Thursday, September 9, 2010

TheAppleBlog (8 сообщений)
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  • Is Ping Apple's Google Wave?

    It’s been roughly a week since Ping’s release, and I’ve held my tongue until now. But I can hold it no longer: Ping isn’t the thing. Not only isn’t it the thing, it almost isn’t anything at all. Which brings to mind comparisons with another relatively useless web-based product: Google Wave.

    Google Wave is and will remain one of the most shining examples of a product designed to satisfy a need which simply didn’t exist. It was an engineering feat, to be sure, and contained interesting and likely useful tech, but it wasn’t something the public needed, wanted, or even really ever figured out how to use.

    Ping is a different type of product, don’t get me wrong. It’s hardly unprecedented, for one. In fact, if anything, it resembles its predecessors too closely. Many note that and other similar services offer essentially the same features, but without the commerce-driven restrictions imposed by Apple in Ping, like the inability to “Like” music not found in the iTunes library, including The Beatles, arguably one of the most-liked artists of all time.

    It also resembles Facebook, and recently encountered similar problems with spam, which it then took action to resolve. Though it resembles Facebook, the two networks very clearly don’t get along as of right now, which makes friend discovery (at least for me) very difficult. Which is a problem I also had initially with Google Wave. Not only was finding people who were using it difficult, but finding people who had similar interests, which would help the social aspect tremendously, was more difficult still.

    Of my paltry few followers, I would say that there exists about a 5 percent musical taste crossover area, at best. Friends with whom I share similar tastes don’t use the service at all, and many haven’t even bothered to upgrade to iTunes 10 yet, in fact, so almost all of my Ping contacts are professional. Maybe I’m guilty of not evangelizing enough among my peer group, but I hardly think that’s my job, just like I didn’t when Google expected me to do it with Wave.

    Though not complicated like Wave, Ping is just as clumsy from a user experience perspective. Not only can I not “Like” music not found in the iTunes library, I can’t “Like” anything from my library, and instead have to find it in the store. I’m not sure if this is just because it was too difficult to program into iTunes 10, or because Apple wants me to spend more time in the store, but either way it’s going to prevent anyone but the most dedicated completist from liking a decent chunk of their actual library.

    I’ve already talked about the friend discovery tools, but even iTunes’ own recommendations are terrible. A bunch of fairly generic pop artists and some industry people are the only ones I’ve ever received, and those haven’t changed since I started using Ping. How long do I have to not add them before you refresh the selection and give me some other options?

    In the end, Ping is not an effective social network. In a best case scenario, Ping would allow users to truly share and explore each other’s musical tastes, and provide easy ways for them to connect with one another, and not just with artists’ PR agency representatives. The natural byproduct of such a scenario would be to encourage a decent increase in iTunes commercial activity. Instead, what we get, basically, is a garish, buzzing neon sign with the word “Buy!” pointing at the iTunes store.

    If Apple’s truly serious about Ping, then it’ll have to give it a major overhaul in the next release. If not, then it should take a note from Google and start preparing comments about how it fosters an environment where failure is not only accepted, but encouraged.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: With Ping, Apple Builds a Social Network Inside a Walled Garden

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Mobile App Developers, Take Our Survey!
    How can a developer prosper in the competitive space of mobile apps?  You tell us. If you're a mobile app developer, please take our survey to help us see where the market is going. We want to know about platforms, profits and popular apps.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • iPhone 3G and iOS 4: Benchmarking the 4.1 Update

    When iOS 4 was released, many iPhone 3G owners felt the pains associated with having a slower device due to an OS that was more processor intensive. Apple stated it would be looking into the performance issues associated with running iOS 4 on older 3G iPhones, and thankfully, at the latest media event, a solution was confirmed to be ready.

    So has the recently released 4.1 update finally closed the door on the issue of iOS 4 running sluggishly on the iPhone 3G?

    iOS 4.1 Update Tested

    To test how the iOS 4.1 affected performance, I took a pair of iPhone 3Gs and ran them through a series of performance tests. I used GeekBench 2 ($1.99), Gauge Mathematical Tool ($1.99), BenchTest (99 cents), SunSpider (free) and V8 (free) to test the performance of each OS version on the 3G.

