Apple Announces its iPhone 4S: Available October 14 Starting at $199

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook officially unveiled the company’s new iPhone 4S yesterday from Cupertino. The smartphone is expected to ship by October 14.
  • The new version features a dual core processor with up to 7x faster graphics performance, an 8 megapixel digital camera that can capture 1080P video, a GSM/CDMA radio with enhancements to speed data downloading and more.
  • The biggest news is possibly Siri, Apple’s voice-command assistant that can handle surprisingly complex commands and dictation (the name comes from a “virtual personal assistant” company that Apple purchased last year).
  • While some have expressed disappointment that Apple didn’t release the iPhone 5 this week, early reaction to the iPhone 4S features seem positive. The device’s new A5 processor, for example, is the chip used in the iPad 2, and packs an Apple-designed digital signal processor that helps with things like face detection. The phone also now supports the faster HSPA+ network.
  • The 8MP camera features backside illumination, allowing it to gather 73 percent more light and have 1/3 faster photo-snapping speed. It can also record higher-resolution 1080p high-definition video.
  • The iPhone 4S supports mirroring to a TV over AirPlay, Apple TV or a wired connection, while also packing iOS 5.
  • “The 4S will come in both black and white, starting at $199 for 16GB and $299 for the 32GB, but the big news is a new 64GB model coming in at a whopping $399,” reports Engadget.
  • Additionally, Sprint will now be offering the 8GB iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Sprint customers can place pre-orders for the device starting this Friday, October 7th.

Author Asks: Are Tablets Changing the Way We Read and Write?

  • While tablets essentially allow users to have an entire bookstore in their hands, they also may lead to a reduction in readers’ attention to the content within the books.
  • Books require your attention to have a serious conversation with them. This conversation can become broken when we flip to another book, movie or social media connection. Today, there is less downtime (time required to “engage” with the written word) and more desire for immediate electronic stimulation.
  • “Many embrace this kind of electronic Darwinism as not only inevitable but preferable: complete freedom of choice — choice of what to buy and consume — has long been a mantra of the marketplace, and its advantages are inarguable,” writes novelist Andrew Winer for The Wall Street Journal. “But the marketplace has also produced its share of inconvenient effects, and, in the case of handheld screens, whether in tablet, phone, or e-reader form, it’s hard not to notice a few. A loss of good conversation may be one of them; a loss of good contemplation may be another.”
  • Tablets are also impacting the way writers engage with content, as Winer suggests, “here I’m speaking about how I use a book: how I write in its margins, in between its lines, even over its words. A writer reads a book and records the ensuing conversation/argument, throwing in her or his new ideas for good measure. Sure, the tablets and e-readers allow you to take notes, but the keyboards are clumsy and accessing the notes for later use clunky.”
  • Additionally, content offerings are being impacted by these technologies as an increasing number of authors are choosing to write about these trends “by producing works that celebrate (even as they mock) our addiction to the technological drip and the short attention spans entrained by that addiction.”
  • What are your thoughts? Are you able to “engage” with a book in the same way on a tablet?

Justice Department Memo Tells Which Telecoms Store Data the Longest

  • “People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been… The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance,” an ACLU staff attorney said.
  • A newly released Justice Department internal memo reveals the retention policies of Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint.
  • Verizon seems the most privacy-friendly, but is the only company that retains text message content. Messages are stored for 5 days; other companies don’t retain message content at all.
  • The retention of “cell-site data” (information of a phone’s movement history based on phone tower usage) varied the most among the four providers.
  • “Verizon keeps that data on a one-year rolling basis; T-Mobile for ‘a year or more;’ Sprint up to two years, and AT&T indefinitely, from July 2008,” reports Gizmodo.
  • Senator Patrick Leahy proposed to alter the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to “protect Americans from warrantless intrusions.”
  • To see your provider’s retention policy, check out the graphic featured in the Gizmodo post.

Are There Implications to Consider Regarding the Silk Web Browser?

