Monthly Archives: June 2012
After the Google I/O conference, Google’s newest plans for the iOS platform became a lot clearer with the launch of the Chrome browser for mobile platforms. The Google browser had been long awaited as a quality alternative to the default Safari web browser provided by Apple, and with the sheer amount of critical and popular acclaim it received after its launch in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it was a matter of time before it came to Apple devices.
Now that the Chrome launch is done with, Google has launched its Google Drive suite to Apple’s series of iPads and iPhones. Drive is a sleek new cloud based app that has replaced the erstwhile Google Docs, and also acts as a cloud storage medium. It is considered to be an impressive collaborative tool, and with over 10 million users having signed up for it since its launch 3 months back, it has made quite the name for itself.
Google’s director of product management, Clay Bavor, demoed the Google Drive app for the iPad after its launch, and there were quite a few cool features in it. For instance, if you had stored photos of a trip you’d taken to a place, Google’s smart image recognition tech would bring up the relevant image for you in a search. Bayor displayed photos from a trip he’d taken to Egypt in his demo, and by just searching for ‘pyramid’, a relevant photo turned up, without any need of an individual tag for it.
With an ever expanding suite of services, Google is making its presence felt in the iOS ecosystem. The Android platform has been a huge success for it (at least when it comes to smartphones), but the Mountain View company is making sure that the massive iOS device market doesn’t remain untapped either.
The Apple iPad 2 has been considered to be a boon to the educational world, and a lot of youngsters have benefited from the intuitive learning interface it provides. But if a recent study conducted at the University of Michigan is to be believed, iPad 2’s magnets could possible pose a hazard to kids who have brain shunts installed. These shunts are magnetically programmable, and it was reportedly found that the magnets inside the iPad 2 tend to interfere with their valve settings. When kept in close proximity with the iPad, the shunts can even malfunction.
The study however eliminates the need to panic because the effects become negligible when the iPad is used at an appropriate distance from the shunt. For example, when the iPad was kept as close as 1 cm to the shunt, about 58 percent of the valve settings got altered by the weak magnetic field of the iPad magnets. On the other hand, at 5 cm distance, the effect of the magnets fell drastically to about 1 percent. Using the smart cover seemed to reduce the percentage change in valve settings caused by the iPad magnets.
The study was conducted on the iPad 2, and it did not clarify if the above mentioned effects are applicable to other tablets as well. It should be noticed that the study is merely indicative and does not give definitive proof of the harmful effects of iPad’s embedded magnets. Therefore, it can be assumed that it is safe to operate the iPad, when kept at an appropriate distance from the brain shunts of the child.
One of the most vaunted apps in Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich is the Chrome browser made by Google itself. Ever since they confounded users worldwide by not making Chrome the default stock Android browser, a lot had been expected from Google when it announced that it would be bringing its wildly popular desktop browser exclusively to ICS devices. The app managed to live up to the hype, combining a smooth and speedy usage experience with a lot of eye candy thrown in for good measure.
With the sheer size of the iOS App Store however, it was just a matter of time before Google caved in and offered its Chrome app to devices made by its bitter rival – Apple. The Google I/O conference shed a lot of light on Android Jelly Bean, but the fact that Google would be launching Chrome for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch went under the radar to a great extent till today.
The Google Chrome app for mobile devices is undoubtedly among the best browsers you can get in any mobile platform. It offers a full featured browsing experience, along with an incredibly nifty sync mode (that lets you open the tabs from any other Chrome session that you are/were using) and a full-fledged incognito mode for the privacy conscious.
Apple’s iOS has a plethora of limitations however, and Chrome is likely to suffer from them. For starters, Safari will remain the default browser, regardless of whether you prefer it to Chrome or not. Secondly, Apple’s terms stipulate that iOS browsers have to use Apple’s own WebKit engine under the hood, in essence turning them into glorified skins of Safari for the most part. Hence, it remains to be seen whether Chrome managed to be as great an app in iOS as it is in Android 4.0.
Despite being known primarily for its hardware (iDevice) offerings, Apple has made a name for itself in the in-house apps it makes for every platform it deals with. The excellent Pages, Notes, Garage Band and iPhoto apps are as well designed as they are powerful, and the newest name to join their line is the Apple Podcasts app.
Apple had been rumored to be planning the launch of an individual, standalone podcasting app for iOS 6 on its public launch in October. The launch of Podcasts for the iPhone and iPad seems to be an unexpectedly early introduction for what is bound to be an extremely useful app for a large section of people.
Podcasting is a term that started getting bandied about ever since Apple made it a lot easier to listen to large audio files with the help of their iPods. But, somewhat surprisingly, Apple decided not to tamper with how users actually got podcasts to their iDevices, even after the launch of one iPhone and iPad after another.