    I started out with one iPhone 3G running 3.1.3, and the second running 4.0.2. I must admit that both 3Gs were dumbed down quite a bit, and were not being utilized as iPhones, but more like iPod touches. The iPhones used were purchased at the same time, shipped in the same shipment, and have very similar Serial, IMEI, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth numbers assigned to them. The following results are only a subset of the data collected, and focus on the data points that changed the most from version to version:

    Results for iPhone 3G: 3.1.3 vs 4.0.2

    It’s not what the primary results did say, it’s what they did not say. As I executed the tests side by side, I noticed that even when similar end results were returned by the benchmark tests, the UI of each iPhone would behave differently. The 3G running 3.1.3 would behave as expected, but the 3G running 4.0.2 did not. Progress bars wouldn’t update smoothly on 4.0.2, but would jump to 100 percent at the end of the test. As tests were executing, it was as if the user interface on 4.0.2 was somehow sporadically frozen during the tests. This behavior is consistent with other video reports online that iOS 4 is slow on 3G devices. It also explains why certain activities, namely games that don’t utilize Apple’s stock UI components, run pretty much the same on each OS version. If you now use your 3G primarily as a game device as I do, you may not have noticed all the differences in performance.

    If, on the other hand, you’ve continued to use the device as a smart phone, you’ve most likely noticed the degradation in performance. What was surprising at first was that the JavaScript results were much faster on iOS 4. This makes some sense, since the version of Safari on iOS 4 most likely has the latest JavaScript engine under the hood. So while some UI elements may be slower, and most hardware-based benchmarks remained relatively constant, the JavaScript results actually improved from 3.1.3 to 4.0.2.

    Results for iPhone 3G: The 4.1 Update

    I then upgraded the 3G running iOS 4.0.2 to the new iOS 4.1. At this point, I had one iPhone 3G running iOS 3.1.3, and the other running iOS 4.1. This time around, the UI did appear to behave more as one would expect on 4.1, with smoother progress bars and a zippier response from the UI. It felt faster, but was it as fast as 3.1.3? No, not really.

    While certain numbers did seem to bounce back, namely the performance of the  Stdlib Allocate test within the GeekBench test suite, most numbers remained the same as in 4.0.2. The BenchTest results for Drawing Into View and File to Filesystem did seem to bounce back a little as well. It was only the JavaScript results (as per the SunSpider test) that really seemed to improve even further. However, it’s important to note that the iPhone 3G (on both versions of the OS) never passed the V8 test. Safari always crashed before completing the test.

    One More Test: iPhone 4 on 4.0.2 vs. 4.1

    So before drawing any conclusions, I wanted to see if the subtle performance increases noticed between 4.0.2 and 4.1 on the 3G were the same performance increases noticed on the new iPhone 4. Finding the same performance increases on the iPhone 4 as compared to the iPhone 3G would point to an overall performance boost based on OS updates that weren’t specific to any one hardware platform. Luckily, I happen to have two iPhone 4s in the house as well. This time, I performed benchmarks on the exact same hardware before and after the upgrade. I was very surprised with the results of the performance tests on 4.0.2 compared to 4.1 on the iPhone 4.


    It’s still very likely that Apple did focus on performance issues related to each one of its own internal apps that are distributed only via OS updates. Apart from the JavaScript benchmark results — which prove that Safari on iOS 4 outperforms Safari on iPhone OS 3 — the boost to overall performance based solely on the test results listed above is marginal.

    These tests, however, are looking at the OS itself, not individual app performance improvements. Surprisingly, there does appear to be a platform-specific focus on performance issues related to the iPhone 3G, as performance does appear to have degraded on the iPhone 4 with the 4.1 update. I’d been focusing heavily on the iPhone 3G, and had run several iterations of tests comparing 3.1.3 to 4.0.2, and was prepared to collect the same amount of data following the 4.1 update on the iPhone 3G. I was much more meticulous with the details on executing the tests.

    The tests against the iPhone 4 were an afterthought, and would require a more through examination before claiming that the iOS 4.1 update did indeed degrade the performance of the iPhone 4. Just as we struggled through the iPhone OS 3 updates on the iPhone 3G last year, there will likely be more updates to iOS 4 in the months to come. While I still don’t feel iOS 4.1 is back to the same performance levels of iPhone OS 3.1.3, there do appear to be performance gains in 4.1 that prove that Apple is serious about supporting the iPhone 3G on the iOS 4 platform.

    Online BenchMark Results

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • UPDATED: Did Apple Just Open the Door for Flash?

    This came a quite a shock to me, since it seems so impervious to the wailing of developers and consumers alike, but Apple announced today via an official press release that it would be relaxing some of its iOS development restrictions. In a move toward greater transparency, it’ll also publish its App Store Review Guidelines for the first time.

    To quote Apple:

    We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.

    Sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 of the iOS Developer Program license focused on using third-party tools to develop iPhone applications. One very noteworthy example of such a tool was Adobe’s Flash to iPhone packager, which it created to allow Flash developers access to the lucrative iOS market.

    Adobe’s website lists the packager product as being dead in the water, likely due to the original introduction of Apple’s restrictions in April 2010. It remains to be seen whether Adobe will resume development of the tool or if the company prefers to stay away now that it’s been burned before. On the other hand, appealing to cross-platform devs is a very good thing for Adobe.

