltration or creating a deliberate weakness.

Similar attacks were reportedly used against Belgium’s largest telecom provider, Belgacom, which was exploited by the US National Security Agency (NSA) through faked LinkedIn and Slashdot pages.

The bug fix, which will be pushed through OS X’s automatic update facility, will likely be issued this week to address the issue. The flaw has been present for months, according to researchers who tested earlier versions of the desktop and notebook operating system.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, an Apple expert and insider, questioned in a blog post on Saturday whether or not this had been exploited by the NSA.

He suggested there was “purely circumstantial” evidence to suggest the NSA had access to secure data through the controversial leaked PRISM program, to which Apple was “added” in October 2012, just one week after iOS 6 — the first version of the mobile software that contained the bug. “But the shoe fits,” he added.

Matthew Green, a cryptography teacher at Johns Hopkins University, is “sure the Apple bug is unintentional,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “But man, if you were trying to sneak a [vulnerability] into SSL, this would be it,” he added.

Apple will need to address low-end phones, ARM exec says

Antonio Viana, an executive from one of the Apple’s partners, says Apple will feel pressure from not selling cheaper devices.

A woman uses a mobile phone as she walks past an Apple store in Beijing on January 17. China Mobile, the country’s biggest wireless provider, that day started selling Apple’s iPhone to millions of customers nationwide, ending a six-year wait in a crucial market for the US technology giant.(Credit: Getty Images)

Apple needs to do something to address the slowdown in the high-end smartphone market and the rise of cheap phones, an executive from one of the company’s partners said.

Antonio Viana, president of commercial and global development and executive vice president at ARM Holdings, said the premium segment of the smartphone market will grow much slower than the other areas — only about 4 percent each year through 2018 versus 14 percent annual growth for mid-range devices and 17 percent annual growth for low-end phones. The high-end market will grow more in North America, he said, but Apple still will have to cope with the flood of lower priced phones that will hit markets around the globe.

“They are going to feel pressure,” Viana told CNET. “They’re going to have to do something.”

Meanwhile, Viana said that Apple’s chief rival, Samsung, “does an exceptional job of really spreading itself pretty widely in terms of the technology it puts into the marketplace.”

We’ve contacted Apple for comment and will update the report when we have more information.

ARM Holdings develops chip technology that’s then licensed by companies such as Samsung and Qualcomm. The vast majority of mobile devices use ARM-based chips, and even Apple’s line of processors, such as the A7, use ARM architecture.

In developed markets like the US, almost everyone who wants a smartphone has one. And thetablet market is maturing as well. That means Apple, Samsung, and all others in the mobile industry have to look to emerging regions like China for growth. Apple now has a bigger presence in that country with its China Mobile partnership, but it could take some time for sales to really take off on the world’s biggest network with three-quarters of a billion subscribers.

And even with that partnership, Apple doesn’t make phones that address the vast majority of customers in emerging markets. Customers in the US typically pay a subsidized price for smartphones by buying them on two-year contacts through carriers. Most people in emerging markets and even Europe, however, pay full price for their devices. Shelling out $800 for an iPhone someplace like China limits the device to only the most wealthy or the biggest Apple fans.

Meanwhile, ARM on Tuesday reported it swung to a loss of $10.1 million for the fourth quarter on higher operating costs. Its revenue climbed 15 percent. Shares fell as the company’s royalties came in lower than what analysts had been expecting. ARM makes money from licensing its chip technology but then generates a royalty from each device that uses the processor.

A pocket arcade without enough buttons

Do you need buttons to play games on your iPhone? Certainly not. And yet, iOS MFi-certified game controllers are here, giving you the promise of full game controller-like support for games and letting you theoretically use your phone or iPod Touch like a little Nintendo 3DSor PlayStation Vita.

The Logitech Powershell Controller + Battery is one of those accessories. As its name suggests, it’s a case that adds physical gaming buttons, and also has a battery pack. It also costs $99.99. For most people, that’s where the train skids off the tracks.