Users could only get their desired podcasts by downloading them to iTunes first, and then syncing their computers with their Apple devices. The Podcasts app may be about to change that though.Here’s what
Apple had to say about Podcasts:
“Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover,
subscribe to and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod
touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the
Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by
topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature.
Features: • Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a
single app• Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including
shows in over 40 languages• Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find
new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy,
music, news, sports, and more.• Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what's
most popular in Top Charts• Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically
receive new episodes for free as they become available• Stream episodes or download to listen while offline• Skip forward and back using simple playback controls• Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a
podcast while listening in bed• Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter,
Messages and Mail• Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes
on your Mac or PC• Sync your episode playback for seamless transition
If you’re one of the hundreds of millions of Facebook users around the world, there’s no doubt that you’ve been surprised and flabbergasted in equal measure while using the default Facebook apps for iOS and Android. For an app that’s as high profile and ubiquitous as Facebook, it is simply hard to ignore its many, many faults –chief among which are its general slowness and excessive resource usage.
According to a New York Times report, however, the social networking behemoth may have just realized the folly of its ways, and will be going about in setting a lot of the app’s wrongs right this summer.
The upcoming Facebook update will make the app native to iOS, to cut a long story short. So far, what Facebook Inc. had strangely decided to do was to make its app an HTML 5 mobile web page with an Objective C wrapper. Objective C is the native language of iOS, and apps designed using it exclusively tend to be run better in iOS.
The New York Times’ Nick Bilton claims that the new Facebook app for iOS will be completely coded in Objective C, making it far, far faster than its awfully sluggish current avatar.
It is about time too, given that Facebook has done a wonderful job with both its Facebook Messenger and Facebook Camera app (though the former is actually a version of the Beluga Messenger that Facebook acquired a while back, while the latter has notable similarities to another Facebook acquisition - Instagram).
Given that Facebook is one of the most downloaded iOS apps at any given point of time in the App Store, we can only wait and watch to know whether Facebook Inc. managed to come up with an app that’s worth its ubiquity.
Apple’s Newsstand app has been quite the unqualified success for the Cupertino company, especially in its bestselling line of iPads. Newsstand was envisioned to be a convenient way to download digital versions of newspapers and magazines, and with Apple’s considerable clout, it managed to get practically every major news outlet worth its salt available in Newsstand.The only news outlet that chose to go against the grain was TIME Inc. – the largest magazine publisher in the US. What they chose to do instead was quite unusual – they offered every issue of their magazines as an individual app in the iTunes App Store. The titles from Time Inc. that were sold in this manner were Time Magazine itself, along with Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, InStyle, and Entertainment Weekly. The new deal between Apple and Time Inc. will bring all these titles to the Newsstand now.The New York Times claims that ever since Time Inc.’s new CEO, Laura Lang, took over, this Newsstand deal with Apple was a top priority. Given that iPads are increasingly becoming the biggest content consumption outlets around in the market now, missing out on a large target audience would be quite detrimental to Time’s own interests, and Lang’s statements to the New York Times proved as much. She said that tablets were gradually becoming an important part of the entire experience, and that Time Inc.’s goal was to offer content precisely where its consumers “would want to read it”.Apple’s VP of Internet Services, Eddie Cue, chose not to reveal much about the deal with Time Inc., but added that there had been no special terms granted to the news company.
Apple’s iOS has practically all the big hitters in the browser market – Safari itself, Opera (Mini), Dolphin HD, Skyfire, among others. But one name that has curiously been missing in all this is Firefox, the phenomenally popular web browser from Mozilla Inc. It isn’t a case of them having outright shunned the mobile market so far either – Firefox is available and popular in Android, but a whole lot more. Mozilla has had issues with iOS itself, but that may about to change with Mozilla Junior – a concept browser tailor made for the iPad.The primary issue that Mozilla faced in bringing Firefox to iDevices was that Apple didn’t allow them to implement their own rendering engine in iOS. They had to use a Webkit based solution that was simply at odds with the strengths of Firefox itself.Now, Mozilla’s developers have revealed details about a new browser they’re working on – something that they dub Mozilla ‘Junior’. The devs envision this to be the first browser that would actually be suited to a tablet screen. The Junior browser does away with a URL bar (and tabs, for that matter) with the aim of being simpler and smoother.Alex Limi, a key member of Mozilla’s Product Design team, explained the need for Mozilla to approach tablet browsing the way it will with Junior. He cited the example of the Safari browser, claiming that it is woefully unsuited to a tablet, calling it a “pretty miserable” experience. Instead of directly miniaturizing a browser like Safari from its desktop avatar to its iPad one, Limi asserts that a tablet web browser should be more app-like.Keeping that in mind, the Mozilla Junior browser will aim for a full screen, magazine like interface to make the most of the relatively limited screen real estate in a tablet. In other words, tablet browsing will be ‘more focused and fun’.
