iOS

For a bigger iPad to work, iOS needs some interface improvements

The future of iOS is bright. While I love my Mac and expect to be using the Mac for a long time yet, iOS is the Apple operating system for the next 30 years. As I described last week, there are many different directions iOS can go in, taking the platform beyond the size and shape of today’s iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

I believe that iOS’s future is big–and I mean that literally. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro I’m using to write this article is currently the largest iOS device in existence, but it seems inevitable that Apple will want to size up iOS even more, whether it’s in a 15- or 17-inch mega-tablet, or an even larger desktop iOS device similar to the style of Microsoft’s Surface Studio.

The problem is that iOS was originally designed for small phone screens. Even now, seven years after the debut of the iPad, there are areas of the iPad interface that feel barren. (Spaced-out apps on the home screen, I’m looking at you.)

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iOS

Imagining the next 9 iOS devices

What is now known as iOS first debuted as iPhone Software 1.0 almost 10 years ago. Given how huge the iPhone has become over the past decade, it’s pretty fun to go back to the way Apple explained the software that drove the iPhone way back then.

“It runs Mac OS X,” we wrote (and put on the cover!) at Macworld. Apple was showing that the iPhone was a real computer at its core, with the same underpinnings that ran the Mac. Of course, we know now that Apple’s two primary operating systems are pretty different, though they share a common core.

In the intervening years, iOS–as it was renamed when it became clear that this platform was going to extend beyond the iPhone–has grown and expanded. If we define the iOS family broadly, Apple currently sells five different classes of device with iOS inside: iPhones (and the iPod touch), iPads, the fourth-generation Apple TV (tvOS is a variant of iOS), Apple Watch (watchOS, likewise), and MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (the software that runs the Touch Bar is derived from iOS and watchOS).

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Reasons to be optimistic about the iPad’s future

With another quarter of falling iPad sales, there’s a lot of talk these days about what’s up with the iPad. While Apple still sells more than twice as many iPads per quarter as it does Macs, the Mac business generates more revenue and is more stable than the iPad, which has shown year-over-year sales declines for 14 of Apple’s latest 15 financial quarters.

Despite a larger installed base than the Mac, customer-satisfaction scores that are “through the roof” (to use Tim Cook’s phrase), dominance in the high-end tablet market, and increasing sales to first-time iPad buyers, the iPad’s lack of sales momentum leads to a lot of skepticism about its future.

I believe that the iPad, or something very much like it, will be a huge part of the future of how people use computing devices. Here are a few of the reasons why.

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Apple’s Q1 2017: Records for the iPhone and services, but the iPad still struggles

It’s fair to say that, from a financial-results perspective, 2016 was rough for Apple. Sure, the company still made billions in profit on massive revenues, but Wall Street wants to see growth and the massive iPhone sales of 2015—when the company introduced the larger-sized iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus—were just too big for 2016 to match.

But it’s a new fiscal year, and Apple’s latest financial results, announced Tuesday, suggest that the story of Apple in 2017 will be different. The company took a page out of its 2015 playbook, setting an all-time record for revenue, and provided guidance that it will likely show year-over-year revenue growth again next quarter. The company broke a bunch of other records, too–for Apple Watch, Services, and the Mac.

To be fair, Apple really does holiday quarters right. (Even the year-ago holiday quarter was a record.) It’s the company’s biggest quarter of the year by far, but that means there’s that much more at stake. Bottom line: Apple’s 2016 holidays were good. Here’s a deeper dive into some of the other interesting things we learned as a part of Apple’s regular disclosure of numbers and give-and-take with financial analysts about Q1 2017.

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What to expect from Apple’s Q4 2016 earnings call next week

It’s that time again–time to tie that tie and tighten your money belt. Next week, Apple will once again reveal its quarterly earnings report, leading to a lot of Kremlinology, the parsing of numbers, and a bumping up or down of the Apple stock price.

The results will arrive on January 31 at about 1:30 p.m. Pacific, followed at 2 p.m. by the usual phone call between Apple execs (generally CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri) and a collection of analysts.

But just because the numbers won’t drop until next week doesn’t mean we have no idea what’s coming. Apple, like most public companies, tries to keep surprises to a minimum at these events. So it provides “guidance” about what the future holds, a quarter before it reports those results.

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How Apple can bring the Touch Bar and Touch ID to desktop Macs

Ever since the release of the new MacBook Pro, which introduced two features never before seen on the Mac—namely the Touch ID sensor and the Touch Bar—it’s been an open question. When will those features go from being available only on the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro, and move across the entire Mac product line?

It’s probably only a matter of time before the Touch Bar and Touch ID sensor crop up on the MacBook, if for no other reason than it’s a laptop and Apple has already showed how to integrate those features into a laptop. (But given how svelte the MacBook is, it might take a while.) 

The real question is on the desktop. Yes, it’s true that roughly two-thirds of the Macs Apple sells are laptops. But Apple still sells a lot of iMacs—and many of Apple’s laptops are sometimes plugged in to big external monitors when they’re docked at a desk. (Apple specifically touts using the MacBook Pro with LG’s new 5K external display, in fact.)

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Sonos needs voice control, and not just Alexa

I’ve been a fan of whole-home digital music systems for a long time. When the platform I had invested years in gave up the ghost–thanks for buying and killing the Squeezebox, by the way, Logitech–I decided it was time to try the speakers my colleague Chris Breen had been raving about for years. And Chris was right–the Sonos stuff sounds great.

Then, all of a sudden, I largely stopped using the Sonos speakers and started using something far more inferior to play my music. That was the day the Amazon Echo came into our kitchen. The Echo is inferior in sound to the Sonos (even the ultra-small Play:1 speaker) in every way but one: you can talk to the Echo, but the Sonos speakers require that you use an app to tell it what to play.

Apparently my family weren’t the only ones wooed by the convenience and voice control of the Echo: lots of people did the same. Sonos responded with layoffs and an embrace of Alexa that led to an announcement that this year Sonos speakers will be controllable by Alexa.

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