Applesauce: All Things Apple – March 31, 2013
The news this week turned back to phones, as it often does. The new iPhone, of course, is still months away and as such, the news there is B-O-R-I-N-G. Better processor and camera. Yeah, no duh.
BUT! T-Mobile finally gets an iPhone, thereby bringing the temperature down a few notches in a certain netherworld ruled by miscellaneous imps and demons.
And will wonders never ceaseâ€¦.Facebook, too, might be getting a phone. Or at the very least, a very strong presence on a phone.
Phones, phones, everywhereâ€¦and not a drop of Applesauce to drink.
I Think the Phrase Is â€śHell Freezes Over.â€ť
Last year, I wrote an article wherein I likened T-Mobile to a desperate lover who would do anything to get in bed with the iPhone.
In this story I mentioned how poor T-Mo would casually drop by the cool Apple parties (WWDC, mostly) in hopes that Cook and Crew would only notice them, notice how theyâ€™d gotten in shape, notice how they really seem to have their life together, despite reports to the contrary. It was a shaky metaphor. Carriers and cell phone manufacturers donâ€™t look at their business relationships as if they were romantic relationships, no matter how many letters I send.
Yet, even when it seemed like T-Mo was finally content with just letting those extremely budget conscious iPhone users suffer through their terrible 2G speeds for the sole purpose of saying: â€śTECHNICALLY SPEAKINGâ€¦we have 1 million iPhone customers!â€ť Apple has finally turned their eye to the nationâ€™s fourth largest carrier.
Now, there is such a thing as the T-Mo iPhone, and apparently, itâ€™s pretty much like the AT&T iPhone.
In fact, one could almost draw a line of comparison between the 2011 Verizon iPhone 4 and the new T-Mo iPhone 5, in the sense that Apple has once again started to build an iPhone mid-cycle to appease a specific carrier.
According to tech blogs who were present at this weekâ€™s press event, the newest iPhone is a version of the model A1428, better known in the states as the AT&T model. Yet, this iPhone has a dirty little secret inside: it can take advantage of that AWS network that T-Mo has been working so hard to roll out over the past few years.
The good news is it still works on their LTE networks, though these are pretty few and far between. Currently, there are only seven areas that have been granted with the privilege. Unless you live in Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose or Washington DC, youâ€™re out of luck.
But, take heart! Because the new iPhone has been internally tweaked, it will be able to run on T-Moâ€™s sufficiently speedy HSPA+42.
Sadly, I donâ€™t think this is a reference to the meaning of lifeâ€¦
This â€śbackup network,â€ť as it has been called, is capable of pulling down a theoretical 42 Mbps and is much more widespread than their LTE network.
The even better news is that purchasing one of these AWS capable iPhones is even easier on the wallet than previous iPhones.
Big Pink is proudly advertising on their Web site that they have left the â€śClueless-Cellular-Company Buildingâ€ť by offering some of the most attractive cell plans available. Calling themselves the â€śUncarrier,â€ť they will offer unlimited plans without any contract. For only $50 a month, customers can get unlimited talk and text, but are left with a measly 500 megabytes of data each month. For only $20 more, these customers are bumped up to ultimate unlimited status (my words) and can pull from as much data as they want.
New customers will be able to buy a new iPhone 5 for only $99, but they also have to enter into the closest thing to a contract the carrier now offers.
Sure, you have to sign a 24-month deal and pay an extra $20 a month for the right to own that new iPhone, (I mean, iPhones donâ€™t grow in apricot orchards on the new Apple HQ lawn) but after this two-year plan, you will have saved $70 more than if you had bought a regular unlocked iPhone from Apple; an unlocked iPhone which would have only two speeds, LTE or 2G.
Whatâ€™s more, Apple has said theyâ€™ll begin selling the T-Mo compatible unlocked iPhones after April 12, the first day T-Mobile customers will get to use their Apple phones in the great light of day.
There is that sticky issue of the legality of unlocking your iPhone, of course. Meaning, you might want to proceed with caution if you live in one of the aforementioned seven cities and want to unlock your iPhone 5 and move to T-Mobileâ€™s new super cheap plans.
And one more thing:
T-Mobile is the only carrier in the States to make use of a little feature Apple baked into the iPhone 5 called â€śHD Voice.â€ť
Just as it sounds, this feature improves the call quality between two iPhone 5s. Therein lies the most important caveatâ€¦to reap the benefits of HD Voice, you must be talking to another T-Mobile customer who also happens to be using a new iPhone 5. This wonâ€™t be an issue for refugee families who fled the tyranny of AT&T (donâ€™t you love hyperbole) for the pinker pastures of T-Mo.
Regardless, itâ€™s something to note.
As far as this writer is concerned, the T-Mobile iPhone is a great move and opens up even more competition between the carriers.
AT&T, Sprint and Verizon may not feel too threatened by T-Mobileâ€™s crazy idea of selling voice and data at cut-rate prices. After all, their networks arenâ€™t nearly as expansive as the other Big Three carriers.
Yet, there exists now a FOURTH option for those who want the iPhone, and as T-Mobile continues to roll out their LTE networks, this could affect the industry in a consumer-friendly way.
And whatâ€™s so wrong with that?
WiFiSLAM Foils Your Childâ€™s Plot to Steal Your iPad
Apple has a handy little app meant to retrieve lost iThings. It works so well that itâ€™s shown up in the news more than once. People lose their devices or have them inhumanely ripped from their hands; they pull up the Find My iPhone app on another device or on the web, and (in most cases) theyâ€™re instantly able to track the missing device. Through no fault of the app, itâ€™s even been used to thoroughly anger one Las Vegas resident who routinely has drunk and angry visitors on his stoop, demanding to have their device returned.