Although iPad’s dominion over the tablet market share has somewhat waned over the couple of years that it has been in existence, it still has complete monopoly over media tablet web traffic. According to a study conducted by the Ad network Chitika, iPad’s share stands at a staggering 91%, whereas its closest competitor being Samsung Galaxy Tab which owns about 2% of the traffic. This is an impressing feat considering the fact that the market share of iPad has reduced to 70%, from over 90% in 2010.
The Apple iPad: Going from strength to strength after allIf there is one thing that this research shows, it is that the iPad is one of the most preferred devices for surfing the internet. Even though Android tablets own a decent market share, user experience hasn’t been exceptional, as far as internet browsing is concerned. iPad users tend to be far more active on the internet because of the huge number of apps available on the App Store that require internet to function.It should be noted that iPad’s share of web traffic has actually declined by 3.5% since May, whereas Barnes & Noble’s Nook tablet has overtaken the popular Kindle Fire. The company behind the research claims that trend will continue, and iPad will continue to lose traffic to its competitors gradually, as they catch up in terms of usability and functionality. Also, Microsoft’s imminent and highly anticipated entry into the tablet race is bound to tip the balance a bit. But as of now, none of the existing tablets are in a position to pose any threat at all to iPad’s stronghold over web traffic.
Apple has been launching a number of great premium apps for free every week for the last month – Cut the Rope: Experiments HD, Monsters Ate My Condo, and Snapseed are some great examples. That practice is set to continue this week with Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing being announced as the newest App of the Week.As the name suggests, this fun kart racing game from Sega that has the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog as a protagonist. You can choose to play as either Sonic or 12 other of Sega’s most famous game characters, and race with anything – from a monster truck to a banana peel! Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is the most casual arcade racer you’ll ever get, and you’re sure to have an absolutely great time while you’re trying to get to the finish line!Here’s what Sega has to say about their game’s features in the App Store:“The world’s fastest hedgehog, Sonic, and the SEGA All-Stars are zooming on to your iPhone and iPad for the ultimate party racing showdown. Race as your favorite character across 16 white-knuckle courses in a frantic race to the finish line.Stay ahead of the pack by dodging traps, firing missiles and, if all else fails, wreaking havoc with your All-Star moves! Whether racing on your own, or battling it out with friends, anything can happen in this crazy competition where winning is only part of the fun!MEET THE ALL-STARSRace to the finish as one of 12 iconic SEGA characters and take to the track by car, monster truck, bike, plane and even a banana! Each vehicle has unique handling characteristics, and each character’s All-Star move will speed you to victory!START YOUR ENGINESRev up your skills with 25 missions then outrun the competition in three Grand Prix Cups. Not satisfied yet? Hand out a glove slap and demand satisfaction in the dueling Battle Mode!TWO'S COMPANY, BUT FOUR'S A PARTYChallenge a friend over local Bluetooth or go head to head with up to four players online. Party like the All-Star that you are!HEY MA, I’M ON TVNow you can play Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing on your TV with the Digital AV Adapter from Apple or an Apple TV. Supports iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and newer devices.”
You can download Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing from the iTunes App Store here: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/sonic-sega-all-stars-racing/id429208823?mt=8
Apple has never been the most modest or restrained company when it came to promoting its own products. Therefore it was a tad surprising that Apple decided to release the next version of the Smart Covers for iPad in silence, right after the Keynote address at the World Wide Developers Conference 2012. First of all, it’s no longer just a cover anymore; it’s a Smart Case now. The Smart Covers, although innovative and useful, left a lot to be desired. They offered little protection to the main body of the device, which would gradually succumb to the wear and tear of everyday use.With the brand new Smart Case, Apple has tried to address all those issues. These cases are designed to protect the whole iPad body, and not just the screen. The shell that houses the iPad is made up of polyurethane, and is available in six different colors, all of which have an Apple logo on the back. The case fits snugly over the device and is very light, so it doesn’t add much to the overall weight of the iPad. Getting it off your iPad could turn out to be chore, but otherwise these Smart Cases have been very well designed. The flap works exactly as the smart covers worked; you can use them to put the iPad to sleep or wake it up, or you can use them to prop it up while watching videos or using Facetime.The Smart Cases are now available online on Apple Store for $49.95, and are compatible with both iPad 2ndgeneration and 3rd generation.