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Applesauce: All Things Apple – May 5, 2013

May 05, 13 Applesauce: All Things Apple – May 5, 2013

Goodbye Circus Circus

We’ve talked before about iOS 7, yes?

I’ll put it another way…I’ve rambled on and on about iOS 7 and the extremely important role it can play in Apple’s history, yes?

This week was filled with reports about the progress of iOS 7, if it will or if it won’t ship on time, (good news: Saith the Dalrymple, Yep. It will ship on time) and the influence Sir Jony may have on this new mobile operating system. Apple said they plan to show off iOS 7 and Mac OS 10.9 at this year’s WWDC coming up in about five weeks, so we’ll have to wait patiently until June 10’s Keynote to see our first glimpse of Ive’s work.

But let’s back up for a second. Before I do any sort of wish-listing or positing, I think it’s prudent to get a better handle of the current mobile landscape.

Depending on which metric you use, Android is winning in terms of “shipments,” or pure saturation all around the world. How could it not? You can slap Android on any old piece of crap and suddenly you’ve got your numbers. If we’re talking about the US exclusively, iOS has a better handle in the States, but is still locked into a bitter battle with Android. Comscore’s MobiLens put Android at 51.7 percent market share over iOS’ 38.9 percent in the US, while Kantar reports that though Android was winning earlier, iOS has come from behind.

(Side note: You know that terribly selling iPhone 5 that analysts and market watchers want so badly to believe has run out of momentum? Yeah, according to Kantar, it’s helped push iOS back in first place at 48.1 percent over 46.7 percent.)

If you want to look at profit, Apple is winning hands down. It’s not even close. Apple sells more phones slightly, and both platforms have similar numbers of apps available.

Ah, but these are just numbers,

Boring numbers.

Let’s take a different approach to these two platforms, namely the incalculable ease of use and popularity.

“Wait a minute, numbskull,” I hear you saying.

“Can’t popularity be calculated based on sales numbers?”

Yes and no, actually.

We Americans are blessed and cursed with those pesky two-year contracts. We get to buy expensive phones on the cheap and pay them out over many months, sure, but we also don’t often have the luxury of switching whenever we feel like it.

Which is to say, anecdotally, it seems more people are willing to give Android a look-see. It makes sense. Google has been slowly but steadily adding features the people want. They have the apps people want. And even the weirdo tech nerds can dig into their phones and customize it to their hearts content. (Read: make it ugly as sin.)

In my opinion, Android is nearing the “winning” point of the mobile OS war in terms of simply being willing to give the people what they want. Don’t forget, iOS works much like it did since the first iPhone debuted in 2007. We’ve got copy and paste, “multi-tasking,” (there’s a phrase which will really upset a very small subset of people) and notification center, but generally it’s still a tap-tap-tap game. Tap into an app, tap out of it, tap into another app, tap out of it again.

It’s easy to understand, but it’s not the most helpful operating system.

As I discovered in my one-month jailbreaking test, there’s a lot of space Apple could travel to meet their customers in the middle.

Want to turn off Wi-Fi? Four taps. Want to turn on the flashlight? Download an app first, then it’s about three taps away. Want to add a calendar event? It’s another two to three taps away. All of these things could easily be done from the lock screen or even notification center.

Then there’s the issue of some of Apple’s recent design choices…

According to “inside sources,” Jobs really got off on some of those skeuomorphic choices, like the leather stitching and reel-to-reel tapes. Some have even said the leather in iCal was designed after the leather in his private jet. That’s a kind gesture, but many didn’t see it that way, sort of like the aunt who hand-knitted you that detestable wool sweater. You know you should be grateful, but come on.

In the past year, Tim Cook has given Scott Forstall the boot (the man responsible for some of those skeuomorphic choices and, most notably, the fall out of Apple Maps) and has placed Jony Ive in charge of all design. His official title is “Senior Vice President, Industrial Design.”

Essentially, this means everything to come out of Cupertino’s bay doors has to be approved by the man who designed the iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, first iMac, etc.

As I and COUNTLESS others have stated before, this is a very good thing.

After that lengthy preamble, we’re finally here, to the reason why iOS 7 is so damned important.

Meet Me At the Crossroads

Apple’s mobile devices are at a crossroads. If they want to continue selling devices, (and most importantly, keep making that paper) they need to excite consumers once more. They may not need to conjure up the same kind of magic they did with the original iPhone, but they need, at the very least, to give people a reason to stay or switch to iOS.

It is the opinion of this writer that Jony Ive can do this.

With his design choices and his willingness to make sure Apple only releases products that are easy to use and good for consumers, Apple can ensure that America continues their love affair with the House That Jobs Built.

This week, rumors began to fly that iOS 7 had been delayed, that Apple was frantically moving engineers from the Mac OSX team to help the iOS team finish the project on time.

Sound familiar?

When the very first iPhone was released, the same shift occurred, thus the delay of Leopard.

On Wednesday, All Things D’s John Paczkowski issued a report which claimed that, yes, Apple was moving some engineers around to help with iOS 7, but the OS was still on track to release in September.

That bearded and pesky Jim Dalrymple gave his monosyllabic affirmative of “yep,” meaning that, yes, iOS 7 will probably release on time in September.

