iPhone 6, iWatch, oh my
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and there sure is a lot of smoke to wade through while talking about Apple’s still-yet-to-be-confirmed September 9th Special Event. Re/code was the first to peg that date as the long awaited iPhone 6 reveal event, but as the days have gotten shorter and the calendar has gotten closer, we’ve been learning more and more about what it is Apple will actually be announcing. Yes, of course the iPhone 6 is still happening, but that’s just the beginning of the story.
For one, Re/code today has another breaking exclusive claiming that Apple will use their September 9th event not only as the iPhone 6′s coming out party, but also as the long awaited “iWatch” reveal. According to Re/code, Apple had originally planned to announce the device – which is not expected to hit stores until early 2015, narrowly missing the holiday rush – during the company’s rumored October Special Event, however decided to bump up the schedule for reasons uncited. Apple is reportedly still planning on holding a Special Event in October, where the company may reveal the sixth generation iPad, the third generation iPad mini, and a new 12″ MacBook with a Retina Display.
According to today’s new iWatch report – which, while unconfirmed, come from some rock solid sources – Apple’s wearable will be all about health and automation. The iWatch will act as a fitness tracker, syncing information about today’s activity and general health data with your iPhone and iPad using iOS 8′s new built in HealthKit framework. HomeKit, Apple’s automation functionality, will also be put to good use. Early reports indicate that the iWatch could be used to – say – automatically unlock your frontdoor when you step within a couple of feet of it while wearing your iWatch, or automatically turn on the lights when you enter a room.
Separately, we expect the iPhone 6 to be revealed in two sizes – one with a 4.7″ screen, and another larger model with a 5.5″. We expect both iPhone 6 sizes to be available simultaneously, however with the 4.7″ model available in much larger quantities in initial shipments. The game plan could be set up similarly to how Apple dealt with the rollout of the 5s and 5c models last year; the 4.7″ iPhone, like the 5c, will be available for pre-order immediately while the 5.5″ iPhone, like the 5s did, will launch on a first come, first serve basis without a reservation program in place. Apple did this last year to give everyone a fair shot at nabbing an iPhone 5s on launch day, which was similarly restrained.
As far as pricing, a good guess is that the base configuration 4.7″ iPhone 6 to sell for $199 with 16GB of included storage. The 5.5″ iPhone 6, meanwhile, could launch with 16GB of storage for $299. Apple will continue to offer both the iPhone 5s as well as the iPhone 5c, with the iPhone 5s selling for $99 with 16GB of storage and the iPhone 5c selling for free with 8GB of storage. However, it is important to note that these plans are far from confirmed at this time.
And yes, I think it exists
I’m going to make a fairly bold statement here – the upcoming 5.5″ iPhone (we’ll call it the iPhone 6, for posterity’s sake) is real. And it’s coming. In fact, it’s probably coming this year – the timeline isn’t clear quite yet, but it’s getting there. And this is your first look at it, courtesy of Evasi0nJailbreak.com. What you’re looking at in the photo above is in fact a 5.5″ iPhone 6 enclosure sitting next to and compared to the equally real and coming 4.7″ iPhone 6 enclosure.
EvasionJailbreak says that they managed to obtain this “deep within Apple’s supply chain in China,” and it is indeed consistent with some earlier rumblings about the iPhone 6. For one thing, we’ve seen this design practically a million times before – enough that at this point, there really isn’t any doubt that it’s real. Another thing is the screw holes in this iPhone 6 dummy is consistent with earlier, unverified leaks of the 5.5″ iPhone 6′s logic board.
The iPhone 6 is expected to be announced at a press event on September 9th, 2014. Whatever Apple decides to announce, we’ll be here reporting on the latest and greatest from Apple and Mr. Jony Ive. And whether you believe the 5.5″ iPhone 6 is coming or not, one thing is clear – Apple is finally ditching that 4.0″ screen form factor. Hallelujah?
I originally said burger but McChickens are great
Earlier in the decade, McDonalds made a dramatic shift in course when they decided to sell high-end (or, well, faux high end) coffee products with their McCafé lineup. Now today McDonalds is taking another new bold direction as the company has hired a new U.S. vice president of digital, Julia Vander Ploeg, in a new position created for a new digital direction. To supplement this new hire, McDonalds is looking to hire a brand new team to work on – wait for it – a new digital music delivery program.
