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Applesauce: All Things Apple – February 3, 2013

Feb 03, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – February 3, 2013

Apple tops the charts in the U.S. and releases a large capacity iPad, all while BlackBerry fights for your attention once more and some well known Apple pundits claim the larger iPhone rumors aren’t so crazy.

It’s almost closing time, y’all…so finish your whiskey and applesauce.

Apple is tops in the US

Sure, Apple’s stock is down. And, sure…redOrbit writer Alan McStravick Tweets links to his “One Bad Apple” story anytime APPL stock falls by any amount. And, sure, analysts are continuing to call on Apple to release a cheap iPhone (rumored to have a curved back like the iPod Touch) in order to stay competitive with the Samsungs of the world. But no one can take away this one minor Apple win against Samsung. Research firm Strategy Analytics recently released some figures about U.S. mobile phone vendor shipments for the fourth quarter of 2012. According to the data, Apple was able to outpace Samsung by almost 1 million phones in that one quarter of 2012, selling 17.7 million to Samsung’s 16.8 million.

So there.

Samsung still sold more phones for the entire year, but for that one quarter, Apple got them. During this monumental quarter, one out of every three phones sold in the U.S. was an iPhone. This statistic has enough layers of granularity to make it sound less remarkable than it is — Apple sold the most phones in this one quarter in the U.S. only. But what makes this achievement notable isn’t only that this is the first time Apple’s been able to outsell everyone else in the U.S., but that they sold more phones – period — than anyone else, not just smartphones. LG and Samsung, as you know, sell a number of phones, from dumb feature phones to dumb smartphones. Just as it’s always been, Apple sells one phone, albeit in 3 different generations. These LG and Samsung phones aren’t always expensive, either. In fact, they can often be found as cheap or free options when signing a new contract. This 17.7 million number is also significantly higher than Q4 2011’s 12.8. Apple closed out 2012 at 43.7 million, much higher than 2011’s 29.7. “Apple’s success has been driven by its popular ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, generous carrier subsidies, and extensive marketing around the new iPhone 5 model,” explained Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston in a statement.

“Samsung shipped 16.8 million mobile phones in the United States, for 32 percent share, during Q4 2012. This was a good performance from Samsung, as its market share rose 5 points from 27 percent a year earlier, but it was not enough to hold off a surging Apple” To put it another way, while Apple may have won the battle, Samsung won the war. 2013 has only just begun, and so far many are wondering what these two companies (who combined make up 68 percent of the U.S. market, by the by) will release this year. Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 has been rumored have everything from wireless charging to an eight core architecture and 13 megapixel camera. Apple, on the other hand, has been rumored to be releasing a cheap iPhone, a big iPhone, and an iPhone that looks like the iPhone 5 with a processor bump and a 13 megapixel camera. So, we’ll see.

It’s the iPad Pro

Apple also took the opportunity this week to announce what many may have once called the “iPad Pro.” And just one day after rumors surfaced, too. Perhaps Tim Cook really is beginning to double down on secrecy, after all! (My apologies…that joke is terribly outdated.)

Apple released the latest beta build of iOS 6.1 last weekend to developers, many of which began tearing through the lines of code to discover any mention of any upcoming products. As it turns out, their efforts were not in vain. Some of these developers noticed that iOS 6.1 left some room for a 128 GB device, possibly a new iPad. 9to5Mac reached out to their sources who claimed that, yes, Apple would release such a large iPad later this year. Then, the next day, Apple released the 128 GB iPad.

The thing won’t be cheap when it ships to stores this coming Tuesday, starting at $799 for the Wi-Fi only model. The Wi-Fi + Cellular option is priced at $929, a meager $70 from Apple’s entry level MacBook Air. Though it might not be as powerful as the 11-inch MBA with only 64 GB of storage, it does have cellular connectivity. As I mentioned here, this large capacity iPad might as well be that “iPad Pro” that so many people had been looking forward to a few years back. This analyst, for example, had predicted an iPad Pro would arrive in the fourth quarter of 2011. Clearly he wasn’t expecting much out of the device, noting that it would be a “premium” iPad 2 with a better, high-resolution screen and better cameras. We all know what happened next: Apple released the “new” iPad with a Retina Display and LTE connectivity and the tech world incessantly questioned what they hell they were supposed to call it. Apple also played this announcement in a very coy manner, issuing a press release with availability and pricing. Elsewhere in the press release, however, were quotes from professionals explaining how they already use the new iPad and it’s zippy processor and stunning Retina display.

Very clever, Apple.

A vice president for Autodesk praised the iPad for giving its customers the ability to carry around their designs with them anywhere without having to worry about battery life.

The CEO of WaveMachine Labs said the new iPad allowed the company “to set a new standard for multitrack recording and editing on a mobile device,” saying the iPad is able to play 48 mono or stereo 24bit/ 96 KHz tracks at once.

Apple even got a quote from the company that makes the app used by NFL football teams. In other words, though they didn’t come right out and say it, this is the iPad for professionals. With 128 GB of storage, this iPad is not only capable of handling the tasks of the current 4th generation iPad, it’s able to store a lot more data than before. Double the amount, to be precise. This iPad will be great not only for the companies cited in Apple’s press release, but any other audio or visual professional, as well as any company looking to replace their laptops with a new solution. It might not be what many consider “innovation,” but it’s certainly a great step forward, offering more storage than their latest competition, the Surface Pro.

It must be mentioned again: Though Microsoft claims their Surface Pro arrives with 128 GB of storage, users are only able to use 83 GB. The missing 45 GB goes to, you guessed it, Windows 8 and other applications. The company is very quick to recommend that anyone looking for extra space can use SkyDrive or insert a microSDXC card. It’s insane to think that in 2013, a mobile OS and applications weigh in at 45 GB.