  • As part of its New York press event yesterday that unveiled the Kindle Fire tablet and three new Kindle e-readers, Amazon announced Silk, a new Web browser powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and available exclusively on its new tablet.
  • Amazon Silk is an important part of the Kindle Fire pitch, and as a “split browser” exclusive to the tablet it “gets the heavy lifting done on its EC2 cloud servers and promises faster access as a result,” reports Engadget. “Dubbed Silk to represent an ‘invisible, yet incredibly strong connection,’ it takes advantage of Amazon’s existing speedy connections, and that so many sites are already hosted on its servers to speed up Web access.”
  • Amazon’s cloud-accelerated browser may have some technical implications. First, Amazon may release a Silk desktop browser. It’s reliance on Amazon’s EC2 infrastructure may cut off access to the Web for customers during outages. That said, if Amazon succeeds, it may push other browser developer such as Google, Apple and Microsoft to follow. Mozilla may have a difficult time doing the same.
  • From a privacy perspective, Amazon talks about learning from “aggregate traffic patterns,” but in reality each Kindle has its own Amazon ID. Thus, Amazon will be able to track your personal Web habits, buying patterns and media preferences in detail.
  • “Until the Kindle Fire ships, there are more questions than answers,” suggests ReadWriteWeb. “I’m eager to get hands on a Fire so I can test out Silk and see for myself how it works. I’m not yet concerned about the privacy issues, but I do think they bear watching. What do you think? Is the Silk model something you’re excited about, or is Amazon a middle-man you’d rather do without when browsing the Web?”

Kindle Fire: Amazon Jumps into the Tablet Fray with iPad Competitor

  • Amazon has unveiled the Kindle Fire — a 7-inch touch-screen, color, and Wi-Fi tablet with dual-core processor that will sell for $199. The new tablet was announced by chief exec Jeff Bezos at a press event yesterday in New York City.
  • The Android-based device will offer access to Amazon’s app store, books, streaming movies and TV shows. Moreover, the expectation is that it will increase sales for Amazon’s other merchandise. Fire is available for pre-ordering and will be available November 15.
  • “The online retailer is gambling it can succeed with its tablet where several other giants, including Hewlett-Packard Co. and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., have so far failed,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Unlike those companies, Amazon already has a vast library of digital content to sell and tens of millions of credit-card numbers.”
  • The article suggests that the Kindle Fire may have an advantage over other tablets that have attempted to take on the iPad: “Amazon’s library of digital content, which its tablet users can access. Customers can pay $79 a year for a service known as Amazon Prime, which gives them access to 11,000 movies and TV shows, as well as unlimited two-day shipping for physical goods purchased on Amazon also sells single movies, TV shows and music songs, with a catalog that competes with that of Apple’s iTunes store.”
  • Amazon also introduced three new Kindle e-readers — a touch-screen 3G version for $149, a touch-screen Wi-Fi version for $99, and a non-touch-screen model for $79.

Disney Announces Mobile App Toys that Turn the iPad into Virtual Play Mat

  • Disney announced this week its AppMATes Mobile Application Toys that use a sensor on the bottom of each toy, which identifies the object to an iPad app (no cable or Bluetooth connection required) and creates a virtual play mat for exploration and games.
  • “The ‘Cars’ toys are meant to be driven across the top of an iPad, interacting with a downloadable ‘Cars 2’ Appmates app, which lets kids drive around courses, race and complete missions,” explains Engadget. “The app will be offered up as a free download through iTunes, and the cars will run $20 for a two-pack — the different toys unlock different features, according to Disney.”
  • “We have cracked the technology code in changing the way kids play with their toys,” said Sunny Lauridsen, director of digital toys for Disney Consumer Products. “Kids will always use toys to play out their favorite Disney stories, but Disney Appmates now allows them to include technology which has become a way of life for them through a beautifully rich app.”
  • According to the press release: “Each toy unlocks different features and content within the app specific to the character, allowing kids to come back over and over to enjoy an imaginative, open-ended play experience using the Appmates toys. Fans can download and test the app by simply using their fingers to drive a virtual car through the world, but the play experience is optimized to come to life with the Appmates toy vehicles.”
  • The toys will be available in October through the Apple Store, Apple Store online, Disney Stores, and national retailers.

Amazon to Unveil the Kindle Fire Today: First Real Competitor to the iPad?