This also puts to rest some of those rumors that we’ll see a new iPhone at WWDC, but hey if you’ve already got your money saved, you’re in the clear. For those who haven’t, you’ve just been given some time.

Pacskowski’s report parrots some other popular claims about iOS 7, namely that whole “flat design” thing people have been talking about and the complete overturn of all things skeuomorphic.

To quote one of Paczkowski’s unnamed sources, “You know Game Center’s green felt craps table? Well, goodbye, Circus Circus.”

(Side Bar: fellow redOrbit writer Lee Rannals and I spent some time at Circus Circus this year during CES, and it’s the closest to hell I’d ever like to be.)

The same sources also told Paczkowski that iOS 7 is “de-glitzed.” What an odd choice of words for an OS which claims to be minimalistic.

So yes, iOS 7 is falling behind schedule; but according to the All Things D report, they’re now on pace to release the thing “on time.”

And if Ive can work his magic once more (and there’s no real reason to think he can’t) we’ll see a new iPhone with a new OS that rivals (if not beats) the Android competition.

To sum up the last several paragraphs, this is important because Apple has found themselves at a crossroads. Either they step up and prove they’re willing to stay relevant while the rest of the competition changes around them, or they stubbornly stay the course.

According to all those unnamed sources that are willing to sing for reporters, they’re at least willing to reinvent themselves, and this is a good thing.

Throwing a Wrench in the Rumor Mill

As I mentioned earlier, this iOS 7 chatter has thrown a wrench in the gears of the iPhone 5S rumor mill (if that’s what it’s going to be called.)

A Bloomberg report says iOS 7 could be released “as soon as September,” yet up until this point, many rumors held that the next iPhone could be released as early as June during WWDC.

Developers will get their hands on some early builds of iOS 7 during the big hoedown in June, but the rest of us will likely have to wait. There’s other evidence, too, which suggests Apple may be sticking with their autumnal iPhone release schedule.

For instance, Ming-Chi Kuo, analyst to the stars, issued a note to his investors last weekend claiming the WWDC Keynote will serve as a platform for upgraded MacBook Pro models…and that’s it.

None of this “Apple is releasing everything!” ruckus we heard last year and once again earlier this year.

Bonus content: Kuo claims these new MBPs will feature a bump to Intel’s new Haswell processors, keep the optical drives in the (relatively) heavy MBPs and bring Haswell processors to the rest of the MacBook lineup later in the year.

In other words, Kuo isn’t looking for an iPhone this June.

Furthermore, Mr. Cook himself said his company is gearing up for some “surprises” this fall.

From this smattering of information, it looks as if the first half of the year will be dedicated to Macs, the second half to iOS.

Ah, but what is there to make of this “leaked document” from Japanese telecom KDDI which claims the new iPhone 5S (if that’s what they’re calling it) will be available in July?

French site nowhereelse.fr obtained this document which, according to AppleInsider, appears to be written for the benefit of KDDI sales staff containing pricing information about this as-of-yet unannounced iPhone 5S, if that’s what they’re calling it.

AppleInsider claims this laminated document is similar to other pricing sheets available in many Japanese carrier retail locations.

They also quickly point out that this thing could be a real phony, a big fat phony, and therefore may not be trusted.

BUT foregoing that brief little bit of doubt, the document claims the new iPhone will be available for pre-order on June 20 and available in stores in July.

I’m not sure how likely it is that carriers already have information about the next iPhone, especially if it is to be released in September or later. They have to know about it sooner or later, of course…but this seems a little early.

Of course, it’s not early at all if the thing ships in July.

If the next iPhone will be announced at WWDC, the timing suggested in this document makes sense. The new iPhone may be announced on June 10 at the Keynote, available for pre-order in Japan in 10 days, begins shipping a week or two later in July.

Ah, but what about the other wrench in the rumor mill’s gears?

The “two iPhone” rumor is still out there, wrecking everyone’s tidy guesses about what 2013 holds in terms of Apple handheld devices.

According to some, Apple will announce that filthy, disgusting “cheap” iPhone this summer, then release the “real” iPhone (maybe the 6?) later in the fall like they’ve been doing for the past two years.

Cook’s statements during last week’s earnings call make this rumor all the more interesting.

Think about it: What would be more “surprising” than a totally new iPhone?

What if Apple DID release the iPhone 5S in the summer (wait for it) as they did in the earliest years of the iPhone AND THEN released an iPhone 6 (if that’s what they’re calling it) a few months later.

The iPhone 5S may not even be that “cheap” iPhone analysts are blowing their wads over.

It could be a regular “S” style upgrade; they could sell the 5 at $59 and the 4S could be free with a contract.

Not to shoot down my own argument, but if they did this, of course, they’d likely anger so many people who buy the 5S and then are left wanting when the iPhone 6 (if that’s what they’re calling it) is released.

No, for my money, I say Apple sticks with last year’s release schedule.

The next iPhone will arrive in September (or somewhere there about) and they’ll make the 4S the “cheap” iPhone available to developing markets.

Heavy speculation to follow:

They’ll probably announce “iRadio” with the iPhone and the “iWatch” with new iPads and iPod Touch models a few weeks later.

Yep. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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