Whether you want an iOS game controller probably depends on two things: how many cool games there are that support it, and how much it costs. At the moment, that’s the failing of all iOS game controllers: the accessories, like the Logitech PowerShell Controller + Battery, simply cost too much. And what they do just isn’t interesting enough…yet.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

There are some stunning killer games in the App Store, but they’re too few and far between. Add a few more supported games, drop the price, and then things will get exciting. Logitech’s first entry into the iOS game controller accessory landscape is built well, but it doesn’t have as many buttons as the competition…and it just doesn’t feel all that useful as a result.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

There aren’t many game controller accessories available yet: the Moga Ace Power, theSteelSeries Stratus, and the Logitech Powershell. Both the Moga and Logitech are specifically slip-on cases for the iPhone 5/5s and 2012 iPod Touch that use a Lightning connector and add a battery pack to boot for on-the-road recharging. Both cost $99.99. The SteelSeries Stratuscosts the same, but is a separate, standalone Bluetooth controller — not a case at all — and works with iPads, too.

The Powershell and the Moga Ace Power are very similar in some key ways: both require Lightning connectivity, excluding devices older than the iPhone 5 and fifth-gen iPod Touch, and both are designed as snap-on controller cases for iPhones and iPod Touches specifically. Both double as rechargeable battery pack cases. And, neither supports any Bluetooth connectivity. The Logitech case doesn’t work the iPhone 5C; the Moga one does.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

But the Logitech Powershell doesn’t have the same number of buttons as the Moga Ace Power or the SteelSeries Stratus; it has only a directional pad, four color-coded and lettered buttons, and two top shoulder buttons (plus a dedicated Pause button and on/off button for the iPhone/iPod that’s inside). The Moga and SteelSeries controllers have extra dual analog pads and dual analog triggers, matching the “Extended” controller profile baked into iOS 7; this Powershell adopts the more minimal “Standard” layout. Apple has allowed game controller makers to pick either button-set. Honestly, there should only be one: the “Extended” layout, with all the buttons a seriously gamer would want. If I want to add buttons, I’d prefer to have all of them.

Will the Powershell have enough buttons for you? Maybe not for those looking to play a complex first-person shooter, driving, or flying title, but this controller has some surprises up its sleeve. All the buttons are analog, not digital; they’re all pressure-sensitive. In Lego Lord of the Rings, for instance, one of the games I tried with the Powershell, holding the D-pad lightly to the left made my character walk, while pushing harder down made him run. This could mean that the shoulder buttons or front-facing buttons would work to control a pressure-sensitive gas pedal in a driving game.

But, I’d still prefer at least one analog stick. The shoulder buttons feel stiff, too, unlike the smoother, more triggerlike secondary shoulder buttons on the Moga, which feel like the ones on the back of an Xbox or PlayStation controller.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

You can still use the iPhone touch screen and accelerometer while playing, and certain flight games and action titles like Sky Gamblers: StormRaiders end up mixing tilt, touch, and buttons much like PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS games already do. So, the lack of some extra buttons isn’t always a huge deal breaker. Complex games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas end up playing decently, too, but using a D-pad instead of a proper analog pad just doesn’t feel the same.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

All basic iPhone/iPod functions are still accessible while the Powershell is on: volume, on/off, and camera access via a cutout section on the back. Headphone access comes via an included plug-in that juts out of the jack.

The Powershell’s case feels compact with a soft rubberlike finish, made with the type of polish you’d expect out of an iOS accessory. The buttons and triggers felt very solid, too. The Moga Ace Power, by comparison, felt a bit more plastic and loose-fitting. I like how it feels when I hold it, too. If the Powershell had analog pads, it would be perfect. But it doesn’t.

But, as a battery pack accessory — part of the Powershell’s supposed appeal — it just isn’t practical. It’s long, unwieldy, and while a flashing color-LED indicator on the back shows when the 1,500mAh battery is fully charged, there’s no easy way to tell how much battery life is left when in use. Mine ran out of juice one day, randomly. The controller still works when connected and should offer close to a full phone charge, but I prefer something like a Mophie instead.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

What controller cases like the Powershell truly need the most are more great games on the App Store that work with them. Right now, despite a promise of “hundreds” of compatible games, I have a hard time finding 15 great ones. If you’re a desperate retro gamer and don’t mind being an early adopter — and don’t like analog sticks — the Powershell might be for you. That’s a pretty narrow subset. It’s not a dream gaming device right now. I’d wait.