McDonalds is looking for a team to work on “a variety of digital music and entertainment experiences that McDonald’s will provide to customers”, specifically with an emphasis on “establish[ing] multi-channel music and emerging entertainment programs to reward our most enthusiastic customers and drive frequency.” CNBC reached out for an official comment on the new direction and received no comment.
Of course, that’s not all - if you’re a fast food joint with a new emphasis on digital, you’re going to want to allow customers buy your product on the go from your smartphone, a la Panera Bread’s new direction. And that’s exactly what McDonalds wants, with another new job posting revealing that McDonalds is hiring a team that will focus on “removing physical boundaries to allow our customers to connect to and order McDonald’s any time or place, globally.” Or, simply put, they’re looking for people to build an online ordering app.
McDonalds has been dabbling more and more with digital promotions in recent times, with the company beta testing and then subsequently launching the new McD App which comes with monthly promotions and deals for customers.
But is it enough?
As PC sales keep shrinking, Microsoft’s flagship software – Windows 8 – has failed to see much love from customers or OEMs. The industry is increasingly switching over to tablets running competitor’s software; not to mention low powered – and low priced – notebooks running Google’s Chrome OS operating system (“Chromebooks”), which have been best sellers on Amazon for months now. Microsoft is keenly aware of the situation, of course, and has been fighting against the Apple iPad for some time now with the company’s Surface lineup, and now they’re tackling the Chromebook problem with a line of new low powered, low priced notebooks of their own, running – of course – Windows 8.1 rather than Chrome OS. The first of this new initiative is the HP Stream 14, a 14-inch notebook revealed today by a leak published by MobileGeeks.
According to the leak, the HP Stream 14 has an unspecified AMD processor, a midrange 1366 x 768 pixel display, 2GB of RAM, and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage depending on the model you’re looking at. No word yet as to when the HP Stream 14 will be hitting your local Best Buy, but I’d bet it’ll be sooner rather than later and when it comes, it should cost you just around $199. Microsoft must be keen to pick up sales of their Windows 8 devices, and if there’s one thing we know, there’s certainly a market for low priced, but quality devices.
Yes, Sharp makes smartphones
Sharp isn’t usually the first name to come to mind when one thinks of smartphones, but prepare to get your mind blown. Sprint and Sharp have just jointly announced Sharp’s latest and greatest line of smartphones, the Aquos Crystal line – and they’re coming to Sprint. But wait, there’s more. Long have we waited for a smartphone with truly no bezels, and that’s exactly what Sharp is planning on delivering when the line gets released later this year. That’s right, both the low end Aquos Crystal and the impressively high spec’d Aquos Crystal X have just about no bezels. Take that, bezels!
Getting into the knitty gritty of specs, the Aquos Crystal X comes knocking with a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, and an untold amount of storage, RAM, or camera power. The lower end Aquos Crystal on the other hand has a pretty puny 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 and a 5-inch 720p display, so that’s pretty weak. Both smartphones are expected to be running some variant of Android (more than likely Android 4.3 or 4.4), and Sprint is holding a press conference where it plans on spilling all the beans tomorrow night, so you don’t have to wait too long to hear more about pricing and availability.
Hey, they have a lot of competition
Pebble was one of the first out with a functional, usable, and not-too-ugly-looking modern smartwatch in 2013, but things have changed drastically since then. The smartwatch competition has heated up like perhaps nobody could have expected; Samsung, Sony, Fitbit, LG, and even Google have gotten into the game big time, and Apple is expected to launch its very real and very powerful “iWatch” smartwatch before 2014 draws its last breath. In early 2013, Pebble had little competition – today, there’s little shortage. Pebble is fully aware of its situation, and has responded with full force; the company has today announced that they have hired away Itai Vonshak and Liron Damir from LG. Vonshak and Damir are best known, of course, as the head UI designers of LG’s incarnation of webOS.
Make no mistake, this is the real thing. Pebble knows they’ve got a good thing going, and the company is in no way ready to drop the ball to the likes of Google and Apple. Today’s hiring of two of the industry’s top designers will absolutely make a mark on the company’s inevitable next-generation smartwatches. And with almost two years of experience, two talented designers, and quickly growing brand recognition, Pebble may very well have what it needs to keep up its title as the industry’s leading manufacturer of smartwatches.