  • Amazon is expected to announce its long-awaited Android tablet this morning at a press event in New York City.
  • The 7-inch backlit Kindle Fire is expected to launch by the second week of November, just in time for the holidays. “The iPad has many challengers, but analysts say Amazon’s could be different — it has a chance to be more than a wannabe,” reports The New York Times.
  • Amazon built its own custom version of Android, has included a streaming video service, and will feature the Amazon MP3 service and the Kindle bookstore.
  • In related news from The Hollywood Reporter, major magazine publishers — including Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith — have signed deals to sell digital versions of their publications. One big holdout is Time Inc., but it’s being reported that a deal could be reached “hopefully by the end of the year.”
  • One publisher with an Amazon deal said: “You’ve got beauty and design with Apple, which we love. But with Amazon you have marketing, and ease of use. We’re very optimistic.”
  • Amazon’s terms seem to be similar to those offered by Apple. Publishers get 70 percent of Amazon sales while the retailer shares customer information with the publisher. But, the report notes that those numbers could fluctuate depending on the title and customer offer.
  • We’ll have more on this story following the press event…

Pandora Embraces HTML5 as Key Enabler for Connected Devices

  • Pandora now claims more than 100 million registered users. CTO and EVP of Product Tom Conrad credits the success of his company’s Internet radio service with the decision to embrace both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating system. Conrad spoke at this week’s GigaOM Mobilize conference.
  • However, Pandora had a rocky start regarding growth on mobile platforms until the iPhone came along to help turn things around. And at one point, Conrad had little interest in Android. Pandora shipped its app through the iTunes store and watched its user base explode from 13 million to what it is today.
  • “Conrad has also since made peace with Android, about which he had previously said that he needed the platform ‘like I need a hole in my head,’ referring to the confusing state of Android fragmentation. On Monday, Conrad didn’t want to go into the specifics of Android vs. iOS market share amongst Pandora users, but he called Android’s growth ‘nothing short of remarkable.'”
  • Now Pandora is embracing HTML5 as it looks to what’s next.
  • “The company launched a new HTML5-powered website last week, and Conrad said that using HTML5 helped to both dramatically increase the performance of the site as well as implement new social features,” reports GigaOM.
  • Conrad calls HTML5 a “key enabler for connected devices,” hoping that it will provide opportunities for Pandora on connected TVs and car dashboards.
  • Currently, 70 percent of Pandora’s listening occurs on mobile devices. “In the future, the majority of Pandora listening will happen in the car and on the connected device,” predicts Conrad.

Amazon Kindle Lending Program Adds New Dimension to Public Libraries

  • Amazon announced this week that it has launched a new lending library initiative, allowing Kindle users to “check out” e-books from registered library websites.
  • Users will be able to rent books on their Kindle from more than 11,000 participating public libraries across the country.
  • Readers will also be encouraged to take notes on the e-books they check out: “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book,” said Amazon in a statement.
  • The books are available on Kindle devices or through the Kindle app for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

Report Indicates Mobile Devices Dominate Airport Wi-Fi: iOS Leads the Way

  • A year ago, laptops made up two-thirds of Wi-Fi connections at airports. Today, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets comprise 59 percent of the total, reveals new data released this week by Boingo Wireless.
  • Boingo suggests that laptops are not going away — in fact, their numbers have doubled since 2007 — it’s simply that mobile devices are proliferating at a faster rate, fueled by the launch of the iPhone in 2007 (Apple’s iOS dominates the mobile segment with 83 percent of total devices on Boingo’s network).
  • Not surprisingly, the report suggests similar findings for inflight Wi-Fi, as offered by the likes of Gogo. In the air, iPads make up more than one-third of connections, along with 41 percent for PCs and 20 percent for Macs.
  • According to All Things D: “Mobile devices are also gobbling up a lot more data than they did just two years earlier, Boingo said. On a monthly basis, the average mobile device consumed 211 megabytes of data in June, compared with 114 megabytes in May 2009. And the devices are also consuming that data in less time, gulping an average of 8.9 megabytes in every 10 minutes of use, compared with 3.7 megabytes in the same period two years earlier.”

Future of Gaming: Can Portable Gaming Consoles and Smartphones Coexist?

  • “Mega Man” co-creator and  former Capcom head of production Keiji Inafune says, “You don’t use a smartphone camera for an interview, and you don’t use a really professional camera to take some small pictures when you’re going to work.”
  • Similarly, Inafune suggests smartphones are good for a quick game away from home, but dedicated gaming portables and home consoles offer a more complete gaming experience.
  • Still, game developers cannot ignore the smartphone market, which is currently the target for one of his company’s announced games. Inafune started two companies since leaving Capcom — Intercept and Comcept.
  • Inafune believes that developers cannot ignore the growing smartphone market: “We have to think about that when we’re making new games, because it’s kind of becoming very easy to let people play games now,” he says. “They don’t have to buy big consoles to play simple games. So that’s what we should think about for the future.”