Making handy and thoughtful apps is something Apple is prone to do; the most egregious exception being that horrendous abomination of an app called Podcasts. Thereâ€™s one specific scenario, however, where the app could use a little help.
Say youâ€™ve got children (go on, say it) who love to play with your iPad, iPhone or iPod. Now say youâ€™ve got to scoop up your device and head to an important business meeting. I canâ€™t hear you.
You scour the house, turning over every couch cushion and emptying every toy box. You even check the fridge because, hey, stranger things have happened, right?
You suddenly become aware of the time and, unless you can find that thing right now, you wonâ€™t be able to make your daily coffee run.
In this case, the Find My iPhone app may not be all that useful to you.
Sure, you could pull it up on another device or on the web, but youâ€™re pretty sure itâ€™s somewhere in your house, and that green dot wonâ€™t tell you anything you donâ€™t already know. Not much help.
You do have the option to play a sound, of course. But if that thingâ€™s buried deep in someoneâ€™s closet, you may not hear it.
Lucky for you, Apple just purchased a little company called WifiSLAM, which has a technology that uses Wi-Fi hotspots to triangulate a device and give directions indoors, like malls, office buildings and the like.
Apple already uses a similar technology that uses Wi-Fi hotspots to triangulate a device. For instance, an iPod Touch technically can work as a GPS device and guide you along a chosen patch by picking up the location info from a nearby hotspot.
Itâ€™s not reliable, but it can work in a pinch. WifiSLAM is much more precise and built to work specifically indoors.
When it was announced earlier this week that Apple dropped a reported $20 million for this startup, many quickly assumed theyâ€™d use this technology to further compete with Google and begin offering indoor location services.
For instance, you may be able to one day walk into a mall and ask Siri â€śHow do I get to Auntie Annes?â€ť This doesnâ€™t seem too far out of the question. They did just spend a good amount of money on a piece of tech. They might as well use it to its full potential.
But this is an area where Apple has shown little interest. Their Maps app needs all the help it can get, sure, but theyâ€™ve got a proven winner with Find My iPhone. WifiSLAM, it appears to me, would be able to more accurately pinpoint your device inside your childâ€™s closet, or a cupboard, or some other location inside your home. This more defined location info, combined with that annoying beep thatâ€™s played when you lose your device, could be a lifesaver.
Taking it one step further, if a ruffian snatches your iPhone while youâ€™re in the mall, Find My iPhone might not be too much help. It can point you to the north end of the building, but knowing that your lost phone is specifically in Journeyâ€™s could make all the difference between a lost iPhone and a recovered iPhone.
For my money, I say weâ€™ll see this tech implemented with Find My iPhone before we see Apple try to compete directly with Google with indoor-specific maps.
Project Buffy Comes Home
And now, as we turn our thoughts to hearsay, rumors and speculation, itâ€™s Facebook that has garnered the attention this week. The Facebook phone rumors have been floating around nearly as long as the Apple watch rumors, and theyâ€™re nearly as annoying.
Yet, when Facebook invited members of the press to see their â€śnew home on Androidâ€ť this week, it became hard to not believe in a Facebook phone, or at the very least a phone with some heavy handed preferences to the social network.
After the press invites were sent out, 9 to 5 Google and TechCrunch began filling out the story a bit more, sharing information from their own sources.
Yet, not much has changed from rumors past. It looks as if Facebook will have some sort of partnership with HTC on this one, tightly integrating the service inside a special version of Android. This specially built version might even run Facebookâ€™s own app store, something which Facebook developers would likely get a warm feeling over. Though All Things D learned a few years ago that this phone is being called â€śProject Buffyâ€ť on the inside, sources now are saying this phone is being called â€śProject Home.â€ť Sort of makes sense, considering the invites.
If thereâ€™s one area where Apple people are quite experienced, itâ€™s looking for cues in simplistic press invites.
If weâ€™re going to look for cues in the Facebookian Blue and White invite, Menlo Park could be looking to announce some sort of presence on Android. Â Ah, but thatâ€™s too easy. Letâ€™s go deeper:
Last November, Facebook began asking their mobile developers to start giving Android a try.
It seems most developers were simply choosing iOS over Android, and once complaints started coming in that Facebook was ignoring their Android offering, the company began running a propaganda type campaign to encourage their employees to switch. They called it â€śdroidfooding,â€ť and though a Facebook spokesperson said they let employees choose their own devices, they were clearly (and passive aggressively) pushing their developers to pick the Green Robot over Apple; which is to say, theyâ€™ve been spending some time with Android lately.
A Facebook-intense home screen and even a Facebook app store could make sense at this point. This partnership could lead to a Sense-like version of Android for HTC, just with some clear Facebook leanings.
An always in-sync contact book.
No need for a phone number to get a hold of anybody.
And if Messages was the default app for sending texts or Camera was the default app for taking pictures, Facebook could see their number of mobile users jump a slight bit.
Really, theyâ€™re still looking for any way to make themselves look better to investors.
Just think of the advertising opportunity! Ads right on the home screen. Itâ€™s a space which has rarely been broken into.
Why yes, I am wearing my tin-foil hat. Why do you ask?
Whatâ€™s that you say?
Oh, thereâ€™s not much new there, either.
Better processor, better camera, could be out in June.
Gene Munster still believes that the Apple TV will arrive sometime in the December quarter, the same claim he made last year. Only, it was about December 2012.
Hey, Gene Munsterâ€¦. Donâ€™t stop believing.
Image Credit: Photos.com