That would be the Note 4, of course
Samsung has announced the Galaxy Alpha. I mean, I guess that’s news – the device was only rumored up until this point, and it marks the first smartphone to feature Samsung’s new all-aluminum design that the company says will trickle down and up to other products in the company’s portfolio – including, more than likely, next year’s flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S6. It’s an okay, decidedly midrange phone – just like we reported the other day – with a modest dual-core (or quad-core, if you’re in very certain markets) processor, 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel camera, and a 720p 4.7″ display. It comes in Black, White, Gold, and Blue. All fine.
But really, can we stop pretending that this is Samsung’s answer to the next iPhone? I know it’s not, and – yes, I’m talking to you, mainstream media outlets – you know it’s not. The next iPhone will be a high end device with Apple’s fastest A8 processor, their best camera; it’ll be the model with the most RAM, the highest quality displays. It’ll be Apple’s flagship. And the Galaxy Alpha? This isn’t Samsung’s flagship. Not even close.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to say Samsung’s got a competitor up their sleeves slate for release soon. They totally do – it’s called the Galaxy Note 4, and it’s rumored to be coming soon; probably next month. It’ll have Samsung’s fastest processor, their best (and biggest) display, and all the RAM and storage and processing power you could want.
But let’s not compare Apples to Alphas, okay?
Things are getting pretty bad
Honestly, it’s not like things haven’t been bad for Microsoft on the mobile front since around the time Apple launched the iPhone in 2006, but frankly things are looking even worse than ever for the behemoth mobile software developer today. The IDC has reported on this quarter’s smartphone sales, revealing that sales of Windows Phone 8 devices (ie. Nokias) have seen a sharp decline from 11.9% to a measly 2.5% – a drop worse than even Microsoft might have imagined.
As if to prove just how bad things have gotten for the platform, OEM support for Windows Phone has thus far diminished to just about one – Nokia, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year in order to keep the Windows Phone devices coming. Prior to the acquisition, Nokia had been working on a line of new Android devices and was in talks to drop the Windows Phone options entirely, which would have all but diminished Windows Phone’s presence in the marketplace. Though Microsoft managed to stop that disaster from happening, Nokia did release their first line of Android devices before the acquisition was announced, Microsoft recently killed that line in favor of lower priced Windows Phone devices.
Microsoft is preparing to launch a new line of Lumia smartphones earlier September, with initial reports suggesting that there are two models incoming – a midrange Lumia “Selfie” phone with a 5 megapixel front facing camera, and a new Lumia device wrapped in an all aluminum body. The company has already sent out invitations for the event where these phones are rumored to launch.
All that said, it really is just a simple question at this point – have things been too bad for too long for the company? Or, in other terms, is it too late for Windows Phone? It’s nearly been 4 years since the Windows Phone platform launched at this point, replacing the archaic but long lasting Windows Mobile one which was almost instantly obsoleted by iOS and Android. Microsoft hasn’t really had much luck since that point, and there has to be a point where it would make more sense to just give in the towel – maybe this is it?
Unless, of course, you’re Microsoft, and you’ve got a selfie phone coming.
I'm going to make it call me Chief
Microsoft made a splash with Cortana when Windows Phone 8.1 finally launched a couple of months ago, and after months of testing people have gotten a pretty good idea of how accurate and useful Microsoft’s Siri alternative truly is – and as it turns out, Cortana is actually pretty impressive. It should come as little surprise then that Microsoft is working on bringing its Cortana Personal Assistant to the next major version of Windows, Codename “Threshold”, which will likely be named Windows 9 upon its release in 2015. According to Neowin, who has provided accurate information in the past, current development builds of Windows Threshold actually do have placeholders for Cortana, however it has yet to be fully realized in the most recent builds.
Rumor has it Microsoft will integrate Cortana deeply into the core of the operating system, as opposed to acting as just a separate application that runs on top of the operating system. Microsoft currently takes a similar approach to Cortana in Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Threshold is rumored to be announced later this year at an upcoming Special Event alongside an early Developer Preview of the operating system and will be home to a significant reworking of the way Windows currently works and looks. Recent rumors indicate that Microsoft is killing off the much loathed Charms bar in Threshold while also bringing native support for virtual desktops – a feature that has been in most Linux distributions and Mac OS X for quite some time now.