Will Sony Tablet S Set itself Apart from iPad Wannabes?

  • Walt Mossberg suggests that one reason Apple’s iPad dominates the market is that most other tablet offerings come across as imitations that do not ultimately provide the same superior experience.
  • Sony aspires to change that perception with the release of its 9.4-inch Sony Tablet S, which Mossberg describes as a “handsome tablet with an unusual, asymmetrical design and some software tweaks and content services it hopes can set it apart from the pack.”
  • Sony’s new device, launched over the weekend, uses Google’s Android OS and costs the same as the Wi-Fi-only iPads ($500 for the 16GB version and $600 for the 32GB model).
  • The Tablet S has no cellular data option and tested weaker than the iPad in terms of battery life, but has a design like no other competitor: “One of the long sides of its rectangular, plastic body has a thick, rounded edge that makes the device look like a folded-back magazine.”
  • Mossberg sees this as a positive, even suggesting the device feels lighter than the iPad (it isn’t), based on how the weight rests on your palm. “While this design makes the Tablet S much thicker than many competitors, it has several advantages. When you hold the device one-handed in portrait, or vertical, mode, it feels much more comfortable and balanced than any other tablet I’ve tested. When you lay it on a flat surface in landscape, or horizontal, mode, the rounded edge creates a natural angle for typing, without a case or stand.”
  • Additionally setting it apart is an SD memory card slot (useful for transferring media), a customizable row of frequently used app icons, a Favorites feature (ideal for recently accessed media and Web bookmarks), and a universal remote control app with built-in infrared transmitter. “Sony also is bundling services for buying music, TV shows and movies, e-books and games to create a content ecosystem like Apple’s,” writes Mossberg.
  • We’ll see if these new features and unique design will be enough to attract consumers. If not, another tablet is on its way: “Sony is planning a second, even more radical tablet for later this fall, called the Tablet P. It’s a much smaller and lighter device that has no visible screen until you unfold it to reveal twin 5.5-inch displays that can either be used as one large screen or can have separate content in each.”

Instagram iPhone Photo App Developing a Following: Brands Take Notice

  • Instagram, an iPhone-only photo app, has become a darling of the fashion world.
  • Started only 11 months ago, Instagram already has nine million users who take photos on their iPhone and apply effects from 15 filters. They can then share their photos in a stream.
  • Some professional photographers feel the app is “cheapening the art,” but the results can be quite striking and have already been used in magazines.
  • Kevin Systrom, chief executive and co-founder of Instagram, says the company is not yet profitable. However, the app is starting to draw attention outside the realm of amateur photo enthusiasts and social networkers.
  • “The top request Instagram gets from corporate users is for custom filters,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Brands want to create filters specific to their own aesthetic, so that Instagram users can echo a brand’s look — seeing the world as designer Kate Spade does, or Vanity Fair magazine. Mr. Systrom says the company has had other priorities but hinted new filters are coming soon.”

The Real Motivation Behind the Motorola Mobility Acquisition

  • An intellectual property analyst makes the case that the reason Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion last month was not to provide patent protection for Android as most believe. It was to prevent Motorola Mobility from making one or more key moves that would have weakened Android’s patent situation even more.
  • For example, Motorola Mobility could have taken a patent license from Microsoft signaling a surrender that would have affected every other Android licensee.
  • It could have started work on a Windows Phone as a way to help it deal with a Microsoft infringement case, suggests the FOSS Patents blog. It also could have attacked other Android licensees to collect royalties.
  • And finally, it could have sold off its patent portfolio to one of Google’s competitors.

Flipboard CEO Eyes iPad Opportunities: Future Web Will Be More Like Print

  • Addressing a crowd at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week in San Francisco, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue suggested the Web “will feel a lot different in five years. It will feel a lot like print and be monetized differently than it is currently.”
  • “I think that the iPad is a superior consumption device for content on the Web,” he added. “It is actually the perfect device for content on the Web. We’re trying to create a new type of browsing experience that is right for the iPad.”
  • McCue believes that consumers read “more articles on Flipboard than they do in other arenas because they give content room to breathe and have a cleaner layout than the Web. This will lead to a better way to monetize that content with clean, well displayed ads,” reports The Next Web.
  • McCue added that there is opportunity to move from the Web’s continuous scrolling interface to something similar to the paginated reflow layout that Flipbook uses. “Funny enough, you can actually see this kind of interface in action at the newly launched now,” comments TNW.