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Applesauce: All Things Apple – April 21, 2013

Apr 21, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – April 21, 2013

It’s been a slow news week for Apple and Apple-related products, but I can assure you one thing, faithful reader…this week’s Applesauce is completely free of old-man rants about those ridiculous iWatches.

Because I care.

Let’s get clean with some Applesauce.

The Big Thaw

Earlier this year the Financial Times reported that Foxconn had placed a hiring freeze in their iPhone-producing factories.

This could only mean one thing:

Trouble.

And boy did trouble come. Apple’s stock price fell and headlines began to tear through the Internet about how the only people who actually wanted an iPhone 5 probably had one already. This was particularly interesting considering the iPhone 5 sold pretty darn well over the holidays.

This week, a new (and considerably more credible) report was published by the Wall Street Journal that claimed that the hiring freeze has been thawed and now Foxconn has been hiring workers by the tens of thousands.

This could only mean one thing:

New iPhone 5S.

Bloomberg also got in on the action, saying the factory has been hiring as many as 10,000 assembly line workers each week since late March. That’s an awful lot of hands.

The Wall Street Journal even got a quote from a Foxconn exec, who said:  “We have been very busy recently as we will start mass-producing the new iPhone soon.”

So if this news is true (and considering the sources, it probably is), this could mean two things:

First, Apple has already figured out what their next phone could look like and what components it will have. The Foxconn workers haven’t started building these things yet, but Apple probably has the template ready.

In other words, we can probably expect an iPhone 5S-type phone. They may not call it a 5S, but it’s likely the next iPhone will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

The kid in me wants to believe that Apple has been quietly working on a brand new iPhone 6, that they’ve finally got that whole “doubling down on secrecy” thing figured out and no one has been able to guess what this next phone will look like. We’ve all been wondering about the 5S, not paying attention to what could happen with a potential iPhone 6.

This probably isn’t the case. What good does it serve Apple to pull a quick one over on us, save the element of surprise that, to my knowledge, might not affect their bottom line at all?

No, Apple will probably stick to the tick-tock release schedule, which means this year will be another boring iPhone.

Our only hope is an Ive-inspired iOS 7.

(Where is the sarcasm font on this thing, anyway?)

This news could also mean that Apple is going to switch to a summer release schedule, at least for this year. In year’s past, Apple has worked to build up a nice backlog of phones in order to keep up with demand.

Announcing that you’ve sold out of pre-order stock to fabricate excitement about your product is one thing, (I’m looking at you, Amazon and Microsoft), but actually running low when news sources have parked vans outside your retail doors and reporters are interviewing the “crazy ones” who camp out for days to get one of the first units…that’s not such a good thing.

If Apple is eyeing June, it looks as if we could see another iPhone announcement at WWDC, something we haven’t seen since the iPhone 4. According to many of the rumors, we’ll see the proper iPhone 5S this summer and the cheap, Hi-Top Value Brand runt of the family later this fall.

This makes sense, of course.

Assuming Apple plans to announce and release this summer, how many Apple developers (the most fervent group of Apple fanatics there ever were) would be interested in buying a cheap, colorful plastic iPhone?

Sure, they want to write applications for it, maybe tear it apart to see if it’s got 512 MB or less RAM in it, but these are the same group of people who have been clamoring for a new Mac Pro for years and years and years.

If Apple announced a cheap iPhone, AND ONLY a cheap iPhone to these ruffians, blood would be shed.

And honestly, I wonder if Apple will ever reveal the cheap iPhone to the States. It could sell very well here, of course, but if it really is aimed at developing markets as the rumors say, would Apple want to give Americans who have already been buying the REAL iPhone an option to buy the cheaper iPhone?

Just thinking out loud here, folks. It happens.

C’Mon Apple!

It’s a good thing Apple is real particular about which apps are allowed to run on their iOS devices.

Otherwise they’d probably look real Siri if an app like Sherpa were to eat their proverbial lunch.