Recently leaked screenshots have also revealed that Microsoft has reimplemented a newly redesigned version of the Start Menu in Windows Threshold, which seems to be a monster mash between the Windows 7-era Start Menu and the Windows 8 Start Screen. Recently opened applications are seen on the left side of the Start Menu while the right is dominated by live updating tiles, which users could presumably pin for easy access to glanceable information.
September looks to be a busy month
The progression of the Lumia line has kind of slowed since Microsoft completed their purchase of Nokia’s mobile phone division a couple of months ago, but all at once the blockade is breaking. Just a few short days after announcing the company’s second generation Android smartphone, the Nokia X2, and then promptly killing the Android program all together – Microsoft has officially announced that they’ll be holding their first Lumia Special Event on September 4th in Berlin, Germany. While the invitation never says the word “Lumia” directly – for all we know, Microsoft could actually be killing the Lumia name in favor of something a little more Surface-y – it does invite us to join Microsoft for some “face time” with a nice photo of a Nokia’s PureView camera like the one found on the Lumia 1020.
According to recent rumors, the phones slated to make an appearance are the Lumia 730 and the Lumia 830. Both are slated to be fairly midrange phones, with the 730 rumored to be coming with an impressive 5.1 megapixel front facing camera, all the better for taking selfies. The 830 will feature an all aluminum build similar to the Lumia 925, but with fairly midrange internal specifications and a PureView branded camera.
Whatever Microsoft is so excited to talk about on September 4th, we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the latest news regarding Microsoft’s upcoming first Lumia Special Event.
Start building the internet of things
When Microsoft announced Windows for the Internet of Things at the company’s annual Build conference this year, people were excited. A little bit confused, considering how nebulous the term “Internet of Things” has actually become, but excited nonetheless – this is a totally new vision of Windows designed to run on small, ultra-low power devices. The company had remained tight lipped on their plans for the launch of the program right up until a couple of weeks ago, when they announced that they’d be shipping free Intel’s x86 based low power Galileo boards – the same ones that usually run around $80 – totally free of charge to any interested developer alongside the IoT SDK as Windows for the Internet of Things development kits.
Registration for these free boards have been closed for some time, and it appears Microsoft has finally gotten around to actually shipping the kits to at least some interested developers. We’ve heard reports from at least one developer who received the above email this morning, claiming his free Galileo board has been shipped over FedEx, tracking number and all. It appears not all developers have received their emails just yet, but if you’re one of the lucky few who got into Microsoft’s IoT developer program before it closed, keep your eyes fixed on your inbox.
This is Samsung's most polished baby
The United States’ FCC has this week officially approved Samsung’s newest entry to its Galaxy smartphone line, the upcoming Galaxy Alpha – Samsung’s upcoming smartphone built from aluminum – for sale in the United States. This has been revealed by a filing posted to the FCC’s official website just this morning, and outs a few – a very select few – new details about the smartphone, including the presence of both NFC, LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. All pretty common stuff, but what’s far more interesting about this phone is what the FCC didn’t just reveal about the Galaxy Alpha.
According to leaks provided by industry insiders, we’re getting a pretty good look at what the Galaxy Alpha is actually packing on the inside of the upcoming all metal smartphone.For one, this is not going to be a flagship device, barely rivaling even the Galaxy S4′s specifications. For starters, the Galaxy Alpha packs a somewhat more sanely sized 4.7 inch screen, but its the resolution that’s a killer here – whereas most flagship devices come packed with resolutions around 1080p, the Galaxy Alpha’s screen will only come with a 720p display.
The processor on board will be a fairly run of the mill quad-core setup, however some markets will have access to an enhanced octa-core Exynos 5 processor. The camera seems to be the most high end thing about the Galaxy Alpha other than the aluminum design, packing a supposedly rather impressive 12-megapixel shooter with autofocus and perhaps even digital image stabilization.
We’re expecting the Galaxy Alpha to launch on most major carriers in the United States within the next couple of weeks, with an announcement expected just about the same time as the also-rumored Galaxy Note 4, Samsung’s next true flagship device. Leaked photos of the Galaxy Alpha were posted by @culeaks, one of which can be seen above.