Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop covers the iOS 8.3 and iOS 9 updates, TouchID improvements, Tim Cook on privacy and cybersecurity, Apple’s rewarding strategy for Q2 2015, the Apple iCar, bigger iOS apps, the iPhone kill switch is working, and ‘Pay Once and Play’.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read our weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).
Two more steps forward for iOS this week, as Apple seeds the next version of iOS 8 to developers, and details of iOS 9 were revealed.
First up, the next iterative release of iOS 8. iOS 8.3 adds in support for wireless connectivity with CarPlay and two-factor authentication of Google accounts. What it doesn’t address is the long-standing bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity issues, or battery life issues faced by many users:
No doubt there will be the usual ‘bug fixes and stability improvements’ bullet point in the release notes when the update arrives over the air to users. Given the April date for iOS 8.2, it’s likely that iOS 8.3 is set for a late summer launch. It’s not a huge leap of faith to assume that this beta will be available close to Apple’s WWDC in early June. New features aside, it would be nice to know when Apple is going to address concerns of the user-base that continues to be affected by issues that were reported in iOS 8 when it first launched.
That moment is likely to be the release of iOS 9. The next major iteration of the mobile operating system is likely to focus on ‘the core user experience’ and increased stability of the software, reports 9to5 Mac:
For 2015, iOS 9 is going to include a collection of under-the-hood improvements,” states the report. “Sources tell us that iOS 9 engineers are putting a ‘huge’ focus on fixing bugs, maintaining stability, and boosting performance for the new operating system, rather than solely focusing on delivering major new feature additions.
Forbes’ Gordon Kelly takes up the story:
The news is likely to receive a split opinions. On the one hand owners of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus who have largely enjoyed a fast, seamless user experience and wonder what all the fuss is about.
On the other hand the focus will be a welcome relief to owners of previous generation iOS devices – including the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C – which continue to be hit by Bluetooth, WiFi, battery and calendar problems, though signs are promising the latter will finally be fixed in iOS 8.2.
Will the next iPhone embarrass the Galaxy S6? Samsung is putting a lot of faith into its next smartphone, and much of that confidence is in fingerprint recognition and security. Apple already has an advantage thanks to its monopolization of the supply chain, and with the latest technology, Apple could be working on using the touchscreen itself to recognise fingerprints, as opposed to a dedicated touch sensor:
In 2015 the catch up was meant to be complete and a happy Samsung is said to have built a whole ecosystem of security, login and payment features around it, including a direct Apple Pay rival. At which point Apple and its AuthenTec-based Touch ID technology will upgrade again with the iPhone 6S/7 launch later this year.
Just as the competition catches up to an embedded scanner in the home button, Apple moves the goalposts (or the sensor) once again.
The Apple iPad Range (image: Apple.com)
Apple’s Tim Cook has used his speech at President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity summit to stand on the side of user privacy, arguing strongly for a right to privacy and how Apple continues to develop this as a strength of its ecosystem. Dominic Rushe covered Cook’s speech for The Guardian:
“We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they choose. A world in which that information can make a difference between life and death,” Cook said. “If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life.
“Fortunately, technology gives us the tools to avoid these risks. It is my sincere hope that by using them and by working together, we will.”
No doubt the questions over the balance between individual privacy and the rights of the state will continue. The US government should be wary that the actions it take could be used by other states around the world if it oversteps the market.
After a record-breaking quarter, what can Apple do next? I looked at that question earlier on this week, reducing it to a simple challenge. Will the results go higher or lower?
Apple’s Q2 2014 results saw it beat expectations, with revenue of $45.6 billion, profit of $10.2 billion, and 43.7 million iPhone sales. There’s your target [for the current quarter].
Apple has two major iPhone advantages heading in to Q2 2015. The first is the increased presence in China. This has already led to an increase in sales, and Apple is continuing its expansion into mainland China. With the Chinese New year featuring in this quarter, I’m expecting the Chinese success story to continue.
Apple iPad mini 3 (photo: Ewan Spence)
Apple’s iPad Air 2 (image: Ewan Spence)
Would Apple really build a car? That’s the intriguing question that many observers are asking in the last week. While the immediate answer is “don’t be silly, any hires are going to be for CarPlay” there has been an acceleration of staff moving towards Apple from the R&D teams of the automotive industry.
Chris Davies picks up the threads on Slashgear:
The recruitment drive to staff the newly-established research group includes some high-profile wins, too, with the former head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D team joining Apple’s efforts, along with auto designers and even engineers working on vehicle dynamics. It’s enough to reignite speculation among car experts that Apple is indeed planning its own entrance into the four-wheel space.
Jordan Kahn also pitches on, via 9to5 Mac:
The hire follows much speculation on what Apple might have planned in the automotive space. Reports in recent weeks detailed an employee poaching war between Apple and Tesla and unsubstantiated reports that Apple had plans to build vehicles of its own. Apple is of course already quite involved in integrating products into vehicles, primarily through its CarPlay platform and partnerships with the majority of major car companies.
It makes sense for Apple to try out new technologies, and it would not surprise me one bit to find there is an ‘iCar’ roaming around Cupertino with all the latest gadgets and toys installed (and Chris Ziegler has five ideas on what Apple could be up to over on The Verge). What would surprise me is if Apple had any intentions to take it to the market.
Still, even one percent of the US automotive market would be an impressive win. A car as a follow-up to a watch? Stranger things have happened.
…but that’s nothing compared to what you might see during 2015. Apple has upped the maximum size for an iOS app from 2 GB to 4 GB. This will allow for more multimedia resources to be packaged with applications, more complex 3D models, more textures, more game data and maps, and generally more of everything. Users are still limited to a maximum app download of 100 MB over a cellular connection, so Wi-fi will be required for these larger apps.
It also raises some questions over the 16 GB models of the iPhone. With this increase sure to be capitalised on by developers, the lowest memory storage option is starting to look incredibly constrained. Let’s not even think about the pain of one of these apps on the 8GB iPhone 5C.
Supercell’s Clash of Clans
The ‘Kill Switch’ in smartphones’ software that allows handset to be remotely locked if it is stolen is being credited with a drop in mobile phone thefts in major cities around the world (reports Betanews).
London saw a drop in smartphone thefts by 50 percent, San Francisco by 40 percent, and New York by 25 percent, said authorities on Tuesday.
“We have made real progress in tackling the smartphone theft epidemic that was affecting many major cities just two years ago”, said London Mayor Boris Johnson.
There is a certain amount of ‘herd effect’ going on here. The more phones that are ‘killed’ after a snatch, the less likely thieves will be to acquire a smartphone able to be sold on, and the cycle of ‘kill switches’ continues.
Not content with providing a Pinterest page for promoting apps, Apple has launched a new revenue stream model for applications in the App Store. Called ‘Pay Once And Play’ the idea upends the freemium model by asking for a single up-front payment and ditching the idea of asking for micro transactions throughout the game. If you want to pass a level or use a new weapon, you have to earn it. Paul Tassi reports for Forbes:
It’s hard to see how games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush will be able to compete when these new games are offering an all-encompassing experience for a simple flat rate. It’s a foreign concept, sure, but an analogy could be an all-inclusive resort which charges a bit more up front, but patrons have peace of mind knowing they don’t have to worry about how much each drink, meal and massage costs. If it’s worked for hotels, it could just work for gaming.
The bigger question is if readers can spot satire…