Oh, I’m sorry…what did I say?

Sherpa is another one of those “S” word intelligent assistants meant to help you navigate life’s choppy waters using only your voice and the best of intentions. The app started life as a Spanish-speaking assistant in Latin America and Spain and burned up the Google Play charts in those areas. Judging from some of the demos posted online this week; it’s easy to see why Sherpa is so darned popular in other parts of the world.

Sherpa appears to be everything Siri ever hoped to be and maybe more.

Think back with me to 2011 when Siri was first debuted during the iPhone 4S release, otherwise known as the saddest iPhone release ever.

Siri was shown off to be the first, commercially available intelligent assistant that could understand real, natural conversation. Speech recognition technology has been around a while, but very few applications could understand “move my meeting to 2.” Even on Apple’s first attempt at voice-recognition, users had to use a very distinct set of words to perform actions. Did you know that you could place a call on iPhone with your voice before Siri?

No?

That’s because it wasn’t easy to do and the thing always misunderstood commands.

So In October of 2011, millions of people bought the newest iPhone and began putting Siri through her paces. She was pretty good, but not great. Put another way, there were times when she worked so well you could have sworn it was magic…but when she didn’t work, it was off to the Apple forums to post the next angry “C’Mon APPLE!” diatribe.

Sherpa can truly do many of the things you wish you could do with Siri. For instance, it seems like Siri should really be able to, say, direct you to your next meeting. She already knows where the meeting is, where you are, and if the Texas Rangers won last night. If you try asking her for directions to your “next meeting,” however, she dumbly responds that your next meeting is at 3 o’clock.

If you ask Sherpa how to get to your next meeting, it dutifully opens up Google Maps and starts navigating you there. It’s not asking for a raise or simply refusing to do what you asked. It’s proactive like that.

In a demo with ubergizmo, Siri pretended she didn’t know who Obama was. Looks like Siri may have been a Romney supporter.

Sherpa, on the other hand, not only knows who Obama is, but knows the names of his wife and daughters, knows his birthday, and is willing to take you elsewhere to learn even more.

Android’s Sherpa has a few other cool tricks up its sleeve. For instance, you can use Sherpa to send money to someone via PayPal. Simply speak it and it’s done.

(It’s features like this that make me wish there was also an “I’m Drinking, Don’t Let Me Send Any Money To Anyone mode.” Apparently I’m generous after a few beers.)

Sherpa also knows how to play DJ, even if you don’t have the songs stored on your device. If you get the itch to listen to some Shania Twain, Sherpa will find the songs and begin playing them straight away, even if you were too embarrassed to sync her greatest hits album to your phone.

(Again, another feature I wish I could turn off after a few beers.)

For the final trick, Sherpa can also act as a travel agent, booking flights for you and your family.

The service is capable of picking up on subtle clues such as “we,” or “my wife and I.”

For instance, the command “My wife and I need plane tickets from Chicago to Seattle leaving on Friday and returning on Tuesday” is understood and will result in a list of available flights for two people.

It makes sense, really. Humans are comfortable with talking in this way and trying to teach ourselves to speak a different, dumbed down language for our devices doesn’t always work.

Sherpa’s creators have taught the assistant English and have brought it stateside this week, thus the numerous demos that begin with “Obama.”

Nothing wrong with a little pandering.

It’s not likely that a free Android app such as Sherpa will worry Apple. However, if Sherpa is scooped up by a competitor, namely Samsung, then maybe Apple should be on their guard.

As it stands, we’ve only got another few months before iOS 7 is shown off and/or released. Perhaps Ive and his minions have put Siri through University and taught her to be a little more intelligent AND proactive all at once? It’s cute that she knows the score to last night’s game, but she’s still not everything we were promised in 2011.

It just kind of stings to see an Android app deliver on a promise made by Team Apple.

C’mon, Apple!

Image Credit: Photos.com

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