Alicia Keys Does Not A Hip Company Make

And while we’re talking about Apple’s competitors, let’s discuss the BlackBerry Q10 and Z10. This week, BlackBerry finally released their oft-delayed next generation operating system, BlackBerry 10. They also announced a pair of phones that will run the new OS, the QWERTY keyboard bearing Q10 and the full 4.2-inch touch screen Z10. In case you missed it, the name RIM has so far been absent from this paragraph. The Canadian company has decided to simply be called “BlackBerry,” either to represent a streamlining of their brand or to try and remove themselves as far as they can from the last 2 years of abysmal news surround the struggling brand.

Six and one, really…

Based on what was shown off during the Wednesday conference, the new BB 10 looks to be a pretty slick platform. It’s clear the BB team put a lot of thought and attention into how a mobile OS should work. However, all this new thinking may have led to yet another new OS with a steep learning curve. To prove this point, the folks at Mashable decided to hand the brand new BlackBerry Z10 phone over to some Android and iPhone users who had never seen the device or watched the introductory demo videos on how to use the damn thing. The results are predictable. The first task, unlocking the thing, proves difficult enough. The entire phone is gesture based, and while this may become seamless and even second nature once the user finally “gets” it, it can be uncomfortable for first time users. With no home button, users are asked to unlock the device by swiping up on the darkened screen. Some of these first time users in the Mashable video finally figured this out once they found the power button, pressed it, and were guided to swipe up by some arrows. Swiping left and right brings up different screens, including a unified inbox for email, text messages, and BlackBerry messages. The new OS and new phones will likely keep Blackberry afloat for another day, but according to many reviewers, these updates aren’t enough to persuade users to switch from their current platforms. Instead, it’s more likely that these new additions will be a healing salve to the poor and wounded Blackberry faithful that have been waiting years for a modern and up-to-date operating system. Although, even these users will have to tackle the learning curve in order to bring the new BlackBerry into their lives.

As the company was showing off these phones, I remember thinking to myself “Man, they’re really going after it. Some of these features look really cool. They may have actually done it.” I found myself rooting for them by the time they were done showing off what the phone could do and how seamless some of the operations seemed to be. Then they brought Alicia Keys on stage. I’m not a huge fan of Keys’ music, but only because I’m mostly unacquainted. I mean, who can’t like the powerful and soulful “If I ain’t Got You?” Yet, to create some bull feces job title like the “Global Creative Director” and give it to a celebrity such as Keys is nothing more than a shallow attempt to latch onto to the fame she’s built for herself and hope that others think they’re hip and successful as well. No one believes that she’s going to actually do anything with BlackBerry, right? Surely she won’t keep an office in Waterloo. At best, I say we see maybe two press releases from the company with a Keys quote, and that’s it. Maybe they’ll trot her out at the next conference when they start talking about how other famous people are using BlackBerry, but even this prediction is generous. No, I say it’s only a matter of weeks before Alicia Keys succumbs to an Oprah moment, caught praising the innovative new BB 10 with TweetBot for iOS.

The Arment-Gruber Boys

I’ve made my feelings towards the cheaper and larger iPhone rumors clear. You can only call something “dumb” so many times before you start looking dumb yourself.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that when these larger iPhone rumors surfaced, many journalists and pundits thought they were mostly unreasonable.

This week, well-known iOS developer Marco Arment (Instapaper, The Magazine) wrote a blog post wherein he attempts to give the iPhone Math (or Plus, or whatever) rumors some credence.

Now, it seems some of these previous naysayers are now on board with the idea, saying, “You know what, maybe he’s right….that wouldn’t be crazy at all!”

Even loved and loathed John Gruber has backed up Arment as well, saying concisely “This is exactly how I think Apple would do a bigger-screen phone.”

Of course, it’s no surprise that Arment and Gruber agree. The two not only run in the same circles, they also rush to defend one another anytime either of them are attacked by other developers or journalists.

Arment even recalls Gruber’s previous predictions about the size of the iPad mini screen months before it ever became a thing.

Marco argues that a larger screen iPhone, somewhere in the 4.94-inch region, wouldn’t throw off developers, could ship with a 264 ppi display, (the iPhone 5 has 326 ppi) and still maintain the design of the iPhone 5.

“By keeping the pixel dimensions the same as the iPhone 5, no app changes would be necessary. While the larger screen would hinder one-handed use, two-handed use would actually be easier because the touch targets would all be larger, and UIKit’s standard metrics and controls still work well at that physical size,” writes Arment.

He then goes on to say that, while it’s easy to poke fun at the Galaxy Note and SIII, these phones are selling well. Apple could make one of these larger iPhones so as not to miss sales and offer their customers one of everything, so to speak: A device at all sizes.

That just sounds crazy, no?

For any other company, like Samsung, this sounds perfectly normal. They want to have something for everyone. If you have money, they have a product. It’s a total Android/Windows mentality. Apple has always been different in this area, offering only what they believe to be the best products.

Clearly, Apple is a very different company these days, which is good — it’s never good to remain stagnant. Yet, I still believe that his desire to be different, this desire to only release the best products, not the products that other companies are also releasing, is still deep within Apple’s core. An iDevice At Every Size might help Apple move a few more million units, but it also creates confusion that Apple normally tries to stay away from.

Marco Arment is a brilliant man and takes a very thoughtful approach to his work and his writing, but I’m still not buying it.

For many, it might be enough that the Arment-Gruber duo are seemingly backing the iPhone Plus rumors, but I won’t be one of them. At least, not yet.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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