    Updated: Here’s a quote from Adobe when asked about the Flash to iPhone packager’s future:

    We are encouraged to see Apple lifting its restrictions on its licensing terms, giving developers the freedom to choose what tools they use to develop applications for Apple devices.

    So long as Adobe does continue its work with the app packager, this is great news for Flash developers. Cross-platform development is always a sticky mess, but tools like Adobe’s iOS packager take a lot of the sting out of the process, making it much easier to broaden the appeal of your product while keeping costs down. It keeps the door open for easier cross-platform development between iOS and Android, which is bound to be high on dev wish lists in the near future.

    The second revelation of the press release is the pulling back of the review process curtain:

    In addition, for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps. We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store.

    Anyone who’s either had an app rejected themselves or who’s read about that frustrating experience will welcome this change. Apple’s often inscrutable policies regarding what does and what doesn’t get posted for sale in the App Store have been confusing, and often cause for complaint. In contrast, the newly-published Guidelines are surprisingly concise, covering only a little over six pages worth of material, and are essentially listed in bullet form organized around categories.

    The document begins with an explanation of the basic tenets of the review process. Essentially, Apple lays out that it has kids in mind, doesn’t want any more fart apps, doesn’t want amateurish efforts, and will reject anything that goes “over the line” (which it claims reviewers will know when they see it). It also points out that a Review Board is in place, and that complaining to press outlets doesn’t help your case in this regard. Finally, it concludes that the Guidelines represent a living document, so it can essentially be changed at will in response to new situations.

    The tone is almost defensive in a number of places, almost bullying in others, and in general, very conversational. It makes the Guidelines seem much less like a straightforward list document, and much more like a concerted effort on Apple’s part to compel developer cooperation and silence. Still, it also does what it claims, and it’s good to have a resource on the books to go to whenever developers cry foul.

    It also means developers will have far less cause to cry foul in the first place. A careful examination of the guidelines document should make it much more clear how likely an app is to be approved at the concept stage, allowing studios and devs to make much more informed decisions about which projects they decide to take on. That should lead to less wasted money and effort, and to more apps of higher quality making it to the App Store intact.

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: 5 Tips for Developers Targeting the iPad

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Apple Relaxes Development Demands as Android Grows
    Apple today has relaxed development requirements for iOS devices, allowing programmers to use non-Apple tools to create mobile applications. This easing still prohibits iOS applications from downloading additional code, but should open the doors for iOS apps to be built from non-Apple frameworks and cross-platform tools.

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • AT&T's 2GB Cap is Costing Me Money

    Updated: We were one of the first tech blogs to cover AT&T's change to wireless data rates, essentially killing unlimited data on smartphones and making way for a 250MB 200MB plan and a 2GB plan. Of course, those plans were cheaper than the existing unlimited 3G data and AT&T's argument was that most users never use anywhere near 2GB of data.

    The downside of this new plan is that if you go over your 2GB cap, you'll be charged $10 for every GB you go over. Those of us already on AT&T data contracts were grandfathered in to unlimited plans for the foreseeable future as long as we didn't cancel our plans.

    I wasn't in a current plan. When I left my job last month, they had taken over my iPhone bill into their contract so, when I left for a new job, I had to setup a new plan even though I could get my old number back. It didn't hit me that I was screwed until the Apple employee showed me the screen saying, "Choose a data plan" and the two options were 250MB 200 MB or 2GB. I sighed and chose the larger plan but I didn't get tethering because I already own an unlimited 3G data card from AT&T. Update: I also want to add that the previous “unlimited” plan was actually somewhere around 5GB The iPhone didn’t have a 5 GB limit, however most data cards do have a 5GB limit on “unlimited” plans. Most carriers that say their data is unlimited are lying to you. Don't be surprised if you download 10 movies from iTunes on your "unlimited" 3G data card and Verizon calls you up with some harsh words.

    Eight days later I received a text message from AT&T:

    Oh dear. Well, there was nothing I could do except simply turn off 3G data via iPhone's system settings, which basically makes my iPhone an iPod touch where Wi-Fi is the only option. I wasn't going to do that. For the sake of our readers, I chose to wait it out. First, let's talk about what I do on my iPhone.

    The No. 1 thing I do is use Twitter for iPhone. In my three years on the service, I've tweeted over 60,000 times and sent nearly twice as many direct messages. The second thing I do is email sending, receiving and moving messages around all day on an average of once every 10 minutes from 7AM to midnight. After that, I use eight different location based services to check in and "share" my location anytime I go somewhere and finally, I use apps for weather, video, news and Safari to get information on the go. This month, I also bought and downloaded the new Pearl Jam album via iTunes on my iPhone over 3G.

    This line of service was created on August 21 and as I’m writing this it’s September 5. In 16 days with my iPhone 4, here is my current data usage.

    At this rate, I will have to pay the 2GB monthly plan price of $25 plus an addition $10 for each GB I go over. It looks like I'll be paying $20 extra this month for being a data hog. AT&T's choice to limit us to 2GB of data is simply ridiculous and I have to remind everyone reading that I did not opt for tethering, so my iPhone data would have been above and beyond what I've shown above if that was the case. I did a test and in the three hours I've been sitting in this café syncing Twitter, email, RSS and uploading images to this blog, I've used 75MB of data in and 22MB out. If I was doing that tethered to my iPhone and not on the café's Wi-Fi connection, it would count against that 2GB cap. The completely lame part of AT&T's iPhone tethering is that it charges you $20 more just to tether your iPhone but doesn't allow you more data. You're still capped at 2GB. I'd happily pay $50 for 5GB of data with tethering on an iPhone but this isn't an option.

    This is mostly a rant but it shows that the choice to limit data bandwidth at a time when mobile phones are demanding more was a poor choice on one of the nation's largest carriers and I'm paying for it by being a "data hog."

    What are your data usage rates like?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Metered Mobile Data Is Coming and Here's How

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • iOS 4.1 Now Available

    The wait for iOS 4.1 is over for iPod touch and iPhone users. Apple released the update around 2PM EDT today, and you can get it now by plugging your device into iTunes and clicking the “Check for Update” button if it doesn’t prompt you automatically.

    The release of the update is in keeping with the timeline Apple announced last week during its press conference on Wednesday. 4.1 was slated for sometime this week, while 4.2, which brings iOS 4 features and more to the iPad, will be coming in November.

    4.1 brings numerous improvements to the platform for iPod touches and iPhones, though only later generation devices will be able to enjoy a number of those. Among the new features are Game Center, HDR photos (iPhone 4 only), TV show rentals, HD uploads to YouTube (iPhone 4 only), additional AVRCP support (including “next” and “previous” buttons), FaceTime calling from favorites and bug fixes, including the proximity sensor bug affecting iPhone 4 customers.

    It also promises to remedy performance issues plaguing iPhone 3G users who are running iOS 4 and later. The last major update to iOS seems to have significantly slowed the performance of the 3G during a number of tasks, including Spotlight and photo navigation.

    The HDR photos and the improved Bluetooth support are what I’m most looking forward to (will it finally work with all the features of my Motorola S9-HD headphones?), but I’m also curious to see how the introduction of Game Center affects my iPhone gaming. What are the highlights of iOS 4.1 for you?

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »


  • Survey: iPhone 4 Antenna Problems, Verizon Costly for Apple

    According to a survey released by professional Apple watcher Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray (via Fortune), the antenna issues (which Jobs and Co. would have you believe isn’t really an issue at all) cost the company a decent amount of business over the summer. But it wasn’t what hurt it the most in the U.S.

    In fact, the single issue most complained about by respondents was the lack of an iPhone available on the Verizon network. That was despite the fact that no survey question actually mentioned the AT&T competitor or even really dealt with it that much, save the one which asked for respondents’ current carrier.

    The survey asked 258 cell phone owners in downtown Minneapolis about their choice of device and the reason for their choosing. Of respondents, nearly a third had either an iPhone, a BlackBerry or another kind of phone not listed. Nokia and Android made up the last two groups, representing only three and nine percent respectively.

    Awareness of the antenna problem was definitely high, though that’s got to be expected when Apple itself held a press conference basically advertising the problem, even if the actual aim of the event was to downplay it. 69 percent of respondents knew about the issue, and 20 percent of those people said it influenced their decision to buy an iPhone 4. So yes, Apple lost some revenue to its missteps regarding Antennagate.

    But for each of the respondents who acknowledged the antenna issue, three brought up the iPhone not being on Verizon as a barrier to making a purchase. That’s likely because nearly a third of respondents (31 percent) were already Verizon customers, just behind AT&T’s survey-leading 38 percent.

    Apple must be aware of the effect its exclusivity deal is having on sales in the U.S., and I hardly think it’s the ideal situation for the company, considering how quickly it has switched to non-exclusive models in other regions, including America’s neighbor to the north, Canada. Doubtless we’ll see this relationship change when the AT&T exclusivity deal expires, which is rumored to be happening at the end of this year or the beginning of next.

    Despite the possible dampening effects of both the antenna issues and lack of a Verizon option, the iPhone 4 is still experiencing record sales, and Apple’s supply chain continues to struggle to keep up with demand, so we’re guessing Cupertino isn’t sweating it right now.

    Munster’s survey was very geographically specific, so I’m curious about what results taken from a more general sampling would look like. It’s hardly scientific, but how did the antenna issues affect your purchase decision regarding the iPhone 4?

    Related GigaOM Pro Research: Why Carriers Still Hold the Key to Handset Sales

    Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

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